Tag: Nine Inch Nails (Page 3 of 5)

A Beginner’s Guide To RICHARD X

Photo by Miles Aldridge

Producer and remixer Richard Philips, better known as Richard X, began his musical career creating bootlegs or mash-ups.

This was an illegal creative practice of combining two existing and often incongruous records to make an entirely new track. The fusion of disparate elements, where often the vocals of one recording from a particular genre were placed over the instrumental backing from another.

This became a fashionable practice in clubs; Belgium’s 2 Many DJs were among one of the more notable exponents alongside Richard X. Influenced by THE HUMAN LEAGUE and KRAFTWERK in particular, Richard X’s first notable mash-up under the name GIRLS ON TOP was ‘I Wanna Dance With Numbers’ in 2001; it dropped Whitney Houston over KRAFTWERK and inspired by the apparent elitism of the electronica scene at the start of the 21st Century.

But it was when he placed ‘Freak Like Me’ by R ‘n’ B artist Adina Howard over TUBEWAY ARMY’s ‘Are Friends Electric?’ for a bootleg entitled ‘We Don’t Give A Damn About Our Friends’ that figures within the music business realised Richard X’s Frankenstein vision might have commercial potential. Ironically, one person who didn’t was Adina Howard herself who refused permission for her vocal to be used on an officially sanctioned release. Instead, the British female pop trio SUGABABES recorded a cover version of the mash-up produced by Richard X and the rest is history.

Since then, Richard X has been approached to work with many artists, but remains selective, declining most of what he is offered and often only working on individual tracks, thanks to his own artistic assertion that “I’ve always been about singles…”

Richard X created his own production umbrella Black Melody to oversee his work and even released a collection of demos by THE HUMAN LEAGUE as ‘The Golden Hour Of The Future’ which had been shelved by Virgin Records back in 1981. Meanwhile as well as ERASURE, NINE INCH NAILS, GOLDFRAPP, MIRRORS, SAY LOU LOU and NEW ORDER, his productions and remixes have encompassed artists such varied as Will Young, Roísín Murphy, Rachel Stevens, Sam Sparro, Tiga, Jarvis Cocker and Lana Del Rey.

As a result of often working on just singular tracks with artists, Richard X has a large and diverse portfolio; ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK lists eighteen of his most notable tracks, with a limit of one track per artist and presented in chronological and then alphabetical order…


SUGABABES Freak Like Me (2002)

When Richard X dropped ‘Freak Like Me’ over ‘Are Friends Electric?’, a crossover hit was just waiting to be unleashed… enter SUGABABES, modern pop’s equivalent of ‘Charlie’s Angels’. This was a period when Gary Numan was being sampled left, right and centre by the likes of BASEMENT JAXX and DJ Armand Van Helden, so this Diabolus In Musica urban hybrid helped bring him to a curious new audience.

Available on the SUGABABES album ‘Overloaded: The Singles Collection’ via Universal Music

http://sugababesmusic.com


RICHARD X vs LIBERTY X Being Nobody (2003)

A huge fan of THE HUMAN LEAGUE, Richard X continued his mash-up magic, albeit in a more reproductive manner. When the appropriately monikered LIBERTY X came knocking, he took inspiration from the various versions of ‘Being Boiled’ and put Chaka Khan’s electro-funk classic ‘Ain’t Nobody’ over the top, helped by the fact that both tunes ran at a very similar BPM of 103/104.

Available on the LIBERTY X album ‘Being Somebody’ via V2 Records

https://www.facebook.com/libertyxofficial/


RICHARD X in collaboration with DEBORAH STRICKLAND-EVANS Lemon / Lime (2003)

Deborah Evans-Strickland was best known for her deadpan vocal on THE FLYING LIZARDS’ very unusual cover of ‘Money’. Richard X dragged her out of retirement for a bizarre reinterpretation of ‘Walk On By’ as well as the Trans-Commuter Express job spec art piece ‘Lemon / Lime’. Stern but strangely alluring in her posh Essex accent, she came over like the scary HR Manager who everyone is secretly attracted to.

Available on the RICHARD X album ‘Presents His X Factor Vol1’ via Virgin Records

http://blackmelody.com


RACHEL STEVENS Some Girls (2004)

Co-written with Hannah Robinson and based on real-life music industry anecdotes, Richard X’s GOLDFRAPP-styled production on ‘Some Girls’ saw Rachel Stevens playing a wannabe on pop’s casting couch. Driven by having his GOLDFRAPP remixes rejected, it was ‘Some Girls’ that first put the icy glam electro sound into the mainstream consciousness before GOLDFRAPP themselves.

Available on the RACHEL STEVENS album ‘Come & Get It’ via Polydor Records

http://www.rachelstevensofficial.com


NINE INCH NAILS Only – Richard X Remix (2005)

“There is no you, there is only ME!” exclaimed an angry and provocative Trent Reznor on ‘Only’, but Richard X smoothed things down, brought forward the chorus and took it down the discotheque, albeit a dark gothic one! With a frantic marimba line added and an increased dance tempo, this was one of Richard X’s best crossover reworkings that still retained the original’s heavy spirit of frustration expressed as part of Reznor’s battle with alcoholism and substance abuse.

Available on the NINE INCH NAILS EP ‘Everyday Is Exactly The Same’ via Nothing Records

http://www.nin.com


LUKE HAINES Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop – Richard X Mix (2006)

Once referred to as the Adolf Hitler of Britpop by the music press, Luke Haines’ memoir ‘Bad Vibes: Britpop & My Part In Its Downfall’ declared that BLUR’s Damon Alban deserved far more to be nominated for that title! An installation of danceable pop terrorism by THE AUTEURS and BLACK BOX RECORDER leader with a full fat electro mix by Richard X, this gleefully satirised the Shoreditch club scene with an attack on its array of poseurs.

