Tag: Richard Barbieri (Page 2 of 4)

25 ALBUM VERSIONS THAT ARE BETTER THAN THE SINGLE VERSIONS

As long as there has been a music business, artists and producers have been tinkering with their work.

While often, it’s the single version made for mass consumption through radio play that remains superior and best loved, there are occasions when the album take reigns supreme due to the freedom to work on a larger easel without commericial considerations or radio play constrictions.

Often there’s a track that is the obvious standout on the long player, but sometimes it can be of a structure that is considered too long for peak time radio where instant gratification is the key. On other occasions, the vision of the track for album consumption is reconsidered following an earlier short form release produced on a more limited budget.

So as a companion list to the earlier 25 Single Versions That Are Better Than The Album Versions listings feature and restricted to one track per artist, here are 25 Album Versions That Are Better Than The Single Versions presented in chronological and then alphabetical order…


GIORGIO From Here To Eternity (1977)

Despite being a hit single, ‘From Here To Eternity’ was actually something of a disjointed disco medley, throwing in a section of the album track ‘Utopia – Me Giorgio’ halfway through. The full six minute ‘From Here To Eternity’ from the long player of the same name was a futuristic slice of electronic dance perfection, with Giorgio Moroder steadily building on his throbbing synth backbone and layers of vocoder punctuated by the steady beats of drummer Keith Forsey.

Available on the GIORGIO album ‘From Here To Eternity’ via Repertoire Records

https://www.giorgiomoroder.com/


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Being Boiled (1980)

The original Fast Product single version of ‘Being Boiled’ from 1978 had its own charm, recorded as mono demo which was subsequently released. However, having signed to Virgin Records and with a budget behind them, Messrs Marsh, Oakey and Ware took the opportunity to update their calling card with producer John Leckie for the ‘Travelogue’ album to more fully realise its funky overtones inspired by FUNKADELIC. The end result was fuller and more dynamic.

Available on THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘Travelogue’ via Virgin Records

http://www.thehumanleague.co.uk/


JAPAN Nightporter (1980)

‘Ghosts’ had been an unexpected singles success for JAPAN in 1982 and Virgin Records wanted more of the same with ‘Nightporter’, despite it being already two years old and with the previously unreleased song ‘Some Kind Of Fool’ in the vaults. Trimming the solemn seven minute ivory laden Satie homage was always going to be difficult and the horrific radio edit butchered out the lengthy if vital instrumental climax of melancholic Oberheim OBX strings. Less really does mean less…

Available on the JAPAN album ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’ via Virgin Records

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


SIMPLE MINDS I Travel (1980)

The album version of ‘I Travel’ was only four minutes in the first place, yet original label Arista Records felt the need to chop the track on both single edits it released and neuter its impact. SIMPLE MINDS never fully realised their potential until they signed to Virgin Records and ‘I Travel’ heralded a futuristic art rock phase where the band’s Germanic influences, coupled to synthesized disco aesthetics of Giorgio Moroder, found favour at clubs like The Blitz.

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

https://www.simpleminds.com/


KRAFTWERK Computer Love (1981)

Whether ‘Autobahn’, ‘Radio-Activity’, ‘Showroom Dummies’, ‘Trans-Europe Express’, ‘Neon Lights’ or ‘The Robots’, the sheer average length of a KRAFTWERK track made them difficult to apply to the single format and ‘Computer Love’ was no different. A beautifully melodic piece that predicted internet dating and stretched to just under seven minutes with its glorious second half synth solo in its album version, it was like the reel of the film was missing in its edited form.

Available on the KRAFTWERK album ‘Computer World’ via EMI Records

http://www.kraftwerk.com/


BLANCMANGE Waves (1982)

A UK Top 20 single for BLANCMANGE in 1983, ‘Waves’ was remixed and given an orchestral treatment arranged by Linton Naiff, but it strangely detracted from the bare emotion of the song. Sounding like Scott Walker fronting OMD, with a more basic synthesized construction and a sombre detuned brass line allowed to breathe at the song’s conclusion, the album version sans orchestra was much better. However, the original cut has yet to be reinstated on reissues of the parent long player ‘Happy Families’.

Available on the BLANCMANGE album ‘The Very Best Of’ via Music Club Deluxe

http://www.blancmange.co.uk/


DAF Kebab Träume (1982)

Originally recorded for a 1980 single on Mute Records in more of a band format featuring guitar and hand-played synths, ‘Kebab Träume’ was subsequently reworked by DAF in a more superior fashion under the production supervision of the legendary Conny Plank for their third and final Virgin-era long player ‘Für Immer’. Transforming into something much heavier, the memorable if controversial line “Deutschland, Deutschland, alles ist vorbei!” had more bite on this album version also issued as a single.

Available on the DAF album ‘Für Immer’ via Grönland Records

https://www.groenland.com/en/artist/deutsch-amerikanische-freundschaft/


LUSTANS LAKEJER Läppar Tiger, Ögon Talar (1982)

Sweden’s LUSTANS LAKEJER came to international attention when their third long player ‘En Plats I Solen’ was produced by Richard Barbieri of JAPAN. With its synthesized atmospheres and art funk aspirations not that far off DURAN DURAN, ‘Läppar Tiger, Ögon Talar’ was one of the album’s highlights. But for the later single version produced by Kai Erixon, the band opted for a more laid back swing arrangement punctuated by a brass section, which frankly was not as good as the original.

Available on the LUSTANS LAKEJER album ‘En Plats I Solen’ via Universal Music

https://www.facebook.com/LustansLakejer/


GARY NUMAN We Take Mystery (1982)

The single version of ‘We Take Mystery’ which was Gary Numan’s last UK Top 10 hit was too short and the extended 12 inch version was too long, which left the album version from ‘I, Assassin’ as the best take of the song. With its crashing Linn Drum snap and fretless bass with live percussion syncopating on top, this was a dancefloor friendly excursion which concluded with a marvellous additional rhythm guitar breakdown from fretless bassist Pino Palladino.

Available on the GARY NUMAN album ‘I, Assassin’ via Beggars Banquet

https://garynuman.com/


VISAGE The Anvil (1982)

Remixed by John Luongo for single release, ‘The Anvil’ ended up as a B-side but while the sound of metal-on-metal was added, it somehow had less presence than the original album version. Possessing far Teutonic tension with some superb guitar work from Midge Ure, metronomic drumming courtesy of Rusty Egan minus his hi-hats, Dave Formula’s superb screaming ARP Odyssey complimented Steve Strange’s tale of debauchery for one of the best ever VISAGE tracks.

Available on the VISAGE album ‘The Anvil’ via Cherry Pop

https://www.discogs.com/artist/3479-Visage


JOHN FOXX Endlessy (1983)

By 1982, John Foxx has rediscovered his love of early PINK FLOYD, THE BEATLES and psychedelia which manifested itself in ‘Endlessy’. Based around a tom heavy Linn Drum programme, deep cello samples and sitars, it was an interesting if messy experimental romp. Come his third album ‘The Golden Section’ recorded under the helm of producer Zeus B Held, the new version, also released as a revisionist single, was much more focussed with an accessible uptempo electronic euphoria.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘The Golden Section’ via Edsel Records

http://www.metamatic.com/


HEAVEN 17 And That’s No Lie (1984)

A sub-ten minute progressive epic was never going to work as an edited single and with ‘And That’s No Lie’, that’s exactly what happened. The original album version was HEAVEN 17’s ambitious adventure in sound and fusion that threw in everything from abstract sonic experiments, jazz piano, Fairlight samples, the gospel voices of ARFRODIZIAK and an orchestra, plus some excellent live bass and guitar work from John Wilson and Ray Russell respectively.

