Tag: Our Daughter’s Wedding (Page 1 of 2)

MUSIK, MUSIC, MUSIQUE 1980 | The Dawn Of Synth Pop

1977 is often seen as Year Zero for synthpop, thanks to hit singles by DONNA SUMMER, SPACE and JEAN-MICHEL JARRE.

But it was not until 1979 with TUBEWAY ARMY reaching No1 with ‘Are Friends Electric?’ that the sound of synth truly hit the mainstream.

Although ‘No1 Song In Heaven’ by SPARKS had actually been a hit a few months earlier, ‘Are Friends Electric?’ was the beginning of the synth being accepted as a worthy mode of expression, rather than as a novelty. But as synths became more affordable, they became the perfect tool of youthful expression.

From Cherry Red, makers of the excellent ’Electrical Language: Independent British Synth Pop 78-84’ 4CD boxed set, comes ‘Musik Music Musique’; subtitled ‘1980: The Dawn Of Synth Pop’, this 3CD 58 track collection explores the arrival of synth pop and the dawn of a new musical era. This was the year before the synth became the rule rather than the exception with the success of SOFT CELL and DEPECHE MODE.

The set starts appropriately with OMD and ‘Messages’, one of the first tunes showcasing the warmer side of electronics following the colder wave led by Messrs Numan and Foxx. But as if to counter this next generation of youngsters, ‘Messages’ is immediately followed by the collection’s vocoder laden title song ‘Musik Music Musique’ from Zeus B Held and the superb proto-industrial ode to loveless sex ‘Coitus Interruptus’ by the much missed FAD GADGET.

Zeus B Held was later to make his impression on popular culture remixing ALPHAVILLE and SIMPLE MINDS as well producing the likes of FASHION, DEAD OR ALIVE, SPEAR OF DESTINY and TRANSVISION VAMP, but his wider breakthrough came as part of GINA X PERFORMANCE in 1979 with The Blitz Club favourite ‘No GDM’; on this compendium, the lesser-known but just as worthy ‘Vendor’s Box’ from their second album ‘X-Traordinaire’ is deservedly provided a platform.

The best producers often earn their spurs as artists and realising their limitations, use their accumulated studio nous to subvert the mainstream via pop. ‘Astroboy’ by BUGGLES sees Trevor Horn develop his sonic architecture to prove that he had another song that wasn’t ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’. Meanwhile the welcome inclusion of NEW MUSIK’s other hit ‘This World Of Water’ allows Tony Mansfield to showcase the crafted sparkle that would later go on to adorn records by CAPTAIN SENSIBLE, VICIOUS PINK, A-HA and NAKED EYES.

It may seem strange to see SPANDAU BALLET as part of this package but when they first appeared, they were considered a synthesizer band; ‘Glow’ was a UK double A side single with ‘Musclebound’ in 1981 and while it was the last synth-led track they did, their funk soul aspirations were there for all to hear. In fact, songwriter Gary Kemp had conceived ‘Glow’ with a brass section in mind, so it is now something of a curio that could be seen as a precursor to ‘Chant No1’.

SPANDAU BALLET were produced by Richard James Burgess who co-designed the Simmons SDSV; his electro-jazz combo LANDSCAPE figure with the Colin Thurston helmed ‘European Man’ which was actually designated “electronic dance music” on its single artwork some three decades before it was appropriated and abbreviated to become EDM…

Many of the usual suspects from the period like VISAGE, JAPAN, THE HUMAN LEAGUE and OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDING are all present and correct with familiar recordings, but interestingly (although not for the better), it’s the original version of Phil Lynott’s ‘Yellow Pearl’ without the Rusty Egan drums or the Midge Ure remix that gets the nod!

One of the main beauties of these thoughtfully curated collections is to be able sway away from the obvious and feature a known-name with a lesser-known work; in the case of ULTRAVOX, it’s the occasionally Eno-inspired and Conny Plank produced ‘Waiting’ which was the B-side to their first Midge Ure fronted single ‘Sleepwalk’. Meanwhile, SUICIDE are represented by the excellent Ric Ocasek produced ‘Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne’ and YELLO with ‘Bimbo’, the oddball opener of the Swiss trailblazers’ debut long player ‘Solid Pleasure’.

SILICON TEENS get to feature with something other than ‘Memphis Tennessee’ and it’s the Daniel Miller‘s self-penned instrumental ‘Chip N Roll’ that has the honour, while the Mute Records founder gets another track in with ‘Brushing Your Hair’, a gloriously vibrant instrumental production and co-write for Alex Fergusson of ALTERNATIVE TV.

There’s additionally tracks by lesser known international acts or those bands that faded from view after effectively being one hit wonders. The entire career of M may have been overshadowed by the ubiquitous ‘Pop Muzik’ but Robin Scott did go on to release three albums and work with Ryuichi Sakamoto; the sombre ‘Official Secrets’ may not really have much of a hook but it contains some percolating bleepy sections that pre-date KRAFTWERK’s ‘Home Computer’ by one year.

‘A Circuit Like Me’ from Australian combo, THE METRONOMES actually sounds very 21st century with its detached female vocal and charming monosynths, while the gallop of ‘Drawn & Quartered’ by THE KORGIS is a worthy find. Now while ROCKETS found fame with a catchy robotic flavoured cover of ‘On The Road Again’ with the help of Zeus B Held, the silver faced Italians found that the vocoder suited their performance art poise and reapplied it for the self-penned space rocker ‘Galactica’.

Also possessing a bit of a gallop is LORI & THE CHAMELEONS’ wispy Morricone-influenced single ‘The Lonely Spy’ although with its acoustic strum, it is quite different from the understated electronic disco of their best known track ‘Touch’. Cut from a similar melodic post-punk cloth, the Martin Hannett produced ‘Sympathy’ from PAULINE MURRAY & THE INVISIBLE GIRLS is a reminder of how women were coming to the fore after punk in synth-assisted new wave, a fact borne out on ‘Musik Music Musique’ by the inclusion of more obscure works from TOYAH, KIM WILDE and HAZEL O’CONNOR.

‘Musik Music Musique’ is also an opportunity to become reacquainted with lost tunes of yore and ‘The Eyes Have It’ by KAREL FIALKA will be remembered by those who owned the 1980 Virgin Records compilation ‘Machines’, as will the octave driven ‘Destiny’ by DALEK I LOVE YOU. Some enjoyably avant pop adventures come courtesy of XYNN’s ‘Computed Man’ and SCIENCE’s ‘Tokyo’, while one of the more bizarre but successful experiments included is ‘I’m A Computer’ by THE GOO-Q.

