Tag: Purity Ring (Page 2 of 3)

AVEC SANS Live in London

Electropop duo AVEC SANS gave a wonderfully assured performance on the final night of their UK tour in London’s Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen with a dazzling combination of sound, colour and passion.

Since the release of their well-received debut album ‘Heartbreak Hi’ in June 2016, Alice Fox and Jack St James have been very much in demand for live shows where AVEC SANS have made the biggest impression.

While the pair have been compared to CHVRCHES and PURITY RING, Fox’s bittersweet vocal expression has a deeper resonance compared to the occasionally shrill voices of Lauren Mayberry or Megan James. Meanwhile in a concert setting, St James’ use of three back flipped Novation Launchpads alongside a Nord keyboard and electronic drums has solved that age old authenticity conundrum in electronic music to clarify what is live and what is Memorex…

Beginning with the moody synthwave of ‘When You Go’, cheers greeted the familiar blips of ‘Perth’, AVEC SANS’ electro cover of BON IVER’s folkie lament inspired by the late Australian actor Heath Ledger.

With its gliding arpeggios and spacey vocal manipulations, ‘The Answer’ proved equal to ‘My Mistake’ Mercedes-Benz favourite NINA, while the driving pop of album highlight ‘Hold On’ ensured the enthused dancing in the first few rows was maintained.

‘Resonate’ and ‘History’ both explored the offbeat sub-bass whips of PURITY RING before a catchy synthpop tune with an essence of CHVRCHES was offered in the marvellous ‘We Are’.

AVEC SANS pay close attention to detail in their live presentation from Fox’s glowing mic lead to the effective use of St James’ flashing controllers as both visual and connective tools; the platinum blonde singer punched the air with aplomb while the baseball capped instrumentalist multi-tasked with a joyful demeanour.

The swirly ‘Shiver’ and the R’n’B tinged fervour of ‘Heartbreak Hi’ title track concluded an energetic set but now established as a fan favourite, there was the bonus of an enjoyable cover of the Kate Bush classic ‘Running Up That Hill’ as an encore.

Having impressed with their crisp debut album, AVEC SANS now move onto their follow-up long player. With all the experience acquired since their formation in 2012, Fox and St James have the potential to deliver an opus to take them to the level of their lauded Scottish and Canadian contemporaries.

Professional, organised and hardworking, many acts could learn from AVEC SANS’ approach to live presentation, visual image, media engagement and audience networking. It may seem obvious to have a range of photos for press into organised folders but quite a few bands don’t even manage that!

With these basics sorted, AVEC SANS have climbed the first steps of the ladder.

The album ‘Heartbreak Hi’ is released by Beverly Martel, available via the usual digital outlets as well as CD and vinyl LP




Text and Photos by Chi Ming Lai
1st October 2017

AVEC SANS Interview

With their dreamy electronic pop, London based pairing AVEC SANS have been making in-roads in North America lately.

Their debut album ‘Heartbreak Hi’ has been embraced by DJs such as Rusty Egan and Sacha, while fashion houses like Dolce & Gabbana and Sandro have taken them to their hearts.

Featuring enigmatic vocals of Alice Fox and the intricate production Jack St. James’, their bittersweet synth laden songs have gained the support of Popjustice and The Guardian.

Most recently, Stephen J Lipson, famed producer of PROPAGANDA, FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, SIMPLE MINDS, ANNIE LENNOX, ULTRAVOX and HANS ZIMMER, collaborated with them on a new song entitled ‘Impossible’.

But it’s within a live setting that AVEC SANS have made the biggest impression with their show being a feast of colours and energy, thanks to Fox’s striking SIA-like presence and St. James’ customised Novation Launchpads tilted towards the audience.

Well-received support slots for LITTLE BOOTS and LADYHAWKE now form part of their expanding portfolio as they embark on their own UK tour this Autumn.

Alice Fox kindly chatted to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about AVEC SANS’ working dynamic and career to date…

It’s been nearly a year now since the ‘Heartbreak Hi’ album was released, how do you look back on its genesis and completion?

It was about three years in the making and we’re very proud of it. It was made independently; we wrote, recorded, mixed and mastered the whole thing ourselves (bar ‘We Are’ where we had a little help from good friend Benbrick). It was a real slog at times, but we wanted to make an album full of tracks which stood up by themselves and we feel we’ve done that.

How did you arrive at the primarily synthpop sound of AVEC SANS, as opposed to perhaps being more R’n’B focussed, like say ALUNA GEORGE? Who are your main influences?

We like catchy songs and leftfield pop music. We make the music we’d like to hear in the medium that makes sense to us. We’ve come from a place of being most influenced by artists like LCD SOUNDSYSTEM, HOT CHIP, THE POSTAL SERVICE and SUFJAN STEVENS.

Observers have drawn comparisons between AVEC SANS and CHVRCHES, but the timeline appears to show that you both started at around the same time. Have these comparisons helped or hindered your progress?

CHVRCHES came out as a fully formed signed act, with members who were already established as songwriters and artists in the industry. We posted our first track online at the time when they launched their fully formed project. We were two friends, with no industry connections and only the one track, getting inundated with emails from A&Rs, but with no songs behind us. We’d probably do things differently now if we had known the response would be so positive.

