One of Sweden’s biggest exports and otherwise a much underrated Synth Princess, KARIN PARK returns with ‘Blue Roses’.
Her last long player ‘Apocalypse Pop’ showed a further growth in what can only be described as a neoclassical amalgamation of synth and then Park took to the stage, performing in the Norwegian version of ‘Les Miserables’, playing the role of Fantine. The musical turned out to be the most popular in its genre and Park proved again that whatever she does, is perfection.
The break from her solo releases also gave way to the newest project PANDORA DRIVE, with whom the multi-talented artist released ‘Albino Heart’ EP earlier this year.
‘Blue Roses’ continues the trends set on ‘Apocalypse Pop’, with the eponymous single creeping from a melancholic affair, into an inferno of ominous sounding bass and powerful, if childlike vocals, building up to an expansive cinematic piece of dread.
Park goes for the throat here: “If you see me with a gun in my hand, stay off my sacred land”. Park comes back to basics here, using the tribal elements and keeping things demure.
The fear factor enters in ‘Roaring Ocean’ co-written with Richard X, which cuts through like a knife in a Kate Bush fashion and the piano has never sounded this spooky. Yet, there’s hope, there’s beauty, there’s a reason to go on.
The whole affair is rather poetic, almost Poe-esque, while ‘Glass House’ introduces bluesy connotations and reminisces the latest achievements from ZOLA JESUS. ‘The Sharp Edge’ announces itself in a melodramatic and discordant way, frightening the receiver further.
Park certainly returns with the renewed power, maybe with the additional militant elements she’s ready to take on new challenges, both sonically and visually.
Either way, ‘Blue Roses’ stands out… in KARIN PARK fashion.
It’s interesting to think that when Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris were in their 20s, NEW ORDER gigs would be around three quarters of an hour!
But with both now in their 60s, the band are onstage for close to 2 hours and 20 minutes!
The pair with younger founder member Gillian Gilbert and new recruits Phil Cunningham and Tom Chapman played their only UK gig of 2018 at London’s Alexandra Palace and delivered a superb show that acknowledged their history, one which a number of their contemporaries could learn from.
Alexandra Palace is an iconic building, full of prestige as a live venue, but its practicalities are hindered by limited public transport access and with a standing capacity of 10000, a stage so low that anyone under 5 foot 11 inches automatically has a restricted view! Luckily, NEW ORDER’s live presentation with its vibrant widescreen visuals more than compensated.
Opening with ‘Singularity’, footage compiled from Mark Reeder’s documentary ‘B-Movie: Lust & Sound in West-Berlin 1979-1989’ complimented the track’s rock electro tension before the quintet launched straight into ‘Regret’; welcomed back like a lost friend, the 1993 hit single had not been in the NEW ORDER live set during their last UK tour in 2015 or the ‘So It Goes..’ synth orchestra shows.
Appropriately for Remembrance 100 weekend, a superb ‘Love Vigilantes’ was dusted off while there were even bigger surprises with ‘Ultraviolence’ from ‘Power, Corruption & Lies’ set to stark images of bullets and a blistering version of ‘Disorder’, the JOY DIVISION song which opened the now classic 1979 debut long player ‘Unknown Pleasures’.
2001’s ‘Crystal’ naturally came accompanied by the promo video from which THE KILLERS got their name.
The glorious ‘Your Silent Face’ with its serene neo-classicism was a highlight, illustrated by a ‘Dallas’ style montage which drew cheers as each starring band member’s name was flashed onto the screen.
On the whole, the very bright visuals based around geometric shapes and specially filmed life sequences were magnificent, although at times, the unnecessary use of lyrics on some of the projections bordered on karaoke unless they were prompts for Bernard Sumner.
There was the old jibe that Ringo Starr was not even the best drummer in THE BEATLES and Bernard Sumner is known not to be the best singer in NEW ORDER, but he has learnt to use his limitations well over the years. Tonight, his vocals were as wayward and vulnerable as ever; part of the omnipresent charm of NEW ORDER, while there were a few missed cues too, one thing that was obvious was his enthusiasm and that he was throughly enjoying himself.
Introducing the Italo House flavoured ‘Tutti Frutti’ as “quirky”, NEW ORDER launched into a sensational electronic disco extravaganza akin to an over 50s rave, although there were plenty of youngsters in the audience who knew ALL the words!
