Tag: Perturbator

2021 End Of Year Review

As the world steadily emerged from a painful pandemic that put many lives on hold, nostalgia appeared to be the commodity most in demand as the music industry took steps to recover.

No matter which era, anything musically from the past was more desirable that anything that reminded the public of the past 20 or so months. The first escape destination in the summer for many restricted to staying on their own shores were the established retro festivals.

Meanwhile television provided an array of documentaries ranging from chart rundowns of past decades and informative classic song analysis on Channel 5 to Dylan Jones’ look at ‘Music’s Greatest Decade’ on BBC2 and Sky Arts’ ‘Blitzed’ with all the usual suspects such as Boy George, Philip Sallon, Marilyn, Gary Kemp and Rusty Egan.

SPARKS had their own comprehensive if slightly overlong film ‘The SPARKS Brothers’ directed by Edgar Wright, but the Maels’ musical ‘Annette’ starring Adam Driver was a step too far. Meanwhile the acclaimed ‘Sisters With Transistors’ presented the largely untold story of electronic music’s female pioneers.

It was big business for 40th anniversary live celebrations from the likes of HEAVEN 17, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, OMD and SOFT CELL, while other veterans such as NEW ORDER and ERASURE returned to the live circuit with the biggest indoor headlining shows of their career.

Meanwhile for 2022, Midge Ure announced an extensive ‘Voices & Visions’ tour to present material from the 1981-82 phase of ULTRAVOX.

Also next year and all being well, GOLDFRAPP will finally get their belated 20th Anniversary tour for their marvellous debut ‘Felt Mountain’ underway while there are rescheduled ‘Greatest Hits’ live presentations for PET SHOP BOYS and SIMPLE MINDS.

Always money for old rope, but also giving audiences who missed them at their pioneering height an opportunity to catch up, ‘best of’ collections were issued by YELLO and TELEX while JAPAN had their 1979 breakthrough album ‘Quiet Life’ given the lavish boxed set treatment. Meanwhile, while many labels were still doing their best to kill off CD, there was the puzzling wide scale return of the compact cassette, a poor quality carrier even at the zenith of its popularity.

“Reissue! Repackage! Repackage! Re-evaluate the songs! Double-pack with a photograph, extra track and a tacky badge!” a disgraced Northern English philosopher once bemoaned.

The boosted market for deluxe boxed sets and the repackaging of classic albums in coloured vinyl meant that the major corporations such as Universal, Sony and Warners hogged the pressing plants, leaving independent artists with lead times of nearly a year for delivery if they were lucky.

But there was new music in 2021. Having achieved the milestone of four decades as a recording act, DURAN DURAN worked with Giorgio Moroder on the appropriately titled ‘Future Past’ while not far behind, BLANCMANGE took a ‘Commercial Break’ and FIAT LUX explored ‘Twisted Culture’. David Cicero made his belated return to music with a mature second album that was about ‘Today’ as Steven Jones & Logan Sky focussed on the monochromatic mood of ‘European Lovers’. Continuing the European theme but towards the former Eastern Bloc, Mark Reeder gave a reminder that he was once declared ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ and fellow Mancunians UNE became inspired by the ‘Spomenik’ monoliths commissioned by Marshal Tito in the former Yugoslavia.

For those who preferred to immerse themselves in the darker present, Gary Numan presented ‘Intruder’, a poignant concept album produced by Ade Fenton about Mother Earth creating a virus to teach mankind a lesson! Meanwhile ITALOCONNECTION, the project of Italo veterans Fred Ventura and Paolo Gozzetti teamed up with French superstar Etienne Daho to tell the story of ‘Virus X’! The video of the year came from UNIFY SEPARATE whose motivation message to ‘Embrace The Fear’ despite the uncertainty reflected the thoughts of many.

Despite the general appetite for nostalgia, there was some excellent new music released from less established artists with the album of the year coming from Jorja Chalmers and her ‘Midnight Train’ released on Italians Do It Better. The critical acclaim for the UK based Aussie’s second long playing solo offering made up for the disbandment of the label’s biggest act CHROMATICS, as it went into its most prolific release schedule in its history with albums by GLÜME, JOON, DLINA VOLNY and LOVE OBJECT as well as its own self-titled compilation of in-house Madonna covers.

As Kat Von D teamed up with Dan Haigh of GUNSHIP for her debut solo record ‘Love Made Me Do It’, acts like DANZ CM, CLASS ACTRESS, GLITBITER, PRIMO THE ALIEN, PARALLELS, KANGA, R.MISSING, I AM SNOW ANGEL, XENO & OAKLANDER, HELIX and DAWN TO DAWN showed that North America was still the creative hub as far as electronically derived pop songs went.

Attracting a lot of attention in 2021 were NATION OF LANGUAGE, who with their catchy blend of angst, melody and motorik beats welcomed synths as family in their evolving sound while also providing the song of the year in ‘This Fractured Mind’, reflecting the anxieties of these strange times. At the other end of the spectrum, DIAMOND FIELD went full pop with an optimistic multi-vocalist collection that captured the spirit of early MTV while BUNNY X looked back on their high school days with ‘Young & In Love’.

ACTORS delivered their most synthy album yet while as LEATHERS, they keyboardist Shannon Hamment went the full hog for her debut solo effort ‘Reckless’. FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY released a new album and some of that ‘Mechanical Soul’ was brought by their Rhys Fulber into his productions this year for AESTHETIC PERFECTION.

In Europe, long playing debuts came from PISTON DAMP and WE ARE REPLICA while NORTHERN LITE released their first album completely in German and FRAGRANCE. presented their second album ‘Salt Air’. There was also the welcome return of SIN COS TAN, KID KASIO, GUSGUS, MARVA VON THEO, TINY MAGNETIC PETS and MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY.

