Tag: Rational Youth (Page 2 of 4)

A Short Conversation with RATIONAL YOUTH

Today, Canada is a hotbed of electronic pop talent like DANA JEAN PHOENIX, PURITY RING, GRIMES, TR/ST, AUSTRA, FM ATTACK, PARALLELS and ELECTRIC YOUTH, but it might not have happened without the trailblazing mission of RATIONAL YOUTH.

Comprising of Tracy Howe, Bill Vorn and Kevin Komoda, their debut album ‘Cold War Night Life’ captured the fraught tensions of two opposing ideologies and living under the spectre of Mutually Assured Destruction. A tense vision of how young Poles might have spent their down time in underground clubs under martial law was captured in the single ‘Saturdays In Silesia’, while RATIONAL YOUTH also observed “Checkpoint Charlie’s social climb” and the possibility of ‘Dancing On The Berlin Wall’.

When The Berlin Wall came down at the end of 1989, RATIONAL YOUTH’s work was kind of done, but with the threat of new “walls” being built again on both sides of the Atlantic and scary face-offs along the 38th Parallel, ‘Cold War Night Life’ is more than relevant again and an apt document for future generations to reference.

With ‘Cold War Night Life’ being given the lavish reissue treatment by Universal Music and RATIONAL YOUTH touring Germany with fellow Canadians PSYCHE, Tracy Howe kindly took time out to chat about his landmark debut.

When you released ‘Cold War Night Life’ in 1982, it must have been incomprehensible that 37 years later, one of the world’s biggest entertainment corporations would be putting money behind an expanded reissue in clear vinyl?

Absolutely unimaginable, and especially considering how Universal came to be the owners of the master YUL Records, who had released the original album in 1982.

They then sold it to Capitol-EMI Records in 1985 and EMI subsequently buried it. They weren’t the slightest bit interested in it, and didn’t understand the record at all, but didn’t want anybody else to have it. It was never released by them until 1998, when EMI Canada released a CD version of it. Years later, EMI are bought by Universal Music, and Universal Canada have a Vice-President of Catalogue Marketing, Ivar Hamilton, who always loved the album and used to play it on the air when he was in radio. So here we are.

How much involvement were you able to have in the package?

All the way through, every step. They sent everything to me, graphic elements, remastering, text for the advertising copy and press releases to me for approval. Anything I didn’t like, they changed it. Honestly, they were just wonderful to work with, and they treated this release like something special that they really want to be proud of too. It’s really almost the polar opposite of my previous experience with a major label.

Despite being the album opener, ‘Close To Nature’ is almost the forgotten RATIONAL YOUTH song but it is glorious, with its many layers and subtle nuances?

There were a couple of songs on the album that I felt sort of channelled through Bill Vorn and me, and wrote themselves, and that was one of them (the other was ‘Just A Sound In The Night’). That doesn’t happen to me anymore. Nowadays I have to sweat out every crotchet and semi-quaver, so to speak. It was written when the Doomsday Clock was at five to midnight, and it expressed desperation and utter frustration that the fundamental energy of the universe was in the hands of sociopaths. We have always opened our shows with ‘Close To Nature’, all the way back to 1981.

‘Les Meillleur Des Mondes’ was a chilling dystopian instrumental and the French title of ‘Brave New World’, had it been inspired by the book?

Yes indeed. Bill Vorn had just read it and we had both bought the ‘Computer World’ LP in the same week, and that’s what you hear there.

Two key tools in the production of ‘Cold War Night Life’ were the Roland MC4 Microcomposer and Roland TR808 Rhythm Composer, how did you come to discover these and did they break the bank seeing as you were a new act?

Well I got a bit of a free ride there, as expensive they indeed were, but Bill had a massive Roland System 700 rig, and he sold all of it except one complete modular synthesizer, and that paid for the TR-808 and the MC4.

We even got the memory expansion for the MC-4, which brought it up to a whopping 24kb!

We knew about the MC8, but we’d never seen one. When the MC4 came out, it was the perfect picture for us because we still had Bill’s remaining System 700, and three System 100s, and as the MC4 could sequence 4 monophonic synths simultaneously, it was phenomenal, and there was no-one anywhere near us who were doing that sort of thing.

As for the 808, we’d been using a CR-78 up until then, and when I first heard the 808, it blew my face off, it sounded so great, and so tight, although we used the MC4 as the master clock, but it was the same thing really, super tight pre-MIDI wonderfulness.

What was the creative chemistry like within RATIONAL YOUTH? Did you see yourself as synth punks?

That would be a good way to describe it. Of course as soon as we formed, we felt like we were breathing different air from everyone else. But I think we were honestly part of something seriously disruptive, in the sense that we were aware that we part of a movement to democratise the making and distribution of music, which started with punk, and we were part of the vanguard of the technological revolution within that movement. There have been good and bad aspects of that whole upheaval in the music business, but at the end of the day I am actually very happy that people are able to make really good records in their bedrooms.

The marvellous ‘Ring The Bells’ gave RATIONAL YOUTH a chance to explore their moodier side, what can you remember about making it?

Well the image I had in mind was an old black and white photo showing the first Berlin Wall being constructed and the people on the East side of it looking down out of their windows watching as they were being walled in, and I thought of the line “a million faces stare out of the windows of the past”, and also I think I must have been thinking about ULTRAVOX’s ‘Vienna’, in terms of mood.

At the time I was obviously aware that I was deliberately writing songs about the Cold War, and about the sense that we were all on the edge of annihilation, but I think I kind of romanticised the whole thing, and it actually seems more frightening now. Looking back, I sometimes wonder what I was doing trying to make something poignant and beautiful out of the whole thing, but then what’s art about?

Looking back, with Canada being stuck between the USA and the Soviet Union, do you think you that was one of the reasons you manage to capture a tension in the music that West Europeans in particular could relate to?

Yes I do. We always had that pull between those two poles, and still do.

