Tag: Quieter Than Spiders (Page 1 of 2)

2019 End Of Year Review

2019 was a year of 40th Anniversaries, celebrating the synth becoming the sound of pop when ‘Are Friends Electric?’ reached No1 in the UK chart in 1979.

While GARY NUMAN opted for ‘(R)evolution’ and two of his former sidemen RRussell Bell and Chris Payne ventured solo for the first time, OMD offered a 7 disc ‘Souvenir’ featuring a whole album of quality unreleased material to accompany a concert tour to celebrate four decades in the business. That was contrary to DEPECHE MODE who merely plonked 14 albums into a boxed set in a move where the ‘Everything Counts’ lyric “the grabbing hands grab all they can” became more and more ironic… MIDGE URE partied like it was 1980 with the music of VISAGE and ULTRAVOX, while SIMPLE MINDS announced an arena tour for 2020 so that their audience could show Jim Kerr their hands again.

HEAVEN 17 announced some special showcases of the early material of THE HUMAN LEAGUE and got a particularly warm reception opening on tour for SQUEEZE as a trailer ahead of their own ‘Greatest Hits’ jaunt next year.

Celebrating 20 years in music, there was the welcome return of LADYTRON with a self-titled comeback album, while Swedish evergreens LUSTANS LAKEJER performed the ‘Åkersberga’ album for its 20th Anniversary and similarly GOLDFRAPP announced a series of shows in honour of their magnificent cinematic debut ‘Felt Mountain’.

Cult favourites FIAT LUX made their intimate live comeback in a church in Bradford and released their debut album ‘Saved Symmetry’ 37 years after their first single ‘Feels Like Winter Again’.

As a result, their fans were also treated to ‘Ark Of Embers’, the long player that Polydor Records shelved in 1985 when the band were on the cusp of a breakthrough but ended with a commercial breakdown.

Modern prog exponents Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson got back together as NO-MAN for their dual suite electronic concept record ‘Love You To Bits’, but an even more ambitious undertaking came from UNDERWORLD with their boxed set ‘Drift Series 1’.

Also making live returns were one-time PET SHOP BOYS protégé CICERO with a charity gig in his hometown of Livingston, WHITE DOOR with JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM at Synth Wave Live 3, ARTHUR & MARTHA and Mute Records veterans KOMPUTER.

After a short hiatus, the mighty KITE sold-out three gigs at Stockholm Slaktkyrkan and ended the year performing at an opera house, while GIORGIO MORODER embarked on his first ever concert tour where his songs were the stars.

Although their long-awaited-as-yet-untitled third album was still to materialise, VILE ELECTRODES went back on the road in Europe with APOPTYGMA BERZERK and THE INVINCIBLE SPIRIT. Meanwhile, Chinese techno-rock sextet STOLEN opened for NEW ORDER on their Autumn European tour and EMIKA performed in a series of Planetariums.

Despite the fall of The Berlin Wall 30 years ago, there were more evident swipes to the right than there had been for a long time, with the concept of Brexit Electro becoming a rather unpleasant reality. So in these more sinister times, the need for classic uplifting electronic pop was higher than ever.

To that end, three superb debut albums fitted the bill. While KNIGHT$ offered quality Britalo on ‘Dollars & Cents’, the suave presence of OLLIE WRIDE took a more MTV friendly direction with ‘Thanks In Advance’.

But for those wanting something more home produced, the eccentric Northern electronic pop of the brilliantly named INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP continued the artistic lineage of THE HUMAN LEAGUE.

QUIETER THAN SPIDERS finally released their wonderful debut album ‘Signs Of Life’ which was naturally more understated and Denmark had some worthy synthpop representation with SOFTWAVE producing an enjoyably catchy debut long player in ‘Game On’.

On the shadier side of electronic pop, BOY HARSHER achieved a wider breakthrough with their impressive ‘Careful’ long player but as a result, the duo acquired a contemporary hipster element to their fanbase who seemed to lack manners and self-awareness as they romped around gigs without a care for anyone around them. But with tongues-in-cheeks, SPRAY continued to amuse with their witty prankelectro on ‘Failure Is Inevitable’.

Photo by Johnny Jewel

Italians Do It Better kept things in house as CHROMATICS unexpectedly unleashed their first album for six years in ‘Closer To Grey’ and embarked on a world tour. Main support was DESIRE and accompanied on keyboards by HEAVEN singer Aja, the pair took things literally during their cover version of ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ with a girl-on-girl kiss in front of head honcho Johnny Jewel.

Other ITIB acts on the tour dependent on territory included DOUBLE MIXTE, IN MIRRORS and KRAKÓW LOVES ADANA. But the best work to appear from the stable came from JORJA CHALMERS who became ‘Human Again’.

There were a variety of inventive eclectic works from FAKE TEAK, MAPS, FINLAY SHAKESPEARE, ULTRAMARINE, TYCHO, THE GOLDEN FILTER, FRAGRANCE. and FADER. Meanwhile VON KONOW, SOMEONE WHO ISN’T ME and JAKUZI all explored themes of equality while BOYTRONIC preferred ‘The Robot Treatment’.

But expressing themselves on the smoother side of proceedings were CULT WITH NO NAME and notably SHOOK who looked east towards the legend of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA.

Dark minimalism reigned in the work of FRAGILE SELF and WE ARE REPLICA while no less dark but not so aggressive, WITCH OF THE VALE cemented their position with a well-received opening slot at Infest.

Touring in Europe with OMD and MIDGE URE, TINY MAGNETIC PETS unleashed two EPs ‘The Politburo Disko’ and ‘Girl In A White Dress’ as fellow Dubliner CIRCUIT3 got political and discussed ‘The Price Of Nothing & The Value Of Everything’.

2019 was a year of electronic instrumental offerings galore from NEULAND, RICARDO AUTOBAHN, EKKOES, M83, RELIEF, FEMMEPOP and OBLONG, although ERIC RANDOM’s dystopian offering ‘Wire Me Up’ added vocoder while BRIAN ENO celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing ‘For All Mankind’.

The King of Glum Rock LLOYD COLE surprised all with an electronic pop album called ‘Guesswork’ just as PET SHOP BOYS set an ‘Agenda’. HOWARD JONES released his most synthy work for years in ‘Transform’ and while CHINA CRISIS acted as his well-received support on the UK leg of his 35th Anniversary tour, their front man GARY DALY ventured solo with ‘Gone From Here’.

Among the year’s best new talents were IMI, KARIN MYGRETAGEISTE and ALICE HUBBLE with their beautifully crafted avant pop.

And with the media traction of artists such as GEORGIA, REIN, JENNIFER TOUCH, SUI ZHEN, THE HEARING, IONNALEE, PLASMIC, ZAMILSKA, IOANNA GIKA, SPELLLING, KANGA, FIFI RONG and I AM SNOW ANGEL, the profile of women in electronic music was stronger than ever in 2019.

Sweden continued to produce quality electronic pop with enjoyable releases from the likes of MACHINISTA, PAGE, COVENANT, OBSESSION OF TIME and LIZETTE LIZETTE. One of the most interesting acts to emerge from the region was US featuring the now Stockholm-domiciled Andrew Montgomery from GENEVA and Leo Josefsson of LOWE, with the catalyst of this unlikely union coming from a shared love of the late country legend Glen Campbell. Meanwhile, veteran trio DAYBEHAVIOR made the best album of their career ‘Based On A True Story’.

However, Canada again gave the Swedes a good run for their money as ELECTRIC YOUTH and FM ATTACK released new material while with more of a post-punk slant, ACTORS impressed audiences who preferred a post-post-punk edge alongside their synths.

DANA JEAN PHOENIX though showed herself to be one of the best solo synth performers on the live circuit, but artistically the best of the lot was MECHA MAIKO who had two major releases ‘Okiya’ and ‘Let’s!’.

Despite making some good music in 2019 with their ‘Destroyer’ two-parter, the “too cool for school” demeanour of TR/ST might have impressed hipsters, but left a lot to be desired. A diva-ish attitude of entitlement was also noticed by ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK to be disappointingly prevalent in several fledgling acts.

Synthwave increased its profile further with the film ‘The Rise Of The Synths’ narrated by none other than John Carpenter. MICHAEL OAKLEY released his debut album ‘Introspect’, BETAMAXX was ‘Lost In A Dreamworld’, COM TRUISE came up with a ‘Persuasion System’ and NEW ARCADES were ‘Returning Home’.