Featuring second generation members of NEW ORDER and SECTION 25, SEA FEVER released their eclectic debut ‘Folding Lines’ as fellow Mancunian LONELADY added sequencers and drum machines to her post-punk funk template. But Glasgow’s CHVRCHES disappointed with their fourth long player ‘Screen Violence’ by opting to sound like every other tired hipster band infesting the land.

The most promising artist to breakthrough in 2021 was Hattie Cooke whose application of traditional songwriting nous to self-production and arrangement techniques using comparatively basic tools such as GarageBand found a wider audience via her third album ‘Bliss Land’. In all, it was a strong year for female synth-friendly artists with impressive albums from Karin My, Laura Dre, Alina Valentina, Robin Hatch and Catherine Moan while comparative veterans like Fifi Rong, Alice Hubble, Brigitte Handley and Alison Lewis as ZANIAS maintained their cult popularity.

In 2021, sometimes words were very unnecessary and there were fine instrumental synth albums from BETAMAXX, WAVESHAPER, КЛЕТ and Richard Barbieri, with a Mercury nomination received by Hannah Peel for ‘Fir Wave’. But for those who preferred Italo Noir, popwave, post-punk techno and progressive pop, Tobias Bernstrup, Michael Oakley, Eric Random and Steven Wilson delivered the goods respectively.

With ‘The Never Ending’ being billed as the final FM ATTACK album and PERTURBATOR incorrectly paraphrased by Metal Hammer in a controversial “synthwave is dead” declaration, the community got itself in a pickle by simultaneously attacking THE WEEKND for “stealing from synthwave”, yet wanting to ride on the coat tails of Abel Tesfaye, misguidedly sensing an opportunity to snare new fans for their own music projects.

With THE WEEKND’s most recent single ‘Take My Breath’, there was the outcry over the use of a four note arpeggio allegedly sampled from MAKEUP & VANITY SET’s ‘The Last City’. But as one online observer put it, “Wow, an arpeggiated minor chord. Hate to break it to you but you might want to check out what Giorgio Moroder was doing 50 years ago. We’re ALL just rippin’ him off if that’s how you think creativity works”. Another added “If a four note minor key arpeggiated chord can go to court on the basis of copyright law, we are in for a hell of a few years my synthy friends”. It outlined once again that there are some who are still under the impression that music using synths was invented by Ryan Gosling in 2011 for ‘Drive’ soundtrack ??

There were also belated complaints that 2019’s A-HA inspired ‘Blinding Lights’ had a simple melody and needed five writers to realise it… but then, so did UTRAVOX’s ‘Slow Motion’ and DURAN DURAN’s ‘Rio’! Collaboration, whether in bands, with producers or even outsiders has always been a key aspect of the compositional process. If it is THAT simple, do it yourself! As Andy McCluskey of OMD said on ‘Synth Britannia’ in 2009 about the pioneering era when Ryan Gosling was still in nappies: “The number of people who thought that the equipment wrote the song for you: ‘well anybody can do it with the equipment you’ve got!’ “F*** OFF!!”

Over the last two years, THE WEEKND has become the biggest mainstream pop act on the planet, thanks to spectacles such as the impressive gothic theatre of the Super Bowl LV half time showcase while in a special performance on the BRITS, there was a charming presentation of the ERASURE-ish ‘Save Your Tears’ where he played air synth in a moment relatable to many. But everything is ultimately down to catchy songs, regardless of synth usage.

So ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK would like to present a hypothetical case to consider… if someone uses the arpeggio function with a sparkling patch from a Juno 6 synth in a recording, does Cyndi Lauper sue for infringing the copyright of ‘All Through The Night’ or the original songwriter Jules Shear or even the Roland Corporation themselves as they created it? More than one producer has suggested that THE WEEKND’s soundbite came from a hardware preset or more than likely, a software sample pack, of which there are now many.

However, sample culture had hit another new low when Tracklib marketed a package as “A real game-changer for sample based music. Now everyone can afford to clear samples” with rapper and producer Erick Sermon declaring “Yo, this is incredible. They’re trying to put creativity back into music again. By having samples you can actually pay for and afford”.

Err creativity? How about writing your own songs and playing or even programming YOUR OWN instrumentation??!?

One sampling enthusiast even declared “I might go as far as to say you don’t really like dance music if you’ve got a problem with adding a beat to a huge (even instantly recognizable) sample”… well guess what? ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK LOATHES IT!!! ?

In 2021, music promotion became a bit strange with publicists at all levels keen more than ever to have their clients’ press releases just cut ‘n’ pasted onto online platforms, but very reluctant to allow albums to be reviewed in advance in the event of a potential negative prognosis.

While cut ‘n’ paste journalism has been a disease that has always afflicted online media, in a sad sign of the times, one long established international website moved to a “pay to get your press release featured” business model.

The emergence of reaction vloggers was another bizarre development while the “Mention your favourite artist and see if they respond to you” posts on social media only added more wood to the dumbing down bonfire already existing within audience engagement.

It was as if the wider public was no longer interested in more in-depth analysis while many artists turned their publicity into a reliance on others doing “big ups” via Twitter and Facebook. But then, if artists are being successfully crowdfunded with subscriptions via Patreon, Kickstarter, Bandcamp and the like, do they need a media intermediary any longer as they are dealing direct with their fanbases?

However, it wasn’t all bad in the media with ‘Electronically Yours With Martyn Ware’ providing insightful artist interviews and the largely entertaining ‘Beyond Synth’ podcast celebrating its 300th show. Due to their own music commitments, Steven Wilson and Tim Bowness were less prolific with their discussion show ‘The Album Years’ but it was still refreshing for commentators to be able to say that a record was sh*t when it actually was, rather than conform to the modern day adage that all music is good but not always to the listener’s taste!  And while various programmes came and went, other such as ‘Operating//Generating’, ‘KZL Live’ and ‘Absynth’ came to prominence.