CHVRCHES were leagues ahead career-wise when we both emerged and it’s always helpful for artists to have a better-known artist for people to reference. Those comparisons have been positive and reviews often say we’re writing more immediate pop songs, which is probably the case. We saw them play at SXSW when we played the stage next to them last year, we love what they do and Lauren is a brilliant front woman.

‘Perth’ appears to be a real fan favourite…

This is the track that kicked it off for us, a cover of BON IVER which we posted online. I think it was the surprise factor; it was a track that started life as a gentle indie track with BON IVER and turned into a heavier electronic track in our hands.

Your most recent single ‘We Are’ was a reworking of the album version. Why did you feel it needed this and how did you approach the restructure?

We were gifted the opportunity to work with Max Dingel (GOLDFRAPP, THE KILLERS, MUSE etc) and jumped at the chance, that single was about to come out so we decided to do a single mix with him.

It was very much a collaborative thing and it was a really enjoyable experience, we’re delighted with what he brought to the track.

‘The Answer’ utilised some interesting glitchy voice manipulations within its aesthetic, what sort of techniques were applied to achieve this?

These sounds usually start by taking a sample of the vocals and chopping them up. We then rearrange them to make a new melody and throw them through all sorts of pitch shifting effects and reverbs delays. We just keep messing with it until it works, there are no rules.

Are you drawn to using vintage hardware to produce your music or are you wholly software based? What synths are you using for the AVEC SANS sound?

We love the sound of vintage synthesisers, but unfortunately we’d probably need to sell our souls in order to afford them all. Almost all of the sounds come from soft synths. We use a lot of the Arturia plugins and the Korg Legacy Collection. They are absolutely amazing and it also means we can recreate of those sounds live without having to carry around antique analogue equipment.

You played the ‘Electric Dreams’ weekender in Bognor Regis with HEAVEN 17, OMD, BLANCMANGE and Marc Almond. How was it to play alongside those pioneering heritage acts?

It was an honour to play with those artists and the response was extremely warm, we ended up chatting to people for hours afterwards and loads of the crowd came to our second show the next day.

We never experienced those acts the first time around, but some of their music has definitely seeped into our consciousness through wider culture. Outside of that event we’re organically connecting with a lot of people who first fell in love with electronic music in the 80s. There’s some other huge 80s acts we’ll be playing with later in the year, some we can’t announce yet and we’re sharing a stage with BELINDA CARLISLE and KATRINA (of THE WAVES) in Bristol soon.

Is pop music history of interest to you?

Absolutely, we love watching documentaries about the artists who changed music: DAVID BOWIE, THE BEATLES, KATE BUSH, THE BEACH BOYS, FLEETWOOD MAC, it’s important to know where you’ve come from as you’re impacted by the music you experience.

You have been working with veteran producers too, with the recent unveiling of your collaboration with Stephen J Lipson entitled ‘Impossible’. How did this come about and what was he like to work with?

We were introduced through our manager and due to Stephen’s incredible history, it was pretty nerve wracking to be in a studio with him to begin with. He was incredibly relaxed and reassuring, it’s essentially a guest vocal from us, so it was just a day working together and we ended the session, got a Deliveroo and chatted with him for about three hours afterward.

We grilled him about the artists he’d worked with, heard the new film work he’s done and he showed us his playlists of all the new artists he listens to (he listens to SO MUCH new music). We generally chatted about crazy new developments in technology and random stuff like Bitcoin, he’s very future-focused.

Anyone else you would like to collaborate with?

David Sitek of TV ON THE RADIO is the man we’d most like to work with, we’re mentioning this in every interview we ever do, then if it ever happens we can print out all the interviews and put them in a binder and have a really awkward moment when we meet. We’d also jump at the chance of working with Max Dingel again, hopefully that might be possible around the next tracks.

Your live presentation is very striking with the use of those Novation Launchpads. How important is the visual aspect to playing gigs, what with the usual conundrum of how best to present an electronic pop duo in a concert setting?

We didn’t want to be static and behind laptops, the worst thing when you see an electronic act is when there’s a huge physical barrier in front of them and they stand there static, doing nothing, removed. Jack grew up in punk bands, so the angled Launchpads to let people see what he’s doing, that live music is happening. He’s really gone all out to try and include the crowd in what we do, he’s used Launchpads as synths and was the first person to hack the lights to do what they now do.

Instagram means we follow-back a lot of the acts coming up behind us and supporting us at live shows and we’re seeing them adopting various parts of our live show, our style and our technology. So expect to see a wave of visually similar acts coming up over the next few years, lots of white mic cables, front tilting Launchpads and gear etc. Jack had to custom-build those stands himself as no one was doing it. We’ll keep moving on, changing and adapting as we go, we’ve just added a lighting rig behind us that interacts with the lights programmed on the Launchpads.

You recently went on your first tour of North America, how do the audiences differ out there and how are they similar to here and Europe?

American crowds are a little less reserved and more prone to a whoop in between songs, there was one guy who offered me a “wardrobe of clothes” in a gap between songs… which was intriguing. The similarities are that we seem to attract really decent, lovely human beings who we enjoy hanging out with.

