Tag: Rainland (Page 1 of 2)

10 Years of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK – A DECADE OF MEMORIES

Ian Ferguson, founder member of RAINLAND, one-time member of ANALOG ANGEL and occasional contributor looks back from both sides of the fence at ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK

It’s appropriate that a 10th anniversary is celebrated with tin or aluminium given the current state of the UK electronic scene (spoiler, there is no ‘scene’, just folk making scenes) as when looking for gold, you are more likely to dig up an old mouldy dog food can than a nugget of rare and precious metal.

Like the UK industrial scene before it, this loose of collection of folk making noise is slowly eating itself alive in the pursuit of success that was never going to be attainable in first place.

Seriously, the number of grown adults acting as though they are members of a million selling act rather than one that can’t fill a phone box would be hilarious if it wasn’t so toxic in the way it manifests itself, but more of that later..

So what of my last decade as a fan of electronic music, a contributor to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK and someone that has thrown out a few releases of my own in that time? Highlights and lowlights abound and here are a few of them…

‘Electronic music, what like 80s stuff…?’

The last decade has been in turns brilliant and infuriating for a fan of synth music. The re-emergence of some of my favourite bands producing music of a similar quality to their releases from the height of their fame has been particularly gratifying. The number of excellent new bands that have come through in this time has also been a joy to behold. This is due primarily to the real advances in technology which has allowed anyone with a laptop and a few plugins to make music.

These tools also mean that bands can now play live easier than ever, not needing to haul a van load of keyboards around to replicate their sound. Still however we see folk ‘jazz hands-ing’ live, thinking dressing up in age-inappropriate clothing and dancing around like you are holding in a wee is a live performance… news just in, it’s not…

This of course means you have to wade through tonnes of chaff to find the wheat and ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has been invaluable in doing a lot of the ‘leg work’ in this task.

The best releases of the last decade would fill a number of Op Ed pieces but standouts include the ‘English Electric’ and ‘The Punishment of Luxury’ albums by OMD, which show that if you stick with what you know the quality will shine through, the ULTRAVOX album ‘Brilliant’ and numerous KITE EPs.

The aforementioned ‘scene’ featured a number of standout releases from the likes of VILE ELECTRODES, ASSEMBLAGE 23 and MESH who let the music do the talking and reaped suitable rewards. These bands and a number of others all show how to conduct yourself in a professional way without fermenting what basically amounts to a hate campaign against those that don’t subscribe to your narrow view of how things are done.

The childishness of certain corners that house a handful of bands and hangers on from the UK has been one aspect of the last 10 years that I personally could do without. These self-proclaimed ‘scene’ gatekeepers have actually done themselves more damage than good.

It’s funny that they think they are all in a self-supporting community when any one of them would throw the others under the bus (a tour one, you can come on-board if you sell 30 tickets to each show, then you can pretend you are an in-demand support) given the chance of a gig with a named act or coverage on this site. This petulance has escalated more recently to thinly veiled racism and this needs to be stomped out, preferably by a big pair of New Rock boots. They need to grow up and concentrate on producing decent music and not poorly thought through opinions.

‘I prefer rogues to imbeciles, because sometimes they take a rest…’ Alexandre Dumas

I have been writing for ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK for around half of its existence and I have had the chance to meet some of my heroes thanks to this association. Highlights include bumping into Imogen Heap who on hearing I had written the ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK review of her ‘Sparks’ album, thanked me for my kind words and asked for a selfie (a proper fan boy moment), recommending soft synths to Martyn Ware and Green Gartside, chatting with John Foxx and seeing quotes from my reviews being used in NO-MAN promotional ads.

You only need to look at the people that give up time to speak to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK and the PR people that approach ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK for coverage to understand how highly the site, and by extension site founder Chi Ming Lai, is held by the people in the know in the industry. From NEW ORDER to OMD, BLANCMANGE to Midge Ure, various members of JAPAN to HEAVEN 17 all have spoken openly at length about their careers giving insight to the people behind the music we all love.

And what other site can discuss an obscure electronic release by a leading light of the UK Prog movement one minute and chat with Synthesizer Patel the next without missing a beat or it appearing to jar?

‘You’re still in a band… Aren’t you a bit old for that behaviour…?’

I have come back to music this last decade after a considerable time out from writing and performing. I am sure there are a number of folk that wish I had stayed ‘retired’ and I accept that though I will be setting up a website soon called The Electrikery Club to let them all know why they are wrong, I am right and to give some much needed exposure to my mate Colin’s magnum opus recorded on a VL-Tone on his mum’s old Bush tape recorder…

Since returning to the fray, I have toured with some well-known names, played some big festivals both in the UK and further afield (actual festivals, not vanity gigs with 38 bands on the bill in a pub in Peckham), seen folk do questionable things with chicken nuggets and on more than one occasion, almost killed a well-known electronic percussionist and filthy hippy (who may or may not be my son…)

I have spent way way too long listening to subtle mixes of the same song, locked in windowless rooms with my musical compatriot Derek MacDonald and eaten considerably more motorway service station sarnies than is healthy. And you know what, I wouldn’t change one bloody minute of it.