One of the lesser known acts featuring with the eccentric ‘Money’ is MOEBIUS, not the member of German duo CLUSTER but an American art rock band with a penchant for DEVO. ‘Doctor …?’ by BLOOD DONOR is another wonderful discovery while of the more experimental art pieces included, NINI RAVIOLETTE’s ‘Suis-Je Normale’ delightfully comes over like a collaboration between Jane Birkin and Laurie Anderson.

Düsseldorf is often seen as the spiritual home of electronic music and there is worthy representation from DER PLAN and ‘Da Vorne Steht Ne Ampel’ illustrating how there were other dimensions to German electronic music other than that engineered by KRAFTWERK. But closing the set is the band named after the Electri_City itself, LA DÜSSELDORF with the light-hearted ‘Dampfriemen’; a quirky slice of synth “Oompah” with comedic chants and a kazoo section, it sums up the manic oddball nature of the former NEU! drummer Klaus Dinger.

There are many other tracks that have merit, but textures which reoccur on ‘Musik Music Musique’ to date stamp the period are the icy chill of the affordable ARP Quartet string machine and squawky sax, although not in an overblown jazz funk way.

Despite ‘Musik Music Musique’ comprising of a carefully researched tracklisting, a few errors do slip through; as well as the SPANDAU BALLET track being released in 1981 as already mentioned (although it was available on a very scarce Japanese-only promo sampler in late 1980), the version of ‘Kebabträume’ by DAF is the 1982 Conny Plank version from the Virgin album ‘Für Immer’ and not the Bob Giddens produced Mute Records five piece band recording which actually came out in 1980.

Then in the booklet, the Foxx fronted 1977 line-up of ULTRAVOX! gets illustrated as opposed to the New Romantic suited Midge Ure one, while LA DÜSSELDORF’s Hans Lampe is referred to as a “Keyboard Whizz” when he is actually a drummer and now performs with Michael Rother who was Klaus Dinger’s partner in NEU!; in fact Dinger handled keyboards himself under the pseudonym of Nikolaus Van Rhein.

Those are minor quibbles though, because this set is very good value and acts as a great music history lesson as well as offering the chance to hear some new vintage synth. While many may have heard of BERLIN BLONDES, THE PASSAGE, THE FALLOUT CLUB and EYELESS IN GAZA, only a few will have heard their music.

‘Musik Music Musique’ offers something of a low risk opportunity to make some new friends while becoming reacquainted with a few old and lost ones. Here’s to the 1981 follow-up set…


‘Musik Music Musique – 1980: The Dawn Of Synth Pop’  is released on 31st July 2020 as a 3CD boxed set by Cherry Red Records

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


Text by Chi Ming Lai
13th July 2020

HYPERBUBBLE Western Ware

The quirky Texan husband and wife duo HYPERBUBBLE have finally delivered their long awaited cosmic country album with a twist.

First revealed during an ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK interview in 2014, ‘Western Ware’ puts the “MOO” into Moog!

Inspired by GIL TRYTHALL’s ‘Switched On Nashville’ which featured a Moog modular version of ‘Gentle On My Mind’ and a bizarre vocoder laden take on ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, ‘Western Ware’ was actually recorded in the home city of country music.

This HYPERBUBBLE album is a collection of covers that promises the recordings are “100% Electronic. No Strings Attached”. Opening song ‘Y’All Come’ is a hoe down in space, but things get more crossover with the unmistakable lilt of ‘Jolene’. Previously covered by acts as unlikely as THE SISTERS OF MERCY, STRAWBERRY SWITCHBLADE and ONE DOVE, Dolly’s classic tune gets an enjoyable synthpop reboot.

On the ‘Nashville in the 23rd Century’ rendition of ‘Boney Fingers’, Jess DeCuir’s theremin is a most perfect Country instrument as it hauntingly twangs, while she duets with her man Jeff. Perhaps unsurprisingly as electronic music’s own CARTER & CASH, ‘Truck Driving Woman’ actually sounds like one of HYPERBUBBLE’s own compositions despite being of 1968 vintage, first made famous by Oklahoma starlet NORMA JEAN.

With its swoops, sweeps and Darth Vader references, the cover of FREDDY WELLER’s ‘Bar Wars’ is hilarious and brought up to date.

The tone continues on a pulsating synth laden rendition of ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ which also features musical pranksters Ricardo Autobahn and Daz Samson as well as some HI-NRG orchestra stabs! And as the track segues into ‘Digital Cowboy’, there’s a treat for fans of OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDING as Scott Simon comes out of semi-retirement to play lead synths on this previously unreleased title track from ODW’s first EP.

‘The Rubber Room’ adds some square waltzing and more theremin before the album climaxes with ‘The Electric Horseman’, a meaty take on the instrumental from the Robert Redford film of the same name. Extended from the original which incidentally also featured a sequencer line, the track is given a powerful synthwave workout not far off from PERTURBATOR!

‘Western Ware’ clocks in at just over 29 minutes and while it doesn’t outstay its welcome, it is disappointing that ‘The Devil Went Down To Georgia’, which HYPERBUBBLE have played live on several occasions, hasn’t made the final tracklisting. As with their previous offering ‘Music To Color By’, phasers are again set to fun and for the ‘Western Ware’ concept alone, HYPERBUBBLE deserve either an award or a straitjacket 😉

‘Western Ware’ uses the following equipment: Moog Etherwave Theremin, Moog Rogue, Moog Sub37, Moog Little Phatty, Moog Theremini, Moog Prodigy, Moog Taurus II, MicroKorg Vocoder, Korg Monotron, Roland Gaia, Roland Juno 60, Roland Jupiter 8, Roland TR707, Roland TR808, Roland TR909, ARP Odyssey, ARP Omni, Yamaha CS01, Casio MT500, Oberheim Matrix, Nord lead, Access Virus T12, Alesis D4, Linn LM2, Boss DR55, Simmons SKHB2, Dubreq Stylophone


‘Western Ware’ is released by Fellowshipwreck as a CD and download
http://www.hyperbubble.net/

https://www.facebook.com/hyperbubble

https://hyperbubble.bandcamp.com/

https://twitter.com/Hyperbubble

http://fellowshipwreck.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
26th February 2017

Missing In Action: OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDING

It’s accepted that commercial electronic music had its formative roots in Germany with the innovations started by KRAFTWERK and their transition from the early Krautrock scene through to that of electropop pioneers.

This was followed by the large wave of UK synth-based acts. However a comparable scene in the United States saw most bands from across the Atlantic, with the exception of DEVO, struggling to achieve major popularity in both their homeland and in the British charts.

Bands such as SUICIDE managed to make it over the pond and supported several established acts, but their influence was only really felt several years later. MINISTRY started out as a New Wave electronic act, but eventually morphed into an Industrial Metal band with frontman Al Jourgensen disowning their early material.