Available on the HEAVEN 17 album ‘How Men Are’ via Virgin Records

https://www.heaven17.com/


ARCADIA The Flame (1985)

ARCADIA was Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor’s attempt to be JAPAN during the DURAN DURAN artistic hiatus, but many of the songs from the short-lived side project were smothered in a pond of self-indulgence. One of the highlights though was ‘The Flame’, basically ‘A View To A Kill Part 2’. However for its single release, a neo-acapella intro was applied rather than the frantic percussive beginning of the album version which robbed the song of its tension and impact.

Available on the ARCADIA album ‘So Red The Rose’ via EMI Records

http://www.duranduran.com/


DEAD OR ALIVE My Heart Goes Bang (1985)

Having got DIVINE into the UK charts, Stock Aitken & Waterman gave the same treatment to DEAD OR ALIVE, scoring a No1 with ‘You Spin Me Round’. The resultant album ‘Youthquake’ had a number of excellent tracks including ‘My Heart Goes Bang’ which was ripe single material. But the single remix by regular PWL associate Phil Harding was horrible, throwing in the kitchen sink with voice cut-ups and an overdriven rhythm section which drowned out any merits the song originally had.

Available on the DEAD OR ALIVE album ‘Youthquake’ via Sony Music

https://www.discogs.com/artist/46720-Dead-Or-Alive


NEW ORDER Bizarre Love Triangle (1986)

Inspired by a News Of The World headline, ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ is one of the best loved NEW ORDER tunes. The rugged self-produced original version that appeared on the ‘Brotherhood’ album was a glorious electronic number with a slight mechanical offbeat and space for Hooky’s distinctive bass. But the version released for 45 RPM consumption was a frustrating, four-to-the-floor remix by Shep Pettibone which took all the character out of the song with a barrage of overdriven percussive samples.

Available on the NEW ORDER album ‘Brotherhood’ via Warner Music

http://www.neworder.com/


TALK TALK Living In Another World (1986)

Although ‘Living In Another World’ was the best song on ‘The Colour Of Spring’, it was always going to be a tall order to successfully cut its seven minutes in half for single consumption! A fine progressive combination of synthetic strings, piano, Hammond organ, hypnotic bass, acoustic and electric guitars, percolating percussion and harmonica, the TALK TALK sound would have been nothing however without the anguished vocals of Mark Hollis and the production skills of Tim Friese-Greene.

Available on the TALK TALK album ‘The Colour Of Spring’ via EMI Records

https://www.facebook.com/Talk-Talk-Mark-Hollis-12307963901/


CAMOUFLAGE The Great Commandment (1988)

German trio CAMOUFLAGE had a hit with ‘The Great Commandment’ all over the world including the US, with only Britain remaining ambivalent to their industrial flavoured synthpop. As with many singles of the period, it clocked in at just over three minutes but sounded rushed. Come the debut album ’Voices & Images’ and ‘The Great Commandment’ was more fully realised, allowing space to prevail in the one of the best DEPECHE MODE tracks that the Basildon boys never recorded.

Available on the CAMOUFLAGE album ‘Voices & Images’ via Metronome Music

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


THE BLUE NILE Headlights On The Parade (1989)

Enigmatic Glaswegian trio THE BLUE NILE were never an easy sell to the wider marketplace and the Bob Clearmountain single remix of ‘Headlights On The Parade’ was hopeless, with over a third of the emotively atmospheric number absent for the sake of radio play. The centrepiece of the brilliant ‘Hats’ album, its haunting piano, swaths of synths and a collage of modulated sequences needed a full six minutes to truly convey its solemn drive and rainy cinematic melodrama.

Available on THE BLUE NILE album ‘Hats’ via Epstein Records

http://www.thebluenile.org/


THE GRID Floatation (1990)

Subsonically remixed by Andrew Weatherall with a distinct chilled-out flavour and an additional vocal from Sacha Souter for single release, the brilliant album version of ‘Floatation’ had a more rigid KRAFTWERK feel echoing elements of ‘Tour De France’. And as the track drew towards the home straight, Julian Stringle’s clarinet brought to mind the aesthetics of Dave Ball’s previous residency in SOFT CELL. But while those woodwind textures were present in the single, they were less effective overall.

Available on THE GRID album ‘Electric Head’ via Cherry Red Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/5081-The-Grid


PET SHOP BOYS Being Boring (1990)

Partly inspired by a quote about Zelda Fitzgerald, novelist and wife of author F Scott Fitzgerald which stated “she refused to be bored chiefly because she wasn’t boring”, ‘Being Boring’ is one of PET SHOP BOYS’ best songs, reflecting on Neil Tennant’s youth and the loss of a friend who died of AIDS. While the single itself was almost five minutes long, the superior album version featured a fabulous intro that steadily built with a lilting synth bassline and wah-wah guitar that made the most of the song’s elegiac aura.

Available on the PET SHOP BOYS album ‘Behaviour’ via EMI Records

http://petshopboys.co.uk/


DEPECHE MODE In Your Room (1993)

A tedious rockist statement by DEPECHE MODE when reworked by Butch Vig for single release, the lengthy original album version of ‘In Your Room’ was widescreen magnificence with a tense percussive drive courtesy of Alan Wilder who only played what was needed, adding a second simplistic drum passage in the final half for extra weight. A fine example of how feel is more important technique, current DM drumhead Christian Eigner managed to mess up his opportunity to shine on this during the ‘Global Spirit’ tour.

Available on the DEPECHE MODE album ‘Songs Of Faith & Devotion’ via Sony Music

http://www.depechemode.com/


LADYTRON Evil (2003)

The second LADYTRON album ‘Light & Magic’ is probably best known for its lead single ‘Seventeen’, but opening its second half was the brilliantly propulsive ‘Evil’. An obvious single, when remixed by noted dance producer Ewan Pearson, it was filled out with extra string synths and made more contemporary. The track lost its appealing spatial dynamics and grunt while the way in which the vocals of Helen Marnie were mixed more than muted her charm.

Available on the LADYTRON album ‘Light & Magic’ via Nettwerk productions

http://www.ladytron.com/


ARTHUR & MARTHA Autovia (2009)

ARTHUR & MARTHA were Adam Cresswell and Alice Hubley; their debut single ‘Autovia’ was the first release on Happy Robots Records in 2008 but when it came to recording the album ‘Navigation’, the incessant Doctor Rhythm drum machine was given a more hypnotic Motorik makeover which ironically gave the track more drive. Meanwhile, there was an extended end section which allowed for some cosmic Theremin and synth wig-outs between the pair not unlike STEREOLAB meeting NEU!

Available on the ARTHUR & MARTHA album ‘Navigation’ via Happy Robots Records

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


MESH Adjust Your Set (2013)

From MESH’s best album ‘Automation Baby’, the wonderfully metronomic ‘Adjust Your Set’ with its personal relationship commentary in a technology dominated world was one of its many highlights. Given a more orchestrated remix by Nico Wieditz for the MaBose Radio-Edit with a much busier electronic bassline along the lines of ‘Enjoy The Silence’, while this single version had more obvious presence, it lacked the eerie cinematic Morricone-esque air of the album original.