Post-pandemic, interesting if uncertain times are ahead within the music industry. But as live performance returns, while the mainstream is likely to hit the crowd walking, will there be enough cost effective venues to host independent artists? Things have been tough but for some, but things might be about to get even tougher.

However, music was what got many through the last 18 months and as times are still uncertain, music in its live variant will help to get everyone through the next year and a half and beyond.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s year in music is gathered in its 2021 Playlist – Missing U at
https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4rlJgJhiGkOw8q2JcunJfw


Text by Chi Ming Lai
17th December 2021

PERTURBATOR Lustful Sacraments

In many quarters, synthwave has become the sub-genre of electronic music that has caused one of the most heated debates over the last few years.

Peaking in 2011 when the soundtrack of the film ‘Drive’ helped to capture the Zeitgeist of a musical style which went on to boost the careers of artists such as KAVINSKY and COLLEGE.

Others such as GUNSHIP, CARPENTER BRUT, DAN TERMINUS and THE MIDNIGHT rode the following (synth)wave, while even mainstream rock acts such MUSE jumped on the coat-tails of synthwave with some appropriation of the genre’s imagery.

But soon it became apparent that the genre was becoming a musical and visual straightjacket as limiting as a STATUS QUO song and trapping many artists in ever decreasing (neon) circles.

The vehicle of Anglo-French musician and producer James Kent, PERTURBATOR has gone on to become a poster boy for the synthwave genre with some superbly produced formative albums peaking with ‘Dangerous Days’ and ‘The Uncanny Valley’; both were wonderfully produced musical hybrids which took the best elements of VANGELIS, TEARS FOR FEARS and TANGERINE DREAM, packaging them in the stunning imagery of cover artist Ariel ZB.

By the time of 2017’s EP ‘New Model’, Kent was starting to distance himself from the constraints of the format and 2021’s ‘Lustful Sacraments’ sees a stellar shift away both musically and visually from the clichés which have come to define the synthwave scene.

There is such a wide disconnect between PERTURBATOR’s new release ‘Lustful Sacraments’ and his previous releases that a casual purchaser would likely think that just from the track titles, this was an album by a Scandinavian metal band rather than an established synthwave artist.

The short instrumental ‘Reaching Xanadu’ provides an epic VANGELIS-style introduction to the ‘Lustful Sacraments’ title track which channels a bombastic SISTERS OF MERCY aesthetic and a bass drone outro progression which recalls DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Stripped’ with sweeping analogue synths to the fore.

‘Excess’ features echoed vocals which recall the sound of post-punk and align PERTURBATOR now with both THE SOFT MOON and TRENTEMØLLER; if a criticism could be levelled at ‘Lustful Sacraments’ then it would be regarding the lyric mix which is buried low beneath the musical elements and this is perpetuated with ‘Secret Devotion’ which features a weak vocal which is submerged in effects which doesn’t do justice to the musical backbone of the song.

‘Death of the Soul’ is one of the more surprising tracks on ‘Lustful Sacraments’, featuring a DAF style synth bassline and fast-paced 16 step closed hi-hats. Taking the template from earlier PERTURBATOR productions, it injects the production with more of an EBM dynamic and the climax of the song with flanged guitars leaves the listener wanting another 2-3 minutes of the track.

‘The Other Place’ is fantastic, coming across like an unreleased SISTERS OF MERCY instrumental to the point where if Andrew Eldritch had any sense left he would be on the phone to James Kent negotiating production rights on their next album… we can only hope! The wonderfully titled ‘Dethroned Under A Funeral Haze’ musically channels THE CURE and SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES with an electronic underbelly; again it’s only the lack of killer vocal that stops the track from hitting a peak but the last couple of minutes sees some ‘Blade Runner’ style synths join the mix and all is forgiven.

’Messalina, Messalina’ is a 7 minute hi-hat driven synth rock epic in extreme with a dramatic break down which conjures up imagery of VANGELIS going off grid, taking a Nordic musical vigil and gleefully embracing the best of Scandinavian Metal (with added Yamaha CS80s of course). The slowly decreasing tempo at the end of the piece only adds to the drama of the piece and provides an undeniable centrepiece to ‘Lustful Sacraments’.

The album climaxes with ‘God Says’ which features Parisian Doom quartet HANGMAN’S CHAIR. The song reciprocates a collaboration which saw PERTURBATOR working with the act on their track ‘Tired Eyes’.

Musically ‘Lustful Sacraments’ is a reinvigorated triumph, it is only the elements of the vocal collaboration work which stops the album from hitting the heights that it should hit.

James Kent has hit on a new template here which will satiate fans of his earlier purely electronic production work plus should hook new listeners with music which combines the very best of electronics and rock in a beautifully produced package. Highly recommended.


‘Lustful Sacraments’ is released by Blood Music on 28th May 2021 in gatefold double LP vinyl, double LP picture disc, cassette, CD and digital formats

PERTURBATOR UK + Ireland 2021 tour dates include:
London Electric Ballroom (5th November), Glasgow St Lukes (6th November), Manchester Academy 2 (7th November), Dublin Opium (9th November), Bristol SWX (10th November)

http://www.perturbator.com

https://www.facebook.com/Perturbator/

https://twitter.com/The_Perturbator

https://www.instagram.com/perturbatormusic/


Text by Paul Boddy
26th May 2021

BETAMAXX Interview

BETAMAXX is the Pittsburgh-based musician and producer Nick Morey whose work is inspired and created by vintage synthesizers.

In acknowledgement of his artist moniker, the first BETAMAXX album was entitled ‘Lost Formats’; released in 2012, it became acknowledged as a trailblazing example of synthwave in the wake of the Ryan Gosling movie ‘Drive’ and its acclaimed soundtrack.

Meanwhile, his 2014 remix of TANGERINE DREAM’s ‘Love On A Real Train’ brought wider recognition and enhanced his reputation.

