NEW RO is a Helsinki-based singer, songwriter and producer with a cheeky sense of humour that she often vivaciously expresses via her social media.
Known by her mother as Ronja, she released her first music in 2018, beginning with the saucily titled R’n’B pop of ‘I Cum’.
With an approach that is melodic, rhythmic and vulnerable, NEW RO released the appropriately spacey ‘Kosmos’ EP at the start of 2020, with the title song having a delightful GRIMES approach circa ‘Visions’.
The opening title song is a fabulously dreamy trance tune with an alluring vocal performance from NEW RO over a throbbing electronic soundscape that engages the mind and the feet. An equivalent artist for reference would be Sweden’s LIZETTE LIZETTE who also places techno backbones into an avant pop setting; “I forget myself” she happily declares.
Initially sparser, ‘Trickle’ enters ROBYN mode and passionately builds into something quite percussive and most of the remaining tracks on this EP follow a similar vibe. With an airy warbling flavour laced with gated voices, ‘3’ explores more Balearic territory.
Meanwhile ‘Don’t Talk To Me On The Dancefloor It’s Really Annoying’ visits Detroit via its hypnotic club drive, although it is all given an icy Finnish twist with the surprising addition of kantele! However, ‘Everything’ closes proceedings with something more abstract and reprises the esoteric side to NEW RO that appeared on ‘Kosmos’.
A vintage string machine is thrown into ‘Everything’ amongst the prominent textural swoops and layers of treated vocals which are aesthetically not far off YELLO collaborator FIFI RONG.
“I wanted to emulate the feeling of hazy and euphoric nights in a great company” said NEW RO, “My friends have inspired this EP and I want to see them dancing to it.”
While the title track is the definite stand-out from ‘i o u’, as was the case on her previous release ‘Kosmos’, NEW RO has shown promise with her two most recent EPs and ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK awaits with interest as to how she progresses creatively in the future.
‘i o u’ is released by Solina Records via the usual digital outlets
Signed to Domino Records, home of FRANZ FERDINAND, ARCTIC MONKEYS and AUSTRA, over the last year, GEORGIA has been the artist that everyone is talking about.
Comparisons with LITTLE BOOTS are hard to avoid though; both got a profile boost on ‘Later With Jools Holland’ thanks to unusual live presentation.
In LITTLE BOOTS’ case, it was her use of a Stylophone alongside a Yamaha Tenorion while with GEORGIA, it was her standing drum ‘n’ synth. And that all without mentioning the BBC Sound nominations.
Gaining mainstream radio airplay in 2019, her singles ‘About Work The Dancefloor’ and ‘Never Let You Go’ were great, mining ROBYN and CHVRCHES respectively in the process, the former stating “I have no material gifts for you”. Here were the signs of a promising breakthrough artist.
But before that, there was ‘Started Out’ with its much groovier vibe with soulful influences and neo-ragga inflections going over the electronics, while the quirky R ‘n’ B pop of ‘Feel It’ was not that far from the urban DIY austere heard on her self-titled debut.
All four songs appear on ‘Seeking Thrills’, the second album by GEORGIA, the daughter of LEFTFIELD’s Neil Barnes who first found her musical feet drumming for Kate Tempest among others. So unsurprisingly, ‘Seeking Thrills’ is a showcase for rhythm, twelve tracks of exuberance with a bittersweet tinge.
With a definite move into more accessible pop territory, the new single ‘24 Hours’ does as the album title suggests, celebrating the thrill of night life and finding love with a bass rumble and a hint of PURITY RING. With throbbing synths and a drum machine backbone, our heroine declares with excitement that “If two hearts ever beat the same, we could be it”.
However, ‘Mellow’ with rapper SHYGIRL goes the opposite direction with some deadpan art school hip-hop while ‘Ray Guns’ explores similar territory although for ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK at least, neither quite hit the spot.
Back to avant electro, ‘The Thrill’ with its hypnotic shuffling beats, vocal layers, glistening arpeggios and gorgeous synths sees GEORGIA trying to stop herself “feeling so blue”, but a sudden switch to techno brings with it an extra lift for a terrific album highlight.
The remaining songs get more reflective as GEORGIA enters ballad territory. As with any hedonistic adventure however exhilarating, its inherent Ying and Yang leads to the inevitable and never welcome comedown. ‘Till I Own It’ is quite sorrowful and while ‘I Can’t Wait’ sparkles in places, it is tinged with melancholy.
Providing another of the album’s highlights, the gently crystalline ‘Ultimate Sailor’ delightfully comes over like a cosmic collaboration between VANGELIS and ROBYN. But appropriately closing the eclectic range of ‘Seeking Thrills’, the nocturnal cinematic soundscape of ‘Honey Dripping Sky’ is interrupted by an unexpected reggae-flavoured end section.