Another aspect of that is while I love a lot of American music, especially African-American music, when we started RATIONAL YOUTH, we decided on certain boundaries that we would not cross stylistically, and one was that there would be no “blue notes”, which obviously drives you in the direction of European music.

I think it is great to be eclectic, if that is what you are about, and you can pull it off in a way that is convincing, but whenever I try it I get into trouble, ie produce rubbish. I need to say to myself “I do synthpop. RATIONAL YOUTH sounds a certain way and has certain stylistic hallmarks”. I then try to stick with the programme, and I think that’s a more European outlook.

Had you visited Berlin before writing ‘Dancing On The Berlin Wall’ and where did dropping in ‘Ode To Joy’ come from? Was it ‘A Clockwork Orange’?

No, I didn’t visit Berlin the first time until the 90s after reunification. The ‘Ode To Joy’ bit comes from it being the anthem of the European Union, and being a particularly idealistic piece, especially Schiller’s lyrics… lyrics… hmmm, that makes Schiller sound like Max Martin. Well, you know what I mean!

Another geographical Cold War reference came with ‘Saturdays In Silesia’, composed while Poland was under martial law?

Yes. The funny thing about that is the line “Got the number 8 bus. Took it to the Navy docks”. Of course there are no Navy docks in Silesia, which is landlocked. I had conflated two events from the Solidarity period in Poland: the Gdansk shipyard strike and the Silesian miners’ strike into one story! Of course I get constantly reminded of this, especially from Poles!

With this being an expanded reissue, as well as RATIONAL YOUTH’s debut non-album single ‘I Want To See The Light’ and B-sides like Coboloid Race’, there has been the opportunity to give a rare recording like ‘Citi Phosphore’ a chance to be heard more widely again? How do you look back on these recordings?

We were excited to be making records and had no realistic expectations of success. Also, the engineers we’d come up against in the studios we first recorded in had no idea what we were trying to do. Wonderful, magical times nevertheless.

What are your own personal favourite tracks or memories in the making of ‘Cold War Night Life’?

What I loved the most about making the record was our producer Pat Deserio. In contrast to my answer to your previous question: while Pat, who came from an Italian disco background, didn’t really understand how we did what we did, he didn’t care because he could hear the songs and he truly loved them, and he had so many old school record-making tricks up his sleeve, that it was always fun, and always a learning experience. If I had to pick favourite tracks, I guess I’d pick the two I mentioned before, ‘Close To Nature’ and ‘Just A Sound In The Night’.

With the current socio-political climate, it might seem obvious but why do you think ‘Cold War Night Life’ still resonates with electronic music enthusiasts worldwide after nearly four decades?

I think it resonates still, especially with synth fans, because it is pure in its intent and in its execution.

It’s one of the first pop albums, made entirely with analogue synthesizers and human voices, from the era of ‘Reproduction’ and ‘Computer World’, certainly the first from Canada, probably North America.

Yes, it does seem relevant again, in terms of the current state of the world, but honestly on a musical level, I can’t be objective enough to evaluate whether musically it sounds dated or not, but here it is still, 37 years later, and with new life. In any case, I haven’t got sick of it yet.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Tracy Howe

‘Cold War Night Life’ is reissued by Universal Music worldwide on 30th August 2019 in double clear vinyl LP and expanded CD formats, as well as being available on digital platforms

RATIONAL YOUTH 2019 German live dates with PSYCHE include: Oberhausen Kulttempel (25th August), Greifswald Juz Klex Veranstaltungen (30th August), Berlin Urban Spree (30th August)

The ‘Cold War Night Life’ re-release party takes place at Ottawa House of TARG on Friday 13th September 2019 with DANA JEAN PHOENIX, AUTOMELODI + DOUCE ANGOIISE also on the bill

http://www.rationalyouth.org/

https://www.facebook.com/RationalYouth/

https://twitter.com/tm_howe

https://rationalyouth.bandcamp.com/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
24th August 2019, updated 13th December 2019

The Electronic Legacy of EUROPE

Europe is the spiritual home of electronic music, inspiring it not just artistically but forming an important bond with the continent’s classical tradition through the romance of its historical imagery.

Continental Europe is defined as being bordered by the Arctic Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

Often considered to be separated from Asia by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas and the waterways of the Turkish Straits, it includes the part of Russia where Moscow and St Petersburg are located.

Mark Reeder was one of the first British music personalities to fully adopt Europe, making West Berlin his home in 1978 and subsequently releasing a number of themed compilation albums such as ‘European’ in 1995 and ‘Assorted (E For Europe)’ in 1999 on his MFS label. His fellow Mancunian and friend Bernard Sumner of NEW ORDER said to The European in 2016: “I feel European, I regard myself as a European… as a musician I’ve always been massively influenced by Europe and its people”.

From Paris to Vienna back to Düsseldorf City, Europe fascinated British musicians who having been open-minded enough to use synthesizers, now embraced many different mindsets, languages, cultures and cuisines, all within a comparatively accessible geographical land mass. Meanwhile, European instrument manufacturers such as PPG, Elka, Crumar, RSF, Jen and Siel found their products in the thick of the action too.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK stands proud of its Eurocentric focus. Esteemed names like Hütter, Schneider, Flür, Bartos, Moroder, Jarre, Vangelis, Plank, Rother, Dinger and Froese have more than highlighted the important debt that is owed by electronic music to Europe.

While the UK may have scored an equalizer with Synth Britannia, it was the Europeans who took that crucial half time lead. So to disengage with the European tradition would be betraying everything that ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK is all about.

Presented in yearly and then alphabetical order with a restriction of one track per artist moniker, here are our favourite twenty electronic tunes that were inspired, either directly or obliquely, by the legacy of Europe…


DAVID BOWIE Warszawa (1977)

‘Warszawa’ was named after the Polish capital city but accurately captured the Cold War tensions in Europe without the need for lyricism. At Hansa Studios where the sessions were being mixed, the watch towers in East Berlin could look into the windows of the building! Tony Visconti’s production only enhanced the collaborative drama between David Bowie’s enigmatic wailing over Brian Eno’s Minimoog and Chamberlain keys. This formed part of an all instrumental suite on the ‘Low’ album’s second side.