New York-based OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDING, who were named after a card divider in a gift shop, were arguably one the few other commercial US synth bands to make any sort of impact in the UK. Early single ‘Lawnchairs’, a classic slice of synthpop charted at No49 and has been a regular fixture in many electronic music single compilations ever since.

OUR DAUGHTERS WEDDING LawnchairsODW, who comprised Layne Rico (electronic percussion / synth), Keith Silva (vocals / synth) and Scott Simon (synth / saxophone) were often compared to early DEPECHE MODE and OMD, a comparison which the band themselves disagreed with – musically there were obvious similarities, but with the release of their sole album ‘Moving Windows’, other elements started to creep into their music with a far more polyphonic and funky chord-based approach than some of the more one finger synth bands of the day.

Sadly, ODW were a candle that burned brightly but burnt out too quickly, splitting after releasing a handful of singles, a solitary long player and touring as support for several high profile bands including OMD, TALK TALK, U2, DEPECHE MODE and DURAN DURAN.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK spoke to ex-ODW member Scott Simon about the band’s gestation and how musical life was for a synthesizer act based in the US…

How did ODW form and transition into an electronic band?

ODW was the child of previous dysfunctional musical marriages. Firstly, the HUMAN BENDS, a five-piece alternative band formed in suburban San Francisco comprising Layne Rico, Keith Silva, Tim McGeary, Vanessa Wilkenson and myself.

Under the guise of a business, I would arrange for rentals in tract home areas. We’d throw in a few mattresses, our instruments and a circus tent, which we’d pitch in the living room to drown out the sound.

The problem was we didn’t have a vocalist, as Keith Silva’s voice hadn’t found its sweet spot yet. We auditioned several but nobody suitable showed up at our door…I’m sure one of the singers was Michael Bolton – long mane, tights and suspenders, Freddy Mercury karaoke! It was a year before we found someone that fit our style, but time had done its deed. The band fought, petty jealousies formed and Tim and I decided to return to New York. Poof!!! No more HUMAN BENDS!!!

After a feeble attempt to resurrect the band on the East Coast, Tim and I decided to form a new band NEIGHBORS & ALLIES. We moved to Philadelphia where I called on a vocalist I had known since childhood and the band gelled quickly. Before we knew it we were back in New York headlining CBGBs and playing for DAVID BOWIE, who was generous in his praise, cigarettes and beer.

It was during these heady days that Keith would talk to me about his idea to form an all-electronic band. At first, I rebuffed the offer to join, but as time passed and things with NEIGHBORS & ALLIES unravelled, I agreed to join Keith.

By this time Layne had moved east with his Synare percussion synth, an instrument only he could master. In the summer of 1980 we started to rehearse in a small flat on West 75th Street and with the privacy of self-powered headphones we wrote our tunes.

Tiny spaces such as the UK club in the East Village were more than happy to let us perform. Word spread, we wrote ‘Lawnchairs’, headlined every club, played with U2 on their first US gig at the Ritz, and rest as they say was history!

While you were championing synth pop on the East Coast, on the West Coast, THE UNITS were developing their style of electro-punk, were you aware of each other and what was your perception of the US synth-based scene?

I think after our North American tour with OMD, we became aware of pockets of electronic music in several cities. We were honoured to share the stage with THE UNITS at San Francisco’s Old Waldorf.

The US scene had more edge, while Euro material took on a more symphonic, ethereal posture.

Early synth bands in the UK notoriously often had a difficult time from crowds unaccustomed to the lack of real instruments being played. How was your experience in US when you became fully electronic?

Trial by fire, my friend! A packed house of bikers on Long Island, my Father’s place to be exact… flying beer bottles and such! But IGGY POP had coached us on the dodgeball effect, so we ducked and played. Soon, seeing that the music we were making was song-based, crowds accepted our format.

You are best known for the song ‘Lawnchairs’, do you get fed up with the lazy comparison to OMD’s ‘Messages’?

I don’t mind the comparison at all. OMD is a great band. We were close friends at one point, even spent time with them in The Manor and their small space in Liverpool.

Both versions of ‘Lawnchairs’ have live drums on them which seemed to go against your primarily electronic sound, was there any particular reasoning behind that?

My brother Frank, who co-produced the first record, suggested we have Layne play a simple beat on kick, snare and hat. This was done to improve the sound quality as we had a limited budget back then!

How was the experience of coming to Chipping Norton Studios to record the ‘Digital Cowboy’ EP with Colin Thurston, producer for DURAN DURAN, TALK TALK and THE HUMAN LEAGUE?

Chipping Norton was great fun – Simon Phillips (who played drums on the EP) was brilliant. Although to be honest, Colin was distracted, he spent a lot of time flying around The Isles on Concorde on our dime. That part was a very unhappy experience, although he later attended our sold-out Venue show and apologized. I hold no grudge…

On the ‘Digital Cowboy’ EP, the band made a point of highlighting that “No Sequencers Were Used”, what was the reasoning behind that statement?

We were proud of our musicianship, that we could play complicated parts with precision and speed, while our contemporaries relied on programming and triggers. I got a first-hand look at the difference when we played with DEPECHE MODE in Chicago.

Your roles seem very defined on your sleeve credits, did you always play “bass synthesizer” or did you contribute other electronic elements?

I started as a drummer, moved to guitar (I have 12 credits of jazz and classical at university), then to keyboards and sax. As the band progressed, I wrote many of the tunes or co-wrote with Keith.

Was ‘Moving Windows’ a fun studio album to make? Tracks like ‘Buildings’ sound like a riot…

‘Moving Windows’ was a trip! We started in Electric Ladyland, partaking in all it had to offer, then moved to Intergalactic where Afrika Bambaataa and Arthur Baker had taken up residence.

This was all with the guiding hand of David Spradley, former P-FUNK member, writer of ‘Atomic Dog’.

We had access to the only Fairlight in the States at the time and we used it to the fullest. On ‘Buildings’, we dropped wires and mics into a crowd we had gathered on East 86th Street. We taught them the tune, they sang, and were sampled into the Fairlight. The hilarious results are on record.

‘Auto Music’ has one of THE great synth basslines…

I appreciate the nod for ‘Auto Music’ that came about by David Spradley and I jamming one morning in our Union Square loft.

You managed to secure some pretty high profile support slots, how was that experience?

We shared a bus with DURAN during our tour of Europe. Interesting, although they weren’t “DURAN DURAN” yet – John, Andy, Roger, Simon and Nick, all great guys. We also hung with them during the ‘Tiger’ tour in the US. What a scene!

Which synths were responsible for the ODW sound and how important was the Synare?