Scene veteran FUTURECOP! collaborated with PARALLELS, COMPUTER MAGIC and NINA prior to a hiatus for the foreseeable future, while there were promising new talents emerging in the shape of POLYCHROME, PRIZM, BUNNY X and RIDER.

However, several of the sub-genre’s artists needed to rethink their live presentations which notably underwhelmed with their static motions and lack of engagement.

While promoters such as Outland developed on their solid foundations, others attempted to get too big too soon like the musical equivalent of a penis extension, leaving fans disappointed and artists unpaid. Attempting to turnover more than 10 acts during in a day with a quarter of an hour changeover has always been an odious task at best, but to try 15?!? One hopes the headliners were well paid despite having to go on at midnight when most of their supporters went home so as not to miss the last train…

Now at times, it was as if a major collective midlife crisis had hit independent electronic music in the UK during 2019. It was not unlike how “born again bikers” have become a major road safety risk, thanks to 40somethings who only managed Cycling Proficiency in Junior School suddenly jumping onto 500cc Honda CMX500 Rebel motorcycles, thinking they were Valentino Rossi.

Something similar was occurring in music as a variety of posturing delusional synth owners indulged in a remix frenzy and visions of grandeur, forgetting that ability and talent were paramount. This attitude led to a number of poorly attended events where attendees were able to be counted on one hand, thanks to clueless fans of said combos unwisely panning their video footage around the venue.

Playing at 3:15pm in an empty venue is NOT performing at a ‘major’ electronic festival… “I’ll be more selective with the gigs I agree to in the UK” one of these acts haplessly bemoaned, “I’ve played to too many empty rooms!” – well, could that have been because they are not very good?

Bands who had blown their chance by not showing willingness to open for name acts during holiday periods, while making unwise comments on their national TV debut about their lack of interest in registering for PRS, said they were going to split a year in advance, but not before releasing an EP and playing a farewell show in an attempt to finally get validation for their art. Was this a shining example of Schrodinger’s Band?

Of course, the worst culprits were those who had an internet radio show or put on gigs themselves so that they could actually perform, because otherwise external promotors were only interested in them opening at 6.15pm after a ticket deal buy on for a five band bill. Humility wouldn’t have gone amiss in all these cases.

It’s a funny old world, but as ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK comes up to concluding its tenth year as an influential platform that has written extensively about not one or two or three or four BUT five acts prior to them being selected to open on tour for OMD, luckily the gulf between good and bad music is more distinct than ever. It will be interesting to see if the high standard of electronic pop will be maintained or whether the influx of poor quality artists will contaminate the bloodline.

So ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK ends the decade with a complimentary comment by a punter after attending two of its live events: “You don’t put on sh*t do you…”

May the supreme talent rise and shine… you know who you are 😉


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK Contributor Listings of 2019

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: UNDERWORLD Drift Series 1
Best Song: MOLINA Venus
Best Gig: RAMMSTEIN at Milton Keynes MK Bowl
Best Video: SCALPING Chamber
Most Promising New Act: SCALPING


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: NO-MAN Love You To Bits
Best Song: NO-MAN Love You To Shreds
Best Gig: RAMMSTEIN at Stadion Slaski Chorzow
Best Video: RAMMSTEIN Deutschland
Most Promising New Act: IMI


SIMON HELM

Best Album: PAGE Fakta För Alla
Best Song: PAGE Fakta För Alla
Best Gig: LAU NAU at London Cafe OTO
Best Video: LAU NAU Amphipoda on Buchla 200 at EMS Stockholm
Most Promising New Act: THE HIDDEN MAN


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: KNIGHT$ Dollar & Cents
Best Song: OMD Don’t Go
Best Gig: KITE at Stockholm Slaktkyrkan
Best Video: NIGHT CLUB Your Addiction
Most Promising New Act: IMI


RICHARD PRICE

Best Album: KNIGHT$ Dollar & Cents
Best Song: OMD Don’t Go
Best Gig: MIDGE URE + RUSTY EGAN at The London Palladium
Best Video: IMI Margins
Most Promising New Act: PLASMIC


MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL

Best Album: MECHA MAIKO Let’s
Best Song: KANGA Burn
Best Gig: DANA JEAN PHOENIX, KALAX + LEBROCK at London Zigfrid von Underbelly
Best Video: IONNALEE Open Sea
Most Promising New Act: PRIZM


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Ian Ferguson
16th December 2019, updated 29th Janaury 2021

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 30 SONGS OF 2019

2019 was good for new music. The first two thirds of the year was particularly strong for up-and-coming talent, while a number of veterans returned to making music with synths for the first time in many years.

Inevitably, the quality of new releases couldn’t be sustained and things tailed off during the Autumn period as artists shifted their focus towards the live arena.

The launch of debut full-length releases by relative newcomers has tended to focus towards the winter in order to pitch to the deluge of tastemaker polls that are now prevalent both in mainstream and online media.

Of course, The Electricity Club is unable to include everything in its 30 SONGS OF 2019, so worthy mentions go to SHOOK, CIRCUIT 3, KANGA, FRAGILE SELF, NINA, THE HEARING, JAKUZI, TR/ST, SPELLLING, I AM SNOW ANGEL, PET SHOP BOYS, NO-MAN, RIDER, TINY MAGNETIC PETS, FRAGRANCE. and T.O.Y. for their output this year.

As per usual with a restriction of one song per artist moniker and presented in alphabetical order, these are ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 30 SONGS OF 2019…


APOPTYGMA BERZERK A Battle For The Crown

Over the 25 years since his debut album ‘Soli Deo Gloria’ , Stephan Groth has straddled EBM, synthpop, futurepop, alternative rock and more recently instrumentals with APOPTYGMA BERZERK. For his first new material since 2016’s ‘Exit Popularity Contest’, the upcoming EP ‘Nein Danke!’ sees a return to the synthpop / new wave format. Part of a teaser single, ‘A Battle For The Crown’ offered a suitably matted austere but crucially did not forget the hooks or the melodies.

Available on the EP ‘Nein Danke!’ via Pitch Black Drive

http://www.theapboffice.com/


BOY HARSHER LA

Stark Massachusetts duo BOY HARSHER formed through an urgent need to produce and consume, so Jae Matthews and Augustus Muller utilised their minimal electronics and intense mindset to create a compelling narrative of deterioration. ‘LA’ featured a wonderfully incongruous mix of icy string synths and orchestra stabs for an enticing display of mutant electronic disco, all brilliantly sinister thanks to its varied use of effects and Matthews’ mournful demeanour.

Available on the album ‘Careful’ via Nude Club Records

https://boyharsher.com/


JORJA CHALMERS She Made Him Love Again

Jorja Chalmers is the sax and keys player for Bryan Ferry but while it was recorded in her boss’ studio, her first solo album ‘Human Again’ exuded a more sombre filmic disposition. Conceived and sketched in hotel rooms during the come down from playing to packed theatres around the world. ‘She Made Him Love Again’ was a song where Chalmers’ breathy vocals possessed a gorgeous forlorn allure and when the icy string machine and deep sax joined in, proceedings lifted to another level.

Available on the album ‘Human Again’ via Italians Do It Better

https://www.instagram.com/jorjachalmers/


LLOYD COLE Violins

Lloyd Cole had recorded an experimental electronic album ‘Selected Studies Vol 1’ with Hans-Joachim Roedelius of CLUSTER in 2013, while there was also a solo instrumental collection entitled ‘1D Electronics 2012-2014’. But he put all of that modular knowhow into a song based format with the charming synthy single ‘Violins’ which saw him turn into OMD! However the King of Glum Rock didn’t totally alienate his main fan base, with guitars making their presence felt in amongst all the machinery at the halfway point.

Available on the album ‘Guesswork’ via earMUSIC

https://www.lloydcole.com/


GARY DALY I Work Alone

CHINA CRISIS have been an unlikely influence on acts such as VILLA NAH and MIRRORS, but while these days their synthwork is less pronounced, front man and keyboardist Gary Daly took the plunge with a full length solo record entitled ‘Gone From Here’. The wonderful first single ‘I Work Alone’ acted as both a statement of intent and an affirmation in self-belief. A lovely whimsical piece of Casiotone folktronica, Daly said “it’s very much ‘Neon Lights’ meets ‘Autobahn’”

Available on the album ‘Gone From Here’ via https://www.musicglue.com/gary-daly

https://www.instagram.com/garydalymusic/


DAYBEHAVIOR Driving In My Car

With a range of tempo variation, ‘Based On A True Story’ was the undoubtedly the best album of Swedish trio DAYBEHAVIOR’s long if sporadic career. Including a number of more danceable numbers to counterpoint the more laid back aspects of their cinematic sound without losing any of their exquisite aesthetics, one of the best examples could be heard in the fabulous Europop number ‘Driving In My Car’. It was just one part of a priceless collection of quality Scandipop.