Available on the LUKE HAINES album ‘Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop’ via Fantastic Plastic

http://www.lukehaines.co.uk


PET SHOP BOYS Fugitive – Richard X Extended Mix (2006)

Although the ‘Fundamental’ album was produced by Trevor Horn, Richard X powerfully extended ‘Fugitive’ as a limited edition exclusive for the fittingly titled ‘Fundamentalism’ bonus album. PET SHOP BOYS’ own post-9/11 songNeil Tennant recently revealed in the reissued booklet notes:“It’s about a terrorist, a terrorist whose ideology is that he believes that by killing the enemy he’s going to go to heaven”.

Available on the PET SHOP BOYS album ‘Fundamental: Further Listening 2005 – 2007’ via EMI Records

http://petshopboys.co.uk


ANNIE Songs Remind Me Of You (2009)

Having worked on-and off with Anne Lilia Berge Strand since 2004 including her breakthrough song ‘Chewing Gum’, ‘Songs Remind Me Of You’ was another fabulous tune from the Richard X / Hannah Robinson songbook. Filled with high octane electronic dance flavours, “How does it feel…to hear your songs on the radio?” asked the Norwegian songstress wispily with an exquisite devenir a gris lilt inside a spiky synthesized mix.

Available on the ANNIE album ‘Don’t Stop’ via Smalltown Supersound

https://www.facebook.com/anniemelodymusic/


ANTHONIO Annie (2009)

Conceived as a jokey publicity stunt for the Italo disco flavoured Annie single ‘Anthonio’, Richard X used its backing track to create a brilliant tongue-in-cheek response to her tale of broken holiday romance. As a modern exponent of Italo, HEARTBREAK’s charismatic vocalist Sebastian Muravchik amiably played the role of the disimpassioned Latin lover. The B-side featured a cover of THE GLITTER BAND’s ‘Angel Face’.

Available on the ANTHONIO single ‘Annie’ via Pleasure Masters

http://lexprojects.com/sebastian-is-anthonio/


SAINT ETIENNE Method Of Modern Love (2009)

With some slight similarities to Kylie Minogue’s ‘The One’ and recorded by SAINT ETIENNE for an updated singles compilation, ‘Method Of Modern Love’ was again written by Richard X with Hannah Robinson alongside Matt Prime. A long-time fan of the trio, it had only been intended for Richard X to remix ‘This Is Tomorrow’, but he ended up producing them as they opted for ‘Method Of Modern Love’ as a new single after hearing the demo.

Available on the SAINT ETIENNE album ‘London Conversations: The Best Of’ via Heavenly Records

http://www.saintetienne.com


ROÍSÍN MURPHY Parallel Lives (2009)

A superb collection of soulful 21st century electronic disco, ‘Overpowered’ was the second solo album from Roísín Murphy who found fame with MOLOKO and struck big with the international club smash ‘Sing It Back’. The Richard X helmed ‘Parallel Lives’ penetrated with some steady and deep sub-bass, providing a nice bonus to an album where Murphy had gloriously sounded not unlike Lisa Stansfield fronting PET SHOP BOYS.

Available on the ROÍSÍN MURPHY album ‘Overpowered’ via EMI Records

https://www.roisinmurphyofficial.com


DRAGONETTE Pick Up The Phone – Richard X Remix (2010)

DRAGONETTE were fronted by singer-songwriter Martina Sorbara and while ‘Pick Up The Phone’ was a summery upbeat tune, the Canadian popsters took a breather from their usual Euro-leaning sound with electric guitars subbing for the usual synths. But this made things perfect for a superior Richard X remix to stick back in all the electronic dance elements that the band were actually best known for.

Available on the DRAGONETTE album ‘Mixin To Thrill’ via Dragonette Inc

http://www.dragonetteonline.com


GOLDFRAPP Alive (2010)

From ‘Head First’, the poppiest album in the GOLDFRAPP catalogue, the Richard X assisted ‘Alive’ allowed Alison Goldfrapp to explore her Olivia Newton-John fixation with a tune that recalled ‘I’m Alive’, a song by ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA for the film ‘Xanadu’. The synth solo was big and fat with power chords plus a great middle eight to boot. With references to Billy Joel as well, ‘Alive’ sounded slightly more Oberheim than Korg…

Available on the GOLDFRAPP album ‘Head First’ via Mute Records

https://www.goldfrapp.com


THE HUNDRED IN THE HANDS Young Aren’t Young (2010)

Hailing from Brooklyn, THE HUNDRED IN THE HANDS possessed a sultry new wave fusion with occasional gothic overtones. Despite having aspirations to be more like Warp Records label mates BROADCAST, Richard X produced a number of key songs on their self-titled debut. ‘Young Aren’t Young’ was a dreamy NEW ORDER influenced number layered with Bernard Sumner styled frenetic guitar playing.

Available on THE HUNDRED IN THE HANDS album ‘The Hundred In The Hands’ via Warp Records

https://www.facebook.com/thehundredinthehands/


SOPHIE ELLIS-BEXTOR Starlight (2011)

Sophie Ellis-Bextor once fronted an indie rock band called THEAUDIENCE. Yet another Richard X and Hannah Robinson co-composition, the glitterball sparkle of ‘Starlight’ utilised a Linn Drum led rhythm section and sweeping synth strings for a dreamy electronic pop concoction. Alluringly finding “heaven in the dark”, it was one of those catchy Kylie-esque summer holiday disco anthems.

Available on SOPHIE ELLIS-BEXTOR album ‘Make A Scene’ via EBGB’s

http://sophieellisbextor.net


MIRRORS Into The Heart – Richard X Radio Mix (2011)

With a determined art for art’s sake concept for their ‘Lights & Offerings’ long player, the original sessions with Richard X were abandoned when MIRRORS chose to produce themselves, although he did contribute a Radio Mix for the reissued single ‘Into The Heart’; less intense and claustrophobic than the quartet’s album version, the majestic singalong proved that Synth Britannia influences were and still are nothing to be ashamed of.