I would even do Glastonbury again with Keith Trigwell and that included watching him dancing and let’s be honest, nobody wants that…

When a week is a long time in politics, a decade publishing music related guff on the web is an eternity… ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has been around for 10 years and I get the feeling this is really just the start of the journey. Stay on-board, it’s been and will continue to be one hell of a ride


RAINLAND’s ‘Touch’ EP is available as a free download from https://rainland.bandcamp.com/releases

https://www.rainland.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/RainlandtheBand/

https://www.electricityclub.co.uk/rainland-interview/


Text by Ian Ferguson
14th March 2020

ARTHUR & MARTHA, PLASMIC + RAINLAND Live at The Islington

Happy Robots Records presented the reunion of ARTHUR & MARTHA to celebrate the 10th anniversary of ‘Navigation’, their only album to date.

The last time ARTHUR & MARTHA played live, it was opening for Jyoti Mishra’s WHITE TOWN. Back in 2010, the pair had actually been the third new act featured on ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK

However, they appeared to disappear soon after. So it was fabulous to see Adam Cresswell and Alice Hubley performing together in this guise after so many years.

Among the luminaries present for the occasion were David Bowie’s visual director Jonathan Barnbrook, YELLO collaborator Fifi Rong, Erik Stein from CULT WITH NO NAME and SHELTER front man Mark Bebb with his FORM side project accomplice Keith Trigwell.

But opening the evening’s entertainment at The Islington in London were the Glaswegian duo RAINLAND, comprising of Ian Ferguson and Del MacDonald.

Experienced hands having supported ASSEMBLAGE 23, they began their performance with the symphonic neo-ULTRAVOX stomp of their self-titled signature tune ‘Rainland’ and the engaging synthpop of ‘The Light Of The Sun’.

With his self-deprecating Weegie humour, Ferguson was part cheerleader / part court jester while MacDonald remained largely stoic, save a passionate on-mic discussion with his bandmate on the merits of BRONSKI BEAT in relation to their digital bass driven ditty ‘Touch’.

With the poetic ‘Silverlight’, its lyric writer Ange Chan was present in the audience to hear her co-creation performed live in person for the first time, while the lively set reminded those present to ‘Don’t Forget To Love’ and finished with the evergreen industrial pop of ‘Drive’.

The evening threw a curveball with the appearance of the feisty Californian PLASMIC, self-described as “your abused Barbie doll from childhood”.

Pretty in pink, Lauren Lusardi began with a spiky energetic cover of DIVINE’s ‘Female Trouble’. With a subversive DEVO edge, PLASMIC detonated lo-fi synth bombs via her Yamaha Reface with the catchy feminist anthem ‘Baby Machine’ and the social media commentary of ‘Validation Nation’, both from her most recent EP release.

Delightfully housing her work station and devices in a pink dressing case, she celebrated her recent support slot for Marc Almond in LA by treating all present with a punchy rendition of the seedy SOFT CELL classic ‘Sex Dwarf’ before finishing with the cathartic rallying cry of ‘Revenge’. Lusardi’s delightfully dervish antics won her many new friends.

And as she embraced the occasion and the crowd to celebrate her 23rd birthday, those bemoaning the lack of new young synth artists now only have to look in the direction of Orange County. 😉

Armed with a MicroKorg and a Moog Prodigy, ARTHUR & MARTHA’s headline set began with the glorious tweetronica of ‘Follow The Path’, the kind of neo-instrumental that used to accompany the sort of wiggly Czechoslovakian animations shown as intermissions on BBC2. ‘Ultra Alliance’ from the Happy Robots ‘Botpop Volume One’ also got an airing before the endearing ‘Navigation’ highlight ‘Music For Hairproducts’, an ironically titled tune given Cresswell’s alopecia.

‘Kasparov’, inspired by the Russian chess grandmaster and political activist, saw Cresswell take to the mic for a mournful guitar-centred interlude before Hubley returned with her charming off-key voice for the rhythmic organ-fest of ‘Vallorian’. An unexpected surprise came with the B-side ‘Japanese Kiss’, before the frantic motorik vocoder wig-out of the brilliantly named ‘Squarewave To Heaven’.

This fittingly set the scene for the glorious driving kosmische of ‘Autovia’, the ARTHUR & MARTHA song which has successfully endured the past decade to be now, as Cresswell pointed out, sitting next to Katy Perry on a compilation album!

Encoring with the mournful ‘Navigation’ album closer ‘Turn to Dust’, an affectionate homage to NEW ORDER’s ‘Leave Me Alone’, it was an appropriate way to end the ARTHUR & MARTHA story. Today in 2019, Cresswell continues making music as RODNEY CROMWELL and running Happy Robots Records, while Hubley will soon release her first solo record as ALICE HUBBLE.