The baroque sex anthem ‘Sub-Culture’ combining the best elements of the original ‘Low-life’ version and the John Robie remix triggered massed dancing, as did a Richard X assisted update of ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ segueing into the dreamily emotive ‘Vanishing Point’, one of the stand-outs from 1989’s ‘Technique’.
The only misstep of a wondrous setlist was an electronic take on ‘Waiting For The Sirens’ Call’, the transformation of a classic NEW ORDER guitar driven number not working at all. But victory was snatched back by ‘Plastic’, with the hypnotic sequenced influence of Giorgio Moroder reflected by a spectacular road trip of flashing nocturnal illustrations.
The mighty triad of ‘The Perfect Kiss’, ‘True Faith’ and ‘Blue Monday’ rewarded the audience while with a steady introduction comprising of the string quartet motif from Lou Reed’s ‘Street Hassle’, ‘Temptation’ saw the song’s memorable chant reprised by all present like some communal hymn.
It was a long energetic evening that ensured the crowd were exhausted so despite somewhat muted calls for an encore, NEW ORDER returned for a JOY DIVISION triathlon beginning with ‘Atmosphere’.
Using David Bowie and Giorgio Moroder’s ‘Cat People (Putting Out Fire)’ as a re-arranged first section, there were roars of approval as the forever looming figure of singer Ian Curtis appeared on the screen.
An emotional ‘Decades’ from ‘Closer’ and its sonic grandeur set to archive footage of Manchester was the evening’s pièce de résistance while ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ sent people home with strength through joy, despite the song’s sad backstory.
Yet another band who are better than the current live incarnation of DEPECHE MODE, NEW ORDER win on many points thanks to a drummer in Stephen Morris who actually knows how to play along to electronics, a guitarist in Bernard Sumner who can play a variety of styles without lowering to blues noodling plus the use of original sounds synonymous with the songs, like the Oberheim DMX on ‘Blue Monday’ and the synthetic clap on ‘Decades’.
And that’s without mentioning an inventive setlist of not just hits and tracks from the most recent album ‘Music Complete’, but songs from the early days of JOY DIVISION, not just one but four fan favourites from the classic albums, singles that weren’t hits and sensational visuals that impacted all of the audience and were not just seen by a privileged few.
Now just imagine for a moment DM actually giving some thought of making that effort and doing the equivalent…
Celebrating their career with a lavish 10 disc boxed set, ‘Keychains & Snowstorms: The SOFT CELL Story’ features material from both periods of the duo including their imperial phase when they had a continuous run of hit singles between 1981-1984 and the 2001-2003 reunion.
Marc Almond and Dave Ball met at Leeds Polytechnic and at the time of their wider breakthrough on the ‘Some Bizarre Album’ and their subsequent debut long player ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ in 1981, SOFT CELL were perhaps rated higher than DEPECHE MODE.
Their cover of ‘Tainted Love’ was one of the biggest UK singles of 1981, selling over one million copies and was on the US Billboard Hot 100 for a then-record of 43 weeks. But despite all the success, the pair ultimately imploded but their template was taken to the worldwide audience it deserved via PET SHOP BOYS.
While Almond continues a fruitful solo career and Ball found success with THE GRID, they are both best remembered for SOFT CELL. On their singular history alone, SOFT CELL are up there with THE HUMAN LEAGUE and DURAN DURAN, and like their contemporaries, they exploited the then-new format of the 12 inch single.
All the singles from ‘Tainted Love’ to ‘Down In The Subway’ via ‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye’ and ‘Where The Heart Is’ are included in their extended versions, but the longer variations of ‘Bedsitter’ and ‘Torch’ are masterpieces in their own right, seamless productions where you literally cannot hear the join, mainly because they were recorded as developing stories outside of the expected three minute radio edit.
And then there were the B-sides which SOFT CELL also excelled at, again all presented in their extended versions. From the reflective solitude of living away from home in ‘Facility Girls’ to the hilarious tail of teenage rebellion in ‘It’s A Mug’s Game’ where Almond confessed that he actually hated ‘Deep Purple In Rock’ along with ‘Led Zeppelin II’ and couldn’t “wait until I’m 21 and I can tell them all to sod off!”, the music connected with young outsiders.
And Almond wasn’t afraid to express how anxiety was playing with his mind, as reflected in the superb chemical fuelled ‘Insecure Me’ which featured a rap from the appropriately named Cindy Ecstasy.