Available on the album ‘Based On A True Story’ via Graplur

http://www.daybehavior.com


FIAT LUX We Can Change The World

Nearly four decades is a long time to wait for a debut album, but with Wakefield’s FIAT LUX, it was been worth it. Recalling BLACK and CHINA CRISIS, the guarded optimism of ‘We Can Change The World’ provided a call to action in these turbulent times within an uptempo setting dressed with bubbling synths and rousing dual vocals sweetened by smooth sax. Steve Wright and David P Crickmore honoured their late band mate Ian Nelson in the best way possible with their recorded and live return.

Available on the album ‘Saved Symmetry’ via Splid Records

http://www.fiat-lux.co.uk/


GEORGIA About Work The Dancefloor

Georgia Barnes is the daughter of LEFTFIELD’s Neil Barnes and the former drummer for Kate Tempest. Although her eponymous debut album possessed a more urban DIY feel, her sound has recently moved into more accessible electronic pop territory. From upcoming second album ‘Seeking Thrills’, the gloriously throbbing workout of ‘About Work The Dancefloor’ took its lead from ROBYN with its rousing Scandipop sheen, offset by a creepy distorted vocal refrain.

Available on the album ‘Seeking Thrills’ via Domino Recordings

https://georgiauk.com/


GRETA White

A Copenhagen domiciled German, classically schooled Greta Louise Schenk teamed up with Norwegian producer FARAO to enter a dreamy synthpop universe. With its unusual rhythmic structure and chromatic overtones, ‘White’ could have been an art rock number? “I often wonder how this song came out of me” she said, “I actually wrote it on my Irish bouzouki, which may explain the chords. I was listening a lot to LANA DEL REY and it was quite a dark time in my life.”

Available on the EP ‘Ardent Spring – Part I’ via Celebration Records,

https://www.facebook.com/greta.geschenk/


HEAVEN Truth Or Dare

Another project of Johnny Jewel, HEAVEN first came to wider attention with the ‘Lonesome Town’ EP. Fronted by the enigmatic allure of singer and keyboardist Aja, the brilliant ‘Truth Or Dare’ perhaps unsurprisingly sounded like CHROMATICS but with more synths and drum machine. While on tour as keyboardist with DESIRE, Aja took the title literally when they performed a cover of NEW ORDER’s ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ and Jewel watched nearby…

Available on the single ‘Truth Or Dare’ via Italians Do It Better

https://www.instagram.com/heaven_idib/


ALICE HUBBLE We Are Still Alone

ALICE HUBBLE is the new solo project of Alice Hubley, previously best known for fronting ARTHUR & MARTHA and COSINES. Hubley’s synth earth mother demeanour came to the fore on the sub-OMD of ‘We Are Still Alone’. While the lilting bass and elegiac transistorised melody were glorious, when the synth strings responded in that ASHRA style, it became perfect avant pop with Hubley sadly resigning to herself that she “couldn’t find the way to make me better”.

Available on the album ‘Polarlichter’ via Happy Robots Records

https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/alice-hubble


IMI I Feel Alright

Leeds based singer / songwriter IMI is gifted with a most glorious soprano but she applies that and her love of analogue synths to an intelligent avant pop aesthetic. ‘I Feel Alright’ with its sharp melodic call and ethereal voices headed into assertive optimism. This most promising young synth talent said to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK: “This song was written after a few years of struggling with some personal issues and it was a celebration of finally feeling ok and feeling hopeful about the future.”

Available on the EP ‘Lines’ via https://imimusicuk.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/imimusicuk/


INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP Love Girl

Hailing from Sheffield, INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP and their world of academia would make “eccentric Northern electronic pop” compulsory on the curriculum. From their vibrant and accessible self-titled debut album, the bubbly ‘Love Girl’ was a luscious cross between DUBSTAR and THE HUMAN LEAGUE. Cosmic but catchy, their intelligent musical escapism has been just the tonic in these turbulent times. One of their manifesto statements is “Smile at the neon and the mirrorball”.

Available on the album ‘International Teachers Of Pop’ via Desolate Spools

https://www.facebook.com/internationalteachersofpop/


HOWARD JONES Hero In Your Eyes

Producing his most synthpop work in ages, originally from the ‘Eddie The Eagle’ film sessions, Howard Jones said of ‘Hero In Your Eyes’: “I was really drawn to the part where his parents were amazing, continuing to believe in him when he was obviously not really very good at what he’d chosen to do, they kept supporting him. So him being a hero in their eyes always, that ‘I’ll be there for you’ feeling, I thought that it was something a lot of people could relate to”

Available on the album ‘Transform’ via Dtox Records

http://www.howardjones.com/


KNIGHT$ Hijack My Heart

Coming over like the love child of Richard Butler and Neil Tennant, KNIGHT$ made synthwaves with his sparkly Britalo on his energetic debut album ‘Dollars & Cents’. The Hi-NRG romp of ‘Hijack My Heart’ aped BRONSKI BEAT complete with a closing bursts of falsetto as the Winchester lad tightened his glitzy clubbing trousers to full effect and even dropped in a blistering synth solo to add to the fun. It was a highlight on one of the best albums of 2019.

Available on the album ‘Dollars & Cents’ via Specchio Uomo

https://knights101.com/


LADYTRON Deadzone

LADYTRON produced their last offering ‘Gravity The Seducer’ in 2011. Their recent heavier self-titled reboot saw the quartet of Helen Marnie, Mira Aroyo, Daniel Hunt and Reuben Wu entering the ‘Deadzone’. Unsettlingly percussive and full of tension but hitting the spot with the right dose of melodic elements intertwined with haunting grit and grime, LADYTRON were back with a sucker punch. All in all, it was a fantastic comeback.

Available on the album ‘Ladytron’ via !K7

http://www.ladytron.com/


LIZETTE LIZETTE Computer Game

LIZETTE LIZETTE is Lizette Nordahl, a gender neutral Swedish / Peruvian producer and performance artist whose first mini-album album ‘Queerbody’ was released 2017. The beautifully sad Nordic synth ballad ‘Computer Game’ was written in tribute to a departed friend. Showcasing Nordahl’s more emotive side, it was a quality that had not been obviously apparent in LIZETTE LIZETTE’s more danced-based recordings.

Available on the EP ‘Non’ via https://lizettelizette.bandcamp.com/

http://lizettelizette.com/


MACHINISTA Anthropocene

Reflecting gloomier times, ‘Anthropocene’ saw MACHINISTA produce their most consistent body of work yet. Vocalist John Lindqwister and instrumentalist Richard Flow took their time in a refinement of their anthemic signature sound and the addition of some conventionally flavoured twists. The title song took its lead from the dark electronic pop of Norway’s APOPTYGMA BERZERK and owed more than a debt to the haunting riff of ‘Burning Heretic’ in the ultimate sorcerer’s apprentice spell.

Available on the album ‘Anthropocene’ via Infacted Records

https://www.machinistamusic.com/


MECHA MAIKO Apathy

Behind the quirky avant pop of MECHA MAIKO‬ is the talented Canadian Hayley Stewart. ‘Apathy’ from her new album ‘Let’s!’ can only be described as delightfully nuts, with an inventive mix of a jazz swing Charleston vibe, frantic techno dance beats and vibrant synthpop hooks. It showed she was not afraid to blend seemingly incongruous influences to get an end result and with a slight sprinkling of Japanese instrumentation to close, the eclectic creative cycle was complete!‬‬‬‬‬

Available on the album ‘Let’s!’ via ORO Records

https://www.mechamaiko.com/


KARIN MY The Silence

Swedish songstress Karin My sang with veteran combo TWICE A MAN on their poignant environmental catastrophe warning ‘High In The Clouds’ in 2105. Her solo single ‘The Silence’ was one of the first truly great songs of 2019. Swathed in beautiful synths and embroiled in that wonderful Scandinavian melancholy, her gorgeous vocals evoked a forlorn abandonment just as a wintery chill set in with the sad dilemma of whether to give up…

Available on the single ‘The Silence’ via Ad Inexplorata

http://www.karinmy.net/


MICHAEL OAKLEY Left Behind

The mighty Italo Disco statement of ‘Left Behind’ came complete with obligatory orchestra stabs and a rousing chorus, gleefully fusing SAVAGE, RAF, PET SHOP BOYS and BEE GEES within a big Trevor Horn styled kitchen sink! But despite the fun laden octave shift frenzy, the lyrics were concerned with midlife reflection. Michael Oakley said: “the song is about me feeling like everyone around me was getting settled in their career, getting married and taking out a mortgage.”