Primarily we used the MicroMoog, Roland RS09 String synth, Sequential Circuits Pro One, Electro Harmonix DRM32 Drum Machine and Synare 2 Percussion synth. Nobody could play the Synare like Layne, the guy was a genius. As we grew, the device was used less, especially when the Prophet 5, OB-X and others came on the scene.

What sort of a relationship did the band have with MTV?

At the time, MTV needed us and we needed them. Our loft was near their West Side studio – a ramshackle, three-story townhouse and both Keith and I appeared / guest hosted with one of the original VJs Martha Quinn. I’d say the band’s relationship culminated with the network when the winning contestant for “BRING MTV TO YOUR HOUSE FOR HALLOWE’EN 1982”, selected ODW and Joey Ramone as the stars he wanted to attend. After a three-hour booze cruise in a stretch limo, we arrived at a small suburban Connecticut house that had been converted into something out of England’s medieval times, thatch roof and all. It was a freak show! The kid was about 14 years old, his parents were overwhelmed by the lights, hangers-on and hoopla. We never heard from MTV after that affair!

Latterly you experienced major problems with your record label, what happened?

EMI screwed us, our record was on the way up, top club DJs such as Mark Kamins gave it the big thumbs up. The LA office killed it due to a personal problem a senior executive had with our representative. A personal problem! Can you believe it? The guy ruined what should have been a long and prosperous career, perhaps for the better? Who knows…

How did you feel when the second “British Invasion” happened and UK electronic bands started to have success in the US?

I’m all about music and writing, the more bands the merrier. I don’t care if they’re from Antarctica!

Why did ODW split and did you still continue in music afterwards?

ODW split after the disappointment of working hard to produce good music, but only to find music didn’t matter. People can only take so much. Nowadays I have a studio on my farm, music has been part of my life for as long as I can remember.

I recently wrote and produced an album for PHILADELPHIA SOUL SOCIETY. Before I twirled a drumstick, tuned a guitar, or sat at a piano, writing was my foray into the art world and as pop music and its trappings held me by teenage reins, the pencil became less important, albeit temporarily.

After years of scribbling lyrics into a spiral notebook, mostly for tunes no one would hear, I have returned to writing fiction. My first project was declared one of the winners in the 2009 St. Martin’s Press YA competition. I was too embarrassed to use my name so I selected Simon Barkley as the nom de plume. Today I write under Scott Simon, confident there are people who will find my work entertaining. My genres are historical thrillers and private eye mysteries. I am currently working on the ‘Jedidiah Alcatraz Mysteries’ — three-part adventures of an autistic private eye.

How do you look back on your time in ODW and do you feel proud of your part in the early US electronic scene?

I cherish my time with ODW. It was seminal in my development as an artist and a person. I met my wife of 35 years through the band. She did our record covers. I used to have little regard for our work, mostly I think, because of how things turned out. But over the years, having learned others appreciate ODW and what it means, I have been most fortunate to hear our music in a new light. Through this light, I realized why I first picked up a drumstick 50 years ago… love!


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to Scott Simon

‘Nightlife – The Collection’ is available as a download from Amazon and iTunes

Scott Simon’s novels ‘Executive Thief’ and ‘Katherine’s Cross’ can be found on Amazon and other outlets, please visit https://t.co/XqWVOiNzvg via Amazon to view the book trailer

https://www.facebook.com/Our-Daughters-Wedding-380882682006092/

https://www.facebook.com/scott.simon.773

http://www.discogs.com/artist/106443-Our-Daughters-Wedding


Text and Interview by Paul Boddy
17th November 2015

25 SYNTH SINGLES THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN HITS

peterson-ItalianGrandPrix_1971

The late Ronnie Peterson has been acknowledged as one of the fastest Grand Prix drivers of all time, yet he was never crowned World Champion.

Statistics can often not be a good indicator of quality and so it is that sometimes, a great single never actually attained the sales recognition it deserved. This could have been due to timing, lack of interest from a fickle music buying public or even a saturated market.

While some of these lost singles do get forgotten, many become live standards and firm fan favourites. So here are 25 singles from predominantly established acts or collectives featuring figures who are now well known in the music scene, that did not reach the UK Top 40 singles chart. Due to the sheer numbers of songs that are eligible, a cut-off point has been made for when CD singles started to become the norm around 1990.

After much deliberation, it was decided to leave out the work of ASSOCIATES as a number of their songs that would have been contenders for this list were featured in ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s own Beginner’s Guide To Billy MacKenzie. There are of course, several other notable omissions, but this list could go on forever…

So with a restriction of one single per artist moniker, the list is presented in chronological order by year, and then alphabetically…


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Empire State Human (1979)

the-human-league-empire-state-human-virginIt seems strange now that this extremely catchy single failed to be a hit in an era when synthesizers were being accepted by the wider record buying public. After all, both SPARKS and TUBEWAY ARMY had entered the Top 20 with their Moog assisted ditties. In hindsight though, Colin Thurston’s production did sound comparatively thin next to ‘The Number One Song in Heaven’ and ‘Are Friends Electric?’. Despite a timely re-release in 1980, ‘Empire State Human’ only reached a high of No62.

Available on THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘Reproduction’ via Virgin Records

http://www.thehumanleague.co.uk


LORI & THE CHAMELEONS Touch (1979)

Lori--The-Chameleons-Touch---2nd-issue-448240THE CHAMELEONS (not to be confused with the cult Manchester band) were actually Zoo Records supremos Bill Drummond of THE KLF fame and country house resident Dave Balfe who played keyboards with THE TEARDROP EXPLODES. On the beautifully sequenced ‘Touch’, art school student Lori Lartey innocently told of her holiday romance in Tokyo. It spent one week at No70 when re-issued on Sire Records. There was to be just one more single entitled ‘The Lonely Spy’.

Available on the compilation album ‘North By North West’ (V/A) via Korova Records / Warner Music

http://www.penkilnburn.com/


JAPAN Gentlemen Take Polaroids (1980)

JAPAN Gentlemen Take PolaroidsAfter three albums with Ariola Hansa, JAPAN decamped to Virgin Records and reached No60 with ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’, their first single release on the label. But much more was expected as the band were already playing huge venues such as The Bukodan in Tokyo. It would not be until Autumn 1981 following a cash-in release of ‘Quiet Life’ by their former label that David Sylvian and Co. were to become regular singles chart fixtures.