Available on the MIRRORS single ‘Into the Heart’ via Skint Records

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


THE SOUND OF ARROWS Lost City (2011)

THE SOUND OF ARROWS are Stefan Storm and Oskar Gullstrand, a Swedish electronic pop duo described as “Disney meets Brokeback Mountain” and “the HURTS you can dance to” by Popjustice. Like PET SHOP BOYS fed with Fox’s Glacier Mints, the Richard X produced widescreen instrumental ‘Lost City’ was fittingly dramatic, although its main melodic theme may have been a bit too ‘Top Gun’ with synths for some listeners…

Available on THE SOUND OF ARROWS album ‘Voyage’ via Skies Above

http://www.thesoundofarrows.com


ERASURE Sacred (2014)

Produced by Richard X, ‘The Violet Flame’ saw ERASURE return to form with their fourteenth album and express an infectious zest for the future with songs seeded via Vince Clarke’s pre-recorded dance grooves. With ‘Sacred’, this was another classic ERASURE pop tune, although the bizarre phrasal spectre of ‘Sweet Child O Mine’ by GUNS N ROSES could be found in the verse of Andy Bell’s vocal topline!

Available on the ERASURE album ‘The Violet Flame’ via Mute Artists

http://www.erasureinfo.com


NEW ORDER Plastic (2015)

For the Mancunians’ first album of new material without estranged founder member Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner promised a return to electronic music. That was certainly delivered on with ‘Plastic’, a full-on throbbing seven minute electro number in the vein of Giorgio Moroder, solidly mixed by Richard X with blippy echoes of ‘Mr Disco’. Dealing with the issue of superficiality in relationships, it declared “you’re like plastic, you’re artificial…”

Available on the NEW ORDER album ‘Music Complete’ via Mute Artists

http://www.neworder.com


NINA Beyond Memory (2016)

Produced by Richard X and Sunglasses Kid, a nocturnal warmth exuded from ‘Beyond Memory’, demonstrating how German songstress NINA’s pulsating electronic pop acted as a bridge between the sub-genres of synthwave and synthpop. With her vocals deliciously slicing the moonlit atmosphere with a superbly breathy chorus, ‘Beyond Memory’ reflected on the lifelong impact of past relationships.

Available on the NINA album ‘Sleepwalking’ via Aztec Records

http://www.ninamusic.co.uk/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
7th May 2018

Introducing SOFT AS SNOW

If Karin Dreijer and Trent Reznor made a record together, then they might sound like Norwegian leftfield duo SOFT AS SNOW.

After two EPs ‘Glass Body’ and ‘Chrysalis’ released in 2014 and 2015 respectively, the Berlin based pairing of Oda Egjar Starheim and Øystein Monsen finally make the plunge on the long playing trail with their first album ‘Deep Wave’ out in April 2018.

As can be expected from an act that may or may not have named themselves after the song by MY BLOODY VALENTINE, creative use of noise is one of SOFT AS SNOW’s key philosophies. But this is not to say that they eschew melody or song structures.

Indeed, Monsen says of ‘Deep Wave’: “We’ve both always been drawn to the idea of pop music, and are interested in how far you can stretch the boundaries, before it becomes something else. For us, this is essentially a pop album”.

The excellent lead single ‘Snake’ is a fine calling card for ‘Deep Wave’, with stuttering drum machine and whirring synth bass coupled to Starheim’s unsettling distorted vocals, forming an amalgam of congruous intonation and decipherable words before the whole thing rumbles to aural implosion!

A film created by Conrad Pack to visualise ‘Snake’ puts the song into mindbending context with its surreal computer animation that at various points enters space and other strange dimensions. Given SOFT AS SNOW’s strident experimental sound, it is perhaps not surprising to learn that Starheim has a background in performance art, while Monsen drummed in noise rock bands.

‘Deep Wave’ is not an easy listen by any means, but sees Starheim and Monsen fully committed to their ethos and growing as artists, especially on the desolate atmospheres of ‘Sleep/Slip’ and ‘Mass’. But the new single ‘Pink Rushes’ is even more warped and uncompromising.

‘Deep Wave’ develops on the promise of their earlier work; ‘I Adore’ from the ‘Chrysalis’ EP was an intriguing slice of witch house quite obviously inspired by THE KNIFE’s ‘Silent Shout’, although given a more aggressive stance with its blend of live percussion over programmed beats and icy layers of synths. Meanwhile, the title track of the ‘Glass Body’ EP showcased a fragility and vulnerability amongst the brooding upbeat cacophony of trancey sounds.

This is not synthwave, this is ‘Deep Wave’. Unconventional, innocent, fierce, tuneful, haunting and danceable all at same time, SOFT AS SNOW have generated curiosity in their weird little world.


‘Deep Wave’ is released by Houndstooth on 6th April 2018 in vinyl LP, CD and digital formats, pre-order from https://softassnow.bandcamp.com/album/deep-wave

https://www.softassnow.com

https://www.facebook.com/softassnow/

http://twitter.com/allourbeasts

https://www.houndstoothlabel.com

https://twitter.com/houndstoothlbl


Text by Chi Ming Lai
3rd March 2018

THE SOFT MOON Criminal


THE SOFT MOON is essentially a one-man project comprising of multi-instrumentalist and producer Luis Vasquez.

Hailing from Oakland in the USA, THE SOFT MOON gained wider exposure when they supported DEPECHE MODE on the EU leg of their ‘Delta Machine’ tour.

With a sound that distills both synth-heavy Krautrock and dark Post-Punk guitars+bass, ‘Criminal’ is the outfit’s fourth album following their emergence in 2010 with their eponymous debut.