Despite a short publically announced hiatus in 2015 following ‘Plug & Play’, he returned refreshed after a profile boost with his track ‘Redlining 6th’ from 2013’s ‘Sophisticated Technology’ being included in the soundtrack of the Sci-Fi martial arts comedy featurette ‘Kung Fury’.

2017’s ‘Archaic Science’ was like he’d never been away, but it was 2019’s ‘Lost In A Dreamworld’ featuring vocals by VANDAL MOON, GLITBITER and MECHA MAIKO that realised the crossover potential that had been itching to get out since the first BETAMAXX releases.

Despite his zest for collaborations, having also previously worked with PERTURBATOR, ARCADE HIGH and PRIMO THE ALIEN, the new BETAMAXX record ‘Sarajevo’ is a much more reflective solo offering with no vocals or vocoder, a soundtrack to an imaginary film centred around the Bosnian city that hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics.

Nick Morey kindly chatted to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about synths and stuff in his career as BETAMAXX.

What got you interested in making music with synthesizers and who were your influences?

Good question and kind of a long story. I attribute my initial interest to Madonna’s ‘Immaculate Collection’ which was given to me on cassette by my mother at a very young age. In my late teens, I heard the track ‘Eyes Without A Face’ by Billy Idol and was smitten by the sounds and melodies that I heard. I took a trip to my local CD store (Coconuts Music, which is long since defunct) and I asked the clerk about this song. He responded “Ahhh, that’s Billy Idol with that rich synthesizer sound…” which made me realize how the music was created and how much I loved music from the 80s.

Fast forward to 2010, a good friend of mine showed me some very early “synthwave” from artists like TESLA BOY, FM ATTACK, MITCH MURDER, GRUM and MIAMI NIGHTS 1984 and I was hooked immediately. At that point, I was committed to taking my shot at making this type of music. I had already had some DAW production skills making techno and other random electronic music. By early 2012, I purchased my first truly amazing synth – the Roland Juno 60, which I still own to this day.

How do you now look back on your 2012 debut album ‘Lost Formats’, that’s a great title?

Honestly, very fondly. I still pop it on now and again and feel the energy and excitement I had back then. It finally got the proper pressing it deserved a few years back, and has since sold out. I think it will be remembered as one of the classic early synthwave albums.

‘La Cabane Noir’ from 2013’s ‘Sophisticated Technology’ featured PERTURBATOR, how did that come about as it’s a lot less heavier than the material he’s become well-known for…

Wow, I haven’t thought about that in a long time.

James and I used to chat back in the day before he got huge. And, don’t get me wrong, I am super happy for him and I think he’s a super genuine and funny guy.

I believe I reached out and simply asked him to throw some parts on it and it ended up working out.

You retired in 2015 but then Gary Numan did so in 1981… what happened there? Are artists still very much vulnerable to burn out despite history having demonstrated that applying too much pressure on musicians can lead to all sorts of issues?

This is not the first time I’ve been asked this. 2015 was a really difficult year for me personally. If I would have met 2015 “me” now, I probably would have kicked my own ass. I attribute it to a low point in my life, but I don’t regret the decisions I’ve made. Artists can be fickle at times, as a good handful of artists get swallowed up in their own emotions. I’m glad to still be producing music.

‘Lost In A Dreamworld’ could be considered your breakthrough record in that it reached audiences outside of what could be considered the synthwave scene, why do you think it was able to crossover?

Generally speaking, I like mixing things up. I like to experiment and crossover genres, especially new wave, house, Italo and post-punk. I happened to connect with Blake Voss of VANDAL MOON through my good friend Shawn Ward from FM ATTACK, and became instant friends. ‘Never Sleep Again’ was proof of this, considering it’s not much like anything else I’ve ever created.

As well as VANDAL MOON, you worked with some diverse vocalists such as GLITBITER and MECHA MAIKO to achieve the variation in styles that were collected on ‘Lost In A Dreamworld’, what was the collaborative process like with each of them?

For these specific tracks, I started with various instrumental ideas and reached out to them to see if they were interested in working with me. Thankfully, all parties agreed and I let them essentially do whatever they wanted, stepping back from a creative control standpoint and letting them have fun and do their thing.

The ‘Lost In A Dreamworld’ instrumental could be considered a refinement of the synthwave form but do you think the term has become too restrictive artistically?

Yes, I do. I feel like that term gets thrown around quite loosely, and I don’t really feel like I fit into that category so much anymore, being that my sound has been more or less consistent over the years.

I haven’t found the urge to start writing polished, carbon copy radio pop with a grid, a palm tree and a sunset on my album cover.

‘Disco Dreamgirl’ does what it says on the tin, was the track’s muse a real person?

I’m not at liberty to say who that is! *laughs*

So after ‘Lost In A Dreamworld’, what inspired you to compose a largely downtempo instrumental concept album such as ‘Sarajevo’?

I was really itching for something new to create and a new style to dive into. I’ve been in love with BOARDS OF CANADA’s music since my early 20s and decided that I wanted to take a crack at writing in that style. I looked at the gear that I have and realized that was totally possible, if not for some hard work and experimentation. The first track I wrote was ‘Sarajevo’, the title track on the album. I had just purchased the reissue of the Sequential Circuits Prophet 10 which provided a lot of inspirational sounds right off the bat for this record.

But why the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics, because for example, there have been two films ‘Cool Runnings’ and ‘Eddie The Eagle’ made about events at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics? It’s perhaps not an obvious subject, or is it?

Once again, a long story… I’m a big enthusiast of brutalist architecture, specifically 80s and prior angular / geometrical style structures. I was looking at architecture online, and stumbled upon “Hotel Igman”, which you see in the cover of the album. I became intrigued about this building, and started reading more in depth about the history of it. I also was fascinated by the fact that, in modern times, it’s a completely bombed out shell of its former self. After I discovered the ‘84 Olympics, I was compelled to write something that I felt about it, and the various stories I have read about Sarajevo. It just seemed right to me and the music sort of poured out of me.