‘Keychains & Snowstorms – The SOFT CELL Story’ features a disc of new extended and reworked mixes supervised by Ball which he said was “just tightening a few things up as a lot of the original stuff was all played manually”. These naturally achieve mixed results; on the Lateral Mix of ‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye’ for example, some of Dave Tofani’s clarinet sections from the original 12 inch have been dropped in and although it is an improvement on the bland 1991 re-recording, nothing can touch the emotive tearful resonance of the definitive 1981 version.
Another case in point is the new ERASURE remix of ‘Bedsitter’ which offers a chunky bass and fat beat, but the melody is replaced by a heavy guitar swirl; despite including the 12 inch rap, it’s a little disappointing. However, the ‘Hallowe’en Mix’ of Martin is leaner and works well while the ‘Wasted On The Young Mix’ of ‘Youth’ stretches out the drama and will please Cellmates who have always longed for an extended mix.
Indeed, from the rarities and curios collection, the previously unreleased extended version of ‘Forever The Same’ (which was intended as a single before the intervention of the duo themselves) will be welcomed. Pleasingly, ‘The Girl With The Patent Leather Face’ which secured SOFT CELL their earlier acclaim still freaks and creeps as the undoubted standout from the ‘Some Bizzare Album’ along with DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Photographic’.
The Daniel Miller produced ‘A Man Can Get Lost’ remains a great lost single, overshadowed by the proto-house of ‘Memorabilia’ which appears in both its original Daniel Miller mix and the remixed ‘Non-Stop Ecstatic Dancing’ version with Cindy Ecstasy and the horns of John Gatchell. The anti-consumerist electronic art piece ‘Persuasion’ from the same recording session at Stage One is still (if not more) relevant today, while the sub-two minute Daniel Miller take of ‘Metro MRX’ for ‘Flexipop’ borrows the same synthetic rhythm track as DEPECHE MODE’s ‘New Life’ to accompany Almond’s snarls of “he’s a mutant!”
Of course, the original ‘Metro MRX’ came from SOFT CELL’s debut ‘Mutant Moments’ EP released in October 1980 and it’s featured here in full. From it, the wonderful ‘L.O.V.E Feelings’ is a touching gem, a sign of things to come with basic but beautiful synth sounds and an air of John Barry’s ‘Midnight Cowboy’ while ‘Potential’ is something of a metronomic buzzfest.
A number of interesting demos find their way onto the box; ‘Tainted Love’ is more rigid but has appeal and potential, coming over a bit like FAD GADGET while ‘Bedsitter’ is still lively, the klanky Korg Rhythm KR55 adding some home recording charm.
There’s also the bonus of the previously unreleased ‘Red Tape, Sticky Tape’ and Cellmate favourite ‘Martin’ in its 1980 demo incarnation.
Previously from ‘The Bedsit Tapes’ and not in a dissimilar tone to ‘The Girl With The Patent Leather Face’, the synth bass heavy cover of BLACK SABBATH’s ‘Paranoid’ presents out of tune electronics and Almond screaming like he’s trapped in the gutter, while the solid triple bassline of Ball’s Korg SB100 Synthe-Bass emerges in ‘Science Fiction Stories’. The raw ‘Bleak Is My Favourite Cliché’ does what it says on the tin, embroiled in winter of discontent dystopia but with hidden melody and an edgy gothique. The 6/8 rhythmic template of ‘Mix’ sees a development into pop like THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Empire State Human’ although Almond is suitably wayward.
As usual with these boxed sets, a number of live recordings are included and from the Leeds Polytechnic Fine Art Christmas party in December 1979, ‘Walking Make Up Counter’ captures the electro-punk aspect that showed they had more in common with SUICIDE, rather than the clean KRAFTWERK inspired lines of OMD.
And speaking of Messrs Vega and Rev, fast forward to a Los Angeles show in 1983 and there’s a frenzied cover of ‘Ghost Rider’ with Gary Barnacle on sax which provides an interesting curio.
Probably the best known SUICIDE song, Almond smirks that “I love a bit of Nihilism”; what’s also noticeable is that his live vocals lave improved considerably from earlier live tapes without losing his energetics and passion.
In terms of capturing the rawer aspects of first phase SOFT CELL, the 1981 BBC Radio 1 session for Richard Skinner does that best. While unpolished, ‘Entertain Me’ was good fun complete with fluffed cues while the brilliant ‘Seedy Films’ was much faster than the final album version and possibly better for it.