Available on the DAVID BOWIE album ‘Low’ via EMI Records

http://www.davidbowie.com


KRAFTWERK Europe Endless (1977)

With KRAFTWERK utilising a customized 32-step Synthanorma Sequenzer and a Vako Orchestron with pre-recorded symphonic string and choir sounds sourced from optical discs, if there was such a thing as a musical European travelogue, then the romantically optimistic beauty of ‘Europe Endless’ was it. This lengthy work influenced the likes of NEW ORDER, OMD and BLANCMANGE who all borrowed different aspects of its aesthetics for ‘Your Silent Face’, ‘Metroland’ and ‘Feel Me’ respectively.

Available on the KRAFTWERK album ‘Trans Europe Express’ via EMI Records

http://www.kraftwerk.com/


THE DURUTTI COLUMN For Belgian Friends (1980)

‘For Belgian Friends’ was written in honour of Factory Benelux founders Michel Duval and the late Annik Honoré. Although not strictly electronic in the purest sense, Martin Hannett’s technologically processed production techniques made Vini Reilly’s dominant piano sound like textured synthetic strings, complimenting his sparing melodic guitar and the crisp percussion of Donald Johnson. This beautiful instrumental was one of Reilly’s best recordings, originally on the compilation ‘A Factory Quartet’.

Available on THE DURUTTI COLUMN album ‘LC’ via Factory Benelux Records

http://www.thedurutticolumn.com/


FATAL CHARM Paris (1980)

Nottingham combo FATAL CHARM supported ULTRAVOX and OMD in 1980. Their excellent first single ‘Paris’ was produced by Midge Ure and could be seen reflecting the electronically flavoured new wave template of the period. Singer Sarah Simmonds’ feisty passion gave a freshly charged sexual ambiguity to the European love story written in the days before the Channel Tunnel. Instrumentalist Paul Arnall said: “we were able to use Midge’s Yamaha synth which gave it his sound”.

Available on the FATAL CHARM album ‘Plastic’ via Fatal Charm

http://fatalcharm.co.uk/


IPPU DO German Road (1981)

Did you hear the one about the Japanese band impersonating a German band and doing it rather well? Influenced by the motorik backbeat of NEU! and also heavily borrowing form its guitarist Michael Rother’s solo track ‘Karussell’, IPPU DO’s leader Masami Tsuchiya was something of a multi-cultural sponge, later joining JAPAN for their final ‘Sons Of Pioneers’ tour in 1982. Meanwhile IPPU DO are still best known in the UK for their startlingly original cover version of THE ZOMBIES ‘Time Of The Season’.

Remixed version available on the IPPU DO album ‘Essence: The Best Of’ via Sony Music

http://www.ne.jp/asahi/masami/london/


LANDSCAPE European Man (1980)

Electronic pioneer Richard James Burgess said: “I think we all embraced this new direction because of our raw excitement over the new technology… We discussed it in the band and everyone was on board so I started working on the lyrics that became ‘European Man’”. Colin Thurston was the producer assisting in realising this new direction and interestingly, the rear artwork of the first issue of the single featured a very early use of the term “electronic dance music”.

Available on LANDSCAPE album ‘From The Tea-Rooms Of Mars…’ via Cherry Red Records

https://twitter.com/Landscape_band


SIMPLE MINDS I Travel (1980)

“Europe has a language problem” sang Jim Kerr on ‘I Travel’, adding “in central Europe men are marching”. Aware of the domestic terrorist threats that were apparent in every city they were visiting on tour, SIMPLE MINDS captured a claustrophobic tension within its futuristic frenzy like a doomy disco take on Moroder. It was a favourite of DJ Rusty Egan at The Blitz Club where its shadier spectre was highly welcomed by its clientele, reflecting their own discontent closer to home.

Available on the SIMPLE MINDS album ‘Empires & Dance’ via Virgin Records

http://www.simpleminds.com


TELEX Eurovision (1980)

TELEX’s manifesto was “Making something really European, different from rock, without guitar.” Having previously visited a ‘Moscow Disko’ and with tongues firmly in cheeks, they entered the 1980 Eurovision Song Contest with a bouncy electropop song that had deliberately banal lyrics about the whole charade itself. Performing to a bemused audience in The Hague with the sole intention of coming last, unfortunately Finland decided otherwise! Who said the Belgians didn’t have a sense of humour?!

Available on the TELEX album ‘Ultimate Best Of’ via EMI Music Belgium

http://www.telex-music.com/


ULTRAVOX New Europeans (1980)

If there was a song that truly represents ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s ethos, then the synth rock fusion of ULTRAVOX’s ‘New Europeans’ is it! Noting that “his modern world revolves around the synthesizer’s song” in lyrics largely written by drummer Warren Cann, it all pointed to an optimistic way forward “full of future thoughts and thrills” that would later be opened up by direct train travel across the channel with freedom of movement to and from the continent for “a European legacy and “a culture for today”.

Available on the ULTRAVOX album ‘Vienna’ via EMI Records

http://www.ultravox.org.uk/


VISAGE Moon Over Moscow (1980)

While in his dual role as DJ at The Blitz Club and VISAGE’s drummer, Rusty Egan had become inspired by the melodic interplay of Japanese trio YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA which had been European influenced: “I liked the album and played it along with TELEX and SPARKS. The sound was an influence on VISAGE. By the time we recorded ‘Moon Over Moscow’, that was to include Russia, Japan, Germany and France in our sound… the drummer was also using the same drum pads as me!”

Available on the VISAGE album ‘Visage’ via Alliance Import

http://rustyegan.net/


ASSOCIATES White Car In Germany (1981)

ASSOCIATES first musical signs of a fascination towards European influenced electronic music came with the funereal pulse of ‘White Car In Germany’. The swirling electronics, cold atmosphere and treated percussion were intended to sound as un-American as possible. Billy MacKenzie’s observational lyric “Aberdeen’s an old place – Düsseldorf’s a cold place – Cold as spies can be” accurately captured post-war tensions under the spectre of the bomb.