‘Igman’ is a key track as that hotel has becoming something of a symbol now in its derelict state?

Yes, I’d say so. I think it was an absolutely stunning piece of architecture then and even now. It drew me in immediately and needed to know the whole story. I’ve watched several YouTube videos of people exploring it. It blows my mind.

Had there been any particular archive photographs or videos that you imagined soundtracking, like your own film documentary on those Games for any of the tracks?

I kind of did a deep dive into loads of footage from the ‘84 Winter Olympics and was inspired by a ton of things that I saw, particularly Bill Johnson’s run, as well as Jane Torvill and Christopher Dean’s performances on ice.

How would you have constructed a track like ‘Downhill’ which celebrates Bill Johnson’s gold medal victory in the Downhill event?

I wanted at least one track that was suspenseful and intense. After watching some footage of downhill skiing in Sarajevo, I found the clip of Bill Johnson and could feel the excitement in the announcers’ voices. It was totally unintentional, but I felt that sample absolutely needed to be included in the intro of the song.

The ‘Sarajevo’ title track actually applies some dub echoing, what had been on your mind to shape the track in this manner?

Good question, this was also completely unintentional. The friends I’ve showed that to seem to all say it’s a very “industrial” track, but I guess I just don’t hear it that way. I wanted to lay something down that was really dark, ethereal, and heavy. The CMI sampler I used seemed to compliment the bridge of the song.

‘Ceremony’ closes the album with a slow waltz and it has this elegiac Arvo Pärt ‘Spiegel Im Spiegel’ feel about it?

Truth be told, I am not at all familiar with that artist, although I very much look forward to checking that out. I wanted to portrait a very emotional track with drifting (sliding in and out of tune) synths to give it an almost “unsettling” vibe. I think it’s kind of a beautiful track, and it would suit well in a specific movie scenario.

You have a fine collection of analog synthesizers, do you have any particular favourites?

Why thank you! Yes, I’ve been collecting for a number of years now. I’d say my Sequential Circuits Prophet 6 is to attribute to a lot of my sounds. It’s an extremely versatile synth with a lot of amazing real time features that are easy to get inspired by.

Sequential makes amazing products, which I would recommend to anyone in the market to buy a thick, meaty analogue synthesizer with useful features.

Is there a synth you desire and is there any particular reason?

Not to sound cliché, but I would love to own a real Jupiter 8 someday. Other than that, I’m actually really happy with the gear that I have. I feel like I honestly have too much, but that is usually good for when I’m bored with my main stuff, to switch out to and experiment with.

What do you think of these copycat synths that Behringer are making?

Honestly, not super into them right now. Behringer makes some quality basic musical products, but I’m not super sold on their synths. One of my best friends swears by their 808 clone, but I haven’t played with it yet. I was really disappointed with the Deepmind 12, unfortunately. Programming wasn’t very friendly and I didn’t care a lot for the sounds, it also sounded very thin to me. That all being said, I’ll always give them a chance. Some of their clones are super intriguing, but generally are not available for demos at retail stores.

How do you think synthesizer music is developing now?

I don’t feel it’s going in a great direction. Most artists now are focusing on the same equation to make it big. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but the bottom line is that I’m just not seeing a lot of artistry involved, and it’s more or less a “copy and paste” methodology and it seems to really work well for some people. I refuse to not put extremely serious though into what I put out, regardless of potential backlash.

You have both self-released and worked with record labels, do artists these days still need one? How do you see music distribution moving forward?

I feel that, if an artist can’t afford to press their own record and or tape or whatever, go for a label if they’re interested.

You have a strong relationship with Shawn Ward aka FM ATTACK and he has done some additional production on ‘Sarajevo’ as well as being your label boss at Starfield, but have the two of you considered doing a full album together as a joint effort?

Oh yeah, for sure. And I wouldn’t call him my boss in affiliation with Starfield, he’s one of my tightest homies. We confide in each other quite a bit and stay in contact regularly. I’m blessed to call Shawn a good friend of mine. Right now, it’s kind of hard to be able to do a fully collaborative album for the both of us, although that would be really rad to accomplish sometime down the road.

Your recent single with PRIMO THE ALIEN ‘Watch Me’ was a rather groovy concoction, is this an indicator of a future direction for you?

Hopefully! I really dig the groove of that track, and I think it succeeded in a lot of ways. I feel it’s a lot different from anything I had previously released, and it felt good to scratch that itch. I’m not the greatest into diving into “the funk” but I think I did right by ‘Watch Me’.

So will your next album be a pop / dance oriented one or would you like to develop the more ambient side of your music as showcased on ‘Sarajevo’?

Honestly, I really don’t know enough to tell you the next writing style I’m going to be focusing on. It will be interesting and heartfelt, whatever that may be. Lately I’ve been really enjoying the ambient stuff.

What’s next for you, what are your hope and fears for the future?

Looking forward to collaborating with friends and building something, whatever that may entail. I won’t be straying from producing music.

I would like to go on tour again soon, but I likely won’t be booking any dates this year due to the pandemic. I really miss traveling, seeing the world and meeting new friends.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to BETAMAXX

‘Sarajevo’, ‘Lost In A Dreamworld’ and most of the BETAMAXX back catalogue is available in various formats direct from https://betamaxxmusic.bandcamp.com/music

https://www.facebook.com/betamaxx80s/

https://twitter.com/betamaxx80s

https://www.instagram.com/betamaxx/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
19th May 2021

2016 End Of Year Review

What In the World…

tec2016review-mopho2016 will forever be remembered as the year when a significant number of cultural icons and popular musical figures left us; DAVID BOWIE, PRINCE, TOMITA, PETE BURNS, COLIN VERNCOMBE, KEITH EMERSON, DON BUCHLA and LEONARD COHEN were just some of the names who sadly departed.