When SOFT CELL unexpectedly got back together for the start of the 21st Century, it was like unfinished business and two brand new songs for 2002’s ‘Very Best of’ collection along with the ‘Cruelty Without Beauty’ album were duly delivered.
The romp of ‘Divided Soul’ still comes over like a dirty version of ‘Sailing On The Seven Seas’ by OMD and a reinterpretation of ‘The Night’ generates thoughts of how things might have panned out had that Northern Soul staple made famous by FRANKIE VALLI & THE FOUR SEASONS been chosen to be recorded as a single in 1981 instead of ‘Tainted Love’.
But the brilliant brass assisted swipe at the X-Factor generation of ‘Desperate’ was perhaps the reunion’s best fruit of labours, although the enjoyable comeback single ‘Monoculture’ aimed at the same target while ‘Last Chance’ provided a fitting epilogue to ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’.
The new special ‘Non-Stop Euphoric Dubbing’ continuous mix begins with a variation on the haunting ‘Barriers’ which works well as a lead into ‘Numbers’. Working like an imaginary horror film soundtrack as opposed to a dance megamix, it is heavy and cinematic in sound. ‘Youth’ and ‘Where The Heart Is’ are particularly effective with the dub elements of Almond’s voice echoing in and out, seguing into the Richard X Dub of ‘Seedy Films’ which maintains its sleazy edge without sounding too contemporary.
The inclusion of ‘L’Esqualita’ provides some fabulous gothic menace while ‘Loving You, Hating Me’ and ‘Baby Doll’ prolong the claustrophobic tension. A rework of ‘Facility Girls’ offers respite into ‘Little Rough Rhinestone’ before concluding with Dave Ball’s Lateral Dub treatment of ‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye’.
As well as 9 discs of music, ‘Keychains & Snowstorms – The SOFT CELL Story’ includes a DVD collecting together TV appearances, promo videos, archive 1981 concert footage and the notorious ‘Non-Stop Exotic Video Show’ which ironically saw the unmissed ‘News Of The World’ tabloid accuse SOFT CELL of attempting to corrupt their teenage audience.
Everyone from FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, BRONSKI BEAT, ERASURE and PET SHOP BOYS to NINE INCH NAILS, PSYCHE, FISCHERSPOONER, TIGA and HERCULES & LOVE AFFAIR have much to thank Marc Almond and Dave Ball for.
It’s amazing to think how much of an impact SOFT CELL had in popular culture. Rather fittingly, Dave Ball said to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK of ‘Keychains & Snowstorms: The SOFT CELL Story’: “It’s got a lot of stuff, there’s a great book that comes with it which has got quotes from people like Neil Tennant and Trent Reznor, so it’s interesting … if anybody is a serious fan, I think it’s a must!“
When London based electronic disco duo HEARTBREAK first appeared, they prided themselves on being “kind of how the 80s would sound today if the 90s hadn’t got in the way”.
Fronted by the charismatic Argentinian vocalist Sebastian Muravchik and backed by Chester-born producer Ali Renault’s dramatic heavy metal electro where guitars were substituted for a Roland SH101, they somehow managed to mix BLACK SABBATH with Italo Disco.
This incongruous cocktail came together in a sinister but joyous manner that would “make the world dance with tears in their eyes, like bi-polar maniacs on the brink of an ecstatic panic attack!”.
Anthemic songs such as ‘Destroy All Power’ and ‘My Tears Electro’ put HEARTBREAK alongside WHITE LIES, LITTLE BOOTS and LA ROUX in the promising synthy school of 2008, with the duo touring with the latter two. However, despite these well-received live performances, HEARTBREAK went into hiatus with just one album ‘Lies’ to their name.
But in keeping with their best known song ‘We’re Back’, Sebastian Muravchik and Ali Renault have announced an unexpected return with a reunion gig at The Moth Club in London’s Hackney for Hypnotic Tango with ITALOCONNECTION, the production team featuring Italo legend Fred Ventura.
The duo kindly chatted about what has been happening over the last few years within the HEARTBREAK camp and what they might have planned for the future.
One of the influences in HEARTBREAK was Italo Disco which is now being reappraised in a more positive light with documentaries like ‘Italo Disco Legacy’. How did you come to discover and love it?