Available on the MESH album ‘Automation Baby’ via Dependent Records

http://www.mesh.co.uk/


GOLDFRAPP Ocean (2017)

‘Ocean’ was already dramatic perfection as the best track on the seventh GOLDFRAPP album ‘Silver Eye’, but for the single version, it was felt a contribution from a former member of the Mute family was needed. While Devotees were wetting themselves over Dave Gahan appearing on a more obviously electronic sounding track again, his faux bluesy drawl was something of a mismatch next to the breathy angelic tones of Alison Goldfrapp. Gahan may be from Essex but he is certainly no Alison Moyet.

Available on the GOLDFRAPP album ‘Silver Eye’ via Mute Artists

https://www.goldfrapp.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
2nd January 2019, updated 5th December 2022

The Electronic Legacy of AMBIENT

Ambient electronic music is a much misunderstood genre.

One is not talking about Jean-Michel Jarre or Vangelis who are far too comparatively lively to be truly considered ambient. And it is not ‘chill out’ that’s being talked about either, which seems to lump in any form of dance music that is under 112 beats per minute.

Modern ambient probably came to prominence with Brian Eno. While lying in a hospital room after a car accident in 1975, a friend visited him and put on a LP of harp music. However the volume had been set at an extremely low level and one of the stereo channels had failed. Unable to move to adjust this, Eno had a new way of listening to music forced onto him.

In recalling this story for the sleeve notes of his ‘Discreet Music’ album, Eno said the music now became “part of the ambience of the environment just as the colour of the light and the sound of rain were parts of the ambience.”

Eno may not have been the inventor of ambient, but he was almost certainly was its midwife. With its lengthy gradual processes and unpredictable changes, ambient can be listened to and yet ignored. Going against the Western tradition of music where vocals, melody and rhythm are essential components, ambient music is designed to accommodate many levels of listening without enforcing one in particular.

One of the other beauties of ambient music is that the pieces are often so progressive that it becomes quite difficult to remember individual sections. Therefore on repeated plays, the music can still sound fresh and rewarding. It was an approach that fascinated many and while they may not have released whole works, artists such as THE HUMAN LEAGUE, OMD, BLANCMANGE and RADIOHEAD recorded ambient pieces for album tracks or B-sides.

Comments about ambient music being “boring” are missing the point, because at points of the day where the state of near sleep looms, music with no vocals, no rhythms and not too much energetic melody is perfect.

Restricted to one album per moniker or collaborative partnership, here are the twenty long players presented in chronological and then alphabetical order which form The Electronic Legacy of Ambient. Acting as a straightforward introduction to the genre, it refers to many artists whose comparatively mainstream works may already be familiar.


KLAUS SCHULZE Timewind (1974)

‘Timewind’ was Klaus Schulze’s first solo album to use a sequencer, evolving as a longer variation on his former band’s ‘Phaedra’. Referencing 19th century composer Richard Wagner, Schulze transposed and manipulated the sequences in real time, providing shimmering and kaleidoscopic washes of electronic sound using the EMS Synthi A, ARP 2600, ARP Odyssey, Elka string machine and Farfisa organ.

‘Timewind’ is available via Mig Music

https://www.klaus-schulze.com


TANGERINE DREAM Phaedra (1974)

‘Phaedra’ saw TANGERINE DREAM using sequencers for the first time. Featuring the classic line-up of Edgar Froese, Peter Baumann and Chris Franke, the hypnotic noodles of EMS VCS3s and Moogs dominated while Mellotrons sounding like orchestras trapped inside a transistor radio. Organic lines and flute added to trancey impressionism.

‘Phaedra’ is available via Virgin Records

http://www.tangerinedream.org/


CLUSTER Sowiesoso (1976)

The late Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius were CLUSTER. Their fourth album ‘Sowiesoso’ was CLUSTER’s first fully realised exploration into ambient electronics. With gentle melodic phrasing and unimposing rhythmical patterns, the title track was a wonderfully hypnotic adventure that welcomed the listener into the soothing world of the longer player’s remaining aural delights.

‘Sowiesoso’ is available via Bureau B

http://www.roedelius.com/


ASHRA New Age Of Earth (1977)

As ASHRA, Manuel Göttsching was looking to visit synthesized climes and explored more progressive voxless territory armed with an Eko Rhythm Computer, ARP Odyssey and  his signature keyboard sound, a Farfisa Synthorchestra. An exponent of the more transient solo guitar style, this template was particularly evident on ‘New Age Of Earth’, a beautiful treasure trove of an album.

‘New Age Of Earth’ is available via Virgin Records

http://www.ashra.com/


STEVE HILLAGE Rainbow Dome Musick (1979)

Steve Hillage had a love of German experimental music and ventured into ambient with long standing partner Miquette Giraudy. Recorded for the Rainbow Dome at the Festival for Mind-Body-Spirit at Olympia, these two lengthy Moog and ARP assisted tracks each had a beautifully spacey quality to induce total relaxation with a colourful sound spectrum.

‘Rainbow Dome Musick’ is available via Virgin Records

https://twitter.com/stevehillage


HAROLD BUDD & BRIAN ENO The Plateaux Of Mirror (1980)

Mostly piano-oriented, its backdrop of shimmering synthesizer and tape loops of voices was conceived wth Harold  Budd improvising while Eno would occasionally add something. But his producer tact was to step back if nothing extra was needed. ‘The Plateaux Of Mirror’ was a lovely work with resonating ivories of the acoustic and electric variety. A second collaboration came with ‘The Pearl’ in 1984.

‘The Plateaux Of Mirror’ is available via Virgin / EMI Records

https://www.haroldbudd.com


BRIAN ENO Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks (1983)

A soundtrack to a documentary film about the Apollo Missions that reacted against the uptempo manner of space travel presented by news reels of the day with fast cuts and speeded up images, Eno wanted to convey the feelings of space travel and weightlessness. Although based around Eno’s Yamaha DX7, the album was quite varied instrumentally, featuring his brother Roger and Daniel Lanois.

‘Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks’ is available via Virgin / EMI Records

http://www.brian-eno.net


ROGER ENO Voices (1985)

The debut album from the younger Eno, ‘Voices’ captured a sustained mood of dreamy soundscapes and aural clusters with its beautiful piano template strongly reminiscent of Harold Budd’s work with brother Brian, who was also involved on this record via various electronic treatments although it was actually Daniel Lanois who produced.

‘Voices’ is available via Virgin / EMI Records

http://www.rogereno.com


DAVID SYLVIAN & HOLGER CZUKAY Plight & Premonition / Flux & Mutability (1988 – 1989)

Following his ‘Gone To Earth’ bonus album of instrumentals, David Sylvian found a willing conspirator in Holger Czukay who had developed several unconventional compositional techniques using devices such as short wave radios and Dictaphones. Through a series of improvisations, the duo came up with two companion long players that conveyed a sinister yet tranquil quality drifting along in complex spirals.

‘Plight & Premonition / Flux & Mutability’ is available via Grönland Records

http://www.davidsylvian.com/

http://www.czukay.de/


HAROLD BUDD The White Arcades (1992)

Unlike the comparatively optimistic air of his work with Eno, Harold Budd’s solo journeys often conveyed a more melancholic density, probably best represented by the haunting immersive atmospheres of ‘The White Arcades’. An elegiac combination of shimmering synthesizers and sporadic piano  provided an austere depth that was both ghostly and otherworldly.