Opening track ‘Burn’ is a take no prisoners kind of track, combining a lo-fi electronic kick with a flanged guitar sound favoured by John McGeoch from SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES; the guitar riff itself helps differentiate the track from your typical angsty NINE INCH NAILS fare and ‘Burn’ provides a strong opener to ‘Criminal’.

‘Choke’ slows the tempo with a vocal buried in a fuzz of what could be synths or guitars, the mixed up wall of sound obscuring the detail in the individual elements. Dirty, but hypnotic, the three minute track doesn’t outstay its welcome and signals to the listener that ‘Criminal’ isn’t going to be an easy ride…

’Give Something’ is a reverb drenched piece with the first real slivers of a more melodic vocal line from Vasquez; showcasing a bass part which recalls Simon Raymonde from COCTEAU TWINS, the song features a nifty gliding synth solo. The dark and twisted chorus hook “Give, give me something, when I give nothing” is wonderfully catchy and pinpoints ‘Give Something’ as a real highlight here and a certainty to be a candidate for a future single.

‘Like A Father’ initially revolves around a filthy EBM bass synth sequencer part, live / electronic drums and another densely textured vocal / guitar wall. The main elements which save the track from being one chord repetitive filler is the mix of time signatures which keeps the listener on their toes and a middle eight breakdown which takes ‘Like A Father’ on a welcome diversion with a driving live bassline entering the mix.

‘The Pain’ takes you on a cathartic journey with another bass heavy delivery, a self-doubting Vasquez intones “How can you love someone like me?” and climaxes the piece with a drum-less MY BLOODY VALENTINE-inspired ending.

‘It Kills’ is a dense tom-driven piece with another Banshee-inspired guitar line and a fuzzed-up chorus which recalls mid-period NINE INCH NAILS, the synth-based finish to the piece provides a welcome respite from the full-on assault of distortion.

‘ILL’, ‘Young’ and ‘Born Into This’ all mine a similar sound to their predecessors, before the title track ‘Criminal’ shares some welcome musical DNA with the direction that GARY NUMAN is currently following. The usage of a Roland CR78 loop and bolt-like shots of distorted noise help to reinforce this and a more melodic vocal from Vasquez brings the album to an epic close.

Ultimately it’s the live guitar and bass sound here which saves ‘Criminal’ from sounding overtly like a NINE INCH NAILS pastiche; but this aside, if you are a fan of the UK Post-Punk scene and favour flanged / reverbed guitars, then there is plenty to lap up here.

Another couple of tracks along the lines of ‘Give Something’ would have been welcome, but for fans of the darker side of electronica combined with live instrumentation, ‘Criminal’ would be a welcome addition to their musical collection.


‘Criminal’ is released by Sacred Bones Records in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats on 2nd February 2018

THE SOFT MOON 2018 European Tour dates include:

Baden One of a Million Festival (2nd February), Marghera CS Rivolta (3rd February), Copenhagen Pumpehuset (6th February), Gothenburg Pustervik (7th February), Stockholm Slaktkyrkan (8th February), Oslo Bla (9th February), Berlin Urban Spree (11th-12th February), Paris Le Trabendo (14th February), Amsterdam, Paradiso Noord (15th February), London The Dome (16th February), Brussels Orangerie Botanique (17th February), Luxembourg, LU – De Gudde Wëllen (18th February), Yverdon Les Bains L’Amalgame (20th February), Milan Magnolia (21st February), Rome Monk (22nd February), Napoli Lanificio (23rd February), Bologna Covo (24th February), Munich Kranhalle (7th March), Leipzig UT Connewitz (8th March), Hamburg Hafenklang (9th March), Cologne Gebäude 9 (10th March), Saarbrucken Garage Club (11th March), Nijmegen Doomroosje (13th March), Lille Les Paradis Artificiels (14th March), Nantes Stereolux (15th March), Lyon Epicerie Moderne (16th March)

http://www.thesoftmoon.com

https://www.facebook.com/thesoftmoon/

https://twitter.com/thesoftmoon

https://www.sacredbonesrecords.com


Text by Paul Boddy
17th January 2018

2017 END OF YEAR REVIEW

Oscillate Mildly

The world found itself in a rather antagonistic and divisive state this year, as if none of the lessons from the 20th Century’s noted conflicts and stand-offs had been learnt.

Subtle political messages came with several releases; honorary Berliner Mark Reeder used the former divided city as symbolism to warn of the dangers of isolationism on his collaborative album ‘Mauerstadt’. Meanwhile noted Francophile Chris Payne issued the ELECTRONIC CIRCUS EP ‘Direct Lines’ with its poignant warning of nuclear apocalypse in its title song. The message was to unite and through music as one of the best platforms.

After a slow start to 2017, there was a bumper crop of new music from a number of established artists. NINE INCH NAILS and Gary Numan refound their mojo with their respective ‘Add Violence’ and ‘Savage (Songs From A Broken World)’ releases, with the latter recording his best body of work since his imperial heyday.

But the first quarter of the year was hamstrung by the anticipation for the 14th DEPECHE MODE long player ‘Spirit’, with other labels and artists aware that much of their potential audience’s hard earned disposable income was being directed towards the Basildon combo’s impending album and world tour.

Yet again, reaction levels seemed strangely muted as ‘Spirit’ was another creative disappointment, despite its angry politicised demeanour.

Rumours abounded that the band cut the album’s scheduled recording sessions by 4 weeks. This inherent “that’ll do” attitude continued on the ‘Global Spirit’ jaunt when the band insulted their loyal audience by doing nothing more than plonking an arena show into a stadium for the summer outdoor leg.

Despite protestations from some Devotees of their dissatisfaction with this open-air presentation, they were content to be short-changed again as they excitedly flocked to the second set of European arena dates with the generally expressed excuse that “it will be so much better indoors”.

