Tag: Pattern Language


As well as hosting the reunion of Alice Hubley and Adam Cresswell as ARTHUR & MARTHA,  Happy Robots Records will also be celebrating their 10th anniversary.

A boutique independent record label based in London, Happy Robots Records specialises in dreamy electronic robotpop, it was originally set-up to release ARTHUR & MARTHA’s only album to date ‘Navigation’.

It has since developed an international roster of acts including TINY MAGNETIC PETS, HOLOGRAM TEEN, RODNEY CROMWELL, PATTERN LANGUAGE and SINOSA. Happy Robots artists have been notable for being featured in a variety of mainstream publications and newspapers as well as receiving BBC Radio airplay.

With ARTHUR & MARTHA reuniting at The Islington in London on SATURDAY 2ND MARCH 2019, Happy Robots CEO and self-confessed “Moog snob” Adam Cresswell took time out from ARTHUR & MARTHA rehearsals to chat about the label’s first decade and what might be in store for the future.

Is it true Happy Robots was partly created out of necessity?

Partly. I had always wanted to start my own label, just the plan had been to start it after I’d given up making music. Alice and I had ARTHUR AND MARTHA’s ‘Navigation’ in the can for ages, but we kept getting mucked about by labels. But then when the LITTLE BOOTS / LA ROUX synthpop explosion happened, we thought let’s start a label now so we won’t completely miss the boat. We got the distributor Cargo on board and it all came together.

At the time ARTHUR & MARTHA ‘Autovia’ was released as a single as BOT1, the record industry was going through a state of flux, dilemmas about downloading, whether to release vinyl, self-releasing versus labels and the onset of social media. What was that like to have to deal with?

Running a label is always a massive gamble but now you don’t just gamble on the bands, you gamble on formats as well. When we started, it was really good for labels and artists as the download and streaming services were paying really well. But they realised they couldn’t make enough profits so they massively slashed the return to labels. Revenue nose-dived leading to the situation we are in now. I have been looking back on old invoices and we made more from the download of the Autovia EP than anything until BOT10.

How had your dealings with labels in the past been?

Like anything, mostly very good with the very occasional bad egg. With labels, I find you always remember the promises that they make but don’t keep – which is why I always try and be very measured and honest with the acts on Happy Robots. No false expectations, just cold hard reality.

Happy Robots issued a compilation ‘Botpop Volume One’ as BOT2, what was the aim of that, how was it to put together and will there ever be a ‘Volume Two’?

‘Botpop Volume One’ was our calling-card to the world. We didn’t want the label to be just about ARTHUR & MARTHA. It was mostly acts we knew – in truth – mostly acts Alice knew. I found KATSEN on MySpace, but Alice found most of the rest. It had some great reviews, not least in The Guardian which I still use on the website. I did talk about doing Volume Two a couple of years back, but I would need Alice or someone else involved in selecting the acts, otherwise it would probably end up being 50 minutes of post-Soviet darkwave.

Doing singles is one thing but albums is another, so how did you find releasing your first artist long player ‘Navigation’ by ARTHUR & MARTHA as BOT4 in 2009?

Sadly by the time it came out, I was already sick of it. For one thing we’d both gone through some pretty dark times making it, and I’d become a real pain in the arse to work with.

It was just Alice’s enthusiasm that kept us going. I still like ‘Navigation’ but see it as a wasted opportunity on my part.

I was just mentally and emotionally burned out – I hadn’t taken any time away from music after the difficult spilt of SALOON, and I needed space. I’m very grateful that there are people who really love ‘Navigation’ though – even if it took us almost ten years to realise it.

‘Navigation’ can’t have been easy to promote then as printed press via Q, NME and The Word was still the expected route back then?

Ha. No, it seemed infinitely easier than now because there was an established promotional route. We had a brilliant and lovely press agent and we got loads of features for all the ARTHUR & MARTHA records – NME, Word, Zoot, The Guardian, Artrocker. We had lots of Radio 1 play too which seems unthinkable now.

You took a break but you and Happy Robots returned in 2015 with BOT5 which was ‘Age Of Anxiety’ by RODNEY CROMWELL. Now this appeared to gain promo momentum in a way that ‘Navigation’ didn’t… discuss!

Well ‘Navigation’ got good press and then disappeared almost overnight along with the band. With ‘Age of Anxiety’ I put it out and, apart from Gideon Coe, everyone ignored it until ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK picked up on it. Then I just kept plugging away at it, I took on an agent and kept sending to more bloggers and DJs until by the end of 2015, RODNEY CROMWELL featured in a load of ‘Best Of’ lists. It was a lot of work but ‘Age of Anxiety’ was the foundation for v2 of Happy Robots.

HOLOGRAM TEEN ‘Marsangst’ as BOT7 in 2016 was your first foray into releasing artists outside of the Happy Robots circle?

I worked with Morgane on the ‘Let’s Get Static’ album by THE PROJECTS in 2003 and we struck up a friendship. She moved to LA but we kept in touch and when she asked me to put out a record, it seemed a perfect idea. Obviously having been in STEREOLAB, she could have gone with loads of labels, but she chose Happy Robots. We’ve both know though, the ability to trust and get on with the people you’re going to work with is way more important than anything else.

How did you come across PATTERN LANGUAGE for BOT9?

Chris aka PATTERN LANGUAGE was fan of HOLOGRAM TEEN, he liked the look of the label and pitched me some tracks. Some of his earlier tunes were a bit ‘out there’ but I thought I’d take a punt anyway. I’m glad I did because then he sent me ‘Total Squaresville’ which is one of my very favourite Happy Robots records.