Seb and Ali: It was always there, from childhood. It was big both in Italy where Ali lived and in Buenos Aires as well, where Seb is from. But then of course Ferenc drew attention to it through the CBS and then IFM, and here DJ Casionova made us realise this was more than music, it was a mission. It was always there and always will be; to quote Casionova: “Italo is forever”.
Your signature song ‘We’re Back’ is proving to be quite prophetic?
Seb and Ali: In many ways, yes. Back then there were a few nights in the country pushing the sound, but it was mostly ignored in the UK, as it had been for decades since its inception. These days it seems to be a fairly well established scene.
For instance Fred Ventura is a regular visitor here these days, and we’ll be lucky enough to share the bill again with him on the 15th.
Salvatore also managed to finally DJ here a few times before his extremely untimely passing – credit the classic Cyber Dance crew for a lot of this.
There was a certain hypocrisy towards Italo Disco in the UK despite it being an important aspect of PET SHOP BOYS and NEW ORDER?
Seb and Ali: You bet. Italo in the UK carries political weight, in a similar understated way to how Disco was political in the US during the 70s. I think in that sense it is more relevant now than it ever was before.
Another element of HEARTBREAK was the heavy electronic sound and also being very energetic live…
Seb and Ali: Metal was and is very important to us as an influence in a variety of ways.
We called it Metallo, but you know, as soon as we define our work as something we seem to immediately move in a different direction.
Nevertheless, from classic metal like Sabbath and so on through Thrash and into Death Metal, themes, energy and attitude influence what we do – we also greatly admire the scene’s endurance and its uncompromising artistic stance.
Why did the HEARTBREAK hiatus happen in the first place?
Seb and Ali: Love tore us apart.
What did you both do during the break?
Seb: I wrote and produced the SNS album and toured with the band, and also did some acting in the occasional soap opera in Buenos Aires when the political climate allowed it (it’s too risky at the minute, but it was fine for quite a few years before). I have also done some academic work and research on photography and screenwriting, and recently started a third wave of work with Movimiento Improbable, looking a lot into early electronic and tape music, and classic tango of course.
Ali: I went back to concentrating on solo projects under my aliases Ali Renault and Cestrian as well as starting a new EBM influenced project called PARASOLS. In 2013, I started a new label Vivod, now 22 releases in and started my own Radio Show on Intergalactic FM, Vivod Radio 3 years ago. Other than that, I’ve been gigging around Europe taking my live set around but mostly DJ-ing.
Looking back to 2008-2009, it was a crazy time… you had a lot of good press, were collaborating with LITTLE BOOTS on the song ‘Magical’, remixing for SUGABABES + SAINT EITENNE and doing the NME tour with LA ROUX, what do you remember of it?
Seb and Ali: Intense highs, deep lows, considerable joy, considerable pain. But above all, great gigs all round.
How do you reflect on the recording of the ‘Lies’ album? Which tracks do you think still stand up today?
Seb and Ali: ‘Regret’ is our favourite – something special happened there; but also ‘We’re Back’ and ‘My Tears Electro’.
‘The Deadly Pong of Love’ has actually grown on both of us and we love it even more than we did back then. ‘Robot’s Got the Feeling’ does as well, everything basically, except maybe for ‘Give Me Action’ which hasn’t aged too well we think.
‘My Tears Electro’ was a song on the ‘Deceit’ EP, what was that inspired by?
Seb and Ali: Hope against hope, belief in the impossible, and the overwhelming sadness underlying any fight worth fighting. HEARTBREAK in a way was about turning anger and despair into love and lust for life. All of it simultaneously strengthened and undermined by what we consider our own lines of flight.
You did a cover of ‘Loving The Alien’ for the ‘Life Beyond Mars – Bowie Covered’ album but of course, he’s sadly no longer with us…
Seb and Ali: He was an excellent songwriter, a fact sometimes overshadowed by the visual aspect of what he did (which was very strong as well of course), and the overall myth he projected so effectively. His post-modern stance on identity is influential to Seb, and so is his early work as a lyricist, but we cannot say his sound at any particular stage bears relevant influence to HEARTBREAK’s, production-wise.
The ‘Anthonio’ song Sebastian did with Richard X over the ANNIE backing track was good fun and rather authentic…
Seb: I’m really thankful to Richard X for the opportunity to explore that singing register and expression, something I’ve always wanted to do.
It was a fun idea and I’ve learnt a lot from working with Richard on that and another bit of vocal recording for SNS he once helped me with.