Yes, half of this album has already been issued as singles of some sort, but with an opportunity to potentially catapult her music to a wider audience, then why not? To have an interesting and varied body of work in one place helps an artist build a bond with their fanbase.
The mainstream audience are NOT hipsters (who are notoriously fickle anyway), so time must be allowed for them to catch up and savour. While some of these songs were released in 2017, this should not spoil things for the listener because good songs will last.
With a three year gestation period, ‘Seeking Thrills’ is a solid and varied pop statement. But for the next record, will she go the full pop hog like CHVRCHES or retreat to the underground? It’s going to be an interesting year for the Londoner.
‘Seeking Thrills’ is released by Domino Records in vinyl LP, CD, cassette and digital formats
GEORGIA 2020 UK + Ireland live dates include:
Cardiff Clwb Ifor Bach (3rd March), Glasgow King Tuts (4th March), Manchester Yes (5th March), Liverpool Phase 1 (6th March), Dublin The Workman’s Club (7th March), Leeds Brudenell Community Room (9th March), Birmingham Mama Roux’s (10th March), Bristol Thekla (11th March), London Heaven (12th March)
GEORGIA is Georgia Barnes, daughter of LEFTFIELD’s Neil Barnes and the former drummer for Kate Tempest.
But she recently made her impression with a stand-out performance of ‘Never Let You Go’ playing Simmons Drums alongside an Oberheim OB6 on ‘Later With Jools Holland’.
The live presentation certainly showcased her unique selling point, in a manner not dissimilar to LITTLE BOOTS in 2008.
‘Never Let You Go’ itself sounds like grittier CHVRCHES remixed by SOULWAX, in particular the Belgian brothers take on MUSE’s ‘Muscle Museum’. An appealing electropop number, it touches many bases including synthwave such as DANA JEAN PHOENIX and RIDER, although with a much more English slant.
‘Never Let You Go’ is from GEORGIA’s upcoming second album ‘Seeking Thrills’. One track which has already been premiered is the gloriously throbbing workout of ‘About Work The Dancefloor’ which takes its lead from ROBYN with its rousing Scandipop sheen.
These two tracks are a far cry from her self-titled debut album from 2015 which possessed a more urban DIY austere. It’s been an interesting development into more accessible pop territory, but she hasn’t left her roots completely.
A previous single ‘Started Out’, which is to be included on ‘Seeking Thrills’, takes on a much more groovier vibe with soulful influences going over the electronics, while there’s also the quirky R ‘n’ B pop of ‘Feel It’ and the dead pan hip-hop of ‘Mellow’ with rapper SHYGIRL.
Great things are anticipated for GEORGIA with her signing to Domino Records, home of FRANZ FERDINAND, ARCTIC MONKEYS and AUSTRA. Having opened for METRONOMY and sold out her November show at the prestigious Scala in London, a major European and UK club tour has been announced for 2020.
‘Never Let You Go’ is released as a digital single by Domino Records, the album ‘Seeking Thrills’ is out on 11th January 2020
GEORGIA 2020 UK + Ireland live dates include:
Glasgow King Tuts (4th March), Liverpool Phase 1 (6th March), Dublin Sound House (7th March), Leeds Brudenell Community Room (9th March), Birmingham Mama Roux’s (10th March), Bristol Thekla (11th March), London Heaven (12th March)
Like Germany and the UK, Sweden has an established history in electronic music.
With a melodic tradition rooted in traditional Nordic folk music and the region’s long dark nights causing bouts of melancholy, the Swedes are more than well suited to stay indoors and further the art of synthpop.
In addition, Clavia Digital Musical Instruments, founded in 1983 and based in Stockholm, have emerged as a world leader in modern virtual analogue subtractive synthesizers with its distinctive red Nord Lead series as well as its digital stage pianos.
The iconic Energy Rekords provided a platform for modern electronic music in the country while today, labels such as Progress Productions, Labrador and Wonderland have maintained their support for domestic talent. Meanwhile, COVENANT maintain an audience across the Atlantic for their resonant futurepop and ROBYN has become so much part of the mainstream that her songs are regularly murdered by reality TV talent show wannabes.
Probably the most influential act to come out of Sweden are THE KNIFE. Their influence internationally on countless acts such as GAZELLE TWIN, GRIMES, AUSTRA, THE HORN THE HUNT and BECKY BECKY to adopt darker colours and mess with the very fabric of sound, has held a flag for inventive artful experimentation.