Available on the ASSOCIATES album ‘The Very Best Of’ via BMG

https://www.facebook.com/theassociatesofficial/


JOHN FOXX Europe After The Rain (1981)

Foxx admitted he had been “reading too much JG Ballard” and had thawed considerably following ‘Metamatic’. Now spending his spare time exploring beautiful Italian gardens and taking on a more foppish appearance, his new mood was reflected in his music. Moving to a disused factory site in Shoreditch, Foxx set up a recording complex which he named ‘The Garden’ and the first song to emerge was the Linn Drum driven ‘Europe After The Rain’. Foxx had now achieved his system of romance.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘Modern Art: The Best Of’ via Music Club

http://www.metamatic.com/


JAPAN European Son (1981)

Recorded as a JAPAN demo for the 1979 Giorgio Moroder sessions that produced ‘Life In Tokyo’, this sequencer heavy number was rejected by the Italian disco maestro. Left dormant in the vaults of Ariola Hansa, the song was finished off under the supervision of John Punter and later given a single remix by Steve Nye with redone parts by Mick Karn. ‘European Son’ showed David Sylvian’s vocals in transition from the catty aggression of earlier albums to the Ferry-ish croon most now associated with the band.

John Punter version available on JAPAN album ‘The Very Best Of’ via BMG

http://www.nightporter.co.uk/


THE MOBILES Drowning In Berlin (1981)

THE MOBILES’ were from the sleepy shores of Eastbourne; while ‘Drowning In Berlin’ may have come across as a ‘Not The Nine O’Clock News’ New Romantic parody on first listen, its decaying Mittel Europa grandeur was infectious like Hazel O’Connor reinterpreting ‘Vienna’ with The Master of Ceremonies at the Kit Kat Klub. And like ‘Vienna’, ‘Drowning In Berlin’ was inspired by a holiday romance, in this case one that singer Anna Maria had while visiting the divided city.

Available on THE MOBILES album ‘Drowning In Berlin: The Best Of’ via Cherry Red Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/98916-Mobiles


BERLIN The Metro (1982)

Inspired by acts like ULTRAVOX and KRAFTWERK, Californian band BERLIN with their approach to synthesizers were a far cry from the way they were being used Stateside within rock. And in ‘The Metro’ with its frantic motorik drum machine and Teutonic pulses, songwriter John Crawford aimed to capture the tense filmic romance of Paris despite never having visited the city, a vibrant but detached feeling ably projected by partner and singer Terri Nunn in a similar fashion to FATAL CHARM.

Available on the BERLIN album ‘Best Of’ via Geffen Records

http://www.berlinpage.com/


DEPECHE MODE Oberkorn (1982)

Radio Luxembourg broadcasted pop music to the UK using the most powerful privately owned transmitter in the world. But when DEPECHE MODE played the country in early 1982, they were booked to perform in a small town called Oberkorn. With a glorious ambient instrumental on the B-side of the then soon-to-be-released single ‘The Meaning Of Love’ requiring a title, Martin Gore needed no further inspiration, unconsciously capturing the air of the Grand Duchy’s countryside and oceanic climate.

Available on the DEPECHE MODE boxed set ‘DMBX1’ via Columbia Records

http://www.depechemode.com/


THE MOOD Paris Is One Day Away (1982)

Before the days of the Channel Tunnel, young York based New Romantic trio THE MOOD noted the how long it took by boat and train to get to the French capital. ‘Paris Is One Day Away’ was the hit that got away; reaching No. 42, it secured a slot on ‘Top Of The Pops’. However, it was the 1982 World Cup and a match heading into extra time meant that a hasty edit was made. And it was THE MOOD’s performance as the new and unknown act that ended up on the cutting room floor!

Available on THE MOOD album ‘The Singles Collection’ via Cherry Red Records

http://www.themood.info/


RATIONAL YOUTH Saturdays in Silesia (1982)

After ‘Dancing On The Berlin Wall’, RATIONAL YOUTH mainman Tracy Howe turned his attention towards Poland. “What was it like to be young person behind the Iron Curtain? What did they do on a Saturday night anyway?” he told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK, “Did they have clubs to go to? Probably underground ones. They’d probably break down the door. Apart from the fact that there are no ‘navy docks’ in Silesia, this record makes a jolly racket and may well be the first recorded instance of a Roland TR-808.”

Available on the RATIONAL YOUTH album ‘Cold War Night Life’ via EMI Records

https://www.facebook.com/RationalYouth/


IAN ANDERSON Different Germany (1983)

Fascinated by the likes of Thomas Dolby and Gary Numan, JETHRO TULL frontman Ian Anderson went synth in 1983. Assisted by Peter John Vitesse, ‘Different Germany’ embraced both the electronic and progressive sides of Anderson’s career perfectly with a marvellous middle section featuring a bristling keyboard solo. The end result sounded not unsurprisingly like Tull fronting ULTRAVOX; of course, the circle was completed when Midge Ure covered ‘Living In The Past’ in 1985.

Available on the IAN ANDERSON album ‘Walk Into Light’ via EMI Records

http://jethrotull.com/ian-anderson-bio/


THE STRANGLERS European Female (1983)

Born to French parents in Notting Hill, THE STRANGLERS’ bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel was a loyal European, even releasing a 1979 solo album entitled ‘Euroman Cometh’ where “a Europe strong, united and independent is a child of the future”. Taking lead vocals for the beautiful ‘European Female’, it possessed an understated quality with subtle Spanish guitar from Hugh Cornwell alongside Dave Greenfield’s sparkling synths and Jet Black’s electronic percussion to celebrate the allure of continental mystery.

Available on THE STRANGLERS album ‘The Very Best Of’ via EMI Records

http://www.thestranglers.co.uk/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
18th April 2019

Introducing KARIN MY

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK first spotted Swedish songstress Karin My singing with veteran combo TWICE A MAN on their 2015 poignant environmental catastrophe warning ‘High In The Clouds’.