By this Autumn sojourn, only three songs from ‘Spirit’ were left in the set, thus indicating that the dire record had no longevity and was something of a lemon.

Suspicions were finally confirmed at the ‘Mute: A Visual Document’ Q&A featuring Daniel Miller and Anton Corbijn, when the esteemed photographer and visual director confessed he did not like the album which he did the artwork for… see, it’s not just ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK 😉

Devotees are quick to say all criticism of DEPECHE MODE is unfair, but the band can’t help but make themselves easy targets time and time again. But why should the band care? The cash is coming, the cash is coming…

Luckily, veteran acts such as OMD and Alison Moyet saved the day.

The Wirral lads demonstrated what the word spirit actually meant on their opus ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’, while the former class mate of Messrs Gore and Fletcher demonstrated what a soulful, blues-influenced electronic record should sound like with ‘Other’.

As Tony Hadley departed SPANDAU BALLET and Midge Ure got all ‘Orchestrated’ in the wake of ULTRAVOX’s demise, the ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’ album directed by Rusty Egan, to which they contributed, became a physical reality in 2017.

Now if DM plonked an arena show into the world’s stadiums, KRAFTWERK put a huge show into a theatre. The publicity stunt of 2012, when Tate Modern’s online ticket system broke down due to demand for their eight album live residency, did its job when the Kling Klang Quartett sold out an extensive UK tour for their 3D concert spectacular.

No less impressive, SOULWAX wowed audiences with their spectacular percussion heavy ‘From Deewee’ show and gave a big lesson to DEPECHE MODE as to how to actually use live drums correctly within an electronic context.

Mute Artists were busy with releases from ERASURE, LAIBACH and ADULT. but it was GOLDFRAPP’s ‘Silver Eye’ that stole the show from that stable. LCD SOUNDSYSTEM returned after seven years with their ‘American Dream’ and it was worth the wait, with the most consistent and electronic record that James Murphy’s ensemble has delivered in their career.

To say Neil Arthur was prolific in 2017 would be an understatement as he released albums with BLANCMANGE and FADER while Benge, a co-conspirator on both records, worked with I SPEAK MACHINE to produce ‘Zombies 1985’ which was one of the best electronic albums of the year; and that was without the JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS stage play soundtrack ‘The Machines’.

Despite JAPAN having disbanded in 1982, solo instrumental releases from Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri were particularly well-received, while David Sylvian made a return of sorts, guesting on ‘Life Life’ for ‘async’, the first album from Ryuichi Sakamoto since recovering from his illness. On the more esoteric front, Brian Eno presented the thoughtful ambience of ‘Reflection’, while THE RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP had ‘Burials In Several Earths’.

2017 was a year that saw acts who were part of the sine wave of Synth Britannia but unable to sustain or attain mainstream success like BLUE ZOO, B-MOVIE, FIAT LUX and WHITE DOOR welcomed back as heroes, with their talent belatedly recognised.

Germany had something of a renaissance as veterans Zeus B Held and ex-TANGERINE DREAM member Steve Schroyder came together in DREAM CONTROL as another TD offshoot QUAESCHNING & SCHNAUSS offered up some impressive ‘Synthwaves’, while there actually was a new TANGERINE DREAM album, their first without late founder member Edgar Froese.

Eberhard Kranemann and Harald Grosskopf offered up some KRAUTWERK as other veterans like RHEINGOLD, DER PLAN, BOYTRONIC and DJ HELL also returned. Comparatively younger, 2RAUMWOHNUNG and KATJA VON KASSEL both offered up enticing bilingual takes on classic electronic pop.

The Swedish synth community again delivered with DAILY PLANET, PAGE, REIN, VANBOT, ANNA ÖBERG, 047 and LIZETTE LIZETTE all delivering fine bodies of work, although KITE were missed, with their German tour cancelled and release of their ‘VII’ EP postponed due to vocalist Nicklas Stenemo’s illness; ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK wishes him all the best in his recovery.

Across the Baltic Sea, Finnish producer Jori Hulkkonen released his 20th album ‘Don’t Believe In Happiness’ while nearby in Russia, a duo named VEiiLA showcased an unusual hybrid of techno, opera and synthpop and ROSEMARY LOVES A BLACKBERRY offered a ‘❤’.

One of the year’s discussion points was whether Synthwave was just synthpop dressed with sunglasses and neon signs but whatever, Stateside based Scots but Michael Oakley and FM-84 made a good impression with their retro-flavoured electronic tunes.

It wasn’t all about the expats and in a territory as big as North America, there came a number of up-and-coming home grown electronic artists with LOST IN STARS, PARALLELS, PATTERN LANGUAGE, SPACEPRODIGI, COMPUTER MAGIC and BATTLE TAPES all gaining traction.

Canada’s PURITY RING infuriated some of their fanbase by working with KATY PERRY on three tracks for her album ‘Witness’. AESTHETIC PERFECTION’s new singles only policy was paying dividends and the Electro Mix of ‘Rhythm + Control’, which featured the promising newcomer NYXX, was one of the best tracks of 2017.

Female solo artists had strong presence in 2017 as FEVER RAY made an unexpected return, ZOLA JESUS produced her best work to date in ‘Okovi’ and Hannah Peel embarked on an ambitious synth / brass ‘Journey to Cassiopeia’. Meanwhile, SARAH P. asked ‘Who Am I’ and MARNIE found ‘Strange Words & Weird Wars’ as ANI GLASS and NINA both continued on their promising developmental path.

Other female fronted acts like KITE BASE, SPECTRA PARIS, BLACK NAIL CABARET, AVEC SANS, EMT and THE GOLDEN FILTER again reinforced that electronic music was not solely about boys with their toys.