Full length version available on the JAPAN album ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’ via Virgin Records

http://www.nightporter.co.uk


ROBERT PALMER Johnny & Mary (1980)

robert-palmer-johnny-and-mary-islandRobert Palmer took an interest in synths having become a fan of Gary Numan and JAPAN. ‘Johnny & Mary’ was a beautifully world weary number that hit a high of No44. He later had massive success with a more rock flavoured sound while his bank balance was enhanced when the song was covered for the ‘Papa et Nicole’ Renault adverts. Bryan Ferry’s reinterpretation with Todd Terje exposed a twilight years scrutiny on the lyrics which sadly, Palmer himself was never able to do…

Available on the ROBERT PALMER album ‘Clues’ via Island Records / Universal Music

http://www.robertpalmer.com/


SIMPLE MINDS I Travel (1980)

SIMPLE MINDS I TravelSIMPLE MINDS were signed to Arista Records between 1979-1980 and like JAPAN, they were met with indifference by their label. ‘I Travel’ was their penultimate single at Arista who threw in a free blue flexidisc featuring ‘Kaleidoscope’ and ‘Film Theme Dub’ as a sweetener to early purchasers. But despite airplay at The Blitz Club where its futuristic frenzy was highly welcomed, ‘I Travel’ did not make any chart impact.

Available on the SIMPLE MINDS album ‘Celebrate: The Greatest Hits’ via Virgin Records

http://www.simpleminds.com


ULTRAVOX Passing Strangers (1980)

ultravox-passing-strangers-chrysalisThings were heading in the right direction for the Mk2 line-up of ULTRAVOX following ‘Sleepwalk’ getting to No29 in the UK chart. Built around a more synth rock structure, ‘Passing Strangers’ had a great chorus and a sympathetic environment in which THE HUMAN LEAGUE and DEPECHE MODE were also managing to break through. But the single stiffed at No57 and it would take the massive surprise success of ‘Vienna’ in early 1981 to truly establish ULTRAVOX as a chart force.

Available on the ULTRAVOX album ‘The Collection’ via EMI Records

http://www.ultravox.org.uk


OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDING Lawnchairs (1981)

OUR DAUGHTERS WEDDING LawnchairsNew York’s OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDING were one of the new synthpop acts to emerge from across the Atlantic and their best known song ‘Lawnchairs’ was a frantic mechanised combination of OMD and Gary Numan. Despite gaining regular radio play in the UK, its chart summit was No49. The trio later re-recorded ‘Lawnchairs’ with a more conventional live drum sound, but this template totally took the charm out!

Available on the OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDING album ‘Nightlife – The Collection’ via EP Music

http://www.synthpunk.org/odw/


SOFT CELL Memorabilia (1981)

SOFT CELL MemorabiliaProduced by Daniel Miller, ‘Memorabilia’ borrowed heavily from Cerrone’s ‘Supernature’. Released as a 12 inch single but relegated to B-side on the edited 7 inch with ‘A Man Could Get Lost’ as the A-side, Almond recalled a list of trashy souvenirs that were also metaphors for stalking. Dark yet danceable, despite not being a hit, ‘Memorabilia’ would later becitied as an influential proto-house classic.

Available on the SOFT CELL album ‘The Very Best Of’ via Phonogram / Universal Music

http://www.marcalmond.co.uk


BLANCMANGE Feel Me (1982)

BLANCMANGE Feel MeIf Ian Curtis had joined TALKING HEADS, then it might have sounded like this. “I always thought it was more David Byrne than Ian Curtis but, there was never any intention” recalled Neil Arthur in 2013, “We hired a Roland Jupiter 8, an ARP sequencer and a Korg MS20 plus a Linn LM-1 which Stephen Luscombe and I programmed up”. Reaching No46, ‘Feel Me’ always had untapped hit potential as FAITHLESS’ reworking using Arthur’s vocals proved.

Available on the BLANCMANGE album ‘Happy Families’ via Edsel Records

http://www.blancmange.co.uk


THOMAS DOLBY Europa & The Pirate Twins (1982)

THOMAS DOLBY EuropaWith its thundering Simmons drums and glistening synth riff, ‘Europa & The Pirate Twins’ was based on a real life romance of Dolby’s: “I had a girlfriend and we used to fantasise that after the apocalypse, wherever we were, we would meet up on this beach in East Anglia where I grew up… I always thought she’d end up being this big movie star or something”. The song was not a Top40 hit, but entered the wider consciousness when it was used as the theme to BBC Radio1’s ‘Saturday Live’.

Available on the THOMAS DOLBY album ‘The Golden Age Of Wireless’ via EMI Records

http://www.thomasdolby.com


HEAVEN 17 Let Me Go (1982)

HEAVEN 17 Let me goGlenn Gregory and Martyn Ware often cite ‘Let Me Go’ as their favourite HEAVEN 17 song. Propelled by a funky Roland TB303 Bassline before it was hijacked by Acid House, ‘Let Me Go’ had hit written all over it, but stalled at No41. But in a competitive Autumn ‘82 for new releases, later international hits like Thomas Dolby’s ‘She Blinded Me With Science’ and EURYTHMICS’ ‘Love Is A Stranger’ (on its initial release) were having difficulties getting into the UK Top40.

Available on the HEAVEN 17 album ‘The Luxury Gap’ via Virgin Records

http://www.heaven17.com


THE TEARDROP EXPLODES Tiny Children (1982)

Teardrop Explodes - Tiny ChildrenTHE TEARDROP EXPLODES may not have been a synthesizer driven group, but this marvellously haunting ballad was layered in Prophet5 courtesy of Dave Balfe while Julian Cope sounded like a distressed little boy, lost in his sunshine playroom. Mercury Records probably thought ‘Tiny Children’ would be a hit following the success of JAPAN’s ‘Ghosts’ but released in June 1982, the sonic chill was not what people were wanted as they prepared for their summer holidays!

Available on THE TEARDROP EXPLODES album ‘The Greatest Hit’ via Mercury / Universal Music

https://www.headheritage.co.uk/


TEARS FOR FEARS Suffer The Children (1982)

When TEARS FOR FEARS first appeared, they were trying to emulate OMD. ‘Suffer The Children’ took inspiration from Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal de la Quintana’s interest in Primal Scream therapy while musically, it recalled McCluskey and Humphreys’ ‘Pretending To See The Future’ but with more guitar. The child-like refrain by Ozabal’s wife within the bridge and coda would have actually sounded like an OMD hookline had it been played on synth.

Available on the TEARS FOR FEARS deluxe album ‘The Hurting’ via Mercury / Universal Music

http://tearsforfears.com/


VISAGE Pleasure Boys (1982)

VISAGE Pleasure BoysIn Autumn 1982, VISAGE were in a state of limbo following the departure of Midge Ure. But with John Luongo who had remixed ‘Night Train’ on board, the remaining quartet of Steve Strange, Rusty Egan, Billy Currie and Dave Formula plus new bassist Steve Barnacle explored New York electro. ‘Pleasure Boys’ was hard and aggressive with lyrics full of hedonism. But the New Romantic audience had moved on and sales were only enough for it to get to No44.