Indeed, her dulcet tones made their ‘Presence’ felt on another pair of TWICE A MAN tracks from the same titled parent album.

Meanwhile she also contributed to two covers ‘The Man in Grey’ and ‘Just A Sound In The Night’ on Cold War Night Life’s ‘Heresy: A Tribute To RATIONAL YOUTH’ compendium in 2016.

But with ‘The Silence’, she releases the first truly great song of 2019. Swathed in beautiful synths and embroiled in that wonderful Nordic melancholy, her gorgeous vocals evoke a forlorn abandonment just as winter sets in and confronts the dilemma of whether to give up…

The eerie snow laden video directed by Millfield cleverly utilises a miniature set and has haunting echoes of ‘Den Lille Pige Med Svovlstikkerne’, the famous short story by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. In it, our heroine embarks on a chilling journey which sadly has no happy ending.

With roots in the folk tradition like Vince Clarke, Karin My composes using an acoustic guitar, a fact exemplified by a 2008 solo single ‘Voice In The Wall’. But with a profound love of LUSTANS LAKEJER, DEPECHE MODE, RATIONAL YOUTH, MESH and KITE, her Korg MS20, Roland Juno 106 and Moog Little Phatty will usually find a way onto her productions.

Also adept at cello, percussion and dance, the multi-talented singer songwriter describes herself as having a “Strong body, weak heart in a constant radiant of love and tears”. ‘The Silence’ is the first of four songs by Karin My which are scheduled for release during the first half of 2019. With her honest heart in quality electronic pop music, she will be an artist to watch in the coming year.


‘The Silence’ is available on most digital platforms via Ad Inexplorata

http://www.karinmy.net/

https://www.instagram.com/karinmymusic/

http://www.explorata.net/

https://www.facebook.com/Ad-Inexplorata-361838160540139/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
16th January 2019

THIRD NOISE PRINCIPLE Formative North American Electronica 1975-1984

‘Third Noise Principle’ is the latest instalment of the ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ compilations and follows the two previous Cherry Red releases, which rather wonderfully rounded up collections of rare, formative and experimental electronic music from both the UK and Europe.

Helpfully described as “Part primitive rave, part synthesiser porn, part history lesson”, this time round sees the location moving across the Atlantic to explore the North American and Canadian electronic music scene.

As with the past two releases the album has well-known artists like SUICIDE, THE RESIDENTS, PHILIP GLASS, MINISTRY, PSYCHE and RATIONAL YOUTH rubbing shoulders with some acts who (for a variety of reasons) didn’t quite gain the same amount of exposure and musical notoriety.

Kickstarting CD1 is short-lived Arizona synth duo TONE SET with ‘The Devil Makes The Loudest Noise’; almost a leftfield lo-fi cousin of LIPPS INC’s ‘Funky Town’ with a sample recording from a religious radio phone-in over some multi-layered synth bass. The second half of the track goes on a more funky excursion of improvised synth and a completely new progression, but the aforementioned sample ties everything together.

‘Creators’ by DATA-BANK-A is an unashamedly Foxx / League-inspired instrumental combining an Oberheim TVS-1 synth, primitive Maestro Rhythm King beatbox and overlaid synth percussion. Wonderfully quirky and melodic, this is certainly one of the gems of CD1 and the guy behind it, Andrew Szava-Kovats, is still recording under the DATA-BANK-A moniker, having released three albums last year on Bandcamp.

Atlanta’s RICHARD BONE is arguably a little better known over this side of the pond, having signed to the UK’s Survival Records; ‘Mambopolis’ is full of sharp as a knife hi-hats and another funky synth bass and vocal which recalls that man Foxx again.

Things start to wind their way down the rabbit hole with ‘Logarithms’ by GEOFFREY LANDERS; full of stop-start Roland CR78 and junkyard percussion, the track seemingly takes its cues from the pioneering work of tape-loop innovators like DELIA DERBYSHIRE with its found-sound overlays.

After working with Brian Eno, Robin Crutchfield formed DARK BOY and their featured track on ‘Third Noise Principle’ is ‘The Metal Benders’; a glorious hybrid of the original ‘Being Boiled’ and ULTRAVOX’s ‘Mr X’, this is another absolute proto-synth gem.

SUICIDE’s ‘Rocket USA’ is one of the better known tracks here; featured on their classic eponymous 1977 album which was recorded in four days, it helped set the template for their sound with Martin Rev’s minimalist electronics, scratchy organ and drum machine attached to Alan Vega’s classic rock ‘n’ roll-inspired vocal delivery.

Of all of the tracks on CD1, CRAIG LEON’s wonderfully titled ‘Donkeys Bearing Cups’ is comfortably the most contemporary sounding one here. Whereas most of the works on this compilation are easily dateable via their drum machine and synth sounds, this one certainly isn’t. It’s the kind of track you could imagine The Quietus going bonkers for if it was released this year by somebody like AUTECHRE or APHEX TWIN; incredibly ahead of its time and another superb find.

The second CD of Third Noise Principle’ is arguably more eclectic. ‘Ange Des Orages’ by PHILIP GLASS (which originally appeared on the 1977 album ‘North Star’) features his signature hypnotic hand-played arpeggios with Farfisa / Yamaha / Hammond organ textures which spiral up and down and get progressively more dense throughout the track.

PATRICK COWLEY (who is best known for his pioneering HI-NRG disco work) features next with one of his earlier more experimental works; ‘Primordial Landscape’ (which was released on the album ‘School Daze’) is an intriguing piece, almost TANGERINE DREAM-like in places, slowly evolving with white noise shot percussion and a clavinet bass part. For those familiar with his later work including his remix of Donna Summer’s seminal ‘I Feel Love’, the musical aesthetic of this piece will come as a quite pleasant surprise!