‘The White Arcades’ is available via Opal Productions

https://www.facebook.com/music.of.harold.budd/


STEVE JANSEN & RICHARD BARBIERI Other Worlds In A Small Room (1996)

With ‘Other Worlds In A Small Room’, Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri created an atmospheric trio of electronic instrumentals that they considered “Ambient in the traditional sense”. There was an appendix of four suitably complimentary tracks from their 1984 album ‘Worlds In A Small Room’ had originally been commissioned by JVC to accompany a documentary about the Space Shuttle Challenger.

‘Other Worlds In A Small Room’ is available via https://jansenbarbieri.bandcamp.com/releases

http://www.stevejansen.com/

http://www.kscopemusic.com/artists/richard-barbieri/


VINCENT CLARKE & MARTYN WARE Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle (2000)

‘Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle’ was composed by Vince Clarke and Martyn Ware as part of an Illustrious art installation at The Roundhouse in a circular, white clothed room where the colours referred to in the titles of the six lengthy pieces were “programmed to cross fade imperceptibly to create an infinite variation of hue”. Using binaural 3D mixing, the CD booklet said “This album is intended to promote profound relaxation”.

‘Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle’ is available via Mute Records

http://www.illustriouscompany.co.uk/


WILLIAM ORBIT Pieces In A Modern Style (2000)

Trance enthusiasts who loved Ferry Corsten’s blinding remix of Samuel Barber’s ‘Adagio For Strings’ will have been shockedby this virtually beatless parent long player. Orbit’s concept of adapting classical works was that he wanted to make a chill-out album that had some good tunes. A collection featuring lovely electronic versions of Beethoven’s ‘Triple Concerto’ and John Cage’s ‘In A Landscape’ could not miss.

‘Pieces In A Modern Style’ is available via WEA Records

http://www.williamorbit.com


ALVA NOTO & RYUICHI SAKAMOTO ‎Vrioon (2002)

Alva Noto is a German experimental artist based in Berlin and ‘Vrioon’ was his first collaborative adventure with YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA trailblazer Ryuichi Sakamoto. A beautiful union of piano, synth shimmers and subtle glitch electronics proved to be an unexpectedly soothing and  meditative experience that was gloriously minimal over six starkly constructed mood pieces.

‘Vrioon’ is available via Raster-Noton ‎

http://www.alvanoto.com/

http://www.sitesakamoto.com/


MOBY Hotel: Ambient (2005)

Originallypart of the 2CD version of ‘Hotel’ in 2005, Moby couldn’t find his copy and decided on an expanded re-release. Inspired by the nature of hotels, where humans spend often significant portions of their lives but have all traces of their tenancy removed for the next guests, the emotive ‘Homeward Angel’ and the solemn presence of ‘The Come Down’ were worth the purchase price alone.

‘Hotel: Ambient’ is available via Mute Records

http://moby.com


ROBIN GUTHRIE & HAROLD BUDD After the Night Falls / Before The Day Breaks (2007)

Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd first collaborated on ‘The Moon & The Melodies’ album along with the other COCTEAU TWINS. These were beautiful experiments in duality but it would be unfair to separate these Siamese twins. Serene, relaxing, abstract and distant, Guthrie’s textural guitar and Budd’s signature piano were swathed in drifting synths and treatments that complimented each album’s titles.

‘After The Night Falls’ and ‘Before The Day Breaks’ are available via Darla Records

http://www.robinguthrie.com


JOHN FOXX & HAROLD BUDD Nighthawks / Translucence / Drift Music (2003 – 2011)

A sumptuous trilogy featuring two artists who had both worked with Brian Eno. ‘Nighthawks’ was John Foxx and Harold Budd’s collaboration with the late minimalist composer Ruben Garcia and a soothing tranquil nocturnal work with tinkling ivories melting into the subtle layered soundscape. The earlier ‘Translucence’ was a close relative, partnered with the more subdued ‘Drift Music’.

‘Nighthawks’ and ‘Translucence / Drift Music’ are available via Metamatic Records

https://www.facebook.com/johnfoxxmetamatic/


JOHN FOXX London Overgrown (2015)

‘London Overgrown’ was John Foxx’s first wholly solo ambient release since the ‘Cathedral Oceans’ trilogy. The conceptual opus was a glorious ethereal synthesizer soundtrack, smothered in a haze of aural sculptures and blurred soundscapes. With ‘The Beautiful Ghost’, as with William Orbit’s take on ‘Opus 132’ from ‘Pieces In A Modern Style’, this was Beethoven reimagined for the 23rd Century.

‘London Overgrown’ is available via Metamatic Records

http://www.metamatic.com


STEVE JANSEN The Extinct Suite (2017)

“I like the effects of calm and dissonance and subtle change” said Steve Jansen; not a remix album as such, the more ambient and orchestral elements of ‘Tender Extinction’ were segued and reinterpreted with new sections to create a beautiful hour long structured ambient record. A gentle blend of electronic and acoustic instrumentation, ‘The Extinct Suite’ exuded a wonderful quality equal to Eno or Budd.

‘The Extinct Suite’ is available via https://stevejansen.bandcamp.com/album/the-extinct-suite-2

http://www.stevejansen.com/


PAUL STATHAM Asylum (2017)

B-MOVIE guitarist and pop tunesmith Paul Statham began his experimental music account with ‘Ephemeral’ and ‘Installation Music 1’. ‘Asylum’ was a more ambitious proposition and featured in an audio visual installation created with painter Jonathan McCree.. The eight compositions together exuded a cinematic, ethereal quality with some darker auras and an eerie sound.

‘Asylum’ is available via https://paulstatham.bandcamp.com/album/asylum

http://paulstathammusic.com


Text by Chi Ming Lai
22nd August 2018

Sons Of Pioneers: The Legacy of JAPAN

Photo by Nicola Tyson

Although their recorded output covered just five albums over a four year period, JAPAN are one of the most acclaimed bands from the flaboyant and colourful era which many came to know as New Romantic.

JAPAN’s final two studio albums ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’ and ‘Tin Drum’ are being reissued as Abbey Road Half-Speed mastered 2LP gatefold vinyl editions with two tracks per side, running at 45RPM to maximise audio quality. Along with the pair’s predecessor ‘Quiet Life’, they formed the Holy Trinity of JAPAN records on which the band’s reputation was based.

The fact that Universal Music have considered there is sufficient demand for such product is an indication of the high regard JAPAN are held. In many social media discussions about bands which people wished they had seen live, JAPAN are invariably one of the acts that get mentioned.

Photo by Fin Costello

As far as their legacy is concerned, if JAPAN had not led the way with their arty aspirational poise, DURAN DURAN would not have had a role model to inspire them to their subsequent success.

Le Bon & Co even used JAPAN’s regular photographer Fin Costello to capture the cover image used on their self-titled debut album.

Thanks to JAPAN’s flamboyant bassist Mick Karn who sadly passed away in January 2011, the sound of the fretless bass became ubiquitous in the mainstream for a number of years. It was a playing style that top session player Pino Palladino ultimately adopted and made his fortune from.

Meanwhile, enigmatic front man David Sylvian was the ultimate pin-up for that flamboyant period, but later progressed to becoming a highly regarded solo artist with a no-compromise approach in parallel to Scott Walker, proving that there is life after pretty boy pop stardom.

Today, drummer Steve Jansen and keyboardist Richard Barbieri continue to release solo albums of a primarily instrumental nature as well as working on collaborative projects, while guitarist Rob Dean is now an ornithologist specialising in Costa Rican birdlife.