Available on the album ‘Introspect’ via NewRetroWave

https://www.facebook.com/MichaelOakleyOfficial/


OBLONG Echolocation

Every now and then, the world needs a lively unpretentious synth instrumental record. With the second OBLONG album ‘The Sea At Night’, the trio of Benge, Dave Nice and Sid Stronarch delivered a collection of rustic electro-acoustic organically farmed electronica! With mood and pace, ‘Echolocation’ was a classic synth instrumental with its crystalline textures and charming slightly off-key blips, aurally reflecting the remote moorland location in Cornwall where it was recorded.

Available on the album ‘The Sea At Night’ via Memetune Recordings

https://twitter.com/oblongtheband


OMD Don’t Go

OMD began their recorded career with a KRAFTWERK homage and four decades on, they came full circle. A great grandchild of Klingklang and cousin of ‘Metroland’ from ‘English Electric’ but refined for BBC Radio 2 airplay, ‘Don’t Go’ captured the essence of OMD’s enduring electronic appeal. With crystalline synth melodies from Humphreys and a spirited vocal delivery from McCluskey attached to a hypnotic Synthanorma backdrop, OMD continue to produce quality avant pop tunes.

Available on the album ‘Souvenir: The Singles Collection 1979 – 2019’ via Universal Music

http://www.omd.uk.com/


PLASMIC Famous

Feisty, fiery and on-message as “your abused Barbie doll from childhood”, Lauren Lusardi, better known as PLASMIC dropped yet another synth bomb with a vivid narrative on the fame game where women have to compromise and serve the male gaze to get to where they want. While pink is her colour, the rugged lo-fi cocoon of anxious sound penetrated the soul with a raging reminder that if “You wanna be famous?”, then really “Don’t be so f*cking brainless!”

Available on the single ‘Famous’ via CandyShop Recordings

https://www.facebook.com/plasmicpower/


QUIETER THAN SPIDERS Komarov

“Beautiful melodies telling me terrible things” said a cartoon meme… with echoes of OMD, the life and death of the tragic Soyuz 1 cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov was captured poignantly in this instrumental by QUIETER THAN SPIDERS from their brilliant debut album ‘Signs Of Life’; Yi Fan from the anonymous Chinese synth trio said: “we were moved by the human story behind it all together with the haunting backdrop of primitive space experimentation.”

Available on the album ‘Signs Of Life’ via https://annaloguerecords.bandcamp.com/album/signs-of-life-2cd-version-master

https://www.facebook.com/QTSpiders/


SOFTWAVE No Need To Hide

Danish duo SOFTWAVE have been gaining momentum with endorsements from luminaries such as ex-members of THE HUMAN LEAGUE Jo Callis and Ian Burden, while improving enormously since their 2016 debut EP ‘Together Alone’. Punctuated by machines of ice, ‘No Need To Hide’ was undoubtedly Clarkean, celebrating positivity in possibly SOFTWAVE’s finest moment yet with one of those rousing Scandipop choruses and coming over not unlike Celine Dion fronting ERASURE.

Available on the album ‘Game On’ via https://softwave.bandcamp.com/

http://www.softwavemusic.com/


FIFI RONG Way Out

The powerful electro R’N’B tinged ‘Way Out’ was the first English language taster from Beijing-born songstress’ ambitious new Anglo-Mandarin bilingual album project. Fifi Rong said of her concept: “I’m making a double album. One album in Chinese and the other in English. Not the typical type of translation type of bilingual album from one language to another… So the two albums are all individual songs interlinked in sounds, themes, vibes.”

Available on the single ‘Way Out’ via W Records

http://www.fifirong.com/


US Voyager

Andrew Montgomery, best known as the vocalist of GENEVA who scored hits with ‘Into The Blue’ and ‘Best Regrets’ in 1997, teamed up with Leo Josefsson of Stockholm trio LOWE to form the electronic duo US. If Jeff Buckley had dumped his Fender Telecaster for a Korg MS20, then that is the dark anthemic sound of US. ‘Voyager’ went all spacey avant trance in a wonderful cross-pollination of styles that came over a bit like MUSE at Gatecrasher.

Available on the album ‘First Contact’ via US Music Space

http://www.usmusicspace.com/


WITCH OF THE VALE Trust The Pain

It was a big year for WITCH OF THE VALE as their highly spirited otherworldly sound, deeply rooted in Celtic folklore and Wiccan beliefs, found a sympathetic audience at Infest 2019. The eponymous track from their second EP introduced serene, yet uncertain feelings channelled via clear but eerie vocals over the croon from a raven. This angelic ballad put all the fears to sleep and demonstrated how Erin and Ryan Hawthorne sound are like nothing else within the world of modern electronica.

Available on the EP ‘Trust The Pain’ via https://witchofthevale.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/witchofthevale/


OLLIE WRIDE The Driver

Although best known as the lead vocalist for FM-84 on ‘Running In The Night’, Ollie Wride unleashed his debut solo album in 2019. The Driver’ put into dynamic realisation as to what SIMPLE MINDS might have sounded like had Moroder-graduate Keith Forsey produced the 1985 ‘Once Upon A Time’ album instead of Jimmy Iovine and Bob Clearmountain. The superb grouchy synth rock saw the Brighton boy successfully pull off a cross between Jim Kerr and Billy Idol!

Available on the album ‘Thanks In Advance’ via NewRetroWave

https://www.facebook.com/olliewrideofficial/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
4th December 2019

QUIETER THAN SPIDERS Interview

Back in 2014, a mysterious Chinese combo named QUIETER THAN SPIDERS caught the ears of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK.

Fast forward to 2019 and after a few delays, QUIETER THAN SPIDERS have finally released their debut album ‘Signs Of Life’ on Anna Logue Records, the independent label based in Germany.

Their understated but richly melodic and emotive Shanghai synthpop is largely played by the hands of the anonymous family group of Leon, Yi Fan and Yao.

‘Signs Of Life’ possesses a timeless quality which manages to be simultaneously both futuristic and classic, and in common with records such as DAVID BOWIE’s ‘Low’, JOY DIVISION’s ‘Closer’ or MOBY’s ‘Play’, ‘Signs Of Life’ begins in an upbeat fashion but then gets increasingly slower, stranger and sadder.

Yi Fan from QUIETER THAN SPIDERS kindly chatted to answer a few questions about one of the best electronic albums of 2019.

How did QUIETER THAN SPIDERS become a musical entity and what is your creative dynamic?

It was a very gradual process which only formally came to fruition once we started to record the album.

Leon has been writing and recording songs since his teenage years while Yao and I both grew up playing traditional Chinese instruments such as erhu (a two-stringed fiddle) and guzheng (a type of zither). Over the years, we took an interest in each other’s music and tried to encourage each other. Eventually, Leon started to teach us how he wrote and recorded music on his synthesiser and, step by step, we became more involved with it.

We started by designing electronic sounds and making field-recordings which we would then experiment with. By the time Leon wrote ‘No Illusion’ we had started to perform with him during the recordings and, from thereon, we were officially a group. It didn’t take long to decide what to call our project. QUIETER THAN SPIDERS was an affectionate school nickname for one of us and, as we are all quiet people, we thought it would be a perfect name to use.

What was the key track that got QUIETER THAN SPIDERS rolling? Was it ‘Shanghai Metro’? What inspired it?

‘No Illusion’ was the first song that Yao and I were involved with, even though we still hadn’t quite officially formed QUIETER THAN SPIDERS at the point when Leon wrote it. Stefan Bornhorst aka THE SILICON SCIENTIST heard the song and recommended us to Marc Schaffer at Anna Logue Records who offered us the chance to record an album. It was such a special and unexpected thing to happen, particularly because Stefan’s own wonderful music had actually been such an important inspiration.