I am better as a singer because of that experience. I hope someday somehow I get to work with him again.
How do you feel about how the music business landscape and social media has changed since ‘Lies’ came out in 2008?
Seb and Ali: Best time for music ever. As a business, streaming shows amazing potential. Vinyl costs could be covered by streaming profits, but we also hail the return of the cassette tape, all potentially enhanced by the streaming model’s democratising wealth. In terms of social media, we like the accountability it brings and how it might help to a degree do away with the harmful ghosts that smother the music world in smoke and mirrors, purifying the listening experience and music culture in general. I think it can empower fans and help them through some of the psychological hardships associated with following the work of their favourite artists.
So are HEARTBREAK back for the long haul and will there be new material?
Seb and Ali: We’ll do the Moth Club gig, see how that goes and take it from there. But we’re in a good place right now. This gig to us is a celebration of what HEARTBREAK was, an honest mission full of love at a time where that was (and now probably remains) fairly rare among electronic bands, but also a celebration of a great friendship that we thought had broken down for good and never thought we’d be able to rebuild. Being friends again is a bit of a miracle to be honest, which we value greatly. The idea is that, whatever we do next, this time the friendship comes first.
Your comeback performance will be at The Moth Club in London with Fred Ventura’s ITALOCONNECTION, what have you planned for that?
Seb and Ali: Blood and tears.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to HEARTBREAK
Producer and remixer Richard Philips, better known as Richard X, began his musical career creating bootlegs or mash-ups.
This was an illegal creative practice of combining two existing and often incongruous records to make an entirely new track.
The fusion of disparate elements, where often the vocals of one recording from a particular genre were placed over the instrumental backing from another, became a fashionable practice in clubs; Belgium’s 2 Many DJs were among one of the more notable exponents alongside Richard X.
Influenced by THE HUMAN LEAGUE and KRAFTWERK in particular, Richard X’s first notable mash-up under the name GIRLS ON TOP was ‘I Wanna Dance With Numbers’ in 2001; it dropped Whitney Houston over KRAFTWERK and inspired by the apparent elitism of the electronica scene at the start of the 21st Century.
But it was when he placed ‘Freak Like Me’ by R ‘n’ B artist Adina Howard over TUBEWAY ARMY’s ‘Are Friends Electric?’ for a bootleg entitled ‘We Don’t Give A Damn About Our Friends’ that figures within the music business realised Richard X’s Frankenstein vision might have commercial potential.
Ironically, one person who didn’t was Adina Howard herself who refused permission for her vocal to be used on an officially sanctioned release.
Instead, the British female pop trio SUGABABES recorded a cover version of the mash-up produced by Richard X and the rest is history.
Since then, Richard X has been approached to work with many artists, but remains selective, declining most of what he is offered and often only working on individual tracks, thanks to his own artistic assertion that “I’ve always been about singles…”
Richard X created his own production umbrella Black Melody to oversee his work and even released a collection of demos by THE HUMAN LEAGUE as ‘The Golden Hour Of The Future’ which had been shelved by Virgin Records back in 1981. Meanwhile as well as ERASURE, NINE INCH NAILS, GOLDFRAPP, MIRRORS, SAY LOU LOU and NEW ORDER, his productions and remixes have encompassed artists such varied as Will Young, Roísín Murphy, Rachel Stevens, Sam Sparro, Tiga, Jarvis Cocker and Lana Del Rey.
As a result of often working on just singular tracks with artists, Richard X has a large and diverse portfolio; ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK lists eighteen of his most notable tracks, with a limit of one track per artist and presented in chronological and then alphabetical order…
SUGABABES Freak Like Me (2002)
Richard X dropped ‘Freak Like Me’ over ‘Are Friends Electric?’ as a GIRLS ON TOP bootleg, a crossover hit was just waiting to be unleashed… enter SUGABABES, modern pop’s equivalent of ‘Charlie’s Angels’. This was a period when Gary Numan was being sampled left, right and centre by the likes of BASEMENT JAXX and DJ Armand Van Helden, so this Diabolus In Musica urban hybrid no doubt helped bring him to a curious new young audience.
A huge fan of THE HUMAN LEAGUE, Richard X continued his mash-up magic, albeit in a more reproductive manner. When the appropriately monikered LIBERTY X came knocking, he took inspiration from the various versions of ‘Being Boiled’ and put RUFUS & CHAKA KHAN’s funk classic ‘Ain’t Nobody’ over the top, helped by the fact that both tunes ran at a very similar BPM of 103/104.