Londoners David Sylvian, Mick Karn, Steve Jansen, Richard Barbieri and Rob Dean began their career as an aggressive funk laden glam rock outfit with a straggly image not dissimilar to NEW YORK DOLLS.

Looked after by future WHAM! manager Simon Napier-Bell, who had been drawn to the band by Sylvian’s androgynous good looks which he described as “a cross between Mick Jagger and Brigitte Bardot”, the debut JAPAN album ‘Adolescent Sex’ was released in April 1978 by Ariola Hansa, the German label that had steered BONEY M to great success.

While the bizarre mix of rock, funk, glam and electronics achieved little impact in Britain, it was a surprise success with teenage girls in the country of Japan, resulting in the band playing to packed houses at big venues like Tokyo’s Bukodan.

With a reggae element also thrown into the mix, a largely more rock ‘n’ roll flavoured second album ‘Obscure Alternatives’ was released in October 1978; although it too was met with ambivalence, it proved to be a pivotal turning point for the band with the haunting closing instrumental ‘The Tenant’ a sign of things to come.

JAPAN’s continued success in Japan exposed the band members to South East Asian culture and its fascination with modern technology. These experiences were reflected in the recording of ‘Life In Tokyo’ produced by Giorgio Moroder in April 1979, which was arranged at the behest of Ariola Hansa who felt JAPAN should attempt to crack the disco market.

Now acknowledged as the bridge between growly funk-rock JAPAN and the more familiar, mannered and artier version of the group recognised by most today, ‘Life In Tokyo’ was a key interim landmark in their career as a recording that all band members were happy with.

With the more mannered textures of ROXY MUSIC now emanating from their psyche, the electronically assisted template showcased on ‘Life In Tokyo’ was refined for their third album ‘Quiet Life’ released in January 1980.

Produced by John Punter who had worked on ROXY MUSIC’s ‘Country Life’ album, JAPAN found a willing conspirator who truly believed in them.

JAPAN’s look also changed with stylish suits, heavier make-up and shorter coiffured hair for an effeminate demeanour that was similar to the New Romantics who were now frequenting The Blitz Club.

The opening title track’s resonant heart was a Roland System 700 driven by Barbieri’s snappy eight step Oberheim Mini-sequencer. Complimented by Mick Karn’s distinctively fluid fretless bass,and Sylvian’s lyrical conclusion that the band were outsiders in the environment they were born into, it was a sure-fire hit… but not yet as Ariola Hansa didn’t see fit to release ‘Quiet Life’ as a single in the UK at that point!

Also on ‘Quiet Life’, there was also an understated cover of ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’, understood to be Andy Warhol’s favourite Lou Reed composition alongside more uptempo art rock numbers like ‘Fall In Love With Me’ and ‘Halloween’. But the revelations of the ‘Quiet Life’ album were the tear-jerking epics ‘In Vogue’ and ‘The Other Side Of Life’ orchestrated by Ann O’Dell which premiered a very different aspect to JAPAN, one with an emotional centre.

Meanwhile, the gently mysterious ‘Despair’ was influenced by Erik Satie with its piano aesthetics. Crooned entirely in French, it no doubt took its lead from ROXY MUSIC’s ‘Song For Europe’. Highly cinematic, it was concluded with a glorious melodic ensemble of strings and choirs from an ARP Solina.

After their shaky start, the change in musical style and the more artful demeanour of ‘Quiet Life’ was pointing JAPAN in the right direction and towards Virgin Records. Again produced by John Punter, ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’ saw Richard Barbieri seriously getting into technology with the ARP Omni, Polymoog, Roland Jupiter 4 and Sequential Prophet 5 among the many synths used on the album along with his own Oberheim OBX, Micromoog and Roland System 700.

While wonderful melancholic songs such as the title track and ‘My New Career’ were a natural progression of the muzak which shaped the ‘Quiet Life’ album, the band were beginning to tire of this gentle wall of sound and aspiring to do something more dynamic.

Indeed, the dropping of the more conventional sounding ‘Some Kind Of Fool’ for the more abstract Bowie / Eno influenced electronic mood piece ‘Burning Bridges’ at the last minute was a sign of that dilemma. In the studio, Sylvian in particular as the band’s songwriter was seeking to take more control, leading to disagreements with individual band members as well as Punter with regards production.

With Sylvian now writing songs on keyboards, this artistically left little manoeuvre for Rob Dean’s guitar despite his willingness to become more textural thanks to some Fripp inspired E-bowed embellishments.

Dean was absent from four of the album’s eight tracks; Karn was also missing from two numbers. In their place came guest musicians such as Ryuichi Sakamoto on the exotic ‘Taking Islands In Africa’ and Bowie violinist Simon House who provided a solo to ‘My New Career’, beginning a pattern of collaboration that Sylvian would continue throughout his solo career.

Sylvian was aiming for a sparser sound and this was achieved with the mournful Satie-esque ‘Nightporter’. Featuring just Sylvian and Barbieri with session musicians Barry Guy on string bass and Andrew Cauthery on oboe, it was one of the album’s key tracks and a pointer of things to come for JAPAN’s leader.

Despite the tensions, when all five band members were featuring, they were firing on cylinders. The terrific ‘Swing’ combined Sylvian’s poetic travelogue with Richard Barbieri’s Oriental synth textures. In addition, Rob Dean made a full contribution with some excellent six string work as the rhythm section of Karn and Jansen maintained an amazing bounce over the Compurhythm driven bossa nova.

Meanwhile on the magnificently jagged ‘Methods Of Dance’, the spine-tingling middle section saw Jansen contributing drums, marimba and percussive keyboard embellishments bookended by a sophisticated arrangement layers of distinct keyboard parts, Karn’s sax, bursts of tense ringing guitar from Dean and the cry of a Japanese girl named Cyo.

Photo by Nicola Tyson

But both of these songs were incredibly long and complex, formed of many distinct sections in a manner akin to progressive rock. Now while for anyone prepared to stick out these sub-seven minute tracks which formed half of the album, there would be ultimately be satisfaction and enlightenment, it was not going to prove easy to market such lengthy songs as 220 second edits to national and commercial radio. With Virgin promoting the album as “Music For Adults Only” and perhaps paradoxically with a key front cover for ‘Smash Hits’, it was close but no cigar.

Although ‘Gentleman Take Polaroids’ did not as yet yield a hit single, JAPAN were finally selling out concerts on home turf, notably a show at London’s Lyceum to launch the long player. But cracks were already appearing within the quintet, with Rob Dean leaving after a May 1981 tour supporting ‘The Art Of Parties’ single which he had not actually played on.

However, momentum was building and one party that noticed was JAPAN’s former label Ariola Hansa. In August 1981, they cashed-in with the release of ‘Quiet Life’ as a single which reached No17 in the UK singles charts. As a result, a new younger audience was becoming interested in JAPAN, one that was not only seeking something modern and stylish but with a depth of musicality too.

Photo by Steve Jansen

For JAPAN’s fifth album released in November 1981, the band took the influences of the Far East even further with the Chinese flavoured ‘Tin Drum’. The slimmed down band line-up was reflected in the music. A much more minimal album than any of the band’s previous work, ‘Tin Drum’ had hardly any guitar while the synths used were restricted to an Oberheim OBX, Prophet 5 and occasionally the System 700, with the work split 55:45 between Barbieri and Sylvian. That Stockhausen derived minimalism with its sense of space was taken to its zenith with ‘Ghosts’ and its iconic chilling metallic intro.