Another defining moment was when ‘Shanghai Metro’ was included on a compilation CD. That really was a lovely moment for us, not least because it was the first time any of our songs had been officially released. We wrote ‘Shanghai Metro’ with the simple idea of celebrating the city and its modern development. We first had the idea after a day out together at the Oriental Pearl Tower which is a radio tower that overlooks the city. The next morning, we went out again to travel around on the metro system and record some announcements. We knew someone who owned a Speak & Spell machine, so we borrowed it to spell out ‘Shanghai’ for the chorus.

QUIETER THAN SPIDERS have described themselves as “using home-made electronic sounds played by hand”, how much of that manifesto have you been able to maintain in the final realisation of ‘Signs Of Life’?

Our recording style stems from when Leon first started to create music in his youth. His first keyboard was an old second-hand Roland W-30 and most of the buttons and functions were broken. He therefore learnt to create songs without being able to use or learn any of the basic technical features.

His songs were simply layers of live recordings played entirely by hand. Even the metronome didn’t work, so he first had to play a freehand drum track to serve as the basis for the rest of the song. Later on, Yao and I also inherited the same recording method. When affordable software came along, it offered us the opportunity to record songs ‘properly’ for the very first time.

Some aspects, such as being able to programme the drums, were a welcome relief but, for the most part, we didn’t want to let go of the old recording style. The challenges and limitations had actually become part of the creative process and it gave us the intimacy of being ‘physically present’ at every little moment of a song.

When it comes to designing our own sounds; this is something we enjoy just as much as making the music. We distort basic electronic sounds and manipulate sounds from our field recordings as a way of recreating imagined atmospheres.

Of course, we occasionally used some standard sounds and other samples too on the album but, for the most part, we preferred to rely our own palette of sounds.

What are your tools as far as producing the music is concerned, are you vintage synth or software users?

We didn’t have the budget or space to acquire vintage synths and recording equipment, so we just embraced a modest set-up. We use software, mainly for the track recorder and the effect modules which enable reverbs and sound manipulations etc. We also use the software to programme basic percussion; we then add additional percussion sounds by hand as we record. For performing, we use midi keyboards and a microphone – that’s about it. With such limitations, it can sometimes be frustrating and we had to use a lot of trial and error to make things sound the way we wanted.

‘Arcade Eighty – Five’ opens and has a bouncy chiptune backbone, but that is almost a red herring for the album as it steadily slows and becomes more understated. What inspired this unusual concept as most albums are either primarily fast or primarily slow, or at least mix the tempos up within the tracklist?

Initially, we did think about mixing the tempos but, in the end, we decided that we preferred the songs to be surrounded by an appropriate context. We also wanted the album to build, or perhaps subside, towards a certain feeling. Although there are some exceptions, the songs are roughly in the order that we recorded them so, in that sense, there is a vague personal narrative which takes the album in a particular direction.

‘The Land Of Lost Content’ was inspired by a AE Housman poem, but it works on so many levels as a track…

Housman’s poem manages to express so much about the nature of memories and the passing of time. He laments the ability to remember a state of being that he can never return to. These are the types of themes which interest us because they seem to say something of life’s deeper meanings and mysteries.

When we adapted the poem into a song, we also wanted to include a notion of uncertainty about dreams and memory. The development of Shanghai has been spectacular over the past decades and many familiar old streets and buildings have now disappeared. When you can no longer revisit and verify particular things that you remember, you’re sometimes left wondering if it was just a dream.

‘The Land of Lost Content’ was actually the most difficult song on the album to record and mix. We seriously considered giving up on it at one point. Aside from mastering the album, Stefan Bornhorst also kindly mixed this track for us and performed some additional synths. It is entirely thanks to him that the song survived and made it onto the album.

The interlude side of your music provides an important aspect of ‘Signs Of Life’ which has coincidentally fallen into that ‘Stranger Things’ soundtrack realm, is it a TV show that you have seen and followed? 

With many of our songs, we try to convey certain images and moods that we imagine. I suppose we approach things a bit like a soundtrack because we are trying to capture a particular atmosphere. This was certainly the case with the interludes and also the later songs on the album.

Are QUIETER THAN SPIDERS influenced much by TV or cinema??

Soundtracks certainly do inspire us, whether it’s just the pure use of sounds or beautiful pieces of music from people such Angelo Badalamenti, Johann Johansson and Max Richter etc. We hadn’t seen ‘Stranger Things’, but we recently had the opportunity to watch all three series in one go. We really enjoyed it and, needless to say, we absolutely loved the wonderful synth soundtrack by Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon!

On ‘Brave New World’ and ‘The Statues’, Vangelis is looming…

For all of us, our first real experience of electronic music was mostly through artists such as Vangelis and Jean Michel Jarre. For Leon especially, these were the kinds of artists which made him first dream of having a synthesiser. As a child, he had a compilation album of instrumental synthesiser music and, looking back, those songs must have formed his first ideas of what electronic music should sound like and what components it should have.

‘Hibakusha’ is a haunting song about the aftermath of Hiroshima, had this been a difficult song to write?

Whenever we have an idea for a song theme, it usually takes several attempts to find the right song melody and structure. However, with ‘Hibakusha’, it all seemed to develop and fit together quite naturally. In terms of the lyrics, Leon wanted to link them to small details which appeared in the hibakusha’s testimonies. He also wanted the words to form a double narrative so that they could be from both the perspective of a hibakusha but also from the perspective of someone reading the testimonies and fearing them to be a premonition. We have no desire to ever include any politics in our songs; we just like to focus in on human feelings and the thoughts they inspire, that’s all.

Musically, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK can hear SOLVENT and the solo work of Michael Rother from NEU! in ‘Hibakusha’. Had they been reference points in the final arrangement?

It is a real honour to be compared with either of them but I must admit that we didn’t consciously have any particular reference points for ‘Hibakusha’. We generally approach our songs in a very abstract and intuitive way but I think it’s inevitable that many music influences from across the years will weave themselves into the fabric of anything we do.

What inspired you to produce a piece of music about the tragic cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov? There’s one hell of a backstory behind Soyuz 1 with him and Yuri Gagarin, both literally prepared to die for the other, knowing that this mission was likely to fail?

As with ‘Hibakusha’, we were moved by the human story behind it all together with the haunting backdrop of primitive space experimentation.

I can’t actually remember how I came to be reading about Komarov in the first place but, when I shared the story with Leon and Yao, they were equally captivated by it. We actually recorded ‘Komarov’ during the same autumn that we recorded ‘Hibakusha’.

There is a lot of sadness in the album, but is ‘The Signs Of Life’ song referring to something much more personal?

‘The Signs of Life’ was written as a personal memorial for a special person we knew. It was also a way for us to process our feelings in relation to the nature of loss. There are so many little signs of life which go unnoticed because they seem mundane or unimportant. When they suddenly disappear, they take on a heart-breaking significance.

While writing the song, Leon went for an evening walk and saw a rusty old vintage car hidden away in the long grass near the edge of a forest. It made him think about things disappearing from everyday life but still secretly existing somewhere else. Although songs such as ‘The Signs of Life’ and ‘The Statues’ are melancholy, they also convey a deep sense of hope; a feeling that all is not lost somehow.

What have been your own highlights on ‘Signs Of Life’?

We are really pleased with the whole album but, if we have to choose, I think that ‘Hibakusha’ and ‘Komarov’ are the songs that we are most pleased with. We felt very deeply immersed in the feelings and imagery of the subjects when we recorded those and it felt a bit like re-entering a vivid dream each time that we returned to work on them. The same was also true for ‘The Signs of Life’ and ‘The Statues’ which had the added dimension of having a personal connection. They will always be very precious songs for us because they captured the way things felt at a specific moment of time.

It’s been a long time coming, but ‘Signs Of Life’ has been worth the wait, how do you look back on the journey?

Yes, quite a long time has passed since we originally recorded the songs. When we listen to the album now, it lets us retrace our footsteps but in the comfortable knowledge that we arrived safely in the end despite the setbacks.

The main feeling we have when looking back is ‘gratitude’ simply because, without the kindness of people such as Stefan Bornhorst and Marc Schaffer, we would probably never have made this album. Along with Steve Lippert who designed the artwork, they all put so much love and effort into the project to ensure that it reached the light of day. We are now inspired to write more songs to keep the journey going; but let’s wait and see!