So what’s so special about Sweden then? Listed chronologically and then alphabetically from its UK perspective with a restriction of one song per moniker, here are 25 SVENSKA SYNTH SONGS…
LUSTANS LAKEJER Diamanter (1982)
With a shortened title, ‘Diamanter’ was a more synth driven re-recording of their second single. LUSTANS LAKEJER were labelled Sweden’s answer to DURAN DURAN and like the Birmingham combo, Johan Kinde and Co were heavily influenced by JAPAN. Their third album ‘En Plats I Solen’ was produced by Richard Barbieri with Mick Karn popping up with his sax on three of its tracks.
Founded in 1980 by Eddie Bengtsson and Marina Schiptjenko, PAGE are often credited with bringing the more purer form of synthpop as pioneered by Vince Clarke to Sweden. Their debut single ‘Dansande Man’ was a frantically percussive excursion suitable for dancing to as the title suggested. Bengtsson and Schiptjenko were to become key figures on the Swedish music scene in many guises, as we shall see…
Originally released as a single via Eskimo, currently unavailable
With their name inspired by a JAPAN song, THE MOBILE HOMES were another Swedish band adopting purer synthpop colours . For their second single ‘Feeling Better’, they signed to Sonet, a Scandinavian independent who coincidentally handled the early publishing of Martin Gore and Vince Clarke. Eschewing the quirkiness of PAGE, THE MOBILE HOMES reflected the more pessimistic side of life often associated with Sweden.
An almost cartoonish trio originally comprising of Alexander Bard, Jean-Pierre Barda and La Camilla, ARMY OF LOVERS countered their outlandish visual presence with catchy electronic dance tunes influenced by the hippy musical ‘Hair’. While the epic ‘Crucify’ was the huge worldwide hit, the musically more subtle ‘Obsession’ offered a softer side while still maintaining the cinematic drama.
In parallel with PAGE, Eddie Bengtsson joined vocalist Alexander Hofman to write and perform some ‘Star Trek’ themed songs for a friend’s Trekkie themed birthday party. . Originally called MR SPOCK, the band name was changed to an acronym for ‘Star Pilot On Channel K’ after threats of legal action from Paramount Studios. ‘Never Trust A Klingon’ is still their crowning moment, a genius combination of deadpan vocals, bubbling synthpop and samples from Captain James T Kirk.
Available on the album ‘Five Year Mission’ via Energy Rekords
Founded in 1988, ELEGANT MACHINERY were another act who preferred a purer synthpop stance; they even covered SPANDAU BALLET’s ‘To Cut A Long Story Short’ in the style of Vince Clarke for an excellent 1995 Energy Rekords tribute collection of the same name. Many consider ‘Hard To Handle’ their finest song, an excellent blend of dance friendly beats and blippy melodies.
Formed in 1986 in Helsingborg, the Eskil Simonsson fronted COVENANT managed to gain a footing in both synthpop and EBM camps, achieving great success in North America from touring the alternative electronic club network established following the stateside success of DEPECHE MODE. Still going strong, 2016 saw the release of their ninth long player ‘Blinding Dark’.
Sibling duo THE KNIFE are probably the acclaimed electronic act to emerge from Sweden. Their uncompromising approach has won them many plaudits. But there was a time when with their experimentation came a tune too. The wonderful ‘Pass This On’ took Karin Dreijer’s unsettling pitch shifted vocals and placed them over brother Olaf’s soundtrack of primitive string machine and uplifting steel drums. Things got much darker after this…
Tired of her label BMG trying to turn her into the Swedish CHRISTINA AGUILERA, ROBYN took began taking an interest in the electronic movement closer to home. Inspired by THE KNIF, she collaborated with them to produce what is now possibly the key song which transformed Robin Miriam Carlsson into the successful independently minded artist she is today.
Available on the album ‘Robyn’ via Konichiwa Records
Best known as a member of the cult Swedish indie band PARIS, singer and keyboardist Emma Nylén had aspirations to produce something that was more decisively electronic. Her first recordings immediately showcased a catchy dance friendly sound as exemplified by ‘Rock D’Amour’. Subsequent albums ‘Closet Wanderings’ and ‘Nomme’ have maintained the standard, although EMMON is currently on a career break to raise a family.
Eddie Bengstsson’s solo project, also referred to as SMPJ, saw him unafraid to mine his Synth Britannia influences. ‘Allt Är Klart’ was an ULTRAVOX tribute and effectively a Swedish vocal version of the instrumental B-side ‘Alles Klar’. The hard, staccato synth bassline was borrowed from the original, but the track was bolstered by some superb whirring synths in the tradition of Billy Currie’s adventures with the ARP Odyssey.
Combining dual male / female vocals with a danceable electro goth backdrop, Anders Hagström and Yasmine Uhlin achieved success in Germany as well as Sweden with ‘Spiders’. ASHBURY HEIGHTS came out of hiatus in 2015 with a new female vocalist Tea F Thimé and a new album ‘The Looking Glass Society’ after a settling a despite with their label Out Of Line.