I’m Northern so I’ll bust out a Northernism, the “nobhead” ratio at our shows is currently zero to zero, long may that continue and we’re enjoying getting to know people better, trying to convince them to bring their dogs and small children to our shows and hearing about their personal triumphs and challenges.

There are quite a few female voiced electronic pop acts emerging like VILE ELECTRODES, TINY MAGNETIC PETS, ANI GLASS and ANNEKA, do you have a chance to check out much new music these days?

We do like to listen to as much new stuff as possible, THE JAPANESE HOUSE is a current favourite. PURITY RING has probably had the biggest influence on us of all of the female fronted electro acts. We always hold firm that “female fronted” isn’t a genre of music, as it’s to everyone’s detriment when people group artists together wrongly. We’ve been influenced by so much music, electronic and otherwise.

How is writing for the next AVEC SANS album coming along, are there any directions you would be interested in exploring?

It’s going slowly, but we’re really keen to release another single before our September tour, an EP by the start of next year and an album late next year. Live bookings have been taking off in a way that’s making writing tricky. As independent artists, there’s a lot to juggle in order to make everything happen, but we love the journey, we’ve already covered our fridge with magnets from all the places music has taken us. We need a bigger fridge.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to AVEC SANS

Additional thanks to Sandy Roberton at Beverly Martel Music LLC, Rob McGee and Adam Cresswell

‘Impossible’ is available as a download single in North American territories

The album ‘Heartbreak Hi’ is released by Beverly Martel, available via the usual digital outlets as well as CD and vinyl LP from the AVEC SANS website at http://avecsans.com/

2017 UK Autumn live dates include:

Sheffield Record Junkee (15th September), Manchester Castle Hotel (21st September), Newcastle Think Tank (22nd September), Glasgow Broadcast (23rd September), Edinburgh Sneaky Pete’s (24th September), Leicester The Shed (26th September), Southampton The Joiners (27th September), Brighton Hope & Ruin (28th September), London Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen (29th September)



Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
3rd June 2017


Formed in 2010 and hailing from Alberta, Canada, PURITY RING are Megan James and Corin Roddick.

The duo released their first track ‘Ungirthed’ in 2011, setting a musical template for the band combining blippy monosynths, 808 drums, sampled vocals and Dubstep-inflected wub-wub bass. Within a year PURITY RING had been signed to the legendary 4AD record company, and debuted their album ‘Shrines’ in 2012.

Unusually for a complete album project, the songs were crafted by the two band members in completely separate studios a thousand miles apart, one in Halifax, the other in Vancouver; but despite this, were still able to achieve a cohesive sound thanks to the wonders of the internet.

It’s easy to imagine that if this technology was available back in Synth Britannia heyday, producers such as Vince Clarke would have readily adopted it as a way of working. With musical ideas and vocals being sent via file-sharing sites such as Dropbox and Googledrive, this working practice avoids having to share a studio space, but obviously can have positives and drawbacks in equal measure.

The band throw in a variety of styles into their musical melting pot, one that is entirely electronic, but with the added non 4/4 broken beats of R ‘n’ B and Hip Hop acting as a rhythmic foundation. Vocally Megan James treads a fine line, staying just the right side of being overtly saccharine, whilst song titles ‘Belispeak’, ‘Obedear’ and ‘Amenamy’ read like they could be COCTEAU TWINS tracks in waiting.

Second album ‘Another Eternity’ has seen a refinement in the sound of the band, the vocal production is immaculate, every production trick under the sun is deployed on Megan James’ vocals to enhance the purity of their sound.

This time the two members shared the same studio space and some of the signature sounds of Trap have infiltrated their songs with the trademark low-pitched 808 bass sound replacing the earlier Dubstep elements. Lyrically intriguing, the band are in turn both visceral and sexual, for example “Baby why don’t you see my sea – Get inside and build your castle into me” from ‘Sea Castle’ is definitely not describing a fun day at Bognor beach…

Live, the band employ a retina-searing light show, clothing designed by synth player Corin and a striking custom-built illuminated drum trigger system which features in the newly released video for single ‘Heartsigh’. The song itself is almost a COCTEAU TWINS song reimagined for the 21st Century with added Reese synth bass and Roland Alpha Juno Hoover sounds. Beautifully and clinically produced, ‘Heartsigh’ is an ideal entry point for the band.

The huge success of CHVRCHES has arguably been part curse / part blessing for PURITY RING. On one hand, the Canadian band could feel aggrieved that their sound has been appropriated and commercialised by another act, yet conversely they undoubtedly would have picked up a larger fanbase as a result of the two parties co-existing; the band played The Roundhouse late last year, quite a feat for what could be seen by many as an ‘underground’ band.

A mark of an innovator is that many people often don’t get them first time around and that is certainly the case with PURITY RING. Other acts have now caught up with them and their sound is now almost a norm in some circles, even artists like Katy Perry and Taylor Swift don’t sound too far removed from some of the tracks on ‘Another Eternity’.