Richard Barbieri told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK: “Not being a technically gifted player, the keys were of less importance to me than the actual controls. What I tried to do was to make more events happen from one note than playing 200 notes. The prime example to that is the intro to ‘Ghosts’ because it’s just one triggered note on the System 700, but I’d programmed in this evolving series of movements with filters, LFOs and pitch frequency oscillation. I’ve never been able to quite get that sound again, but it caused havoc for the engineer because there were lots of peaks and it was quite difficult to record.”

Exquisitely programmed as opposed to relying on effects, JAPAN were aiming for synth derived acoustic colours constructed using ring modulation as well as parallel tuning in fourths and fifths for sounds that possessed a dead echo. Produced by another Roxy cohort Steve Nye, the arrangements were simpler with repeating patterns, tight hand played sequences and clean rhythmic tones.

But it was no less sophisticated with the assortment of timbres within those parts providing the variation and the air of Brian Eno and David Byrne’s ‘My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts’ looming. The wondrous ‘Still Life In Mobile Homes’ in particular saw East meeting West with Oriental vocal aesthetics and cleverly programmed organic synthesized sounds sitting next to state of the art digital technology such the Linn LM1 Drum Computer, all with the prowess of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA.

The lyrical themes of ‘Tin Drum’ flirted with Chinese Communism as Eno had done on ‘Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)’. Sylvian appeared to be taking inspiration from the Little Red Book of Chairman Mao, a point highlighted by the pentatonic polyrhythmic single ‘Visions Of China’ and its less frantic but similarly dida enhanced sister song ‘Cantonese Boy’.

With co-writing credits on ‘Visions Of China’ and the traditional sounding instrumental ‘Canton’, Steve Jansen was playing an increasing role as well, but it was clear that his older brother still maintained overall control.

Jansen told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK: “That would have been put down to the fact that what I was doing rhythmically played a bigger part than usual in the inspiration and direction of the songs. But in reality I don’t think it was the right way of doing it. I think all JAPAN’s music was methodically arranged by each member and warranted some co-writing credit however small.”

While Mick Karn was becoming slightly more isolated having not played on ‘Ghosts’, he still provided some memorable bass runs and got a co-writing credit for his dominant mantra and harmonics on the percussively brooding seven minute ‘Sons Of Pioneers’.

But on the whole, the songs on ‘Tin Drum’ were shorter and sharper like ‘Talking Drum’, providing a degree of immediacy that had not been present before; the album became the band’s biggest UK success, both commercially and critically.

However, all was not well within the band. Frustrations about publishing and personal differences came to a head with the now well-documented tensions between Sylvian and Karn tearing the band apart as they soldiered on with a British tour.

The individual band members spent 1982 undertaking their own projects while JAPAN was put on hiatus. Despite rumours of a split, JAPAN became chart regulars in 1982, notching up a further six Top 40 singles including a cover of Smokey Robinson’s ‘I Second That Emotion. However, the biggest surprise came when ‘Ghosts’ caught the mood of the moment with a Top 5 hit that April as the British Task Force was heading south towards the Falkland Islands.

An extensive Autumn tour of the UK, Europe and South East Asia was arranged by Napier-Bell to capitalise on their wider profile as he sought to buy time to keep his charges creatively together.

Photo by Fin Costello

Although the majority of the dates were sold out, JAPAN called it a day at the height of their powers with a final performance in Nagoya, Japan on 16th December 1982.

Sylvian and Karn continued with solo careers as well as collaborating with Ryuichi Sakamoto and Midge Ure respectively, while Jansen and Barbieri worked with both of their former bandmates, as well together as THE DOLPHIN BROTHERS who released an album ‘Catch The Fall’ in 1987.

That same year, relations had thawed enough between Sylvian and Karn for them to jointly record two songs ‘Buoy’ and ‘When Love Walks In’ for the bassist’s second solo album ‘Dreams Of Reason Produce Monsters’ which was co-produced by Jansen.

So in 1989, the quartet gathered at Studio Miraval in the south of France for what was considered to be a JAPAN reunion in all but name. But that episode in itself was a whole other story…


‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’ and ‘Tin Drum’ are each released as Abbey Road Half-Speed Mastered gatefold 2LP 45RPM vinyl sets with download key by Virgin Records / Universal Music on 24th August 2018, both albums will also be available in a 180 gram single LP edition playing at the standard 33RPM

http://www.nightporter.co.uk

http://www.davidsylvian.com

https://mickkarn.net

http://www.stevejansen.com

http://www.richardbarbieri.net


Text by Chi Ming Lai
19th July 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.

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.

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

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 30 SONGS OF 2017

It was a year when the veterans re-established their standing within electronic pop.

That was not to that comparatively newer acts weren’t making a good impression, it was just that a fair number of established acts gave their all and were producing some of their best work since their imperial heyday. Great tracks by SPARKS, OUTERNATIONALE, SPACEPRODIGI, iEUROPEAN, PARALLELS, FEVER RAY, SOL FLARE, SOFTWAVE, KNIGHT$, 2RAUMWHONUNG, JORI HULKKONEN, FIFI RONG and KITE BASE made it onto the shortlist, but despite their quality, they did not make the final listing.

Also not included are songs from ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’, the debut album from Rusty Egan; although gaining a physical release this year, it was reviewed by ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK in the Autumn of last year when download versions of the long player were distributed to those who had purchased it in advance via Pledge Music. Meanwhile, its closing track ‘Thank You’ was included in our 30 Songs Of 2016.

So restricted to purchasable releases only and one song per artist moniker, here are ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 30 Songs Of 2017 in alphabetical order…


AESTHETIC PERFECTION Rhythm + Control – Electro Mix

Additionally featuring NYXX and WILLIAM CONTROL on vocals, ‘Rhythm + Control’ saw Daniel Graves take AESTHETIC PERFECTION’s industrial pop to the next level via his new singles only policy. The magnificent Electro Mix successfully realised this oddball blend of Darren Hayes, Britney Spears and Marilyn Manson. With a mightily elastic bassline, when asked whether The Electricity Club had gone crazy coming up with the comparison, Daniel Graves replied “God no. Spot on, guys!”

Available on the single ‘Rhythm + Control’ via aestheticperfection.bandcamp.com/track/rhythm-control-electro-version-feat-william-control-nyxx

http://aesthetic-perfection.net/


RICHARD BARBIERI Solar Sea

From only the third solo album in the long career of Richard Barbieri, ‘Solar Sea’ was a sleazy rhythmic excursion into another world. With the one-time JAPAN sound designer using a Roland System 700 for its bassline, the track’s atonal jazz feel was augmented by the haunting voice manipulations of Lisen Rylander Löve through a vintage Soviet submarine microphone and warping noises offset by soothing brass inflections and live drums.

Available on the album ‘Planets + Persona’ via by Kscope

https://www.facebook.com/RichardBarbieriOfficial/


BATTLE TAPES Control

The American electronic rock quartet BATTLE TAPES continued to develop from their 2015 debut album ‘Polygon’ via their ‘Form’ EP. The best track ‘Control’ hinged around a syncopated filtered synth bass and a brilliantly catchy chorus sung by Josh Boardman, with enough guitars for power and texture without distracting from the overall electronic aesthetic, and even coming over like a heavier Stateside version of SIN COS TAN.