But despite sadness that loomed, the year did produce some good music, particularly in the second half of the year.

GARY NUMAN launched an ambitious Pledge Music campaign and released some excellent collaborations with JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS, JEAN-MICHEL JARRE and TITÁN. But with his retrospective tour of material from his three most popular albums taking up much of his year, his new crowdfunded album did not meet its planned October release deadline.

jarreyello2016Meanwhile JEAN-MICHEL JARRE had an excess of material and issued the second volume of his ‘Electronica’ project which also featured YELLO and PET SHOP BOYS, plus a third instalment to his classic opus ‘Oxygène’.

YELLO and PET SHOP BOYS also released new albums to a positive reception, proving again that partnerships featuring personnel over the age of 60 can still create music that is fresh and relevant.

Incidentally, one of YELLO’s young vocalists FIFI RONG continued to maintain her artistic profile with successful campaigns for her releases ‘Forbidden Desires’ and ‘Alone’.

Hannah-Peel-2016-042016 saw two concept albums emerge in ‘The Ship’ from BRIAN ENO, a solemn art piece with poignant anti-war messages and ‘Awake But Always Dreaming’, a very personal musical statement by HANNAH PEEL on the traumas of dementia. It was a busy year for Miss Peel with her also contributing her voice to BEYOND THE WIZARDS SLEEVE and JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS, as well as showcasing her own MARY CASIO side project.

WRANGLER released a new album ‘White Glue’ which exuded a less rigid format compared to its predecessor ‘LA Spark’ and collaborated with JOHN GRANT at the Rough Trade 40 live celebrations, while the prolific Neil Arthur issued another new BLANCMANGE album in ‘Commuter 23’ while also launching a new side project NEAR FUTURE with BERNHOLZ.

midgerusty-2012The Manchester veteran ERIC RANDOM issued ‘Words Made Flesh’, the second album of his recent return to the music while RUSTY EGAN finally presented ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’ which despite its title, was actually a collection of classic styled synthpop. After many years of trials and tribulations for the co-founder of VISAGE, the long player featuring MIDGE URE, TONY HADLEY and CHRIS PAYNE who co-wrote ‘Fade to Grey’ exceeded expectations.

Space travel and synths were just made to go together, so JØTA and VANGELIS conceived projects covering The Cold War space race and the more recent Rosetta probe respectively. Meanwhile, WHITE LIES again showed they are as synthy as they are guitary on their ‘Friends’ album, and even started to sound like A-HA!

Fellow blog Cold War Night Life released ‘Heresy: A Tribute to RATIONAL YOUTH’ which featured PSYCHE and MACHINISTA as well as the Canadian trailblazers themselves. Meanwhile Ireland staked its claim as a new territory for synthpop talent; CIRCUIT3 ‘siliconchipsuperstar’, TINY MAGNETIC PETS ‘The NATO Alphabet’ and EMBRACE THE CRISIS ‘Black Heart’ were good examples of what was on offer from the Emerald Isle.

Over in the UK, VILE ELECTRODES, SPRAY and ANALOG ANGEL all released new albums. There were long awaited long players too from SHELTER and SINESTAR, but these suffered when compared to respective acts from Sweden, JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM and PRESENCE OF MIND.

So again, Sweden still proved it was special with SILENT WAVE and MY GOD DAMN TERRITORY exhibiting varying degrees of potential. But it was REIN in particular who was causing a stir within the ranks of EBM, while the country’s best kept secret KITE toured North America and Asia. However, neither of these two latter artists figured in the line-up of Gothenburg’s Electronic Summer 2016 festival.

The Nordic region saw the welcome return of VILLA NAH with the album ‘Ultima’ after a five year absence, while TRENTEMØLLER made the case again as to why he is still the perfect producer for DEPECHE MODE with his new long player ‘Fixion’.

However, Norwegian acts APOPTYGMA BERZERK and ELECTRO SPECTRE ensured the Swedes, Finns and Danes did not have it all their own way.

Greece was still the word with LIEBE, KID MOXIE and MARSHEAUX all presenting brand new releases, while SARAH P. maintained her profile with a series of inventive promo videos highlighting the ongoing issues of equality for women within the music industry. Embracing the same issue on the other side of the Atlantic, I AM SNOW ANGEL immersed herself in setting up the FEMALE FREQUENCY collective while also releasing her own music.

2016 was a good year for female acts with EMIKA, KALEIDA, ANI GLASS, THE HEARING, KITE BASE, KATJA VON KASSEL, HOLOGRAM TEEN and VOI VANG among those making a positive impression. There was also ‘SVIIB’, the final album from SCHOOL OF SEVEN BELLS and the emergence of CHRISTINE & THE QUEENS, while LADYHAWKE remembered what a good album sounded like with ‘Wild Things’.

night-club-requiem-for-romance-2016Over in LA, NIGHT CLUB developed on the promise of their EP trilogy and got a bit heavier on their debut long player ‘Requiem For Romance’, ending up sounding not unlike Britney fronting NINE INCH NAILS in the process!

After gestation periods of nearly six years, both EKKOES and THE MYSTIC UNDERGROUND finally released their debut albums.

Meanwhile the instrumental front, Texan couple HYPERBUBBLE provided some ‘Music To Color By’, Brussels duo METROLAND touchingly paid tribute to their late friend Louis Zachert with ‘Things Will Never Sound The Same Again’ and ULRICH SCHNAUSS went ‘No Further Ahead Than Today’. And MOBY offered a gift to profound relaxation with his free ‘Long Ambients 1: Calm. Sleep.’ download package.

PERTURBATOR James Kent - Photo David FittPERTURBATOR’s ‘The Uncanny Valley’ became a flag bearer for the synth wave movement, along with the acclaimed soundtrack by SURVIVE members Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein for the absorbing Netflix drama ‘Stranger Things’.