Fans of CHVRCHES will find much to love in PURITY RING, especially as the second album is far more commercially minded. However, dig a little deeper and you will start to appreciate the differences between the two acts and who knows, may even prefer the originators of this sound…

‘Heartsigh’ is from the album ‘Another Eternity’ released on CD, vinyl and download by 4AD Records



Text by Paul Boddy
14th January 2016


Loudness Contour Modifiers

In a far more productive year than 2014, many electronic music veterans returned to the fold in 2015 with their first new albums for many years. There were plenty of releases from independent acts too, with Nordic Europe being a particularly strong territory once again.

45 quality songs made the shortlist and were eventually whittled down to 30. So mention must be made of ALICE IN VIDEOLAND, ANALOG ANGEL, BEBORN BETON, BECKY BECKY, CAMOUFLAGE, CLUB 8, ELECTROGENIC, EURASIANEYES, ME THE TIGER, HANNAH PEEL and SIN COS TAN who all released recordings in 2015 that would have easily made the listing in less competitive years such as 2012 and 2014. Even DURAN DURAN’s disappointing ‘Paper Gods’ yielded one decent track in ‘Face For Today’, but one swallow doesn’t make a summer.

So the decision has been made; with a restriction of one song per artist moniker, this alphabetical list comprises tracks released in physical formats, or digitally as purchasable or free downloads during the calendar year. Here are ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 30 SONGS OF 2015…

A-HA She’s Humming A Tune

A-HA Cast In SteelHaving played what appeared to be their farewell concert at the Oslo Spektrum in December 2010, A-HA reunited in a relaxed manner that recalled their days as a fledgling band. On ‘She’s Humming A Tune’, there were hints of 1986’s ‘Scoundrel Days’ in a lower key with sweeping synths, bottle neck six string and live drums moulding the chilling soundscape with that exquisite Nordic allure. ‘Cast In Steel’ was the antithesis of the misguided EDM blow-out that DURAN DURAN attempted on ‘Paper Gods’

Available on the album ‘Cast In Steel’ via Universal Music



Feeling gloomy? Then take heed of the advice from BLACK NAIL CABARET and “Don’t be sad! Don’t be whiney!” – this brooding slice of Gothtronica was the lead single from the Hungarian duo’s second album ‘Harry Me, Marry Me, Bury Me’. Laden with a delicious synth bassline like DEPECHE MODE reimagined for a Weimar Cabaret set piece and topped with eerie string machine, ‘Satisfaction’ was the duo’s best individual offering to date. The pair also made a worthy impression opening for CAMOUFLAGE.

Available on the album ‘Harry Me, Marry Me, Bury Me’ via Basic Unit Productions



From Neil Arthur’s first BLANCMANGE album without long time bandmate Stephen Luscombe, ‘Useless’ was a brilliant hybrid of BRIAN ENO circa ‘Here Come The Warm Jets’ with LCD SOUNDSYSTEM. “It’s about anyone who thinks they might be useless” said Arthur, “This song is about that whole idea that we’re all flawed and you’re ‘useless as you are’… there are just times when you think ‘f*cking hell, I couldn’t organise a p*ss up in a brewery’ or that whole thing about confidence”.

Available on the album ‘Semi Detached’ via Cherry Red Records



Although launch single ‘Shine’ indicated it was business as usual, as hinted at with the title, CAMOUFLAGE’s long awaited long player ‘Greyscale’ was their most mature artistic statement yet. The mellow and warm ‘Count On Me’ saw Marcus Meyn duet with Peter Heppner of WOLFSHEIM fame. The lush blend of vocals and atmospherics showcased two of Germany’s most highly regarded electronic acts at their best.

Available on the album ‘Greyscale’ via Bureau B


CHVRCHES Clearest Blue

CHVRCHES stuck to the synthpop template of their debut and delivered what LITTLE BOOTS, LA ROUX, and LADYHAWKE and HURTS all failed to do… a decent second album! The propulsive four-to-the-floor action of ‘Clearest Blue’ shows how far CHVRCHES developed. Although not unlike an amalgam of ‘Gun’ and ‘Science / Visions’, ‘Clearest Blue’ is even more accomplished, wonderfully held in a state of tension before WHACK, there’s a dynamic surprise that recalls the classic overtures of Vince Clarke.

Available on the album ‘Every Open Eye’ via Virgin Records



RODNEY CROMWELL is Adam Cresswell, formally of ARTHUR & MARTHA. ‘Black Dog’ recalled the pulsing post-punk miserablism of SECTION 25 and was embellished some Hooky styled bass. Cresswell said: “It’s all broadly linked to experiences in my life over the last ten years; themes of love, loss, depression, redemption”. As with NEW ORDER’s ‘Temptation’, despite the inherent melancholy, there was light at the end of the tunnel that made ‘Black Dog’ a most joyous listening experience.