Respectively, Ireland and Scotland did their bit, with TINY MAGNETIC PETS and their aural mix of SAINT ETIENNE and KRAFTWERK successfully touring with OMD in support of their excellent second album ‘Deluxe/Debris’, while formed out of the ashes of ANALOG ANGEL, RAINLAND wowed audiences opening for ASSEMBLAGE 23.

A bit of smooth among the rough, CULT WITH NO NAME released a new album while other new(ish) acts making a positive impression this year included KNIGHT$, MOLINA, ANNEKA, SOFTWAVE, THE FRIXION and KALEIDA.

Despite getting a positive response, both iEUROPEAN and SOL FLARE parted ways while on the opposite side of the coin, Belgian passengers METROLAND celebrated five years in the business with the lavish ‘12×12’ boxed set

Overall in 2017, it was artists of a more mature disposition who held their heads high and delivered, as some newer acts went out of their way to test the patience of audiences by drowning them in sleep while coming over like TRAVIS on VSTs.

With dominance of media by the three major labels, recognition was tricky with new quality traditional synthpop not generally be championed by the mainstream press. With Spotify now 20% owned by those three majors, casual listeners to the Swedish streaming platform were literally told what to like, as with commercial radio playlists.

It is without doubt that streaming and downloading has created a far less knowledgeable music audience than in previous eras, so Rusty Egan’s recent online petition to request platforms to display songwriting and production credits was timely; credit where credit is due as they say…

While ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK does not dismiss Spotify totally and sees it as another tool, it should not be considered the be all and end all, in the same way vinyl is not the saviour of the music industry and in physics terms, cannot handle the same dynamic range as CD.

Music is not as emotionally valued as it was before… that’s not being old and nostalgic, that is reality. It can still be enjoyed with or without a physical purchase, but for artists to be motivated to produce work that can connect and be treasured, that is another matter entirely.

However, many acts proved that with Bandcamp, the record company middle man can be eliminated. It is therefore up to the listener to be more astute, to make more effort and to make informed choices. And maybe that listener has to seek out reliable independent media for guidance.

However, as with the shake-up within the music industry over the last ten years, that can only be a good thing for the true synthpop enthusiast. And as it comes close to completing its 8th year on the web, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK maintains its position of not actually promoting new acts or supporting any scene, but merely to write about the music it likes and occasionally stuff it doesn’t… people can make their own mind up about whether to invest money or time in albums or gigs.

Yes, things ARE harder for the listener and the musician, but the effort is worthwhile 😉


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK Contributor Listings 2017

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: QUASCHENING & SCHNAUSS Synthwaves
Best Song: BATTLE TAPES No Good
Best Gig: SOULWAX at O2 Ritz Manchester
Best Video: SOULWAX Is it Always Binary?
Most Promising New Act: MARIE DAVIDSON


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: OMD The Punishment of Luxury
Best Song: SPARKS Edith Piaf (Said it Better Than Me)
Best Gig: SPEAK & SPELL at Glastonbury
Best Video: ALISON MOYET Reassuring Pinches
Most Promising New Act: MICHAEL OAKLEY


SIMON HELM

Best Album: PAGE Det Är Ingen Vacker Värld Men Det Råkar Vara Så Det Ser Ut
Best Song: LAU NAU Poseidon
Best Gig: PAGE at Electronic Summer 2017
Best Video: PSYCHE Youth Of Tomorrow
Most Promising New Act: ANNA ÖBERG


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: I SPEAK MACHINE Zombies 1985
Best Song: AESTHETIC PERFECTION Rhythm + Control – Electro Version
Best Gig: OMD + TINY MAGNETIC PETS at Cambridge Corn Exchange
Best Video: I SPEAK MACHINE Shame
Most Promising New Act: MICHAEL OAKLEY


RCHARD PRICE

Best Album: FADER First Light
Best Song: OMD Isotype
Best Gig: MARC ALMOND at London Roundhouse
Best Video: GOLDFRAPP Anymore
Most Promising New Act: NINA


STEPHEN ROPER

Best Album:  OMD The Punishment of Luxury
Best Song: DUA LIPA Be The One
Best Gig: HANNAH PEEL at Norwich Arts Centre
Best Video: PIXX I Bow Down
Most Promising New Act: PIXX


MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL

Best Album: ZOLA JESUS Okovi
Best Song: GARY NUMAN My Name Is Ruin
Best Gig: ERASURE at London Roundhouse
Best Video: GARY NUMAN My Name Is Ruin
Most Promising New Act: ANNA ÖBERG


Text by Chi Ming Lai
14th December 2017

TWIN PEAKS & FRIENDS: Introducing The Weird & Wonderful Musical World of David Lynch

Photo by Mark Berry

“My childhood was elegant homes, tree-lined streets, the milkman, building backyard forts, droning airplanes, blue skies, picket fences, green grass, cherry trees. Middle America as it’s supposed to be. But on the cherry tree there’s this pitch oozing out – some black, some yellow, and millions of red ants crawling all over it. I discovered that if one looks a little closer at this beautiful world, there are always red ants underneath. Because I grew up in a perfect world, other things were a contrast”.

And so we are invited to go in; into the mysteriously twisted, sickening at times, never straightforward world of David Lynch. One likes the arts and photography, another excels in music, or vocals, few make good films, while the rest write or paint; Lynch has done it all. Having introduced his unparalleled strangeness into American film making and being true to his own ideas, the “madman” (as Mel Brooks called him), even refused to direct ‘The Return Of The Jedi’, claiming that Lucas would do it better his way.

Meeting Angelo Badalamenti, while filming his hugely successful ‘Blue Velvet’, proved to be the start of a captivating musical relationship, which Lynch has proven to treasure till today.

Angelo Badalamenti, whose superlative musical understanding led to various working relationships with many a pop and rock band, with Pet Shop Boys, Orbital, Tim Booth, Anthrax, Marianne Faithful and others, all creating electrifying soundscapes with a little help of the virtuoso.