With something for almost everyone and covering an eclectic selection of synth based music while maintaining a central curated theme, this was a fine gathering of good music and good people that exuded warmth and quality.


The organisers give their warmest thanks to all the acts who performed and Simon Helm of Cold War Night Life who provided a fine DJ set throughout the evening.

https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/happyrobotsrecords/

https://twitter.com/Happyrobotsrecs

https://www.instagram.com/happyrobotsrecords/

https://www.facebook.com/arthurandmarthaband/

http://www.plasmic.rocks

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

https://twitter.com/PLASM1C

https://www.instagram.com/plasm1c/

https://www.facebook.com/RainlandtheBand/

https://rainland.bandcamp.com/

http://www.coldwarnightlife.com/

https://www.facebook.com/coldwarnightlife/

https://twitter.com/coldwar_nl

https://www.instagram.com/coldwarnightlife/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Richard Price and Chi Ming Lai
10th March 2019

RAINLAND Interview

Returning to London on SATURDAY 2ND MARCH 2019 will be Glaswegian synthpop duo RAINLAND.

Having accompanied ASSEMBLAGE 23 on two UK tours, their rousing stage manner make them perfect as cheerleaders to begin any live presentation.

Although RAINLAND have so far only one EP ‘Touch’ to their name, Ian Ferguson and Derek MacDonald are experienced hands having been the musical lynchpins of their previous band ANALOG ANGEL, best known for songs such as ‘We Won’t Walk Away’ and ‘Drive’.

Settling into a two piece set-up has been straightforward with Ferguson having already proved himself a worthy vocalist on a number of ANALOG ANGEL tunes, while MacDonald has had more of a free rein to explore his purer synthpop fantasies.

While ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK opted for an IRN-BRU, the pair settled down with a wee dram each to ponder the state of the synth nation and much more…

Ian: So here we are Derek in our top secret studio to answer some questions from Uncle Chi about all things RAINLAND…

Del: Yeah, top secret studio in a back bedroom cos that’s what you do if you’re in a synth band these days, or say you’re in the studio by posting a photo of Sarm West to pretend you are being something you aren’t…

Ian: Hahaha! Anyway, on with the questions…

RAINLAND seems more relaxed than ANALOG ANGEL, how’s it been to free of its industrial shackles?

Del: I’ve always loved melody, you can’t have a song without a melody. The world is awash with tuneless industrial music currently

Ian: When we started, we didn’t have many outlets for us to play live and that’s what we always wanted to do so we were ‘tarred’ with the industrial brush as those were the bands we played with or supported.

Del: I don’t think we ever really were. The first two albums had an industrial edge but they were still songs based.

Ian: That whole ‘scene’ has turned into a bit of a parody of itself, which the synth scene has a danger of doing too. Never understood why, it was more style over substance.

Del: The whole dressed like a Nazi shouting “DAS!” covered in dog sh*te, you’re from Doncaster FFS!

Ian: I would say it’s been liberating doing the RAINLAND stuff.

Del: Exactly, I was always more into YMO who as we know are as industrial as f*ck!

So how has the creative dynamic and attitude changed working as a duo?

Ian: There are half as many people to satisfy, so the voting process as to what does and doesn’t make the cut is simpler.

Del: You and I tended to write together anyway in AA or were the folk that said “yeah let’s work on that” if an idea was presented…

Ian: It’s an interesting question as our attitude hasn’t changed but we can use more expansive soundscapes now, things like harmonies for example which is a big thing.

Y’know, I can’t help smirking at comment… *laughs*

Del: We couldn’t do that in AA as we weren’t the singers, so didn’t carry that part of the song and melody.

Ian: We tried to introduce it in places though… I’m a fan of pop music, I do love my metal and prog rock too of course which you’ve been getting into more Del…

Del: I listen to punk, INXS who are an incredibly melodic band…

Ian: Yeah, but could you imagine folk from ‘the scene’ going to see for example CAMEL or URIAH HEAP who are both in the diary for later in the year?

Del: Or Steven Wilson! We can now draw on more of our influences…

The eponymous ‘Rainland’ was a really rousing calling card, please describe its genesis…

Ian: I had the chorus part kicking around for a long time and never developed it beyond a few scribbled notes. At that point it was called ‘Homeland’… it’s played on a synth called Dune and the opening sequence developed from working with that software. I married it to a piano part from my Work in Progress folder called ‘Keane Thing’. The lyric came together walking along the marina in Ipswich on my way to work.

Del: We both have large WIP folders on our hard drives!