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to QUIETER THAN SPIDERS

Special thanks to Marc Schaffer at Anna Logue Records

‘Signs Of Life’ is released by Anna Logue Records in 2CD and double vinyl LP formats featuring a bonus album of 10 remixes by artists including Kevin Komoda from RATIONAL YOUTH, VILE ELECTRODES and THE SILICON SCIENTIST – please email orders@annaloguerecords.com

Information on prices and postage at https://annaloguerecords.blogspot.com/p/shop-mail-order.html

Also available from https://annaloguerecords.bandcamp.com/album/signs-of-life-2cd-version-master

https://www.facebook.com/QTSpiders/

https://www.facebook.com/annaloguerecords/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
20th November 2019

QUIETER THAN SPIDERS Signs Of Life

After first breaking cover in 2013, Shanghai synthpop trio QUIETER THAN SPIDERS mysteriously disappeared despite having previewed numerous tracks on YouTube and Soundcloud.

But in 2018 there were ‘Signs Of Life’ as QUIETER THAN SPIDERS officially released their first track ‘Shanghai Metro’ on a compilation via Amour Records. And now, the anonymous family group of Leon, Yi Fan and Yao finally release their long awaited debut album on Anna Logue Records, promising “Electric sound-waves that pulse through our sleep… and our dreams”,

It is a body of work that has a timeless quality which manages to be simultaneously futuristic and classic, just like the electronic pop of yore. ‘Signs Of Life’ begins with the bubbling chiptune inspired ‘Arcade Eighty – Five’; both rigidly rhythmic and richly melodic, it is exactly what KRAFTWERK would be sounding like today if they could be bothered to make new records. With a harsher robotic tone, ‘No Illusion’ keeps up the standard with its sharp hooks and recalls the endearing homemade indie electro of WHITETOWN.

As well as ten actual compositions, ‘Signs of Life’ also features eight conceptual interludes, the first of which being the self-explanatory ‘Disorientation’ which in 2019 falls into that ‘Stranger Things’ territory. Also accidently falling into current music trends, ‘Night Drive’ would probably be considered Synthwave although the chipmunk voice samples and sectional structure keep it firmly within the classic synthpop template.

The very short ‘2139’ looks ahead courtesy of Jean-Michel Jarre derived arpeggios and string machines to act as a intro to the simply wonderful ‘The Land Of The Lost Content’. Inspired by an AE Housman poem, it glides with a glacial beauty that not only is appealing to the ear, but can be danced to as well.

The soothing piano on ‘Distant’ provides respite from all the beats before ‘Shanghai Metro’, a whirring tune that would be exactly what OMD would sound like if they formed in the 21st Century.

But while the strong melodic elements recall Paul Humphreys and Andy McCluskey’s more recent work, particularly 2013’s ‘English Electric’, there is a fresh dynamic slant with the train station announcements and robot voices acting as catchy hooks.

The music box sequence of ‘Chang’e’ has a European arthouse air about it, which is appropriate as the following ‘Fessenden Grove’ is a solemn piano piece that incorporates ‘Scenes From Childhood’ by German composer Robert Schumann. But its eerie voice samples stating “this young man’s dead” prepare the listener for the loss and despair expressed in ‘Hibakusha’.

A beautifully haunting song about the aftermath of Hiroshima, it is a thoughtful merging of SOLVENT and Michael Rother which as far as subject matter and melody goes, is up there with ‘Enola Gay’. Fittingly in that unsettling ‘Stranger Things’ vein, the horror of ‘Silent Centre’ comes afterwards.

That fatalistic air continues with ‘Komarov’, an instrumental eulogy to the cosmonaut of Soyuz 1 who was the first man to die on a space mission; capturing the tragedy in music, it is a hairs on the back of the neck moment, swathed in chilling but melodic sadness; OMD would be rather proud if this was one of their own…

And as the album becomes much more downbeat, ‘Brave New World’ does as title suggests, dressed in dense Vangelis sweeps. More personal and introverted, ‘The Signs Of Life’ stares mortality in the face and reflects on the difficult emotions that come when the end is nearer than the beginning, “when the light begins to fade”.

The longest track on the record, the slow expansive drama of ‘The Statues’ could not be more different from ‘Shanghai Metro’, the mournful choir boy melancholy standing alone in the cinematic synthesized atmosphere. The funereal instrumental ‘Zara In The Stars’ closes ‘Signs Of Life’ with a glorious heavenly ambience perhaps not heard since MOBY closed ‘Hotel’ with ‘Homeward Angel’.

In common with records such as ‘Low’, ‘Closer’ or ‘Play’, ‘Signs Of Life’ begins in an upbeat fashion but then gets increasingly slower, stranger and sadder. And with its conceptual interludes and emotive avant pop in various tempos, it is a direct descendent musically of OMD’s ‘Dazzle Ships’ and ‘English Electric’.

A document of melancholy and uncertainty through its difficult gestation over the last six years, ‘Signs Of Life’ is one of the best electronic pop albums of 2019. Its understated artistic perseverance has been well worth the wait.


‘Signs Of Life’ is released by Anna Logue Records on 4th October 2019 in double CD, double vinyl LP and download formats featuring a bonus album of 10 remixes by artists including Kevin Komoda from RATIONAL YOUTH, VILE ELECTRODES and THE SILICON SCIENTIST – to pre-order, please email orders@annaloguerecords.com

Information on prices and postage at https://annaloguerecords.blogspot.com/p/shop-mail-order.html

Audio previews at https://annaloguerecords.bandcamp.com/album/signs-of-life-preview-snippets

https://www.facebook.com/QTSpiders/

https://www.facebook.com/annaloguerecords/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
12th August 2019, updated 2nd September 2019

2014 End Of Year Review

Integrated Circuits
Photo by Jack Robinson / Getty Images

Photo by Jack Robinson / Getty Images

With 2013 having been one of the strongest years in electronic pop since its post-punk heyday, 2014 was always going to struggle to compete,

This was despite it being the 50th Anniversary of the Moog synthesizer’s first prototype demonstration at the Audio Engineering Society convention in October 1964.

While 2014 was nowhere near in terms of the high profile releases of 2013 or even 2011, it certainly surpassed the comparatively quiet year of 2012.

But there were still a lot of live shows as momentum continued in support of the previous year’s releases with NINE INCH NAILS, GARY NUMAN, DEPECHE MODE, CHVRCHES, FEATHERS, GOLDFRAPP, COVENANT and SOFT METALS among those doing the rounds.

Electronic pioneer KARL BARTOS began the year with his first concert tour since 2003 in Germany. His ‘Off the Record’ live presentation highlighted the best of his KRAFTWERK co-compositions alongside excellent new material.

Coincidentally, on the same night Herr Bartos opened in Cologne, Ralf Hütter picked up a Lifetime Achievement Grammy on behalf of KRAFTWERK, thus finally validating electronic music in the traditionally synthphobic territory of the USA. And by the end of the year, there was even a belated nomination for The Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall Of Fame.

Staying in Germany, cult trio CAMOUFLAGE celebrated over 30 years in the business with a lavish package ‘The Box 1983-2013’ and a best of CD ‘The Singles’.

CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN though surprised everyone by strapping on an acoustic guitar for her third solo album ‘Where Else?’, but its mix of electronics and six string proved to be well received by her fans.

And on the subject of Germanic influences, Belgian duo METROLAND returned with their Kling Klang flavoured technopop courtesy of the multi-formatted single ‘Thalys’, a tie-in with the European high speed train operator and a rather original cover of ‘Close To Me’ for ‘A Strange Play – An Alfa Matrix Tribute To THE CURE’. Meanwhile, iEUROPEAN teamed up with Wolfgang Flür for some ‘Activity Of Sound’. Flür himself delighted KRAFTWERK fans by announcing he would be playing London gigs in the New Year.

MemeTune Studio in London’s trendy Shoreditch proved to be a hotbed of electronic activity throughout 2014.

Already the location for the largest array of vintage synthesizers in the UK, from the complex emerged fabulous music from the likes of HANNAH PEEL, GAZELLE TWIN and WRANGLER featuring ex-CABARET VOLTAIRE frontman Stephen Mallinder.

MemeTune even found time to curate its own live event ‘MUS_IIC.01’.