As Lynch’s films gained critical acclaim worldwide, his musical interests and collaborations grew in parallel.

Who directed a 2011 Duran Duran gig streamed live from Mayan Theater in LA? Lynch did…

Who collaborated with Interpol on ‘I Touch a Red Button Man’ animation? Lynch did…

Who directed Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Came Back Haunted’ video? Lynch did… (incidentally striking a further musical pact with Reznor)

Photo by Michel Delsol/Getty Images

As it often appears, happenstance creates the optimal conditions for working relationships, and that’s exactly what happened with Lynch and Cruise.

The ethereal sounding, dainty Julee may have never worked with the visionary, if it wasn’t for the fact that Lynch couldn’t use Tim Buckley’s ‘Song To The Siren’ covered by This Mortail Coil in a key scene of ‘Blue Velvet’. As an alternative, he commissioned Badalamenti to compose a song of similar feel, with lyrics by Lynch.

As someone had to sing ‘Mysteries Of Love’, Badalamenti recommended Cruise, known for her sublime voice. Recently the rather talented Kid Moxie re-visited the tune with Badalamenti , putting her own spin onto the Badalamenti/Lynch hit.

And so enter ‘Twin Peaks’; first aired in 1990 on ABC, later being taken off air due to dwindling popularity, the series was far more than the crime drama with a twist, expected by the fans of Lynch. Having teamed with Mark Frost, the master created a cult program, which is often described as one of the best TV series ever.

The story of the death of young and beautiful Laura Palmer, set in idyllic landscapes of rural Washington state, and the search for her murderer has, for years, evoked fear, lust, wonder and interest into the metaphysical and mystical.

Needless to say, a correct musical setting was necessary to depict the uncertainty, terror and weirdness of the events unfolding in, otherwise, quiet town of Twin Peaks.

A quiet town… at least that’s what one expects on the surface; but Twin Peaks has its own dark secrets. The horrors and wrongdoings that underline the death of Laura Palmer are palpable and Lynch made sure that his take on the human immorality is fully stamped on his characters.

Cruise was again chosen to perform a number of songs, and Badalamenti provided the musical mysticism, resulting in a multi-million selling soundtrack to the series, even with the tracks being largely instrumental.

But within those magical non word pieces, lay three acutely polished gems, all performed by Cruise. ‘Falling’, acting as the theme tune, must be, by far, one of the most recognised songs that go with any TV series.

Cruise further benefitted from the Lynch/Badalamenti collaboration by releasing her first album ‘Floating Into The Night’, which housed ‘Falling’, ‘Into The Night’ and ‘Nightingale’, all used in ‘Twin Peaks’.

‘Rocking Back Inside My Heart’ is one of the songs performed by Cruise live on stage at the Twin Peaks bar everyone gathers at, with most of the young female characters singing to it.

‘Falling’ has been so popular, that a number of artists decided to cover it, and further inspirations appeared by Apoptygma Berzerk, Bright Light Bright Light, The Joy Formidable, The Wedding Present and many others. The latest cover is, interestingly enough, performed by Chrysta Bell, who appears in the Twin Peaks revival series, and has been involved in working with Lynch for many years.

Joined by LA based music magician and celebrated producer John Fryer, Bell provides a synthy rendition, which is a true testament to the song’s longevity and prowess.

Lynch and Badalamenti also produced ‘Summer Kisses Winter Tears’, which, originally by Elvis Presley, was covered by Cruise and featured in ‘Until The End Of The World’ movie. A wonderfully presented come back of the 50s, with dreamy guitar and lazy piano, floating over the consciousness, not without an underlying uncertainty, however.

Chrysta Bell met Lynch in 1999 and the pair have collaborated since, with the master co-writing two of her albums. Her stunning song written with the director himself, ‘Polish Poem’, was featured in the closing scenes of ‘Inland Empire’. Not only is it hauntingly beautiful, but depicts the end of the movie in a sublime manner.

But Lynch sings himself too, oh yes! ‘Good Day Today’ is minimal electro, breaking into the popular culture, with heavily melodyned vocal pleading for the want of having “a good day today”. The lensman wants to be sent an angel, and complains of tiredness over a fast paced, catchy beat; all this happening against a back drop of a disturbingly Lynchian video.

Karen O joins the magician on ‘Pinky’s Dream’, which has been skilfully remixed by Trentemøller into an electronic burst of metallic beats and heavy bass. Together with ‘Good Day Today’, both taken from ‘Crazy Clown Time’, the first album by Lynch, the tracks have been described as having serious electro pop influences.

‘I’m Waiting Here’, performed by the Swedish singer and songwriter Lykke Li, found itself on Lynch’s second album ‘The Big Dream’. Featuring a video, which could have been taken from any of Lynch’s productions, the dreamy arrangement gets abruptly cut off by unexplained noise and the uncertainty is ushered, breaking off the waltzing style of the music. This is what David is about; nothing is ever perfectly straightforward.

He remixes too… ‘Evangeline’ by John Foxx and Jori Hulkkonen was masterfully adapted by the filmmaker. It’s gritty, dirty and fragmented: mechanical in texture. It feels like observing the intricate workings of a Swiss watch, while on blow, being surrounded by robots.

Moby has collaborated with the master for years too. This includes video directing, interviews and remixes. ‘Go’ was largely influenced by the Twin Peaks theme, which is sampled here, and it sold a staggering two million copies. And now Richard Melville Hall stars as the guitar player in Rebekah Del Rio’s band, performing live in Part 10 of ‘Twin Peaks’ Revival.