Ian: At the time, we wanted to keep playing and working together but weren’t sure what that was going to be or if it would happen at all. We ended up choosing the name, which I stole from a track title by a friend Simon Godfrey and his band TINYFISH, got a logo and booked a tour before we even had any finished songs so that forced our hand to get stuff written/finished. ‘Rainland’ was the first completed track and feedback was encouraging enough to convince us we were going in the right direction

Del: It had to be the opposite of what we had just finished. The initial reaction was “didn’t expect that!”… folk have compared it to all sorts of bands including A-HA and ENDGAMES, we’ll take that happily

Ian: ENDGAMES… that’s because according to some people we come from a town with no musical heritage! *laughs*

Vocally and musically, ‘Rainland’ appears to have overtones of ULTRAVOX?

Ian: I’m Scottish, I’m from Glasgow and anyone that knows me knows I’m a massive ULTRAVOX and Midge Ure fan, they are my favourite band from that Synth Britannia era so that’s all going to rub off on me. I’m either going to sound like Midge or one of THE PROCLAIMERS!

Del: Or Lauren Mayberry!

Ian: That’s not gonna happen!!!

Del: Talking of Midge and THE PROCLAIMERS, we have performed songs from both live in the past! It’s that whole thing about melody and big sounds.

Ian: Yeah you listen to the late Foxx / early Ure ULTRAVOX and it’s very simple, the playing is great but there’s a lot of space and we try to replicate that.

‘Touch’ seems to have a nod towards BRONSKI BEAT maybe?

Ian: That’s your area Del!

Del: BRONSKI BEAT?? You mean the melody?

Ian: I thought more the bass sound, that layered PPG Wavestation slap bass? I thought that was more PROPAGANDA… I don’t know, you’re more the BB guy than me…

Del: I did like ‘Smalltown Boy’, but thought the rest of the songs were pish…. Sorry!

Ian: Oh well maybe not then!

‘Silverlight’ featuring lyrics by poet and novelist Ange Chan started off as an ANALOG ANGEL number?

Ian: Back to that thing of being in AA, there were 4 people that got a vote and this somehow never made the cut… I wrote this song about 6 years ago when I first joined AA. It was one of the songs I wanted to work on with RAINLAND but it wasn’t until Del and Phil Morrison, our producer, suggested swapping the chorus and verse round musically…

Del: Phil has a brilliant ear for that kind of thing and it clicked. I know you weren’t sure at first…

Ian: Yeah but it really works. It’s a f*cker to sing live though which is why it tends to be early in the set! Cos it’s got a weird structure!

Del: To get it out the way! It would be good if Ange would write some more stuff.

Ian: Yeah she has an unusual lyrical touch.

‘The Light Of The Sun’ showcases some engaging uptempo synthpop songcraft?

Del: Another one written for AA during the ‘Four Front’ album sessions which didn’t make the final release.

Ian: I wrote that with Tracy from AA and I don’t think it’s unfair to say we added it to the EP as a filler and it’s become one of our more popular songs, shows how much we know…

Del: It’s a great song though, lots of melody.

Synthpop is pop music using synthesizers, not a by-word for fluff… discuss!

Del: Synthpop… electronic music in general, it depends how you look at it, can be viewed that way, but that’s the same as any genre.

Ian: I think there’s still a lot of sniffiness, even 40 years after the whole Musician’s Union campaign about synths from certain people. It’s nonsense… is a Billy Currie ARP solo any less exciting or musical than an Eric Clapton or Dave Gilmour guitar solo?

Del: As I’ve always said, if Beethoven had a MacBook, there would have been a whole orchestra out of jobs, instantly…

Ian: I get p*ssed off at folk turning their noses up at my chosen instrument. They are tools to do the job. Would you say an OMD hit from the back in the day has less right to be called a classic than say ‘Layla’ or ‘Comfortably Numb’? Different audiences yes, most of the time…

Del: Something like ‘There She Goes’ by THE LA’S is fluff, it’s no ‘Stanlow’ or ‘Statues’!

Ian: When people think of synthesizer music, they do think of ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ I suppose…

What do you think about the current state of modern electronic pop at the moment? Do you have any interest in Synthwave for example?

Ian: To be honest I don’t listen to a lot of modern bands. There are a couple of the newer bands yes, like KITE, but by and large they don’t feature on my playlists. A lot of the bands producing music at our level seem to rush the product out the door and it sounds like it. Probably setting myself up for some brickbats with that statement, let him without sin etc…

Del: It’s all presets, homogenised, Apple loops and stuff…

Ian: Which brings us onto Synthwave…

Del: Yeah but some of that is good…

Ian: Yeah, THE VAN DAMMAGE and ELECTRIC DRAGON… Michael Oakley and FM-84, though that’s a Scottish thing. Synthwave is trying to capture something that didn’t really exist back in the day.

Del: Yeah, some ‘Miami Vice’ soundtrack stuff and ‘Axel F’ maybe…

Ian: I’m not a fan of the majority of it…

Del: Barry Douglas, our friend from Glasgow, is a massive supporter of the Synthwave scene so we have seen a lot of those bands that have gone on to big things on that scene, he gave many of them their first UK gigs so I guess it’s his fault!