Well known for his connections with that stable, JOHN FOXX came back from a break (by his recent prolific standards) with the audio / visual collaboration ‘Evidence Of Time Travel’ in partnership with STEVE D’AGOSTINO.

Other Synth Britannia stalwarts were in action too. OMD celebrated their ‘Dazzle Ships’ era with a pair of concerts at the Museum Of Liverpool and SIMPLE MINDS continued their grandiose demeanour with ‘Big Music’. Meanwhile, MIDGE URE released a fine collection of songs entitled ‘Fragile’, his first of original solo material in 12 years; it also featured a great collaboration with MOBY entitled ‘Dark Dark Night’. As well as that, he worked on a track with Dutch composer Stephen Emmer for an orchestral laden crooner album called ‘International Blue’ which additionally featured his pal Glenn Gregory.

Mr Gregory wasn’t idle either, recording ‘Pray’ b/w ‘Illumination’, HEAVEN 17’s first new material since 2005’s Before After’.

He even found time to impersonate DAVID BOWIE for some special live shows performing ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ with Tony Visconti and Woody Woodmansey as HOLY HOLY.

And to cap it all, HEAVEN 17 presented ‘The Tour Of Synthetic Delights’ with BLANCMANGE, proving that heritage events could be both nostalgic and credible if the line-up was right.

After last year’s seasonal offering ‘Snow Globe’, ERASURE made a full return in 2014 with ‘The Violet Flame’, the marriage of Andy Bell and Vince Clarke showcasing their best work since 2005’s ‘Nightbird’. Interestingly, ‘The Violet Flame’ was launched via the crowdfunding platform Pledge Music, although this appeared to be more as a promotional tool and fan networking opportunity.

CHINA CRISIS went the Pledge Music route too, announcing their first album in 20 years entitled ‘Autumn In the Neighbourhood’ while also crowdfunded, YELLO’s Boris Blank delivered ‘Electrified’, a solo box set of unreleased material.

Not to be outdone, his YELLO bandmate Dieter Meier responded with his grouchy solo offering ‘Out Of Chaos’ which appeared to be a tribute to Tom Waits. And unexpectedly on the back of ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ becoming a terrace chant for Aberdeen FC’s Scottish League Cup victory, ex-HUMAN LEAGUE member Jo Callis launched a new project called FINGER HALO.

The enduring legacy of many of these veterans was celebrated in ‘Mad World: An Oral History of the New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s’, possibly the best book of its kind about that musical era which the Americans like to refer to as New Wave. Featuring brand new interviews with key protagonists like GARY NUMAN, OMD, NEW ORDER, DURAN DURAN, YAZOO, ULTRAVOX, A-HA and HEAVEN 17, it was a high quality publication that made up for some previously clumsy attempts by others at documenting the period.

Also a good read was Bernard Sumner’s memoirs ‘Chapter and Verse’ which covered his career to date with JOY DIVISION and NEW ORDER.

Coincidentally, Mark Reeder, the man often credited with introducing electronic dance music to Sumner, had a career spanning compendium called ‘Collaborator’ issued containing his earlier work as a member SHARK VEGAS, right up to his more recent remixes of DURAN DURAN’s John Taylor and Sumner’s various projects with BLANK & JONES and WESTBAM.

It was a particularly active year for the industrial scene; AESTHETIC PERFECTION toured Europe with their more accessible but still aggressive ‘Til Death’ opus while ASSEMBLAGE 23 frontman Tom Shear continued developing his SURVEILLANCE side project with ‘Oceania Remixed’. Swedish trio LEGEND gained acclaim for their live performances in support of their debut album ‘Fearless’, Texan duo IRIS released a new album ‘Radiant’ and DIE KRUPPS blasted their way into the South East of England for their first UK dates since 2008.

In more contemporary circles, LA ROUX finally released a second album, appropriately named ‘Trouble In Paradise’. Singer Elly Jackson had split with silent partner Ben Langmaid due to good old fashioned musical differences and as expected, the songs were less synthpoppy than the self-titled debut. Reaching for more disco orientated leanings such as CHIC, GRACE JONES and TOM TOM CLUB, this was if nothing, a more superior offering to either what LITTLE BOOTS or LADYHAWKE managed with their sophomore albums. North of the border, MARNIE did her bit for the Scottish Independence Campaign with the rousingly anthemic ‘Wolves’.

imogen + taylorThe delightfully eccentric IMOGEN HEAP showcased her innovative collaborative developments in music technology via her new album ‘Sparks’ and even squeezed in a collaboration with pop princess TAYLOR SWIFT for the latter’s million selling album ‘1989’.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK commented in 2012 about how CHVRCHES‘ ‘The Mother We Share’ sounded like “Taylor Swift gone electro”, so in a give some, take some back move, the young songstress came up with ‘Out Of The Woods’, a ditty quite obviously influenced by the Glaswegian trio and a synth laden tune entitled ‘New Romantics’ on the bonus edition.

By coincidence with her slight passing resemblance to Miss Swift, QUEEN OF HEARTS launched her debut musical charter ‘Cocoon’ after several years in the making to confirm that pop was indeed not a dirty word.

In the leftfield electronica arena, Warp Records issued ‘High Life’, a collaboration by KARL HYDE and BRIAN ENO while there was also the long awaited new album from APHEX TWIN entitled ‘Syro’. And former MASSIVE ATTACK producer DAVIDGE released an impressive debut collection of songs ‘Slo Light’ that featured SANDIE SHAW, CATE LE BON and EMI GREEN among its vocalists.

One act establishing themselves as major players in the modern electronic scene were Canada’s TR/ST. Led by the polarising “Eeyore gone goth” moodiness of Robert Alfons, the ironically titled ‘Joyland’ was an excellent second album that captured the sleazy nature of a 21st Century SOFT CELL and attached it to the grumpiness of Leonard Cohen.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn minimal duo XENO & OAKLANDER gave the world ‘Par Avion’, possibly their most accessible and colourful work yet. Also from the area came the shadowy huskiness of AZAR SWAN and the alternative mystique of REXXY. Over in LA, NIGHT CLUB showed further promise with their best offering yet in their third EP ‘Black Leather Heart’ while in San Antonio, HYPERBUBBLE launched an ‘Attack Of The Titans’.

Baltimore’s FUTURE ISLANDS however divided opinion; their fans included Andy McCluskey, Vince Clarke, Martyn Ware, Rusty Egan and Jori Hulkkonen, but their unintentionally amusing live appearance on ‘The David Letterman Show’ performing ‘Seasons’ came over to some observers like a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit on the 80s. However, with two sold out dates at London’s Roundhouse in March 2015, Samuel T. Herring and Co are the ones having the last laugh.

The Nordic region proved itself again to be the centre of electronic creativity. The dream partnership of ROBYN and RÖYKSOPP reconvened after the success of 2010’s ‘The Girl & The Robot’ to ‘Do It Again’ while RÖYKSOPP themselves released what they announced to be their last album, appropriately titled ‘The Inevitable End’.

Also featuring on that album was Nordic vocalist of the moment SUSANNE SUNDFØR who has her own new eagerly awaited long player ‘Ten Love Songs’ out in 2015.

KARIN PARK and MARGARET BERGER provided another united Scandinavian front when they performed together at Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix while Finnish duo SIN COS TAN delivered their third long player in as many years with a concept album called ‘Blown Away’.

From Sweden came the welcome return of KLEERUP with ‘As If We Never Won’, the first of two new EPs before an album to follow-up the brilliant self-titled debut from 2008. Meanwhile, EMMON delivered her fourth album ‘Aon’ as well as a baby. There was more glacial oddness from IAMAMIWHOAMI with her second album ‘Blue’ while the brooding Nordic Noir pop of stunning identical twins SAY LOU LOU started to gain a foothold in readiness for their first long player ‘Lucid Dreaming’.

Nordic friendly music blog Cold War Night Life curated possibly the best electronic event of the year with ‘An Evening With The Swedish Synth’ at London’s 93 Feet East. In a bill supported by the promising TRAIN TO SPAIN and synth rock duo MACHINISTA who delivered a great debut album in ‘Xenoglossy’, the event was headlined by synthpop veterans PAGE. Incidentally, Eddie Bengtsson of PAGE’s solo project SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN produced some interesting covers of OMD and DEVO, both reworked i Svenska.