The Lynch collaborations are endlessly eclectic when it comes to genre and style. From ambient, pop, rock, via synth, classical and experimental. The working relationship with Marek Zebrowski, a Polish-American composer, also started during the production of ‘Inland Empire’, part of which was shot in Łódź. As both displayed interests in musical experimentation and improvisation, a concept evolved under the name of ‘Polish Night Music’.

More recently the hungry fans of the original ‘Twin Peaks’ series have been in for a treat. Lynch has always stressed that the story of Laura Palmer wasn’t complete and this year has seen the revival series hit the television screens. When Julee Cruise happily took to the stage in the original series, dazzling with a plethora of eerie, ethereal notes and semi-shy demeanour; the Revival brings plenty of musical surprises, inviting different performers to do their own sets in The Bang Bang Bar, a roadhouse in Twin Peaks. Each episode features a live performance from handpicked musicians, many of whom have a long history of association with the film master.

First off, Chromatics showcase ‘Shadow’, the video to which reminds of the Black Lodge’s red curtains. The Portland based band has undergone many a member change, but ‘Shadow’ certainly proves that the current set up is perfect. The track is Badalamenti dreamy, still bearing the electronic sounds of the now, and as an opener to the newest of the tales of the sleepy Washington town, it blends in nicely.

Au Revoir Simone from New York picks up the baton in Part 4, following The Cactus Blossoms. ‘Lark’ keeps in with the intangible atmosphere, leading through to Trouble’s ‘Snake Eyes’. An Americana rock and roll style, with added sexy saxophone and jazzy influences, this instrumental track leads into Part 6, with Sharon Van Etten’s ‘Tarifa’. With the copious amounts of folksy soothing day dream, the quirky vocal and bluesy elements, at times a la Fleetwood Mac, it’s a perfect summer evening track.

None other than Lynch’s old collaborator Trent Reznor comes back to mingle with the master yet again, after having worked on the score for ‘Lost Highway’, and Nine Inch Nails’ video for ‘Came Back Haunted’. This time taking the role of a goth band frontman, the leather clad Reznor and co, take to the Roadhouse stage to deliver ‘She’s Gone Away’.

As the first band to be actually introduced by an MC, NIN hauntingly induce their semi psychedelic, disturbingly mish-mashed track full of guitars over Reznor’s seductive male interceptions. Backing vocals are provided by Mrs Reznor, Marqueen Maandig.

Hudson Mohawke takes the DJ reins on ‘Human’ in Part 9, while Au Revoir Simone returns in the same episode with ‘A Violet Yet Flammable World’, which begins with a similar beat to Depeche Mode’s classic ‘Ice Machine’, to develop into an all girl extravaganza of voice and purely electronic sound, reminiscent of Marsheaux.

Rebekah Del Rio delivers memorable rendition of ‘No Stars’ written by Lynch. The Latin-American songstress has been a muse for the filmmaker for years, providing a cameo appearance in ‘Mulholland Drive’ to perform a Spanish a cappella performance of Roy Orbison’s ‘Crying’. In ‘Twin Peaks’, she is seen in a dress with a pattern reminiscent of the Black Lodge floor, ushers in a stunning vocal, both in English and Spanish. Yet another classic ‘Twin Peaks’ track.

What follows in Part 11, is a twist: a beautifully composed piano piece ‘Heartbreaking’ performed by Count Smokula.

Chromatics return in the next episode with instrumental ‘Saturday’, while the ominous number 13 brings the original series’ familiar James Marshall with ‘Just You’, which also appears on ‘Twin Peaks Music: Season Two Music and More’.

Folksy Lissie performs ‘Wild West’, just where David Bowie appears for the first time in Cole’s dream as Phillip Jeffries of ‘Fire Walk With Me’ movie.

Bowie moves back in in Episode 15, which is wrapped up by The Veils performing ‘Axolotl’. The London based indie band has been yet another of Lynch’s favourites chosen to perform live in Twin Peaks and they don’t disappoint with the quasi electronic, gripping tune, which injects a further dose of fear and uncertain weirdness so typical of Lynch’s disciples.

Number 16 showcases none other than Pearl Jam’s finest, Eddie Vedder, introduced as Edward Louis Severson with ‘Out Of Sand’. The fact that Vedder had been listed as a cast member well before the episode aired, created a stir and many fans eagerly awaited his performance at the Bang Bang Bar. Although the tune had been available prior to the premiere of Part 16, EV toned it down to acoustic guitar as the only instrument accompanying his hauntingly hungry voice. Interestingly enough Vedder isn’t in the closing titles; Audrey Horne gets to perform ‘Audrey’s Dance’ once more, with a more sinister ending however.

The real treat wraps up Episode 17, with none other than Julee Cruise returning beautifully to finish the part, where Cooper and co go back to the past to try and save Laura Palmer. Julee’s second to none, ethereally magical voice on ‘The World Spins’ is an ultimate tribute to the whole of the series, with Number 18 (being the last) stripped off the, now familiar, musical end.

If anyone wanted answers in the Revival series, they’re probably banging their heads against the wall (or are getting tangled in the Black Lodge curtains), because more questions were introduced and the aura of weirdness has been intensified to almost mystical levels. Has the evil been eradicated? We don’t think so.

Have we got a happy ending? Certainly not so.

But isn’t that what Lynch is all about?

Riddles, riddles, riddles…

And what’s next for the genius? More music perhaps? Who knows, but with the wealth of experiences from the master over the years; musical or visual, haven’t we all been in for a treat?

ELECTRICITY ELECTRICITY


‘Twin Peaks (Music from the Limited Event Series)’ and ‘Twin Peaks (Limited Event Series Soundtrack)’ are available now via Rhino Records

http://www.sho.com/twin-peaks

https://www.facebook.com/TwinPeaksOnShowtime/

https://twitter.com/SHO_TwinPeaks

https://www.instagram.com/twinpeaks/


Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell
Original photos courtesy of Showtime execpt where credited
8th September 2017

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