Available on the album ‘Age Of Anxiety’ via Happy Robots



daybehavior-change-front-small-2000Utilising her Italian heritage, DAYBEHAVIOR’s lead singer Paulinda Crescentini gave a suitably alluring performance on ‘Cambiare’, the B-side of the Swedish trio’s single ‘Change’. Remixed to poptastic effect, the joyous yet melancholic tune took the best elements of Italo disco with an expression of sorrow and happiness that recalled imperial phase PET SHOP BOYS. With a catchy chorus and seductive topline, Linguaphone language lessons were never this much fun…

Available on the single ‘Change’ via Graplur



DESTIN FRAGILE Halfway To NowhereAn offshoot of Swedish EBM veterans SPETSNAZ, DESTIN FRAGILE are a very different animal with hints of CAMOUFLAGE and DEPECHE MODE in their sound. ‘Run Away’ opened their ‘Halfway To Nowhere’ opus, an album which some observers have hailed as one of the best of 2015. Featuring a fine vocal from Pontus Stålberg resembling MESH’s Mark Hockings, this is what modern synthpop should be like; pop music with synths and melody as well as dynamic synth solos.

Available on the album ‘Halfway To Nowhere’ via Dark Dimensions



EAST INDIA YOUTH’s debut ‘Total Strife’ pointed towards William Doyle’s potential to pen sublime pop, and with the follow-up ‘Culture Of Volume’, this was more than realised. But the album’s centrepiece was ‘Carousel’. Imagine the start of OMD’s ‘Stanlow’ reworked during BRIAN ENO’s sessions for ‘Apollo: Soundtracks & Atmospheres’. With no percussive elements and over six minutes in length, Doyle gave a dramatic vocal performance resonating in beautifully crystalline melancholy.

Available on the album ‘Culture of Volume’ via XL Recordings


EMIKA My Heart Bleeds Melody

Berlin-based EMIKA is one of the dark horses of the UK electronic scene. A combination of her classical training, Czech heritage and use of modern technology has made for a provoking, brooding sound that has attained critical acclaim over the last few years. From her third album, helpfully named ‘Drei’, ‘My Heart Bleeds Melody’ was its highlight, a concoction of intricate pulsing layers and solemn detachment that provided a captivating listening experience.

Available on the album ‘Drei’ via Emika Records


FFS P*ss Off

FFS proved collaborations do work. A total triumph, ‘P*ss Off’ was possibly the album’s most outstanding number. With the vibrancy of ‘Kimono My House’ and ‘Propaganda’ era SPARKS, there were plenty of jaunty ivories and camp vocal theatrics in the vein of classics like ‘Something For The Girl With Everything’ and ‘BC’. “It’s inexplicable” they all growled as the multi-track phrase of “HARMONISE” kicked in! A total joy, ‘P*ss Off’ was the ultimate two fingered art school pop anthem.

Available on the album ‘FFS’ via Domino Records


WOLFGANG FLÜR Cover Girl – The Ninjaneer Mix

One of the highlights in Herr Flür’s DJ sets has been The Ninjaneer Mix of ‘Cover Girl’, a swirling synthpop track that the former KRAFTWERK percussionist has described as ‘The Model MkII’. He said: “Her story goes on and unfortunately shows her going downhill. She had bad experiences with drugs, alcohol and other things so had to dance in night clubs for earning money at least. A true story, a bad life… that’s sometimes the way how super models are knitting their career”

Available on the album ‘Eloquence’ via Cherry Red Records


JOHN GRANT featuring TRACEY THORN Disappointing

JOHN GRANT Grey Tickles, Black PressureJOHN GRANT’s adventure into a solemn electronic template on ‘Pale Green Ghosts’ not only won him a BRIT Award nomination too. Meanwhile his collaboration with HERCULES & LOVE AFFAIR showed he understood the disco as well. ‘Disappointing’ combined the two approaches and added some funk for an enjoyable Bowie meets YAZOO styled workout. In a song full of surprises, not only was there the presence of slap bass, but there was the dulcet tones of EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL’s Tracey Thorn too.

Available on the album ‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’ via Bella Union


GWENNO Calon Peiriant

Gwenno_Y_DYDD_OLAFGWENNO’s Welsh and Cornish heritage has allowed her to develop a unique brand of lo-fi electronica. Her full-length Welsh language debut ‘Y Dydd Olaf’ came out on Peski Records in October 2014. Now reissued in 2015 by Heavenly Recordings, GWENNO has deservedly gained an increased profile for her music. With beautiful, traditionally derived melodies placed in a spacey yesterday’s tomorrow setting, the spacey ‘Calon Peiriant’ was one of the more immediate delights on offer from a wonderful album.

Available on the album ‘Y Dydd Olaf’ via Heavenly Recordings


IAMX Happiness

Depression despite apparent material success has been an ongoing lyrical theme for Chris Corner as IAMX. And with ‘Happiness’, his craving for a mind to be free of bad news, negative influences and jealousy was countered with his line of “Everywhere hypocrisy!” as pulsing arpeggios kicked in for the final third’s gentle but drama laden climax. Highly poignant in the current economic and political climate, Corner’s move from Berlin to Los Angeles certainly did his music no harm.

Available on the album ‘Metanoia’ via Caroline International



Jarre-electronica-coverThe French synth maestro’s first album for since ‘Teo & Tea’ in 2007 was an opus entitled ‘Electronica 1 – The Time Machine’ featuring collaborations with TANGERINE DREAM, JOHN CARPENTER, LITTLE BOOTS, MASSIVE ATTACK among many. But the two part ‘Automatic’ with VINCE CLARKE was the highlight, taking in the best of the tune based elements of both artists while not letting one party dominate. VCJMJ was certainly a more artistically realised proposition than the polarising techno of VCMG!