Less well-received though was ‘2Square’ by VINCE CLARKE & PAUL HARTNOLL with its banal experiments in electro swing.

This was a supposed new dance sub-genre that in reality was just computerised jazz… nice! But one artist who did manage to pull off fusing synthpop and jazz successfully was DISQO VOLANTE.

New material from veterans MESH, AESTHETIC PERFECTION, ASSEMBLAGE 23, DE/VISION, IAMX, COVENANT and ROTERSAND kept the black clad European audiences happy, while MARI KATTMAN and BLACK NEEDLE NOISE added some trip-hop and rock edges respectively to their already dark templates. Expressing slightly less intensity were two surprise packages in Germany’s DAS BLAUE PALAIS with ‘Welt Am Draht’ and Canada’s DELERIUM with ‘Mythologie’.

marc-almond-blueBut totally unexpected was ‘Silver City Ride’, a full length electro album from MARC ALMOND in collaboration with STARCLUSTER featuring his most synth laden body of work since SOFT CELL.

The biggest surprise of 2016 was ‘Fly’ the soundtrack souvenir to ‘Eddie The Eagle’, the light hearted biopic of the bespectacled Olympic ski jumper; featuring new material by members of FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, SOFT CELL, SPANDAU BALLET, ULTRAVOX, ERASURE and OMD in collaboration with TAKE THAT’s Gary Barlow, this looked like a terrible idea on paper.

But it was brilliantly executed and the resultant album was a largely enjoyable collection of retro flavoured pop.

Electronic acts actually got to headline the Glastonbury Festival in 2016, albeit on The Other Stage as opposed the main event; NEW ORDER and CHVRCHES wowed the crowds when they shared the bill on the Saturday night. There were rumours that KRAFTWERK and DEPECHE MODE might feature in 2017 but this was not to be, although both acts sent social media into overdrive when they announced major tours.

Among those accorded career spanning multi-disc boxed sets were ERASURE, MARC ALMOND, DEAD OR ALIVE and THE HUMAN LEAGUE. Somehow though, SIMPLE MINDS managed to milk a six disc variant of ‘New Gold Dream’ in the third of their classic album deluxe box editions; it was an amazing feat seeing as only ten songs were completed during the original sessions! The collection boasted no less than twelve takes of the aptly titled ‘Promised You A Miracle’; but the latest incarnation of the Glaswegians combo’ first big hit with KT TUNSTALL for their ‘Acoustic’ album proved to be one version too many.

Associates-dempsey-mackenzie-rankine-getty2Much better value for the money for the discerning music fan were the four ASSOCIATES double CD reissues, supervised by Alan Rankine and Michael Dempsey.

Based around their first three albums and a ‘Very Best Of’ compilation, each additionally featured a plethora of rare and previously unreleased songs; they were a fitting tribute to the late Billy MacKenzie.

Nostalgia was very much a part of 2016, with HEAVEN 17, OMD and PETER HOOK & THE LIGHT all touring popular albums. And following the success in recent years of retro festivals such as ‘Rewind’ and the strangely named ‘Let’s Rock’, classic synthpop finally found itself part of the holiday camp circuit.

Part of the Butlins Music Weekender series, ‘Electric Dreams’ featuring OMD, MARC ALMOND, HEAVEN 17, BLANCMANGE and HOLLY JOHNSON almost went badly off-piste with the addition of GO WEST and THE ZOMBIES (!?!) to the programme. But the organisers pulled an unexpected surprise and booked modern synth acts like MARSHEAUX and AVEC SANS to support the bill.

avec-sansHardened retro festival goers are notorious for not embracing new music, but this ethos has to be welcomed and could provide an interesting new model for the future of event based entertainment. However, based on photographic evidence, the presence of inflatable pink flamingos and coloured wigs indicated the crowd atmosphere might have been no different to any of the usual nostalgia outings, but with a roof and central heating added!

Elsewhere, the second ELECTRI-CITY CONFERENCE in Düsseldorf boasted yet another impressive line-up that read like a ‘Who’s Who?’ of electronic music with JOHN FOXX, DANIEL MILLER and MARK REEDER among those taking part in talks. One of the highlights of the weekend came with Mr Foxx chatting about working with the legendary Conny Plank.

And while MARSHEAUX, KID KASIO and RODNEY CROMWELL in Norwich was not in the same league, it was a fine showcase for the best in independent synthpop.

Both events proved again that the best electronic music events are those actually curated by electronic music enthusiasts, something that is not the case with several other events.

In all, 2016 was not a vintage year for electronic pop. If there was a lesson this year, it’s been to cherish and appreciate great life’s moments where possible, especially with the number of music figures that have been lost in the last 12 months.

Things cannot go on forever sadly…


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK Contributor Listings 2016

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: PERTURBATOR The Uncanny Valley
Best Song: SOULWAX Transient Program for Drums & Machinery
Best Gig: JEAN-MICHEL JARRE at London O2 Arena
Best Video: BATTLE TAPES featuring PARTY NAILS Solid Gold
Most Promising New Act: VOX LOW


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: VILE ELECTRODES In The Shadows Of Monuments
Best Song: ASSEMBLAGE 23 Barren
Best Gig: ASSEMBLAGE 23 at Denver Oriental Theatre
Best Video: I AM SNOW ANGEL Losing Face
Most Promising New Act: VOX LOW


SIMON HELM

Best Album: ERIC RANDOM Words Made Flesh
Best Song: RATIONAL YOUTH This Side Of The Border
Best Gig: Troika! featuring KITE BASE, HANNAH PEEL + I SPEAK MACHINE at Shacklewell Arms
Best Video: I AM SNOW ANGEL Losing Face
Most Promising New Act: ZANIAS