Mute Records artist NON (which was a collaboration between Boyd Rice and Robert Turman) make an appearance with their track ‘Modes of Infection’; owners of the ‘Mute Audio Documents’ compilation will recognise this piece which takes a four note synth riff and hammers it out for the entirety of the track over a simplistic hi-hat pattern.In terms of production values and melodic content, ‘Oreo Strut’ by MARC BARRECA is head shoulders above most of the pieces on CD2; the synth programming and sequencer work here is certainly ahead of its time. Barreca continues to produce now and has some of his work included in the collection of The British Library.

LAURIE SPIEGEL is now rightly acknowledged as one of the pioneers of female electronic music; ‘Drums’ (which ironically doesn’t actually feature any percussion) is one of the tracks she created using early interactive computer systems. Put together using a Bell Labs GROOVE (“Generating Realtime Operations On Voltage-controlled Equipment”) computer system, which in Spiegel’s words “… was used to make sudden sharp electrical transients, simply the sound of individual bits being turned on and off, which were wired out to pulse high-Q resonant filters”. The end result is a hypnotic, polyrhythmic piece; although lacking in much in the way of melody, ‘Drums’ is a fascinating polyrhythmic work which could be seen as sowing the seeds of the Minimal Techno genre.

The tracks which make up most of CD3 are (depending upon preference) either works of leftfield genius or the kind you’d pigeonhole as CABARET VOLTAIRE-style B-sides or experiments, to be listened to once and then never again. The artists which fall under this category include the pieces by GIRLS ON FIRE, XX COMMITTEE, DOG AS MASTER, CONTROLLED BLEEDING and SMERSH.

Moving onto CD4 and an early highlight is ‘Geomancy’ by JOEL GRAHAM, recorded live on primarily Korg gear including an MS10, MS20, VC10, SQ sequencer and an SH101. Once you get past the slow build minimal 2 minute intro, the track bursts into life with a chordal synth part and what you have is a piece which pre-dates ORBITAL by several years that is brilliant stuff…

’Thirty Years’ by EXECUTIVE SLACKS is another gem, one of the few works on the compilation to feature vocals, this song is almost EBM-like or a combo of DAF with added guitars. In the accompanying album booklet, there is a rather wonderful recounting of some the band’s early live performances, including ones which were more art project than actual gig. This including hosting a cheese and wine house party, putting the refreshments in the corner and then subjecting the audience to a pathway of noise experiments before they got to their food and refreshments.

In terms of the more higher profile artists here, TUXEDOMOON feature with their lo-fi twisted cover of Cole Porter’s ‘Night & Day’ whilst Canadian trailblazers RATIONAL YOUTH are represented with a demo of their KRAFTWERK-inspired ‘Dancing On The Berlin Wall’. The latter’s album ‘Cold War Night Life’ deservedly went onto become one of Canada’s best-selling independent albums of the era with support opening for OMD to follow.

When NASH THE SLASH toured the UK supporting Gary Numan, he was exposed to THE WOMBLES animated kids TV series and wrote ‘Womble’ as a result. Although it is hard to see the connection between the track, which is a dark industrial piece, and the furry animal featuring TV show, NASH THE SLASH remains an underappreciated and influential artist who never really got the acclaim he deserved.

STEVE ROACH’s ‘Worlds’ takes things back to TANGERINE DREAM-style ambience; beautifully produced with interlocking Berlin School style sequencers, this 1983 track has hardly dated one iota. YOUNG SCIENTIST continues on in the same vein with ‘Ice Flow’, a collaboration between artists featured elsewhere on this compilation and channels the sound of TD’s ‘Rubycon’ yet still sounds original…

This sixty track compilation deserves to be held in the same kind of reverence as the ‘Mute Audio Documents’ one; it pulls together a superb mixture of hard to find tracks and more established tracks from the US synth scene and does it exceptionally well.

If you are looking for an album which helps reinforce and define the importance of the US on electronic music, then this is definitely the one.


With thanks to Matt Ingham at Cherry Record Records

‘Third Noise Principle’ is released by Cherry Red Records on 25th January 2019, pre-order from https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/third-noise-principle-formative-north-american-electronica-1975-1984-various-artists-4cd-48pp-bookpack/

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https://twitter.com/CherryRedGroup


Text by Paul Boddy
14th January 2019

2018 End Of Year Review

2018 saw JEAN-MICHEL JARRE celebrate 50 years in the business and whether the world really needed another of his compilations, ‘Planet Jarre’ was probably one of the better collected representations of his work for casual admirers.

But not standing still and releasing his fourth new album in three years, ‘Equinoxe Infinity’ continued the story as the French Maestro tuned 70.

SOFT CELL made a totally unexpected return for a huge one-off farewell gig at London’s O2 Arena; and with it came a boxed set, the ‘Northern Lights’ single and other new recordings which have raised hopes for a new album.

From the same era, FIAT LUX announced plans for their debut album ‘Save Symmetry’ with an excellent lead track ‘It’s You’, while B-MOVIE came up with their most synth-propelled single yet in ‘Stalingrad’.

But one act who actually did comeback with a brand new album in 2018 were DUBSTAR; now a duo of Sarah Blackwood and Chris Wilkie, as ‘One’ they reminded audiences as to why they were the acceptable face of Britpop with their bridge to Synth Britannia.

IONNALEE finally released her debut opus ‘Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten’ and her tour which included choice cuts from IAMAMIWHOAMI, proved to be one of the best value-for-money live experiences in 2018, one that was even endorsed by Welsh songstress Charlotte Church.

CHVRCHES offered up their third album ‘Love Is Dead’ and continued their role as international flagwavers for quality synthpop, while EMIKA presented her best album yet in ‘Falling In Love With Sadness’, an exquisite electronic record with a Bohemian aura.

JOHN GRANT was on an artistic roll both solo and in partnership with WRANGLER as CREEP SHOW with two new albums. However, he was beaten by Neil Arthur who managed three albums over a 12 month period as NEAR FUTURE and BLANCMANGE including ‘Wanderlust’, possibly the latter’s best body of work in its 21st Century incarnation.