Available on the album ‘Electronica 1: The Time Machine’ via Columbia Records


KID KASIO Full Moon Blue

“Whether I release it in 2013 or 2016, it’s still going to sound like 1985!” said KID KASIO main man Nathan Cooper. A man whose is plainly honest about where his influences lie, his love of classic synthpop permeates throughout his work. Now imagine if DEPECHE MODE was fronted by Nik Kershaw instead of Dave Gahan? With ‘Full Moon Blue’, that musical fantasy became fully realised with a clever interpolation of ‘Two Minute Warning’, one of Alan Wilder’s songwriting contributions from ‘Construction Time Again’.

Available on the album ‘Sit & Wait’ via Kid Kasio


KITE Up For Life

Despite having been around since 2008, Swedish synth duo KITE have tended to be overlooked internationally. But Nicklas Stenemo and Christian Berg’s wonderfully exuberant array of sounds and rugged, majestic vocals deserve a much larger audience. Issuing only EPs and never albums, KITE’s most recent release ‘VI’ opened with the magnificent progressive electronic epic ‘Up For Life’. The passionate and sublime first half mutated into a beautifully surreal journey of VANGELIS-like proportions for the second.

Available on the EP ‘VI’ via Progress Productions



The syncopated electro disco feel of ‘The Bombs’, one of the highlights from MACHINISTA’s second album came almost by accident. Instrumentalist Richard Flow remembered: “Actually the first version of ‘The Bombs’ had a completely different rhythm in the drums. I actually did get stuck with this song and I wasn’t happy at all about the music. Once I did change the bass drum to a simple 4/4, I was back on track again. Most of the sounds from the original version I did keep, so perhaps a simple 4/4 bass drum mixed with the sounds for this original rhythm created this ‘disco’ feel…”

Available on the album ‘Garmonbozia’ via Analogue Trash Records



marsheaux_a_broken_frame_LPA worthy of re-assessment of DEPECHE MODE ‘A Broken Frame’ has been long overdue and MARSHEAUX have certainly given a number of its songs some interesting arrangements. Their version of ‘Monument’ borrowed its bassline from latter day DM B-side ‘Painkiller’. Combined with some wispily resigned vocals, it provided a tense soundtrack that could be seen as metaphoric commentary on the economic situation in Greece. It’s not often that cover versions are better than the originals, but this is one of them.

Available on the album ‘A Broken Frame’ via Undo Records


METROLAND (We Need) Machines Without Romance

METROLAND’s second album ‘Triadic Ballet’ was a triumphant electronic celebration of the Bauhaus, art movement led by Walter Gropius. Gropius theorized about uniting art and technology and on the B-side of its launch single ‘Zeppelin’, METROLAND worked towards the 21st Century interpretation of that goal. Now imagine if GARY NUMAN had actually joined KRAFTWERK in 1979? Then the brilliantly uptempo ‘(We Need) Machines Without Romance’ would have surely been the result.

Available on the EP ‘Zeppelin’ via Alfa Matrix



Studio legend John Fryer has been busy and the project that perhaps harks closest to THIS MORTAL COIL is MURICIDAE. Featuring the exquisite vocals of Louise Fraser, she and Fryer apparently “met on the beach searching for mermaids”… the sea is very much the visual theme for their music, with Fryer cultivating “sonic sculptures to musically embody the exquisite Muricidae Shell itself”. The tranquil beauty of ‘Away’ captures a shimmering soundscape that compliments Fraser’s plaintive lament.

Available on the EP ‘Tales From A Silent Ocean’ via Muricidae Music



After the guitar dominated proceedings of the last few NEW ORDER albums, Bernard Sumner promised a return to electronic music for the Mancunians’ first album of new material without estranged founder member and bassist Peter Hook. That was certainly delivered on with ‘Plastic’, a full-on throbbing seven minute electro number mixed by Richard X with blippy echoes of ‘Mr Disco’. Dealing with the issue of superficiality, it declares “this love is poison, but it’s like gold”… yes, beware of anything plastic and artificial!

Available on the album ‘Music Complete’ via Mute Artists


KARIN PARK Stick To The Lie

In 2015, the Norge domiciled Swedish songstress’ KARIN PARK finally released her fifth album, the profanity laden fifth ‘Apocalypse Pop’. While less harsh in sound to some of the other tracks on the long player, ‘Stick To The Lie’ was no less angry. The most overtly synthpop track on the collection, this accessible yet emotive song was one of the highlights on a collection that affirmed KARIN PARK’s place in modern electronic pop.

Available on the album ‘Apocalypse Pop’ via State Of The Eye



With CHVRCHES having borrowed PURITY RING’s electro template and pushed it into the mainstream, the direction taken on the Edmonton duo’s sophomore album ‘Another Eternity’ was going to be watched with interest. Certainly it was more focussed than its predecessor ‘Shrines’. Still utilising glitch techniques, booming bass drops and Corin Roddick’s rattling drum machine programming, the album’s best song ‘Begin Again’ made the most of Megan James’ sweet and dreamy voice.