Available on the EP ‘Form’ via battletapes.bigcartel.com

http://battletapesband.com/


CLIENT LIAISON Feat TINA ARENA A Foreign Affair

“International in flavour, cosmopolitan in style” and sounding like a long lunch followed by a round of cocktails, Australian duo CLIENT LIAISON roped in one-time TV talent show star Tina Arena to duet on a lush slice of romantic pop that also rode on the current fashion for Synthwave. ‘A Foreign Affair’ could have easily been a Rat Pack movie song.

Available on the album ‘Diplomatic Immunity’ via Remote Control Records

http://www.clientliaison.com


DAILY PLANET featuring MAC AUSTIN Heaven Opened

Johan Baeckström made positive waves with his debut solo album ‘Like Before’ in 2015 but reunited with his musical partner Jarmo Ollila, producing an excellent third album with more tempo variation than their 2014 offering ‘Two’. Featuring the guest vocals of Mac Austin from cult synth trio WHITE DOOR who were one of the inspirations for DAILY PLANET, ‘Heaven Opened’ was an uncomplicated but wonderfully poignant slice of classic synthpop.

Available on the album ‘Play Rewind Repeat’ via Progress Productions

https://www.facebook.com/dailyplanetband/


ELECTRONIC CIRCUS The Trapeze

ELECTRONIC CIRCUS is the musical vehicle of Chris Payne, the one-time Numan band member who also co-wrote ‘Fade To Grey’. With a symphonic theme bursting with melody and musicality like ULTRAVOX galloping across the plains of Normandy, the brilliant neo-instrumental ’The Trapeze’ was given a wondrous tone of humanistic unity when Payne’s wife and daughter joined in on the final straight in Latin.

Available on the EP ‘Direct Lines 2017’ via https://www.electroniccircus.co.uk/store/

http://www.electroniccircus.co.uk/


FADER 3D Carpets

FADER are the synth superduo featuring BLANCMANGE’s Neil Arthur and Benge; ‘3D Carpets’ captured an independent post-punk intensity, like JOY DIVISION or THE CURE but realised with analogue electronics rather than guitars. While the pair worked on their parts separately, their creative dynamic produced a great debut album in ‘First Light’.

Available on the ‘First Light’ via Blanc Check Records

https://www.facebook.com/WeAreFader


ANI GLASS Geiriau

From the Welsh synth songstress’ first EP, the fabulous ‘Geiriau’ was a driving sequential drama that had more than a passing resemblance to the first part of SPARKS’ ‘No1 Song In Heaven’. Revolving around ANI GLASS’ experience of flying the nest and returning years later to reconnect with her Welsh and Cornish heritage, it was a spacey and futuristic soundtrack for a wonderfully uplifting homecoming.

Available on the EP ‘Ffrwydrad Tawel’ via aniglass.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/aniglasscymru/


THE GOLDEN FILTER Rivers

‘Volupsa’, the promising Nordic flavoured debut album from THE GOLDEN FILTER came out in 2010, but the Aussie American duo of vocalist Penelope Trappes and synth programmer Stephen Hindman took their time with the follow-up ‘Still//Alone’, having relocated to London after spending several years based in New York. The hypnotic pulse of ‘Rivers’ with its precise drum machine pointed to a female fronted OMD, complete with a catchy riff and synthy jabbing bassline.

Available on the album ‘Still // Alone’ via Optimo

http://www.thegoldenfilter.com/


GOLDFRAPP Systemagic

The immensely catchy ‘Systemagic’ was a prize electronic gem from the seventh GOLDFRAPP album ‘Silver Eye’, reminiscent of the lusty and beat laden electronic material from ‘Black Cherry’. But its riff asked the question as to whether you will always find Alison Goldfrapp in the kitchen at parties? In the event of Jona Lewie filing a lawsuit, the lucrative income from the song’s use in a BMW advert may ease any potential net payout.

Available on the album ‘Silver Eye’ via Mute Artists

http://goldfrapp.com/


IONNALEE Not Human

After three acclaimed albums as IAMAMIWHOAMI with producer Claes Björklund, Jonna Lee went solo in 2017 although it was actually difficult to hear the join on the glorious ‘Not Human’, so seamless was the transition; there were still the icy electronic soundscapes, spacey dance beats and uplifting Scandipop vocals while the delightfully odd visuals were all present and correct.

Available on the download single ‘Not Human’ via To Whom It May Concern

http://www.ionnalee.com


I SPEAK MACHINE Shame

I SPEAK MACHINE is the audio / visual collaboration between musician Tara Busch and filmmaker Maf Lewis. Soundtracking their film ‘Zombies 1985’, the story was one of greed and self-obsession in Thatcher’s Britain as a businessman drives home, oblivious to the zombie apocalypse going on around him. Co-written and co-produced with Benge, the brilliant ‘Shame’ with its cascading synths and noise percussion was a wonderful hybrid of THROBBING GRISTLE, THE HUMAN LEAGUE and GOLDFRAPP.

Available on the album ‘Zombies 1985’ via Lex Records

http://www.ispeakmachine.com/


KATJA VON KASSEL In Little Rooms (Show Me Love)

After a number of years gigging around London, Katja von Kassel finally unleashed released her electro Weimer Cabaret to the world. The pulsating ‘In Little Rooms (Show Me Love)’ captured an aesthetic which closely resembled that of Ronny, a former protégé of Rusty Egan. Attached to Alex Gray’s intricate filmic electronics, Fraulein von Kassel’s deep vocal detachment was art cool sexy.

Available on the EP ‘Katja von Kassel’ via katjavonkassel.bandcamp.com

https://www.facebook.com/katja.vonkassel


KITE Demons & Shame

Swedish duo KITE unleashed their darkest offering yet in ‘Demons & Shame’. Shaped by a ritualistic drum mantra and brooding bass drones, as the title suggested, the song confronted the despair that life occasionally throws up while pursuing visions and dreams. If Ennio Morricone composed music for Nordic Noir dramas, it would sound a bit like this. Vocalist Nicklas Stenemo literally screamed his frustration over an epic synthetic soundscape from Christian Berg, laced with nocturnal Arctic overtones and the spectre of THE KNIFE.

Available on the single ‘Demons & Shame’ is released by Progress Productions

https://www.facebook.com/KiteHQ


LCD SOUNDSYSTEM American Dream

James Murphy returned as LCD SOUNDSYSTEM after seven years with this widescreen musical statement reflecting on the political situation in the US. Glancing across the Atlantic and back to the Winter Of Discontent, this 3/4 synth laden tune that had more than a passing resemblance to THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Circus Of Death’. So did “The Clown” referred to in that song remind Murphy of someone in particular?

Available on the album ‘American Dream’ via DFA Records

https://lcdsoundsystem.com/


LIZETTE LIZETTE Rest

Having started out in a more rave inclined environment, Lizette Nordahl ventured into more synthy climes and her debut mini-album had the air of KITE is all over it, which was not entirely surprising as its co-producers were Nicklas Stenemo and Christian Berg from the acclaimed duo. ‘Rest’ with its swirling synth sounds and widescreen Nordic atmosphere had an optimistic air of acceptance despite the melancholic tone and majestic growls.

Available on the EP ‘Queerbody’ via lizettelizette.bandcamp.com/releases

http://lizettelizette.com/


LOST IN STARS Sky

Led by British born musician Dylan Willoughby, LOST IN STARS is a floating ensemble which also includes Elena Charbila aka KID MOXIE and producer/songwriter Darren Burgos. The latter takes the lead vocal on the spirited electronic pop of ‘Sky’; now if NEW ORDER were from Los Angeles instead of Manchester, they would have sounded like this.