Full length dance mix version available on the VISAGE album ‘The Face – The Best Of’ via Universal Music

http://www.visage.cc/


DEAD OR ALIVE Misty Circles (1983)

DEAD OR ALIVE Misty CirclesHave courted the major labels, DEAD OR ALIVE finally settled on Epic Records and unleashed this vicious slice of electro gothic disco in ‘Misty Circles’ as their first single release for them. Featuring guitars from a soon-to-be-sacked Wayne Hussey, who went on to join THE SISTERS OF MERCY and then form THE MISSION, ‘Misty Circles’ had a highly unusual sound produced by Zeus B Held that was darker than the romping Hi-NRG that DEAD OR ALIVE were later to have hits with.

Full length version available on the DEAD OR ALIVE album ‘Evolution’ via Epic Records / Sony Music

http://www.deadoralive.net/


JOHN FOXX Endlessly (1983)

By 1983, JOHN FOXX had moved away from pure electronic music and was now listening to both SIMPLE MINDS and U2. His third solo album ‘The Golden Section’ took on a more pop oriented slant under the auspices of producer Zeus B Held ‘Endlessly’ was initially released in 1982 as a moody Linn drum heavy psychedelic romp and failed to chart. But for the new version, thundering sequencers, Simmons drums and a danced up euphoria were added… however, it still failed to be a hit.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘The Golden Section’ via Esdel Records

http://www.metamatic.com


OMD Telegraph (1983)

OMD-Telegraph‘Electricity’ would have been a hit had its sales not been spread over three separate releases with different recorded versions between 1979-80. ‘Telegraph’ was an angry metaphoric attack on religious fundamentalism in the USA, but considered to be the most commercial track on OMD’s brave but critically panned nautical adventure ‘Dazzle Ships’. With an infectious synth melody, what was there not to like? But OMD’s audience had diminished by this time and it only got to No42.

Available on the OMD album ‘Dazzle Ships’ via Virgin Records

http://www.omd.uk.com


TALK TALK My Foolish Friend (1983)

TALK TALK My Foolish FriendProduced by Rhett Davies who was best known for his slick touches on ROXY MUSIC’s ‘Avalon’, ‘My Foolish Friend’ was the last TALK TALK song to feature contributions from their original keyboardist Simon Brenner. Released between ‘The Party’s Over’ and ‘It’s My Life’ albums as a single, Mark Hollis was in wonderfully miserable mode over a dramatic synthesized backdrop. The single became lost when it only reached No57 and was not included on the ‘It’s My Life’ long player.

Available on the TALK TALK album ‘Asides Besides’ via EMI Music

http://www.spiritoftalktalk.com


THE BLUE NILE Tinseltown In The Rain (1984)

blue_nile-tinseltown_in_the_rain-frontA classic song that sounded like THE PSYCHEDELIC FURS fronting OMD, ‘Tinseltown In The Rain’ is regarded as THE BLUE NILE’s signature tune. Released as part of a deal with hi-fi manufacturer Linn Products to showcase their flagship Sondek LP12 turntable, the gorgeous melancholy of ‘Tinseltown In the Rain’ had an understated quality that ensured the trio’s sporadic releases over the next 20 years were eagerly anticipated by the musical cognoscenti.

Full length version available on THE BLUE NILE album ‘A Walk Across The Rooftops’ via Virgin Records

http://www.thebluenile.net


CHINA CRISIS Arizona Sky (1986)

china-crisis-arizona-sky-virginCHINA CRISIS are probably the most underrated band of their generation. Lyrically inspired by an artificially assisted gondola ride in Venice, ‘Arizona Sky’ was one of their many singles which deserved greater recognition. The nucleus of Gary Daly and Eddie Lundon usually managed at least one hit per album but with ‘Arizona Sky’, it was not to be. It settled at No47 despite the song’s brilliant singalong chorus, infectious synthesized textures and catchy “bop-bop-be-doo-dah” refrain.

Full length version available on the CHINA CRISIS album ‘Wishful Thinking: The Very Best Of’ via Universal Music

https://www.facebook.com/pages/China-Crisis/295592467251068


ERASURE Oh L’Amour (1986)

Erasure_-_Oh_L'amour“Why are they doing a DOLLAR song?” someone was overheard at their first visit to an ERASURE concert. And this ultimately sums up why ‘Oh L’Amour’ should have been a massive hit. Its now highly collectable ‘Thomas The Tank Engine’ cover had to be withdrawn due to copyright infringement and wouldn’t have helped availability. However, it should be noted that the original artwork actually features two incidental characters from the Reverend W Audrey’s famous books…

Available on the ERASURE album ‘Always – The Very Best Of’ via Mute Records

http://www.erasureinfo.com


NEW ORDER Bizarre Love Triangle (1986)

NEW ORDER Bizarre fac163One of NEW ORDER’s best loved tunes, ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ only reached No56 in the UK singles chart. However, the version released was an irritating, dance enhanced remix by Shep Pettibone which took all the subtlety out of the song with its collage of overdriven percussive samples. Far better and much more commercial was an at-the-time unreleased remix by Stephen Hague which later formed the basis of the ’94 version on ‘(the best of)’ compilation.

Available on the NEW ORDER album ‘Singles’ via Rhino Records

http://www.neworder.com


ACT Snobbery & Decay (1987)

act-snobbery-and-decay-ztt-1It was the height of Thatcherism and the Synclavier driven theatrics of ‘Snobbery & Decay’ were a sharp observation by Claudia Brücken and Thomas Leer on the state of the nation. However, the UK were not yet ready for an Anglophile German to tell them about its political decline… “No sadly they didn’t” remembered Claudia Brücken in Summer of 2010, “perhaps it was just not the right moment for this song… Thomas does think that perhaps we were ahead of our time”.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN album ‘ComBined – The Best Of’ via Salvo / Union Square Records

http://www.claudiabrucken.co.uk


KRAFTWERK The Telephone Call (1987)

kraftwerk-the-telephone-call-emiThe last single featuring the classic RFWK line-up, ‘The Telephone Call’ was the most immediate track on the disappointing ‘Electric Cafe’ album. Featuring lead vocals from Karl Bartos, despite the abundance of digital synthesis and sampling, ‘The Telephone Call’ still had all the usual Kling Klang hallmarks such as pretty melodies, syncopated rhythms and slightly off-key singing to make this to ‘Electric Cafe’ what ‘Computer Love’ was to 1981’s ‘Computer World’ opus.