Are there any new acts you’ve encountered in the last 12 months that you would recommend to look out for?

Ian and Del together: WITCH OF THE VALE!

Ian: They really are the ones that stand out… they have a certain something that stands them apart.

Del: Erin and Ryan are great, yeah!

Ian: The new Michael Oakley stuff and FORM.

Del: For me it’s all the classic bands… The last BLANCMANGE album was brilliant.

Ian: I tend not to listen to a lot of synthesizer specific music TBH.

You’ve toured with ASSEMBLAGE 23 on their two most recent UK visits, how are your livers? 😉

Ian: This tour not as bad as 2017 when we tried to kill Mike their drummer

Del: Aided and abetted by an Australian Pirate Metal band…we were very well behaved this time apart from the night of Scott our merch / crew guy’s birthday. We are very old now however…

Ian: It’s like being on a school outing with those guys, we pile into a bus, point it down the motorway.

Del: And rip the piss out of one another for the duration.

Ian: The ASSEMBLAGE 23 guys are different class… They are head and shoulders above the likes of VNV NATION and AND ONE in respect of songwriting and production

Del: And Tom doesn’t have ridiculous stage height demands…

Ian: You’ve seen him dancing, nobody wants that!

How do you think RAINLAND went down with the ASSEMBLAGE 23 crowd?

Ian: We didn’t get bottled off stage so that’s a plus… Our job was as support, which used to be called the warm-up act and I’d like to think we did that. I’ve seen so many bands play those slots, not interact with the audience and then f*ck off after the show, that’s not your job!

Del: The crowd appeared to enjoy it, we seem to be a good fit for the band and have been told our music works well in that line-up by people after the show, so all good.

You’re playing with ARTHUR & MARTHA and PLASMIC, what can punters expect who have not seen or heard of you before?

Ian: We are opening the event, doing this has been a long time coming. Hopefully we will start the show as we all mean to go on.

Del: Help everyone have a good night… PLASMIC looks like it will be a fun set

Ian: And ARTHUR AND MARTHA! Looking forward to catching up with the guys

Del: We always like playing in London, come and buy us a beer!

What’s next for RAINLAND, is there a follow-up EP to ‘Touch’ in the works?

Ian: RAINLAND is a hobby, we released ‘Touch’ in 2017 and then life got in the way and I ended up going abroad to work for a year which is why things have been slow. We don’t have any delusions of being superstar musicians… if as a 50-something you aren’t a successful, million selling songwriter / artist already guess what, you’re probably not going to be a million selling songwriter/artist!

Del: We do have another EP written, just need to get all our diaries to align especially with Phil. We hope to showcase some new material though as it is ready to play live.

Ian: Just playing it by ear… we have a couple of other gigs lined up to be announced which are exciting.

Del: Just looking forward to seeing everyone at the show.

Ian: Exactly, we will see you soon!


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to RAINLAND

The ‘Touch’ EP is available as a free download from https://rainland.bandcamp.com/releases

https://www.facebook.com/RainlandtheBand/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
9th February 2019

ASSEMBLAGE 23, RAINLAND + WITCH OF THE VALE Live in London

Returning to the UK after a successful Spring 2017 stint, ASSEMBLAGE 23 again packed their favourite London venue Electrowerkz with their dark industrial flavoured synthpop.

A23 main man Tom Shear is on something of a high right now, with the acclaimed album ‘Endure’ still attracting live audiences 2 years after its release while his new side-project HELIX with vocalist Mari Kattman has just issued its first album ‘Twin’.

Opening proceedings were WITCH OF THE VALE, a Scottish electronic duo from the serene shores of Loch Lomond and the remote Outer Hebridean Isles, centred around the folk inspired soprano stylings of Erin Hawthorne and the stark instrumental structures of her husband Ryan Hawthorne.

Like GAZELLE TWIN meeting ‘The Wicker Man’ and ‘Twin Peaks’, their music possesses some Pagan fervour. From the eerie beauty of ‘Listen To Your Voice’ to the more unsettling ritualistic overtures of ‘Fever’, their presentation was totally captivating while maintaining that important air of mystery, making them an act to watch out for in the future.

On their second successive UK tour with A23, RAINLAND were very much the party animals who utilised their down-to-earth weegie personas to act as cheerleaders for the headline act. RAINLAND formed from the ashes of ANALOG ANGEL and Tom Shear has recognised the pair’s capabilities for a long time now.

As RAINLAND, Ian Ferguson and Derek MacDonald have been able to follow their synthpop instincts, free of the industrial shackles that occasionally held them back in the past. Ferguson in particular had shown his worth with a tone not dissimilar to Midge Ure on ANALOG ANGEL songs such as ‘No Goodbye’, ‘I Am Me’ and ‘Another Rainy Day’.