Available on the album ‘Another Eternity’ via 4AD Records



Sweden’s SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN (translated as “The Last Man on Earth”) are led by Eddie Bengtsson, best known for his work with S.P.O.C.K and PAGE. The themes of space travel and Sci-Fi are regular lyrical gists and while all of SMPJ’s songs are voiced i Svenska, Bengtsson opened up his Vince Clarke influenced synthpop to the English language in 2015 with the ‘Translate’ EP. Brilliantly produced, ‘All The City Lights’ (a version of his 2014 single ‘Stadens Alla Ljus’) was its highly enjoyable opening gambit.

Available on the CD EP ‘Translate’ via SMPJ



SUSANNE SUNDFØR and her acclaimed ‘Ten Love Songs’ album developed on the electronic focus of its predecessor ‘The Silicone Veil’. With an eerie, droning intro with echoes of THE WALKERS BROTHERS’ ‘The Electrician’, ‘Delirious’ thundered with some fierce electronics bolstered by dynamic orchestrations like THE KNIFE meeting DEPECHE MODE. It captured love as a reluctant battle of the emotions while our heroine announced with emotive resignation “I’m not the one holding the gun”.

Available on the album ‘Ten Love Songs’ via Sonnet Sound


TRAIN TO SPAIN Passion – Machinista Club mix

TRAIN TO SPAIN Keep On RunningTRAIN TO SPAIN’s developing brand of uptempo, energetic pop utilises classic synthesizer sounds in the vein of Vince Clarke coupled to a metronomic rhythm structure akin to the 1985 ‘Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder’ album. Coming over like LANA DEL REY fronting YAZOO, Wigeborg’s cooingly vulnerable vocals on ‘Passion’ let rip over a suitably complimentary electronic backbone from Rasmusson, while a superb remix by MACHINISTA added some beefy gothic disco goodness.

Available on the download single ‘Keep On Running’ via Sub Culture Records


TREGENZA The Partisan

Manchester based Ross Tregenza is an experienced hand having co-written ‘Diaries Of A Madman’ with Dave Formula and Steve Strange when he was a member of VISAGE II in 2007. He surprised electronic music audiences with a Spartan cover of ‘The Partisan’, a song made famous by LEONARD COHEN. While many may despair at the very mention of the droll Canadian, his work has strong parallels with many Gothic veined musical forms, especially with this harrowing tale of fighting for La Résistance.

Originally from the EP ‘Stolen Thunder’, alternate version available on the album ‘Into The Void’ via Tregenza Music


VILE ELECTRODES Captive In Symmetry

On VILE ELECTRODES’ mesmerising ‘Captive in Symmetry’, “Filmic” is indeed a very apt description with the booming synth bass motif possessing echoes of the ‘Twin Peaks’ theme tune ‘Falling’. As beautiful sequences, eerie strings and Anais Neon’s hauntingly alluring vocals take hold, it all comes over like a dreamboat collaboration between JULEE CRUISE and OMD that could easily be considered for use in the proposed revamp of the surreal North American drama.

Available on the EP ‘Captive In Symmetry’ via Vile Electrodes


Text by Chi Ming Lai
9th December 2015

CHVRCHES Every Open Eye

CHVRCHES have actually achieved what LITTLE BOOTS, LA ROUX, LADYHAWKE or HURTS never managed; a decent second album!

And the best bit is, it’s a logical development of the first. None of this going house, disowning synths, rocking out or turning into SIMPLE MINDS nonsense! Hallelujah! Here’s a synthpop band actually using synths and proud of it!

Recorded in their basement studio in Glasgow and again self-produced, Iain Cook, Martin Doherty and Lauren Mayberry have taken a less complex approach to their effervescent synthpop on ‘Every Open Eye’. On mixing duties, the more electronically tuned Mark ‘Spike’ Stent works his magic behind the desk rather than MUSE producer Rich Costey who looked after the debut ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’. The end result is more varied and possibly, even better than its predecessor.

The album sees Mayberry in particularly feisty mood, emerging as a fighter following playing the victim on CHVRCHES’ debut. The apparent sweetness of her voice is again countered by vintage electronic backing, maintaining the light / shade demeanour that has made CHVRCHES so appealing throughout the world, especially in territories like South East Asia and the US which had all but forgotten synthpop.


The opening salvo of ‘Never Ending Circles’ is a statement of intent, a darker cousin of ‘Recover’ with a fight back manifesto. Mayberry is certainly biting at her detractors and while she’s not quite turned into a riot-grrrl, from a CHVRCHES perspective, this is a fair turn of assertiveness and aggression.

‘Leave A Trace’ is tougher still, “You took far too much” exclaims Lauren, on the attack. But what must not be forgotten is that this is an exemplarily pop song. Indeed, it could be a megahit if covered by TAYLOR SWIFT, who it has to be said, has mined CHVRCHES’ sound for her enjoyable ‘1989’ opus. Mayberry may be the anti-Taylor, but she has a few things in common with the starlet. With the horrid barrage of online misogyny she’s had to endure, Mayberry has had to shake it off too. Putting her energy into her art, with its booming backing, ‘Leave A Trace’ is a very personal song that acts as an inspiration to all.