It was a busy year for STEVE JANSEN with a new solo ambient work ‘Corridor’, the well-received vinyl reissue of JAPAN’s two Virgin-era studio albums and his epic, more organically flavoured band project EXIT NORTH with their debut long player ‘Book Of Romance & Dust’.

SARAH NIXEY went on some ‘Night Walks’ for her best solo album yet, a wonderful collection of everything she had ever been musically all wonderfully rolled into one.

Meanwhile TRACEY THORN went back to the ‘Dancefloor’ with her ‘Record’ which content wise was right up there with some of ALISON MOYET’s electronica output from the last five years.

Those who liked their electronic music darker were well served with NINE INCH NAILS, IAMX, KIRLIAN CAMERA and HELIX, but after experimenting with the single only format for a few years, Daniel Graves announced he was taking the plunge again with a new AESTHETIC PERFECTION album.

The Sacred Bones stable provided some quality releases from THE SOFT MOON, HILARY WOODS, ZOLA JESUS and JOHN CARPENTER. Meanwhile, providing some fierce socio-political commentary on the state of the UK was GAZELLE TWIN.

Hungary’s BLACK NAIL CABARET offered some noirish ‘Pseudopop’ and promising Norwich youngsters LET’S EAT GRANDMA got more deeply into electronica without losing any of their angsty teenage exuberance on their second album ‘I’m All Ears’.

Less intense and more dreamy were GLASSHOUSE, the new duo fronted by former TECHNIQUE singer Xan Tyler.

Aussies CONFIDENCE MAN provided some wacky dancey glitz to the pop world and after nearly four decades in the business, Canadian trailblazers RATIONAL YOUTH finally played their first ever concert in London at ‘Non Stop Electronic Cabaret’ alongside dark wave compatriots PSYCHE and Numan-influenced Swedish poptronica exponents PAGE.

Sweden was again highly productive with KARIN PARK, JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM, TRAIN TO SPAIN and VAL SOLO while Norway took their own approach with FARAOSOFT AS SNOW and ELECTRO SPECTRE setting their standard. Veteran Deutschlanders THE TWINS and PETER HEPPNER returned with new albums after notable recorded absences while next door in Belgium, METROLAND presented themselves as ‘Men In A Frame’.

While the new HEAVEN 17 album ‘Not For Public Broadcast’ is still to be finished, Glenn Gregory teamed by with live keyboardist Berenice Scott as AFTERHERE. Their long-time friend Claudia Brücken performed as xPROPAGANDA with Susanne Freytag and partnered up with one-time TANGERINE DREAM member Jerome Froese, releasing the ‘Beginn’ album in the process.

It was a year of interesting collaborations all-round with UNDERWORLD working with Iggy Pop, U96 linking up with Wolfgang Flür for an excellent single called ‘Zukunftsmusik’ and German techno pioneer CHRIS LIEBING recruiting POLLY SCATTERGOOD and GARY NUMAN for his Mute released album ‘Burn Slow’.

Based in Berlin, THE KVB offered up some brooding gothic moods with ‘Only Now Forever’ while Valerie Renay of NOBLESSE OBLIGE released her first solo album ‘Your Own Shadow’.

Highly appealing were a number of quirky Japanese influenced female artists from around the globe including COMPUTER MAGIC, MECHA MAIKO and PLASMIC. But there were also a number of acts with Far Eastern heritage like STOLEN, FIFI RONG, DISQO VOLANTE and SHOOK who continued to make a worthy impression with their recorded output in 2018.

Heavy synth rock duo NIGHT CLUB presented their ‘Scary World’ on the back of tours opening for COMBICHRIST and A PERFECT CIRCLE while also from across the pond, NYXX and SINOSA both showcased their alluring potential.

At the poppier end of the spectrum, Holger Wobker used Pledge Music to relaunch BOYTRONIC with their most recent vocal incumbent James Knights in an unexpected twist to once again prove the old adage to “never say never” as far as the music industry is concerned.

Meanwhile, Chris Payne co-wrote and co-produced the excellent ‘Walking In West Berlin’ EP with KATJA VON KASSEL while also revealing plans for an autobiography and opening for his old boss…

The surprise album of the year was CHRIS CARTER with his ‘Chemistry Lessons Volume One’ while using a not dissimilar concept with their second album ‘Hello Science’, REED & CAROLINE took their folk laden synthpop out on a US tour opening for ERASURE.

IMMERSION provided a new collection of their modern Motorik as SHRIEKBACK, FISCHERSPOONER, THE PRESETS, HEARTBREAK and QUEEN OF HEARTS all made comebacks of varying degrees with audiences still eager for their work.

STEVEN JONES & LOGAN SKY harked back to the days when GARY NUMAN and OMD would release two albums in one year by offering ‘Hans Und Lieselotte’ and ‘The Electric Eye’ in 2016. Those veteran acts themselves celebrated their 40th anniversaries by going orchestral, something which SIMPLE MINDS also did when they opted to re-record ‘Alive & Kicking’ for the ’80s Symphonic’ collection although Jim Kerr forgot how a third of the song went!

With SIMPLE MINDS also performing a horrible and barely recognisable ‘Promised You A Miracle’ during BBC’s ‘The Biggest Weekend’, making up for the live joke that his former band have become was one-time bassist Derek Forbes with the album ‘Broken Hearted City’ as ZANTi with Anni Hogan of MARC & THE MAMBAS fame.

Other former members of high-profile bands were busy too with Ian Burden, formally of THE HUMAN LEAGUE returning with the Floydian ‘Hey Hey Ho Hum’ while A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS reformed briefly for an orchestral re-run of their catalogue.

With the release of their second album ‘Kinetik’, EKKOES handed over THE HUMAN LEAGUE support baton to SHELTER who came up with their best body of work yet in the more introspective shades of ‘Soar’

That darker approach manifested itself on singer Mark Bebb’s side project FORM with Keith Trigwell of SPEAK & SPELL whose debut long player ‘defiance + entropy’ also came out in 2018.