The ‘Rainland’ song was a stomping opening salvo that recalled ULTRAVOX with a touch of Vince Clarke too, while the BRONSKI BEAT inspired ‘Touch’ with its digital slap samples had the crowd dancing.

‘Silverlight’ with lyrics co-written by author Ange Chan kept the momentum going, but with only the ‘Touch’ EP to their name so far, their performance closed with the Ferguson-penned ANALOG ANGEL evergreen ‘Drive’.

Tom Shear has maintained a successful career over the last two decades years despite some ups and downs. In ensuring ASSEMBLAGE 23’s survival in the modern music industry, his resilience could be summed up by their opening number ‘Bravery’, a poignant statement that self-doubt which always lingers within the human condition, whatever the circumstances.

Accompanied by the ever faithful Paul Seegers on synths, Shear was his usual engaging self with songs like ‘Let The Wind Erase Me’. Meanwhile from ‘Meta’, the brilliant ‘Damaged’ from 2007 reminded everyone of the sort of tunes that DEPECHE MODE were once good at.

The emotive electro-gothic discoscape of ‘December’ captured being “Silent and alone, trying to make sense” in a song swathed in sadness despite the danceable rhythm construction, while the classic A23 of ‘Let Me Be Your Armor’ is still a firm fan favourite with its trance energy. However when the riff laden ‘The Noise Inside My Head’ made its presence felt, the crowd erupted in a sea of bounce!

Closing with a marvellous spirited cover of INXS’ international breakthrough ‘Don’t Change’, itself borrowing the distinctive swooping synth line from ‘Bunker Soldiers’ by OMD, ASSEMBLAGE 23 provided the perfect conclusion to an excellent triple bill.

This evening proved again that if a line-up is properly curated with acts that actually musically complement one another, it will result in success. As Jim Morrison said in ‘Wayne’s World 2’: “Book them and they will come…”


With thanks to Tom Shear and Ian Ferguson

‘Endure’ is released by Metropolis Records in CD, deluxe 2CD and download variants, available from http://www.assemblage23.com/store

ASSEMBLAGE 23 German live dates include:
Berlin Kreuzberg Maze (11th September), Hamburg Indra Club 64 (12th September),
Frankfurt Das Bett (15th September)

http://www.assemblage23.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Official-Assemblage-23-138651156153800/

https://twitter.com/Assemblage_23

https://www.facebook.com/RainlandtheBand/

https://rainland.bandcamp.com/

http://www.witchofthevale.com/

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


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Chi Ming Lai and Marilyn Wilson
9th September 2018

2017 End Of Year Review

Oscillate Mildly

The world found itself in a rather antagonistic and divisive state this year, as if none of the lessons from the 20th Century’s noted conflicts and stand-offs had been learnt.

Subtle political messages came with several releases; honorary Berliner Mark Reeder used the former divided city as symbolism to warn of the dangers of isolationism on his collaborative album ‘Mauerstadt’. Meanwhile noted Francophile Chris Payne issued the ELECTRONIC CIRCUS EP ‘Direct Lines’ with its poignant warning of nuclear apocalypse in its title song. The message was to unite and through music as one of the best platforms.

After a slow start to 2017, there was a bumper crop of new music from a number of established artists. NINE INCH NAILS and Gary Numan refound their mojo with their respective ‘Add Violence’ and ‘Savage (Songs From A Broken World)’ releases, with the latter recording his best body of work since his imperial heyday.

But the first quarter of the year was hamstrung by the anticipation for the 14th DEPECHE MODE long player ‘Spirit’, with other labels and artists aware that much of their potential audience’s hard earned disposable income was being directed towards the Basildon combo’s impending album and world tour.

Yet again, reaction levels seemed strangely muted as ‘Spirit’ was another creative disappointment, despite its angry politicised demeanour.

Rumours abounded that the band cut the album’s scheduled recording sessions by 4 weeks. This inherent “that’ll do” attitude continued on the ‘Global Spirit’ jaunt when the band insulted their loyal audience by doing nothing more than plonking an arena show into a stadium for the summer outdoor leg.

Despite protestations from some Devotees of their dissatisfaction with this open-air presentation, they were content to be short-changed again as they excitedly flocked to the second set of European arena dates with the generally expressed excuse that “it will be so much better indoors”.

By this Autumn sojourn, only three songs from ‘Spirit’ were left in the set, thus indicating that the dire record had no longevity and was something of a lemon.

Suspicions were finally confirmed at the ‘Mute: A Visual Document’ Q&A featuring Daniel Miller and Anton Corbijn, when the esteemed photographer and visual director confessed he did not like the album which he did the artwork for… see, it’s not just ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK 😉

Devotees are quick to say all criticism of DEPECHE MODE is unfair, but the band can’t help but make themselves easy targets time and time again. But why should the band care? The cash is coming, the cash is coming…

Luckily, veteran acts such as OMD and Alison Moyet saved the day.