‘Every Open Eye’ contains a delicious trio of uptempo electropop numbers that have been clearly influenced by the band’s success in America, possibly from watching Jerry Bruckheimer movies on the tour bus. With ‘Keep You On My Side’, the threesome deliver a pounding triplet stomper complimented by responsive synth phrases.

On the even more frantic ‘Make Them Gold’, Mayberry needs a hero with pounding electronic drums and widescreen chords dominating proceedings. Yes, this could easily be a song from a montage scene in a Rob Lowe / Demi Moore film but despite these explicit Americanised overtones, they’re perhaps not as overt as GOLDFRAPP’s AOR flirtations were on ‘Head First’.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more epic, there’s ‘Empty Threat’ which takes its lead from Oscar winning era Moroder, with a rock disco arrangement held down by a solid rhythm section. Despite this, there’s space within the dynamics. Some may consider it retro, but this is classic songwriting that is a pleasure to the ears, especially compared to DURAN DURAN’s painful EDM blow-out on ‘Paper Gods’.

The propulsive four-to-the-floor action of ‘Clearest Blue’ shows how far CHVRCHES have developed. Although not unlike an amalgam of ‘Gun’ and ‘Science/Visions’ from ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’ , ‘Clearest Blue’ is more accomplished. CHVRCHES’ productions are now less gimmicky and proof that the team of Mayberry / Doherty / Cook are comfortable in their own skins. Not needing to overtry, ‘Clearest Blue’ is wonderfully held in a state of tension before WHACK, there’s a potent surprise in the final third that recalls the distinctive overtures of Vince Clarke. The song is indeed, magnificence embroiled.

But it’s not all four-to-the floor. The template that CHVRCHES borrowed from PURITY RING is still omnipresent, and while their Canadian contemporaries have made themselves more accessible with this year’s ‘Another Eternity’ album, the Glaswegians have been more adept at using it within a pop context. A crunchy off-kilter percussion sequence provides the backbone for the pretty ‘Down Side Of Me’, but the proof is most obvious when Mayberry’s Trans-Atlantic lilt closely resembles Megan James during the middle eight. ‘Playing Dead’ is closest to the previous sound of ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’ but with a rockier slant. A belting chorus sees Mayberry going into battle again, with her announcing “you can tell me to jump, but I won’t go!”.


The two Martin Doherty vocalled tracks on ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’ polarised opinion and his voice makes an appearance again on the Oberheim driven funk of ‘High Enough To Carry You Over’. Is The Dok as technically accomplished a singer as Mayberry? Well, the factual answer is no… but taking on a more Americanised drawl in the vein of MISTER MISTER, this is a big improvement on his auditions for THE XX on the last long player.

Rugged machine synths burst into action for the wonderful ‘Bury It’; “I never promised you anything I couldn’t do” Mayberry exclaims, “we try to bury it and rise above”. With a barrage of stabs that haven’t been heard this side of NEW ORDER’s ‘Round & Round’, this is a determined anthem for female solidarity… and it WILL get covered!

To finish, ‘Afterglow’ is another Canadian inspired twist that takes CHVRCHES closer to ELECTRIC YOUTH instead of PURITY RING. With just some Eno-esque ambience providing the backing and no drums or sequences, it is a beautiful song that makes for a perfect ending. Recalling EAST INDIA YOUTH’s ‘Carousel’, it also showcases a developing musical maturity. “I’ll find my own way back…” declares Mayberry, all exposed and vulnerable before in a state of heartfelt resignation, she cries out “I’ve given up all I can…”

A track originally from Zane Lowe’s bizarre 2014 ‘Drive: Rescore’ collection, ‘Get Away’ is the first of the deluxe bonus tracks and although excellent, it’s easy to see why it has been relegated to this status. It shows CHVRCHES in a state of transition, continuing the glitch vocal processing techniques characteristic to the trio’s earlier signature sound while finding its feet in a more assured direction.


For those who don’t get the popularity of CHVRCHES, ‘Every Open Eye’ is supreme pop music. The repetitive eight minute blips of FACTORY FLOOR, this is most certainly not. What the Glaswegian trio have managed to do is get teenagers listening to classic synthpop, people who don’t necessarily know or even care what a Jupiter 8 is. And that can only be a good thing for the future of the genre.

As for CHVRCHES, they have proved themselves more than adept as songwriters and producers… a career in Hollywood and Taylor Swift collaborations beckon.

‘Every Open Eye’ uses the following synthesizers: Moog Voyager, DSI Prophet 08, Roland Juno 106, Korg MS20 Mini, DSI Prophet 12, Roland Jupiter 8, Oberheim OBXa, Korg Polysix, Moog Sonic Six and Korg ARP Odyssey

‘Every Open Eye’ is released by Virgin Records on 25th September 2015. It is available as a CD, deluxe CD with three bonus tracks, vinyl LP and download

CHVRCHES UK Tour includes:

Brighton Dome (16 November), Bristol O2 Academy (17 November), Manchester Albert Hall (19 November), Newcastle, O2 Academy (21 November), Aberdeen Music Hall (23 November), Dundee Fat Sam’s (24 November), Birmingham O2 Academy (25 November), London Alexandra Palace (27 November)



Text by Chi Ming Lai
22nd September 2015

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