It must have been quite interesting when Happy Robots released TINY MAGNETIC PETS ‘Deluxe / Debris’ as BOT10 in 2017 and they went on a UK tour opening for OMD; that was originally going to be a vinyl and digital only release but eventually due to demand, there was a CD…

Interesting isn’t the word! I was already a fan of the first TINY MAGNETIC PETS album. But when I offered to put out their second one, I had no idea that Wolfgang Flür would be on two of the tracks or that they would go out on tour with OMD.

The original plan was to just do vinyl and digital but when I heard the OMD news, I thought I’d better press up some CDs and merch too. My only regret is not doing more XXL T-shirts.

Happy Robots released the debut single of performance artist SINOSA as BOT11, so is the label expanding and planning to sign more acts?

There are no plans for major expansion; Happy Robots just exists to help out acts I like and to get them heard more. I’ve got a full time job, a wife and two kids, there are only so many hours in the day and I’m not mad enough to think I could do this for a living.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK thinks that demand for vinyl is not as high as the music industry would like the public to believe, while there appears to be a conspiracy to deliberately sabotage CD… discuss!

I don’t subscribe to conspiracy theories. Different formats appeal to different markets. There is no point doing a CD for a band with an under 40s fanbase. Equally, unless you are releasing indiepop, there is very little demand for 7” singles. The one thing about vinyl is it has at least remained consistent and if you’re pressing 250 vinyl LPs, you’d be pretty unlucky not to sell them all out in a few years.

There’s no BOT13… so you didn’t fancy being the Pastor Maldonado of independent electronic music?

BOT13 is reserved for the ARTHUR & MARTHA remix album – it seemed appropriate. 10 years in the making and still late! It’s a terrific collection with top remixes by GABE KNOX, SOFT RIOT, KATSEN, BRUTALIST ARCHITECTURE IN THE SUN, HONG KONG IN THE 60s and loads more.

ARTHUR & MARTHA will be reuniting to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the release of ‘Navigation’ at TEC005 in March 2019, what’s planned for that?

All the hits, lo-fi visuals, barely in-tune old synths, silly clothes. Ours was never the most well performed or technically proficient show, but it was never dull!

What’s next for Happy Robots Records?

I’ve just confirmed some more Happy Robots gigs for TINY MAGNETIC PETS. Then we have albums from ALICE HUBBLE, PATTERN LANGUAGE and ARTHUR & MARTHA up soon. I’m also putting out one record which is all 9 minute long Krautrock jams and another which is 30 second long KPM-library music. Something for everyone. 2019 is going to be a busy year.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Adam Cresswell

ARTHUR & MARTHA reunite on SATURDAY 2ND MARCH 2019 at The Islington, 1 Tolpuddle Street, London N1 0XT







Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
31st January 2019


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

PATTERN LANGUAGE Total Squaresville

From Happy Robots Records, the stable that brought the world ARTHUR & MARTHA, RODNEY CROMWELL and HOLOGRAM TEEN, comes PATTERN LANGUAGE.

The debut mini-album ‘Total Squaresville’ offers an optimistic melodic take on the synth instrumental without going into full symphonic JEAN-MICHEL JARRE territory, while also avoiding some of the electronic dirges that often pass for avant-garde experiments in sound.

The man behind PATTERN LANGUAGE is Chris Frain from Boulder, Colorado who dabbled in indie-pop and prog-rock bands until a chance viewing of the BBC4 documentary ‘Synth Britannia’ reminded him that inventive music could be made just using synthesizers.

While partying like it’s 1978, albeit a party with only the host present, ‘Total Squaresville’ uses basic modern technology like an iPad, running apps such as the FunkBox drum machine, Moog Animoog and Genome MIDI sequencer to achieve its aims. Meanwhile, hardware like the Korg Volca, Waldorf Streichfett and Moog Little Phatty provide the tactile interplay.

Opening track ‘By the Time We Get There’ comes complete with cascading bass and straightforward synth melodies over clattering electronic percussion. Each element has its place in a retro-futurist fusion, perfect for dancing if you like to dance weirdly!

With a primitive drumbox shuffle, the moody minimalist piece ‘Deeply Recessed Windows’ recalls early HUMAN LEAGUE instrumentals with plenty of bend to add a Sci-Fi edge.

The oddball percussive template of ‘The Castellers’ glides along in waltz fashion, the rimshot processed to such effect that it resembles a castanet in outer space. The inventive programming proves again that rhythms do not have to be that inane 4/4 nonsense in dance music. Motorik rhythms shape ‘Squaresville’ in the manner of HARMONIA although the swirling interplay takes it to another world.

Meanwhile on ‘A Pattern Language’, the superbly sequenced synthbass hops up and down the scale while coupled to a syncopated backbone that fizzes to a wonderful climax.

For the AIR-tribute ‘Les Choc De Etoilles’, treated electronic bongos melt with spacey Mellotron string vibes for a lunar lounge effect.

In his book ‘Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to its Own Past’, Simon Reynolds commented that the minimal synth sub-genre consisted “of groups who would have been DEPECHE MODE or SOFT CELL if they could have come up with a tune!”, even suggesting that it was invented by record dealers to get rid of vinyl they couldn’t shift!

‘Total Squaresville’ is nothing like that! With a perfect title, its six tracks of enjoyable synth geekery sans voix successfully get round the weak point of many a minimal synth record sitting dormant at a record fair…

‘Total Squaresville’ is released by Happy Robots Records on 16th June 2017 as a digital download via the usual outlets, a limited edition promo CD-R is available for pre-order from https://happyrobotsrecords.bandcamp.com/album/total-squaresville



Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Chris Sessions
14th May 2017