Available on the album ‘Lost In Stars’ via lostinstars.bandcamp.com/

https://www.lostinstars.space/


MARNIE Bloom

After releasing her first solo album ‘Crystal World’ in 2013, Helen Marnie added more prominent choruses and guitar onto her second, resulting in a catchy Scandipop style. ‘Bloom’ was an optimistic burst of synth laden pleasure and while not totally dissimilar to LADYTRON, it was without their usual hardness or gothic gloom.

Available on the album ‘Strange Words & Weird Wars’ via Disco Piñata

http://www.helenmarnie.com/


ALISON MOYET Alive

Having worked successfully in 2013 with Guy Sigsworth on ‘the minutes’, an acclaimed album which saw Alison Moyet return to the synthesized music forms to compliment her powerful and self-assured voice, the follow-up ‘Other’ was a natural progression. The startling orchestrated electro-dub drama of ‘Alive’ gave Moyet’s two former classmates in DEPECHE MODE a stark lesson in how to actually fully realise electronic blues. Indeed, it was ‘In Chains’, the lame opener from ‘Sounds Of The Universe’ gone right…

Available on the album ‘Other’ via Cooking Vinyl

http://alisonmoyet.com/


GARY NUMAN When The World Comes Apart

With the narrative of ‘Savage’ provoked by Donald Trump’s withdrawal of the United States of America from the Paris Climate Accord, the mighty apocalyptic rock of ‘When The World Comes Apart’ was something of a revelation for Gary Numan. Using synths as the dominant instrument and having guitars less obviously prominent in the mix, with its richly anthemic chorus, this was the magnificent crossover song that both old and new Numanoids had been waiting for.

Available on the album ‘Savage (Songs From A Broken World)’ via BMG

https://garynuman.com/


MICHAEL OAKLEY Rabbit In The Headlights

Michael Oakley is a talented Glaswegian who describes his music as “Melancholic postcards from my heart wrapped up in synthesisers and drum machines”. The melodic ‘Rabbit In The Headlights’ came complete with Italo “woah-oh” chants and whether it was Synthwave, synthpop, electropop, Italo or whatever, it showcased Oakley’s fine songwriting abilities, regardless of genre.

Available on the EP ‘California’ via michaeloakleysynthwave.bandcamp.com

https://www.facebook.com/MichaelOakleySynthwave/


OMD One More Time

The excellent ‘One More Time’ was a classic bittersweet OMD stomper, where “everything you gave me didn’t last”. Using electronic percussion as opposed to drum machines, the enticing verse and uplifting bridge were set to a plethora of gorgeous textures and distorted synth to add a touch of enigmatic weirdness. While Andy McCluskey cried “you can break my heart just one more time”, the track’s star was Paul Humphreys with his crystalline synth sounds laced with some portamento bounce.

Available on the album ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ via 100% Records

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


HANNAH PEEL Goodbye Earth

As well as keyboards and violin, Hannah Peel can also play the trombone. Featuring an array of analogue synthesizers and a 29-piece colliery brass band, ‘Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia’ was her instrumental story about a fictional elderly musical stargazer. Beginning with the lift-off of ‘Goodbye Earth’, Miss Peel’s electronic arpeggios and synthetic noise built up to a crescendo of brass and timpani for a quite unusual combination of two very different musical worlds.

Available on the album ‘Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia’ via My Own Pleasure

http://www.hannahpeel.com


RAINLAND Rainland

From the ashes of ANALOG ANGEL came forth RAINLAND. Their self-titled calling card was a vibrant synthpop statement, embroiled in a musicality that provided a journey through the Grampian Mountains. Ian Ferguson had already proved himself a worthy vocalist in his previous combo with dulcet tones not dissimilar to a certain Midge Ure and this was allowed to reign free on ‘Rainland’. Meanwhile, the ivories of Derek MacDonald stylistically aped the symphonic overtones of ULTRAVOX’s Billy Currie.

Available on the EP ‘Touch’ via rainland.bandcamp.com/

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


RHEINGOLD Paradieshafen

Between 1980 to 1984, RHEINGOLD were at the forefront of Die Neue Deutsche Welle, releasing three albums and achieving their first domestic hit ‘3klangsdimensionen’ in 1981. Led by Bodo Staiger, ‘Im Lauf Der Zeit’ was their first album of new material for many years. The melodic synth of ‘Paradieshafen’ drove along a beautiful instrumental that came over like a dream collaboration between OMD and Michael Rother.

Available on the album ‘Im Lauf Der Zeit’ via Lucky Bob Records / Soulfood

https://www.facebook.com/Rheingold-156171354461006/


SARAH P. Who Am I

With hypnotising hints of Kate Bush and percolating Ryuichi Sakamoto style textures, ‘Who Am I’ by electropop goddess Sarah P. was an ode to “humanity, the world we live in and our importance (or unimportance) as individuals and/or as a whole”. And as the Greek-born songstress announced that “I don’t know where I come from… do you know my name?”, a metronomic beat kicked in to lead a dramatic house-laden climax.

Available on the album ‘Who Am I’ via EraseRestart Records

http://sarahpofficial.com/


SHELTER Karma

The normally flamboyant Welsh duo SHELTER surprised all with their darkest and most accomplished song yet in ‘Karma’. “What you want is what you’ll get…” sang Mark Bebb, “…you will get a lot more that you planned”. A vibrant but edgy production from Rob Bradley complimented the sentiment as the message was relayed loud and clear…

Available on the single ‘Karma’ via Ministry Of Pop

http://www.shelterofficial.com/


SOULWAX Conditions Of Shared Belief

From ‘From Deewee’, the first new SOULWAX album since 2004’s ‘Any Minute Now’, ‘Conditions Of A Shared Belief’ was a modular synth lover’s wet dream from the Dewaele brothers. With a retro-futuristic collage of detuned blippy sounds and a backbone of smashing white noise percussion recalling THE HUMAN LEAGUE in their Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh phase, it was complimented by some suitably abstractly pitched TALKING HEADS inspired vocals.

Available on the album ‘From Deewee’ via PIAS

http://www.soulwax.com


TINY MAGNETIC PETS Never Alone

TINY MAGNETIC PETS had their best year yet with a UK tour opening for OMD and to accompany it was their second album ‘Deluxe/Debris’. Featuring Wolfgang Flür, the album’s best song ‘Never Alone’ sounded appropriately like SAINT ETIENNE fronting KRAFTWERK. Paula Gilmer has one of the best voices in modern synthpop and her alluring tone no doubt added to the song’s breezy dreamlike state.

Available on the album ‘Deluxe/Debris’ via Happy Robots Records

https://www.facebook.com/Tiny-Magnetic-Pets-69597715797/


VANBOT Collide (Krasnoyarsk)

The adventurous third VANBOT album ‘Siberia’ was composed and recorded during a 17 day journey on the Trans-Siberian railway. The crystalline ‘Collide (Krasnoyarsk)’ though captured a more Nordic vibe with its gorgeous melodies, while the surrounding rhythmic pace of a train ride made its presence felt. An aural exploration of the relationship between time, location and emotion, ‘Siberia’ was a bold musical experiment.

Available on the single ‘Collide (Krasnoyarsk)’ via Lisch Recordings

http://www.vanbotmusic.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
11th December 2017

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