The Wirral lads demonstrated what the word spirit actually meant on their opus ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’, while the former class mate of Messrs Gore and Fletcher demonstrated what a soulful, blues-influenced electronic record should sound like with ‘Other’.

As Tony Hadley departed SPANDAU BALLET and Midge Ure got all ‘Orchestrated’ in the wake of ULTRAVOX’s demise, the ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’ album directed by Rusty Egan, to which they contributed, became a physical reality in 2017.

Now if DM plonked an arena show into the world’s stadiums, KRAFTWERK put a huge show into a theatre. The publicity stunt of 2012, when Tate Modern’s online ticket system broke down due to demand for their eight album live residency, did its job when the Kling Klang Quartett sold out an extensive UK tour for their 3D concert spectacular.

No less impressive, SOULWAX wowed audiences with their spectacular percussion heavy ‘From Deewee’ show and gave a big lesson to DEPECHE MODE as to how to actually use live drums correctly within an electronic context.

Mute Artists were busy with releases from ERASURE, LAIBACH and ADULT. but it was GOLDFRAPP’s ‘Silver Eye’ that stole the show from that stable. LCD SOUNDSYSTEM returned after seven years with their ‘American Dream’ and it was worth the wait, with the most consistent and electronic record that James Murphy’s ensemble has delivered in their career.

To say Neil Arthur was prolific in 2017 would be an understatement as he released albums with BLANCMANGE and FADER while Benge, a co-conspirator on both records, worked with I SPEAK MACHINE to produce ‘Zombies 1985’ which was one of the best electronic albums of the year; and that was without the JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS stage play soundtrack ‘The Machines’.

Despite JAPAN having disbanded in 1982, solo instrumental releases from Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri were particularly well-received, while David Sylvian made a return of sorts, guesting on ‘Life Life’ for ‘async’, the first album from Ryuichi Sakamoto since recovering from his illness. On the more esoteric front, Brian Eno presented the thoughtful ambience of ‘Reflection’, while THE RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP had ‘Burials In Several Earths’.

2017 was a year that saw acts who were part of the sine wave of Synth Britannia but unable to sustain or attain mainstream success like BLUE ZOO, B-MOVIE, FIAT LUX and WHITE DOOR welcomed back as heroes, with their talent belatedly recognised.

Germany had something of a renaissance as veterans Zeus B Held and ex-TANGERINE DREAM member Steve Schroyder came together in DREAM CONTROL as another TD offshoot QUAESCHNING & SCHNAUSS offered up some impressive ‘Synthwaves’, while there actually was a new TANGERINE DREAM album, their first without late founder member Edgar Froese.

Eberhard Kranemann and Harald Grosskopf offered up some KRAUTWERK as other veterans like RHEINGOLD, DER PLAN, BOYTRONIC and DJ HELL also returned. Comparatively younger, 2RAUMWOHNUNG and KATJA VON KASSEL both offered up enticing bilingual takes on classic electronic pop.

The Swedish synth community again delivered with DAILY PLANET, PAGE, REIN, VANBOT, ANNA ÖBERG, 047 and LIZETTE LIZETTE all delivering fine bodies of work, although KITE were missed, with their German tour cancelled and release of their ‘VII’ EP postponed due to vocalist Nicklas Stenemo’s illness; ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK wishes him all the best in his recovery.

Across the Baltic Sea, Finnish producer Jori Hulkkonen released his 20th album ‘Don’t Believe In Happiness’ while nearby in Russia, a duo named VEiiLA showcased an unusual hybrid of techno, opera and synthpop and ROSEMARY LOVES A BLACKBERRY offered a ‘❤’.

One of the year’s discussion points was whether Synthwave was just synthpop dressed with sunglasses and neon signs but whatever, Stateside based Scots but Michael Oakley and FM-84 made a good impression with their retro-flavoured electronic tunes.

It wasn’t all about the expats and in a territory as big as North America, there came a number of up-and-coming home grown electronic artists with LOST IN STARS, PARALLELS, PATTERN LANGUAGE, SPACEPRODIGI, COMPUTER MAGIC and BATTLE TAPES all gaining traction. Meanwhile, Canada’s PURITY RING infuriated some of their fanbase by working with KATY PERRY on three tracks for her album ‘Witness’. AESTHETIC PERFECTION’s new singles only policy was paying dividends and the Electro Mix of ‘Rhythm + Control’, which featured the promising newcomer NYXX, was one of the best tracks of 2017. South American wasn’t left out either and representation came via Argentina’s COSAQUITOS EN GLOBO.

Female solo artists had strong presence in 2017 as FEVER RAY made an unexpected return, ZOLA JESUS produced her best work to date in ‘Okovi’ and Hannah Peel embarked on an ambitious synth / brass ‘Journey to Cassiopeia’. Meanwhile, SARAH P. asked ‘Who Am I’ and MARNIE found ‘Strange Words & Weird Wars’ as ANI GLASS and NINA both continued on their promising developmental path.