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: VILLA NAH Ultima
Best Song: VILE ELECTRODES The Vanished Past
Best Gig: JEAN-MICHEL JARRE at London O2 Arena
Best Video: BEYOND THE WIZARD’S SLEEVE Diagram Girl
Most Promising New Act: ANI GLASS


STEPHEN ROPER

Best Album: MARSHEAUX Ath.Lon
Best Song: RODNEY CROMWELL Baby Robot
Best Gig: GARY NUMAN at Norwich UEA
Best Video: MARSHEAUX Like A Movie
Most Promising New Act: DISQO VOLANTE


MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL

Best Album: APOPTYGMA BERZERK Exit Popularity Contest
Best Song: KID KASIO Full Moon Blue
Best Gig: SPEAK & SPELL at Islington Academy
Best Video: BLACK NEEDLE NOISE featuring JENNIE VEE Heaven
Most Promising New Act: JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM


Text by Chi Ming Lai
17th December 2016

PERTURBATOR The Uncanny Valley

PERTURBATOR James Kent - Photo David FittWhether it’s John Foxx’s continuing fascination with Ballardian concepts or THE NORMAL’s early proto-synth track ‘Warm Leatherette’, dystopian themes have always fitted hand in glove with the darker side of electronic music.

The Synthwave genre has its own selective take on this subject matter, although wrapping it up in a more melodic and warmer production style.

It also takes influence from a range of classic cyberpunk movies ‘Akira’, ‘The Terminator’ and ‘Blade Runner and the horror genre likes of ‘Hallowe’en’ and ‘Suspiria’. The genre broke the mainstream with the use of music by KAVINSKY and ELECTRIC YOUTH in the ‘Drive’ movie; although musically, many of the artists within it verge on the generic, scratch the surface of the scene and there are some genuinely high quality electronic pieces of work to be uncovered.

PERTURBATOR is a one-man operation, comprising French musician James Kent. Kent was originally a Black Metal guitarist and this connection is maintained by releasing his material on the Blood Music label, which is home to a roster of primarily experimental Metal artists. Although this link may seem nonsensical at first, a few listens to PERTURBATOR’s work reveals elements which although 99% synthetic, have a DNA that seems to have struck a chord with fans of both guitar music and electronica…

‘The Uncanny Valley’ is Kent’s fourth long player and for a relatively underground artist, has clocked up some pretty serious online plays with his previous works. A lot of this can be attributed to having music in the ‘Hotline Miami’ computer games, something which has helped generate a fanbase of gamers as well as Synthheads and Metalheads – that’s a pretty diverse demographic!

PERTURBATOR The Uncanny ValleyThe gloriously lurid (and recently banned on Facebook) album cover by long time graphic artist collaborator Ariel ZB, with its deliberately overexposed colours, perfectly compliments the music inside, evoking the use of old Kodak film stock much beloved by directors such as Dario Argento to give a hyped and over-vivid look to its scenes of Giallo horror. At least half of the album follows the Synthwave formula of 150 BPM+ arpeggiated synths with frantic moving bass and retro drum machine programming with titles such as ‘Death Squad’, ‘Diabolus Ex Machina’ and ‘Assault’ all giving a pretty good idea of what to expect.

Of the faster paced tracks, the ironically titled ‘Disco Inferno’ is one of the highlights here, even featuring some funky wah-wah guitar to just about help justify its title. It effortlessly flits between time signatures and ends with a short synth solo, descending sync bass and digital “doot doot” vocal hits.

There are a few collaborations here and they prove the most musically satisfying, ‘Femme Fatale’ featuring HIGHWAY SUPERSTAR is a ‘Blade Runner’-esque electronic / jazz soundscape with skittering sequencers, a swept resonant synth bass and the kind of sax last heard on TEARS FOR FEARS’ ‘The Working Hour’.

‘Venger’ featuring GRETA LINK skirts more electropop territory, its floating vocals ghosting effortlessly over the track’s pulsing beat. Arpeggiators lift the first chorus in a track that MARSHEAUX could quite happily cover. ‘The Uncanny Valley’ closes proceedings with an epic seven minute electronic journey recalling JARRE’s ‘Rendez-Vous’ album with more ideas crammed into it than some third division UK synth acts manage in their whole albums.

The work’s soundtrack roots become far more apparent when the listener wanders around listening to it on headphones – by being primarily instrumental in nature means that depending upon your location, it can have the rather wonderful effect of placing the listener into their own JOHN CARPENTER movie, although this isn’t quite so effective when walking around rural Ash Vale in Hampshire…

PERTURBATOR James Kent - Photo Johan BarberaAt its best, ‘The Uncanny Valley’ sounds like a hi-octane mid-period JEAN-MICHEL JARRE on steroids and the production values throughout remain impeccably high. The appeal to Metalheads can probably be explained by Kent’s musicianship, there are some pretty high level synth skills on show here and the bombastic nature of some of the tracks have meant that PERTURBATOR have been embraced by a demographic which is normally strictly guitar-oriented.

It could also be argued that electronic music has lost much of its musicality and artists like this are bringing back the notion that it can be cool to be able to actually play a synth again by demonstrating flair and virtuosity in the mould of BILLY CURRIE, VANGELIS, JEAN-MICHEL JARRE and JAN HAMMER – players who didn’t just rely on computer sequencers.

For this reason there is much to enjoy here and although much of the music does wash over you in a soundtrack fashion, this is undoubtedly intentional and doesn’t diminish the appeal of the album one iota.

So even if you’re one of those people that have dismissed Synthwave as a bit of a one trick cyberpony, ‘The Uncanny Valley’ is definitely worth a visit and who knows could even become the soundtrack to your own personal movie…


‘The Uncanny Valley’ is released by Blood Music and available in a variety of physical and digital formats, please visit http://www.blood-music.com/ for more details

http://www.perturbator.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Perturbator/

https://twitter.com/The_Perturbator


Text by Paul Boddy
Photos by David Fitt and Johan Barbera
13th May 2016