RICHARD X in collaboration with DEBORAH STRICKLAND-EVANS Lemon / Lime (2003)
Deborah Evans-Strickland was best known for her deadpan vocal on THE FLYING LIZARDS’ very unusual cover of ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’. For his debut solo album, Richard X dragged her out of retirement for a bizarre reinterpretation of ‘Walk On By’ as well as the Trans-Commuter Express job spec art piece ‘Lemon / Lime’. Stern but strangely alluring in her posh Essex accent, Evans-Strickland came over like the scary Human Resources Manager who everyone is secretly attracted to.
Co-written with Hannah Robinson and based on some real-life music industry anecdotes, Richard X’s GOLDFRAPP-styled production on ‘Some Girls’ saw Rachel Stevens playing a wannabe who ends up on pop’s casting couch. Driven apparently by having his GOLDFRAPP remixes rejected, it was ‘Some Girls’ that first put the icy glam electro sound into the mainstream consciousness before GOLDFRAPP themselves.
“There is no you, there is only ME!” exclaimed an angry and provocative Trent Reznor on ‘Only’, but Richard X smoothed things down, brought forward the chorus and took it down the discotheque, albeit a dark gothic one! With a frantic marimba line added and an increased dance tempo, this was one of Richard X’s best crossover reworkings that still retained the original’s heavy spirit of frustration expressed as part of Reznor’s battle with alcoholism and substance abuse.
LUKE HAINES Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop – Richard X Mix (2006)
Once referred to as the Adolf Hitler of Britpop by the music press, Luke Haines’ memoir ‘Bad Vibes: Britpop & My Part In Its Downfall’ declared that BLUR’s Damon Alban deserved far more to be nominated for that title! An installation of danceable pop terrorism by THE AUTEURS and BLACK BOX RECORDER leader with a full fat octave driven electro mix by Richard X, this gleefully satirised the Shoreditch club scene with a bitter attack on its array of poseurs.
PET SHOP BOYS Fugitive – Richard X Extended Mix (2006)
Although the ‘Fundamental’ album was produced by Trevor Horn, Richard X worked on and powerfully extended ‘Fugitive’ as a limited edition exclusive for the fittingly titled ‘Fundamentalism’ bonus album. PET SHOP BOYS’ own post-9/11 song, Neil Tennant recently revealed in the extensive ‘Fundamental: Further Listening 2005–2007’ booklet notes:“It’s about a terrorist, a terrorist whose ideology is that he believes that by killing the enemy he’s going to go to heaven”.
Richard X has worked on-and off with Anne Lilia Berge Strand since 2004 including her breakthrough song ‘Chewing Gum’; ‘Songs Remind Me Of You’ was another fabulous tune from the X / Hannah Robinson songbook. Filled with high octane electronic dance flavours, “How does it feel…to hear your songs on the radio?” asked the Norwegian songstress wispily with an exquisite devenir a gris lilt over a classic chord structure inside a spiky synthesized mix.
Available on the ANNIE album ‘Don’t Stop’ via Smalltown Supersound
As a jokey publicity stunt for the Italo disco flavoured ANNIE single ‘Anthonio’, Richard X used its backing track and a new lyric by Hannah Robinson to create a brilliant tongue-in-cheek response to her tale of broken holiday romance. As a modern exponent of Italo, HEARTBREAK’s charismatic vocalist Sebastian Muravchik amiably played the role of the disimpassioned Latin lover.
Available on the ANTHONIO single ‘Annie’ via Pleasure Masters
With some slight structural similarities to Kylie Minogue’s ‘The One’ and recorded by SAINT ETIENNE for an updated singles compilation, ‘Method Of Modern Love’ was again written by Richard X with Hannah Robinson alongside Matt Prime. A long-time fan of the trio, it had only been intended for Richard X to remix the track ‘This Is Tomorrow’, but he ended up producing them as they opted for ‘Method Of Modern Love’ as a new single after hearing the demo.
‘Overpowered’ was the second solo album from one-time MOLOKO frontwoman Roísín Murphy and a superb collection of soulful 21st century electronic disco. The Richard X helmed ‘Parallel Lives’ penetrated with some steady and deep sub-bass, providing a nice bonus to an album where Murphy had gloriously sounded not unlike Lisa Stansfield fronting PET SHOP BOYS on outstanding songs such as ‘Primitive’ and Cry Baby’.