Other female fronted acts like KITE BASE, SPECTRA PARIS, BLACK NAIL CABARET, AVEC SANS, EMT and THE GOLDEN FILTER again reinforced that electronic music was not solely about boys with their toys.

Respectively, Ireland and Scotland did their bit, with TINY MAGNETIC PETS and their aural mix of SAINT ETIENNE and KRAFTWERK successfully touring with OMD in support of their excellent second album ‘Deluxe/Debris’, while formed out of the ashes of ANALOG ANGEL, RAINLAND wowed audiences opening for ASSEMBLAGE 23.

A bit of smooth among the rough, CULT WITH NO NAME released a new album while other new(ish) acts making a positive impression this year included KNIGHT$, MOLINA, ANNEKA, SOFTWAVE, THE FRIXION and KALEIDA.

Despite getting a positive response, both iEUROPEAN and SOL FLARE parted ways while on the opposite side of the coin, Belgian passengers METROLAND celebrated five years in the business with the lavish ‘12×12’ boxed set

Overall in 2017, it was artists of a more mature disposition who held their heads high and delivered, as some newer acts went out of their way to test the patience of audiences by drowning them in sleep while coming over like TRAVIS on VSTs.

With dominance of media by the three major labels, recognition was tricky with new quality traditional synthpop not generally be championed by the mainstream press. With Spotify now 20% owned by those three majors, casual listeners to the Swedish streaming platform were literally told what to like, as with commercial radio playlists.

It is without doubt that streaming and downloading has created a far less knowledgeable music audience than in previous eras, so Rusty Egan’s recent online petition to request platforms to display songwriting and production credits was timely; credit where credit is due as they say…

While ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK does not dismiss Spotify totally and sees it as another tool, it should not be considered the be all and end all, in the same way vinyl is not the saviour of the music industry and in physics terms, cannot handle the same dynamic range as CD.

Music is not as emotionally valued as it was before… that’s not being old and nostalgic, that is reality. It can still be enjoyed with or without a physical purchase, but for artists to be motivated to produce work that can connect and be treasured, that is another matter entirely.

However, many acts proved that with Bandcamp, the record company middle man can be eliminated. It is therefore up to the listener to be more astute, to make more effort and to make informed choices. And maybe that listener has to seek out reliable independent media for guidance.

However, as with the shake-up within the music industry over the last ten years, that can only be a good thing for the true synthpop enthusiast. And as it comes close to completing its 8th year on the web, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK maintains its position of not actually promoting new acts or supporting any scene, but merely to write about the music it likes and occasionally stuff it doesn’t… people can make their own mind up about whether to invest money or time in albums or gigs.

Yes, things ARE harder for the listener and the musician, but the effort is worthwhile 😉


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK Contributor Listings 2017

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: QUASCHENING & SCHNAUSS Synthwaves
Best Song: BATTLE TAPES No Good
Best Gig: SOULWAX at O2 Ritz Manchester
Best Video: SOULWAX Is it Always Binary?
Most Promising New Act: MARIE DAVIDSON


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: OMD The Punishment of Luxury
Best Song: SPARKS Edith Piaf (Said it Better Than Me)
Best Gig: SPEAK & SPELL at Glastonbury
Best Video: ALISON MOYET Reassuring Pinches
Most Promising New Act: MICHAEL OAKLEY


SIMON HELM

Best Album: PAGE Det Är Ingen Vacker Värld Men Det Råkar Vara Så Det Ser Ut
Best Song: LAU NAU Poseidon
Best Gig: PAGE at Electronic Summer 2017
Best Video: PSYCHE Youth Of Tomorrow
Most Promising New Act: ANNA ÖBERG


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: I SPEAK MACHINE Zombies 1985
Best Song: AESTHETIC PERFECTION Rhythm + Control – Electro Version
Best Gig: OMD + TINY MAGNETIC PETS at Cambridge Corn Exchange
Best Video: I SPEAK MACHINE Shame
Most Promising New Act: MICHAEL OAKLEY


RCHARD PRICE

Best Album: FADER First Light
Best Song: OMD Isotype
Best Gig: MARC ALMOND at London Roundhouse
Best Video: GOLDFRAPP Anymore
Most Promising New Act: NINA


STEPHEN ROPER

Best Album:  OMD The Punishment of Luxury
Best Song: DUA LIPA Be The One
Best Gig: HANNAH PEEL at Norwich Arts Centre
Best Video: PIXX I Bow Down
Most Promising New Act: PIXX


MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL

Best Album: ZOLA JESUS Okovi
Best Song: GARY NUMAN My Name Is Ruin
Best Gig: ERASURE at London Roundhouse
Best Video: GARY NUMAN My Name Is Ruin
Most Promising New Act: ANNA ÖBERG


Text by Chi Ming Lai
14th December 2017

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