Having been championed by RÖYSKSOPP, Wales’ MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY returned with ‘Infinity Mirror’ while riding on the well-deserved momentum from opening for OMD, Ireland’s TINY MAGNETIC PETS embarked on their first headlining tour.

Representing North of the border were RYAN VAIL and HANNAH PEEL, but hailing from Scotland were WITCH OF THE VALE who proved to be one of the most interesting new acts of 2018 having supported ASSEMBLAGE 23 on their most recent UK visit. There was a good showing from UK acts in 2018 with RODNEY CROMWELL, ANI GLASS, THE FRIXION, OLLIE WRIDE and FAKE TEAK all issuing some excellent synth tinged songs for public consumption.

NINA’s long awaited debut album ‘Sleepwalking’ was a fine hybrid of synthpop and the currently fashionable Synthwave aesthetic; her live double billing with Canadian synthpopsters PARALLELS was one of the hottest tickets of the year.

The sub-genre was indeed making waves and there were some very enjoyable artists coming out of it like GUNSHIP, DANA JEAN PHOENIX and MICHAEL OAKLEY.

However, the endless AOR excesses, moonlight sax breaks and highly unimaginative band monikers using numbers between 80 to 89 affixed to an archaic technology reference, illustrated by yet another neon sunset, VCR grid and Lamborghini, were becoming tiresome.

As Synthwave cynics, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s touch paper was being lit big time! The whole point of the synthesizer’s role during the Second British Invasion of the US was to fight against the insipid overtures of AOR like TOTO, CHICAGO and JOURNEY, NOT to make music coated with its horrid stench as THE MIDNIGHT did in 2018 with their long player ‘Kids’.

But there was naivety within some quarters too; electronic music did not begin in 2011 with ‘Drive’, an above average film with a good if slightly over rated soundtrack. However, its cultural influence has led to a plethora of meandering tracks made by gamer boys which sounded like someone had forgotten to sing on them; perhaps they should have gone back to 1978 and listened to GIORGIO MORODER’s ‘Midnight Express Theme’ to find out how this type of instrumental music should be done?

Many of the newer artists influenced by Synth Britannia that ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has featured have sometimes been accused of being stuck in the past, but a fair number of Synthwave acts were really taking the soggy biscuit with their retro-obsession.

Rock band MUSE’s use of glowing artwork by Kyle Lambert of ‘Stranger Things’ fame on their eighth album ‘Simulation Theory’ sent sections of the Synthwave community into meltdown. There were cries that they had “stolen the aesthetics and concept” and how “it’s not relevant to their sound”!

But WHAM! had Peter Saville designed sleeves and never sounded like NEW ORDER or OMD, while electropop diva LA ROUX used a visual stylisation for ‘In For The Kill’ that has since been claimed by Synthwavers as their own, despite it being from 2009 when Ryan Gosling was peddling graveyard indie rock in DEAD MAN’S BONES 😉

This was one of the bigger ironies of 2018, especially as MUSE have always used synths! One of Matt Bellamy and co’s biggest musical inspirations is ULTRAVOX, indicating the trio probably have a better understanding of the fusion between the synthesizer, rock and classical music, as proven by the ‘Simulation Theory’ bookends ‘Algorithm’ and ‘The Void’, than any static laptop exponent with a Jan Hammer fixation.

It is interesting to note today how electronic music has split into so many factions, but there’s still the assumed generalisation that it is all one thing and that synthpop fans must also like Synthwave, Deep House, EDM, Industrial and those tedious beach chill-out remixes.

Back in the day and even now, some fans of THE HUMAN LEAGUE didn’t like OMD, DEPECHE MODE fans only liked DEPECHE MODE and rock fans had a token favourite electronic band.

Out of all the acts from the Synth Britannia era, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK had very little time for THOMPSON TWINS despite their huge international success, but their leader Tom Bailey’s 2018 solo recorded return ‘Science Fiction’ was warmly received by many.

Just as COLDPLAY and SNOW PATROL fans don’t all embrace ELBOW, it is ok to have preferences and to say so. Not liking the music of an artist does not make you a bad person, but liking everything does not make you a better person either… in fact, it shows you probably have no discerning taste! In 2002, SOFT CELL warned of a ‘Monoculture’, and if there is no taste differentiation in art and music, it will spell the end of cultural enhancement.

Taste is always the key, but then not everyone who loves chocolate likes Hersheys… and with that analogy, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK bids farewell to 2018 and looks forward to a 2019 that includes the return of TEARS FOR FEARS and the first full live shows from GIORGIO MORODER, plus new releases by VILE ELECTRODESKITE, VILLA NAH, I AM SNOW ANGEL and LADYTRON.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK Contributor Listings of 2018

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY Infinity Mirror
Best Song: MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY Lafayette
Best Gig: TANGERINE DREAM at London Union Chapel
Best Video: THE SOFT MOON Give Something
Most Promising New Act: VOX LOW


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: BLANCMANGE Wanderlust
Best Song: ELECTRO SPECTRE The Way You Love
Best Gig: OMD at Glasgow Kelvingrove Park
Best Video: NYXX Voodoo
Most Promising New Act: WITCH OF THE VALE


SIMON HELM

Best Album: DUBSTAR One
Best Song: PAGE Start (Poptronica Version)
Best Gig: DIE KRUPPS + FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY at O2 Academy Islington
Best Video: FIFI RONG Horizon
Most Promising New Act: ZANTi


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: EMIKA Falling In Love With Sadness
Best Song: FIAT LUX It’s You
Best Gig: SOFT CELL at London O2 Arena
Best Video: FAKE TEAK Bears Always Party The Exact Right Amount
Most Promising New Act: WITCH OF THE VALE


MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL

Best Album: GUNSHIP Dark All Day
Best Song: SHELTER Karma
Best Gig: IAMX at London Electric Ballroom
Best Video: JUNO REACTOR Let’s Turn On
Most Promising New Act: MECHA MAIKO


Text by Chi Ming Lai
8th December 2018

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