Available on the KRAFTWERK album ‘Techno Pop’ via Mute Records

http://www.kraftwerk.com


CAMOUFLAGE The Great Commandment (1988)

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

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

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


Text by Chi Ming Lai
3rd January 2015

From ODW to EDM…how the US finally fell for Electronic Music

DeadmausElectronic music has always had its roots in Europe, whether it was TANGERINE DREAM, KLAUS SCHULZE and JEAN MICHEL JARRE handling the instrumental/experimental side, whilst DEPECHE MODE, FAD GADGET, OMD and GARY NUMAN provided shorter, more commercial snapshots of the sounds that KRAFTWERKhad shaped in their Kling Klang studio years earlier…

…but what was happening Stateside? You had the four mainstays of synth production Moog, Sequential Circuits, ARP and Oberheim but where were the homegrown acts using and embracing this equipment and taking influence from Europe?

With the exception of DEVO and possibly Suicide, US electronic music never really made it over to this side of the pond. And despite these acts using keyboards, they were never purely electronic artists, the former evolving from punk roots and the latter using Farfisa organ sounds before embracing synthesizers later.

Despite slight ripples caused by OUR DAUGHTERS WEDDING’ with their seminal ‘Lawnchairs’, underground US acts such as THE UNITS, LOS MICROWAVES, SPOONS and INFORMATION SOCIETY were destined to remain that way…underground.

WXDR/WDUV College DJ and underground musician at the time Claude Stanton Willey believes that the “U.S. synth music scene never really took off because it was never really perceived as a worthy competitor in the quest for pop chart success. LA bands like SSQ and BERLIN, and even ODW from San Francisco, were only aping what they heard from Britain and I think listeners understood that”. He also goes on to observe that “the record-buying public perceived many synth acts as androgynous weirdos or as art school non-musicians more interested in making a statement than acquiring ‘serious’ musical skill”.

Certainly in the UK, we appeared to be a lot more forgiving when it came to taking musicians who had a penchant for make-up, kilts and frilly shirts much more seriously!

It was only when DEPECHE MODE broke the territory with help from Sire Records’ Seymour Stein a few years later (as documented in DA Pennebaker’s tour film ‘101’), that it appeared that a band with synthesizers and without a drummer could be accepted in a live stadium environment alongside acts such as Van Halen and Bruce Springsteen. But even then Claude Stanton Willey still saw the band as being “a kind of experimental pop” and noting that “mainstream radio dared not touch them until ‘Violator’ came out”.

Even once the synthpop floodgates opened over in the UK, electronic single hits from North American acts were few and far between (tracks like ‘The Safety Dance’ by MEN WITHOUT HATS and ‘Obsession’ by ANIMOTION were generally viewed as novelty records). A few years later, there was a second wave of underground US acts including MINISTRY and SKINNY PUPPY, but like their earlier forerunners, even these bands took their influence from the UK experimental acts such as HULA, PoORTION CONTROL and CABARET VOLTAIRE. It took the rise of house music and the birth of Detroit techno to truly start forging some sort of electronic musical identity.

DM vs DerrickThe latter gave rise to the now infamous meeting between DEPECHE MODE and DERRICK MAY in Detroit 1989 – May and fellow techno producer Juan Atkins had cited Mode as a big influence, but Alan Wilder remained staunchly unimpressed and the admiration remained unreciprocated. Upon meeting May, Wilder called him the “most arrogant f*cker I’ve ever met” and his music “f*cking terrible!”

In the mid 90s, America welcomed another influx of UK music, this time it was the Big Beat genre (prematurely labelled as ‘the electronica revolution’) with artists such as THE PRODIGY, CHEMICAL BROTHERS and FATBOY SLIM; but again with the exception of artists such as THE CRYSTAL METHOD and to a certain degree MOBY, widespread homegrown electronic music was thin on the ground.

Fast forward to 2013 and now the US is embracing electronic music with the letters EDM (Electronic Dance Music) being on the lips of many, to the point where former Nu-Metal act KORN turned their last album ‘The Path Of Totality’ over to a group of the latest dubstep producers to give it a radical overhaul and in the process helped rescue their flagging profile. Even hip-hop and R’n’B acts have accepted synths to the point where what were originally seen as genre mash-ups of dance and rap are now entirely commonplace with many commercial tracks featuring cheesy, syncopated Euro-synth stabs.

So what has caused this stellar shift in popularity of the genre and also for it to become so popular over here too? “Crossover” seems to be the key word, with EDM appealing to a huge range of demographics with the harder-edged tracks pleasing both clubbers and metal fans while the straighter electronic tracks are popular with those into dance and electronica. The music has also arguably helped stimulate clubland and attracted punters to club venues which in the past would have been mainstays for underground music fans only.

Down the years, many electronic music fans would keep half an eye on the clubs for certain tracks and sounds that “pushed the right buttons” (sorry, terrible pun); acts such as PAUL VAN DYK’s ‘For An Angel’, HARDFLOOR’s ‘Acperience’, JAM & SPOON’s ‘The Age Of Love’ and Ferry Corsten (and his many alter-egos) would have crossover appeal to those into synth-based music.

However, many club tracks just didn’t work in a home listening environment, only making sense when played out over a big PA system with lighting and, ahem, appropriate narcotic stimulation. EDM seems to have a much broader appeal than this era and as a recent convert to certain aspects of EDM, the aim of this article (having set the historical context) is to try and give a bit of an armchair beginners guide to the genre, but primarily focusing on the acts that use electronic music in a creative, yet listenable way. So if interested, please read on…

Photo by Ryan Tir

Photo by Ryan Tir

Putting acts into an EDM box and even covering the genre in 2000 words is a pretty impossible / pointless task as it would be equivalent to writing a piece on, say rock music…other genres have different subdivisions and offshoots and to be honest, the only thing linking EDM artists and music is the fact that it tends to be played in clubs and features primarily electronic elements, thus rendering it a really lazy genre categorization!

What has also helped fuel the fire of the scene is that it has become apparent to promoters that club-driven EDM if organized properly, can become a big money-generator. Ticket sales to last year’s Electric Daisy dance festival completely outstripped those three fold for the indie-centred Coachella event. Also the Ultra festival has grown in popularity since its inception 14 years ago, hosting a record number of 165,000 people last year. Also take into account that EDM DJs can potentially play longer than most bands, some up to 4 hours in comparison to a typical 45 minute live set and the numbers start to add up.

As a broad generalization, EDM covers a multitude of styles from Dubstep to House to Electro with SKRILLEX becoming the posterboy of the genre; his tracks, although superbly produced, often tend to rely on a predictable shock and awe approach of huge bitcrushed vowel-based bass and drum drops which have had a tendency to become a bit predictable – whereas there are other acts which take a more subtle, varied and (sometimes) listenable approach.