And all this while ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK bore witness to a puzzled British musician who actually asked with a straight face “What’s so special about Sweden then?”!! ‘An Evening With The Swedish Synth’ was a fine example of what could be achieved when an electronic event was actually curated by electronic music enthusiasts, as this was not always the case in several instances during 2014.

Following a four year hiatus, CLIENT rebooted and released ‘Authority’ with new singer Client N doing a fine impersonation of MARNIE on the single ‘Refuge’. After a long gestation period, Anglo-German collective TWINS NATALIA released their debut long player ‘The Destiny Room’ and pleasantly wallowed in the neu romance of classic synthpop, dressing it with the vocal styles of GRACE JONES and ABBA.

TWINS NATALIA’s ‘The Destiny Room’ was released on Anna Logue Records who in 2015 will issue ‘Signs Of life’, the debut album from enigmatic South East Asian combo QUIETER THAN SPIDERS. Possibly the best new synthpop act to emerge in 2014, as befitting their name, they made their music, edited some videos and just discretely got on with it, thus proving the theory that those who shout loudest are not always necessarily the best…

kid moxie-twin peaksMARSHEAUX celebrated ten years in the business with a compilation called ‘Odyssey’ on the prestigious Les Disques Du Crépuscule label. They also announced an unusual project for 2015, an album covering DEPECHE MODE’s ‘A Broken Frame’ in its entirety. Also on Undo, KID MOXIE released her second album ‘1888’ featuring a collaboration with acclaimed film score composer Angelo Badalamenti to compliment her new cinematic pop approach. Meanwhile, one-time Undo label mates LIEBE started getting traction on MTV Europe and MIKRO maintained their position as Greece’s premier power pop band with their seventh album ‘New’ despite the departure of singer Ria Mazini following its unveiling.

From Dublin came the filmic ambience of POLYDROID while cut from a similar cloth, there was the haunting soundscapes of Trans-Belgian pairing MARI & THE GHOST. There were also several other promising female led talents ranging from the sugary pop of PAWWS and the quietly subversive electro of I AM SNOW ANGEL to the soulful moodiness of HUGH and the mysteriously smoky allure of FIFI RONG.

VILE ELECTRODES confirmed their position as the best independent electronic act in the UK currently when they snared not just one, but two Schallwelle Awards in Germany.

To celebrate the first anniversary of their brilliant debut album ‘The future through a lens’, the sparkling duo of Anais Neon and Martin Swan played alongside DEPECHE MODE tribute act SPEAK & SPELL for a wonderful evening that also featured SARAH BLACKWOOD.

Miss Blackwood gave spirited live vocal performances of several songs from her own career as part of a singing DJ set including ‘Justice’, her recent collaboration for the FOTONOVELA album ‘A Ton Of Love’. There was additionally the bonus of her duetting with SPEAK & SPELL on ‘A Question Of Time’ during their ‘101’ performance celebrating the film’s 25th anniversary.

Analog Angel-in-profilePossibly the best independently released album of 2014 came from Glasgow’s ANALOG ANGEL who freed themselves of their industrial shackles to produce a collection of sophisticated synthpop entitled ‘Trinity’.

Having been around since 2009 and with two albums already to their name, the Scottish trio put their money where their mouths were. Their decision to avoid crowdfunding and invest in their own music was an applaudable decision, especially when other bands, who were still yet to prove themselves, were out with the begging bowls.

Indeed, 2014 was a strange year in which ego appeared to overtake ability and none more so than on the live circuit, where that old adage about needing to learn to walk before running ran true. Wanabee promoters with no notable experience bit off more than they could chew by playing Fantasy Festival, as was proven by the Alt-Fest debacle.

Despite a much publicised crowdfunding exercise, the simple use of a pocket calculator would have shown that an event of such magnitude could not be underwritten by such a comparatively small amount of cash and anticipated ticket sales. When rumours abounded that Alt-Fest was to be cancelled due to a lack of funds, the organisers’ silence and lack of resolve caused much resentment. Risk is all part of the game, but live ventures require solid finance, spirited commitment and an attempt at least to get in the black.

Alt-Fest-cancelledHowever, a few promoters appeared to want to make life difficult for themselves from the off. In its investigations, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK found that with one poorly attended event back in 2013, there was no way the event could have balanced its books, even if it had sold out its ticket capacity!

Meanwhile, there was another gig in 2014 publicised so covertly with restricted social media and bizarre pricing structures, it was as if the promoters didn’t want anyone to attend! Of course, there was also that tactic of announcing an event almost a year in advance without confirming any of the acts for several months, as if the event was more important than any of the music!

As Whitby Goth Weekend’s Jo Hampshire pointed out: “Alt-Fest had put its tickets on sale while still booking acts including headliners, which is potentially disastrous”! Despite the general feeling that independently curated live initiatives should be anti-corporate, everything is about business at the end of the day.

However, a number of promoters at this end of the market failed to realise this. Any artists performing must be paid their expenses and fees as per any agreement, regardless of the final ticket sales unless terms such as door percentages or ticket sale buy-ons have been arranged.

But as one-time TECHNIQUE singer Xan Tyler pointed out: “Musicians get ripped off at every turn, online stores take a huge cut, Spotify don’t remunerate artists properly, venues expect you to play for bugger all (and in some case they expect you to pay to play). If you want to make money from the music industry, don’t be a musician!”

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK is coming into its fifth anniversary and continues to maintain a readership of discerning music fans, despite protestations in some quarters to the contrary.

The site’s manifesto has always been about celebrating the best in new and classic electronic pop music.

It has never made claims about supporting unsigned acts or any music that happens use a synthesizer.

As Client A put it franklyin the Autumn: “in the electronica age, anyone can be a musician but that also makes it a free for all with every tom, dick or curly clogging up the internet with their crap music…”

Meanwhile, NIGHT CLUB added: “People forget about things so quickly these days because the internet is so inundated with crap…”

So ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK considers what music it features very, very carefully. it may not manage to be first, like many so-called buzz blogs try to be, but it has always had longevity in mind, even if that is difficult to predict.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK Contributor Listings of 2014

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: TODD TERJE It’s Album Time
Best Song: RÖYKSOPP & ROBYN Do It Again
Best Gig: NINE INCH NAILS at Nottingham Arena
Best Video: MAPS You Will Find A Way
Most Promising New Act: TODD TERJE


DEB DANAHAY

Best Album: RÖYKSOPP The Inevitable End
Best Song: RÖYKSOPP featuring JAMIE IRREPRESSIBLE Something In My Heart
Best Gig: COVENANT + LEGEND at Gothenburg Electronic Summer Festival
Best Video: PRINCESS CENTURY Das Schlimmste
Most Promising New Act: LEGEND


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: MIDGE URE Fragile
Best Song: MIDGE URE Dark, Dark Night
Best Gig: THE RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP at Glasgow Quayside
Best Video: IMOGEN HEAP The Listening Chair
Most Promising New Act: WRANGLER


MONIKA IZABELA GOSS

Best Album: ERASURE The Violet Flame
Best Song: ANALOG ANGEL Drive
Best Gig: DEPECHE MODE at Strasbourg Zénith
Best Video: DIE KRUPPS Robo Sapien
Most Promising New Act: PAWWS


STEVE GRAY

Best Album: RÖYKSOPP The Inevitable End
Best Song: RÖYKSOPP featuring JAMIE IRREPRESSIBLE I Had This Thing
Best Gig: GARY NUMAN at Hammersmith Apollo
Best Video: KID MOXIE Lacuna
Most Promising New Act: TWINS NATALIA


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: MIDGE URE Fragile
Best Song: ANALOG ANGEL The Last Time
Best Gig: KARL BARTOS at Cologne Live Music Hall
Best Video: LIEBE I Believe In You
Most Promising New Act: QUIETER THAN SPIDERS


SOPHIE NILSSON

Best Album: ERASURE The Violet Flame
Best Song: SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN Stadens Alla Ljus
Best Gig: ANDY BELL in ‘Torsten The Bareback Saint’ at London St James Theatre
Best Video: ANDY BELL I Don’t Like
Most Promising New Act: PULSE


RICHARD PRICE

Best Album: ERASURE The Violet Flame
Best Song: POLLY SCATTERGOOD Subsequently Lost
Best Gig: PET SHOP BOYS at Brighton Dome
Best Video: JOHN FOXX B-Movie
Most Promising New Act: PAWWS


Text by Chi Ming Lai
9th December 2014

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