Available on the ROÍSÍN MURPHY album ‘Overpowered’ via EMI Records
DRAGONETTE Pick Up The Phone – Richard X Remix (2010)
While ‘Pick Up The Phone’ from Canadian popsters DRAGONETTE was a summery upbeat tune, their usual Euro-leaning sound took a breather with electric guitars subbing for the usual synths. But this made things perfect for a superior Richard X remix to stick back in all the electronic dance elements that the band were actually best known for.
From ‘Head First’, the poppiest album in the GOLDFRAPP catalogue, the Richard X assisted ‘Alive’ allowed Alison Goldfrapp to explore her Olivia Newton-John fixation with a tune that recalled ‘I’m Alive’, the latter’s collaboration with ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA for the film ‘Xanadu’. The synth solo was big and fat with power chords plus a great middle eight to boot. With references to Billy Joel as well, ‘Alive’ sounded slightly more Oberheim than Korg…
Available on the GOLDFRAPP album ‘Head First’ via Mute Records
THE HUNDRED IN THE HANDS Young Aren’t Young (2010)
Hailing from Brooklyn, THE HUNDRED IN THE HANDS possessed a sultry new wave fusion with occasional gothic overtones. Despite the girl / boy duo having aspirations to be more like Warp Records label mates BROADCAST, Richard X produced a number of key songs from their self-titled debut album, adding a more accessible sheen. ‘Young Aren’t Young’ was a dreamy NEW ORDER influenced number layered with the sort of frenetic guitar playing that would have made Bernard Sumner proud.
It’s strange to think now but before she became a pop princess, Sophie Ellis-Bextor once fronted an indie rock band called THEAUDIENCE. Yet another Richard X and Hannah Robinson co-composition, the glitterball sparkle of ‘Starlight’ utilised a Linn Drum led rhythm section and sweeping synth strings for a dreamy electronic pop concoction. Alluringly finding “heaven in the dark”, it was one of those catchy summer holiday disco anthems that Kylie Minogue wouldn’t have objected to recording herself.
MIRRORS Into The Heart – Richard X Radio Mix (2011)
With a determined art for art’s sake concept for their eventual ‘Lights & Offerings’ long player, the original sessions with Richard X were abandoned when MIRRORS chose to produce themselves, although he did contribute a Radio Mix for the reissued single ‘Into The Heart’; less intense and claustrophobic than the quartet’s album version, the majestic singalong proved that Synth Britannia influences were and still are nothing to be ashamed of.
THE SOUND OF ARROWS are Stefan Storm and Oskar Gullstrand, a Swedish duo described by one observer as “Disney meets Brokeback Mountain”. Like PET SHOP BOYS fed with Fox’s Glacier Mints, the Richard X produced widescreen instrumental ‘Lost City’ was fittingly dramatic, although its main melodic theme may have been a bit too ‘Top Gun’ with synths for some listeners…
Available on THE SOUND OF ARROWS album ‘Voyage’ via Skies Above
Produced by Richard X, ‘The Violet Flame’ saw ERASURE return to form with their fourteenth album after the disappointment of its predecessor ‘Tomorrow’s World’ and express an infectious zest for the future with songs seeded via Vince Clarke’s pre-recorded dance grooves. With ‘Sacred’, this was another classic ERASURE pop tune, although the bizarre phrasal spectre of ‘Sweet Child O Mine’ by GUNS N ROSES could be found in the verse of Andy Bell’s vocal topline!
For the Mancunians’ first album of new material without estranged founder member and bassist Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner promised a return to electronic music. That was certainly delivered on with ‘Plastic’, a full-on throbbing seven minute electro number in the vein of Giorgio Moroder, solidly mixed by Richard X with blippy echoes of NEW ORDER’s own ‘Mr Disco’. Dealing with the issue of superficiality in relationships, it declared “you’re like plastic, you’re artificial…”
Produced by Richard X and Sunglasses Kid, a nocturnal warmth exuded from the hypnotic drifts of ‘Beyond Memory’, demonstrating how German songstress NINA’s brand of pulsating electronic pop acted as a bridge between the sub-genres of synthwave and synthpop. With her vocals deliciously slicing the moonlit atmosphere with a superbly breathy chorus, ‘Beyond Memory’ reflected on the personal lifelong impact of past relationships.