Where EDM gets more interesting is with acts such as DEADMAU5, INFECTED MUSHROOM, KNIFE PARTY and PORTER ROBINSON. With each progressive album, DEADMAU5 (AKA Joel Zimmerman) becomes more accessible and with his latest release ‘> album title goes here < <‘, he puts his envious collection of Doepfer modular synths to good use on the Close Encounters inspired ‘Closer’ and ‘The Veldt’.

‘The Veldt’, whose lyrics were inspired by the sci-fi legend Ray Bradbury’s short story of the same name – documents a future modern family moving into a fully automated house which has a state of the art nursery for their kids – as time moves on, the parents can’t work out why the thought-activated nursery walls continually project images of an African-style wilderness with prowling lions eating an unknown prey, until it becomes clear that prey (thanks to their children’s thoughts) is in fact them – the lyrics from the song echo many of the features of the story from the “Happylife” home through to the “Is it real or is it a dream, can you believe in machines?”.

The music itself contrasts quite starkly with the foreboding content of the Bradbury story with its euphoric, pulsating, layered sawtooth synths cycling around the chord progression; and whilst a cursory listen to the track would see it as painting an utopian picture of a technology-driven future with it’s “world that the children made” hook – the real story is something a whole lot more darker.

album title goes hereThe pivotal DEADMAU5 track is ‘Strobe’, 10 minutes of electronica with a symphonic three minute intro which builds up layers of electronic pads, alluding to the main hook before the signature riff eases in and gradually speeds up – arguably one of the finest pieces of pure instrumental electronic music released over the last 10 years, it would be a travesty to dismiss tracks such as this as “just a dance track made by a guy in a funny mouse mask”. PORTER ROBINSON, still in his early 20s, bridges the gap between SKRILLEX and DEADMAU5, counterpointing the melodic content of the latter with the introduction of some of the more edgier sounds and glitchiness of the former.

It’s interesting listening to tracks such as his ‘Spitfire’ and playing spot the influence – the track manages to shoehorn in several different reference points from an out and out classical chord progression with slow attack MOBY-esque ‘Porcelain’ string parts through to a hypnotic 8-step TANGERINE DREAM-style echoed sequencer line which appears twice in the track.

What also impresses is the use of dynamics in the second drop where a beautifully sensitive glockenspiel part rides over the top of the strings and sequencer lines before the main bass and drop pattern kick back in again. Other PORTER ROBINSON tracks worth seeking out are ‘Language’ and ‘Unison’ which both showcase glitchy, but melodic synths which would definitely appeal to fans of UK’s REX THE DOG.

Both DEADMAU5 and PORTER ROBINSON are homegrown US acts but there are others making waves that are from other territories. Infected Mushroom have been around for a long time – originating in Israel as a Psy/Goan trance act, but gradually mutating into a fully fledged EDM act.

They openly cite DEPECHE MODE as an influence, especially on the ‘IM The Supervisor’ and ‘Legend Of The Black Shawarma’ albums; the track ‘Special Place’ (from the former) really highlights their eclectic nature, encompassing both dance music with epic breakdowns/drum rolls and 4/4 kick drums but around the 3 minute mark, breaks into a YAZOO-style bassline before the introduction of the main vocal hook in the song. Later tracks such as stand-alone single ‘Pink Nightmares’ and ‘Never Mind’ from their last album ‘Army Of Mushrooms’ showcase an eclectic mix of electronica, trance and EDM which despite being edgy, never stray too far from their melodic roots.

Australia’s KNIFE PARTY rose from the ashes of mainstream arena giants PENDULUM, with founder members Rob Swire and Gareth McGrillen eschewing the faster tempo D’n’B leanings of the former to embrace both 4/4 electronics and dubstep elements which, like Porter Robinson, take the SKRILLEX template and re-mould it into a slightly more melodic and varied format.

KNIFE PARTY tracks worth seeking out include ‘Bonfire’ which incorporates Ragga-style vocals a la Leftfield in a melodic, but edgy electronic track, used to great effect in the cult TV series ‘Breaking Bad’. Also worthy of a listen is ‘Internet Friends’ which uses the Apple talking computer voice to simulate a social media stalker who reacts badly to being “blocked on Facebook”. This takes a theme which was initially started with Kraftwerk’s ‘Computer Love’ to a whole new level (warning, this song contains much angry, computerized swearing…). Finally you have ‘Destroy Them With Lasers’ which makes you wonder why nobody else had thought of basing a synth track around electronic laser gun sounds…

Todd TerjeUp-and-coming acts to keep an eye on include Norway’s TODD TERJE whose more laid-back approach to EDM is clear on his EP ‘It’s The Arps’ – it takes its cues from everything including YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA with the track ‘Inspector Norse’ and TANGERINE DREAM with ‘Swing Star Part 1’.

Also worthy of a listen is young French artist MADEON, integrating more vintage dance synths into his work, with tracks such as ‘Icarus’ and ‘Finale’ being able to sound both retro and modern at the same time.

So what lies in store for the future for EDM? At present, there is plenty of controversy over the genre with articles giving their reasoning for the meteoric rise of EDM and stating that its the lowest common denominator music within the scene that is making it big.

But most of these seem to ignore the fact that much of the music is superbly produced and probably deserves a wider audience which might be put off by the association with clubland and a teen-targetted demographic. One musician who has stepped into the argument is Ed Simons of THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS who recently engaged in a Twitter-fuelled slanging match with EDM DJ Tommie Sunshine over the merits of SWEDISH HOUSE MAFIA’s ‘Don’t You Worry Child’ describing it as “appalling”.

The other danger is that what happened to UK clubbing with its whole Superstar DJ culture could eventually happen for EDM – the UK scene eventually imploded, causing the closure of several super clubs because of the greed of big name DJs charging astronomical fees for sets. On Millennium Eve, Pete Tong was rumoured to have made £125,000 for his appearances, whilst Norman “Fatboy Slim” Cook pocketed an astonishing £140,000 for his DJ sets. Although club owners and promoters were seemingly happy to pay these exorbitant fees, the venues themselves were often half empty – the knock-on effect of entrance fees often hitting the £100 mark causing the clubbers to vote with their feet.

The final word goes to Tommie Sunshine, who in Mixmag had this to say – “Please consider taking a second look at what you may first dismiss. I bet you’ll be surprised by what you’ve disregarded. Keep an open heart, an open mind and remember that EDM is three letters that mean whatever you want them to. If they anger you, call your house, house, and get on with your life. The world is full of chaos and our time here is too short to warrant such banter.”


Text by Paul Boddy
1st March 2013

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