BODIES WITHOUT ORGANS or BWO saw PAGE’s Marina Schiptjenko teaming up Alexander Bard from ARMY OF LOVERS in a project that has probably come closest to exploiting the musicality of ABBA for the 21st Century. Fronted by the extremely handsome Martin Rolinski, the classic pop tradition of the original Super Swedes was more than obvious on the mightily bonkers ‘Lay Your Love On Me’ which they entered for Eurovision.
Producer Andreas Kleerup hit paydirt with ‘With Every Heartbeat’, a collaboration with ROBYN. A marvellous self-titled album followed with ‘Longing For Lullabies’ featuring Neneh Cherry’s sister Titiyo being the tearful highlight. Despite being driven with raw mechanical beats, the simple vocal melody was simple, almost keyboard-like going up and down the ivory scale in the best tradition of OMD while Titiyo’s vocal range made it a bit Agnetha and Annifrid too!
One established artist who made a volte face in the wake of THE KNIFE was KARIN PARK. It was on more her ROBYN-esque third album ‘Ashes To Gold’ that she sowed the seeds of her current electronic template. The synthpop disco of ‘Ashes’ fused electronic counterpoints and a live bass guitar with an incessant groove while Miss Park provided her enticing vocal presence.
Another act formed under the spectre of THE KNIFE, Stockholm duo Malin Dahlström and Gustaf Karlöf released ‘Mother Protect’ as a free download to launch NIKI & THE DOVE. Then came ‘DJ, Ease My Mind’; shaped by a ritualistic percussive mantra and whirring sub-bass, Dahlström’s witchy mannerisms provided the surreal scenario of what the Dreijers might have sounded like if they had decided to enter Eurovision.
Available on the album ‘Instinct’ via Mercury Records
Having issued their first album ‘:Adored’ in 1996 and their second ‘Have You Ever Touched A Dream?’ in 2004, ‘Silent Dawn’ was a single released as part of DAYBEHAVIOR‘s much vaunted comeback. The song was an exploration in laid back filmic pop and breathy continental vocals that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in Italian art movie. Indeed their most recent single ‘Change’ was also released in an alternative Italian language version, naturally titled ‘Cambiare’.
KITE have been called “Sweden’s best kept pop-secret”; Nicklas Stenemo and Christian Berg have undoubtedly been producing some of the best electronic pop of the last few years. Only releasing EPs, things started to truly come together on their fourth release ‘IV’. From it, ‘Step Forward’ with its sharp percussive drama and pentatonic overtones was the undoubted highlight. More recently, the duo have been commissioned to provide a song for a new Steven Segal film.
With Karolina Komstedt’s dramatically assertive vocal and a bursting bassline from Johan Angergård, CLUB 8 showed in a crisp 180 seconds with ‘Stop Taking Time’ that a danceable electronic tune didn’t have to be a journey into death by four-to-the-floor. Formed in 1995 as a more conventional pop act, CLUB 8’s most recent album ‘Pleasure’ celebrated 20 years for the duo.
MACHINISTA are seasoned hands, John Lindqwister was part of CAT RAPES DOG while Richard Flow was in VISION TALK with the late Krister Petersson. Their mantra is produce synthpop with a rock’n’roll edge. Like THE CURE gone electronic, or ALPHAVILLE crossed with SUICIDE, ‘Molecules & Carbon’ is both catchy and danceable with some suitably rousing elements too.
First launched via a set of mysterious viral videos with alphanumeric code titles, IAMAMIWHOAMI helmed by vocalist Jonna Lee and producer Claes Björklund premiered a delightfully odd cinematic electronic sound. From the second album ‘Blue’, the rich Scandipop of ‘Chasing Kites’ sees Jonna Lee hitting those ABBA-esque high notes with ablomb before adopting a huskier register for the second half.
Available on the album ‘Blue’ via To Whom It May Concern
A touching tribute to Messrs Clarke, Gore, Hütter and Schneider, JOHAN BAECKSTROM said “I guess I just wanted to reflect on the fact that there still IS a synthpop scene with some really great bands, both old and new. In another way, the song is sort of my ‘thank you’ to some of the artists that inspired me for several decades – some of them are mentioned in the lyrics, but far from all of course”.
Founded by Dan Söderqvist and Karl Gasleben, TWICE A MAN were the opposite to many Swedish acts in that they used synths and electronic effects for more sombre atmospheric soundscapes rather than performing outright pop. Still operating as a unit, their 2015 album ‘Presence’ featuring epic environmental message songs like ‘High In The Clouds’ showed their talents have not waned over the years and indeed have become more accessible.
Available on the album ‘Presence’ via Ad Inexplorata
After her inconclusive self-titled debut album in 2011, VANBOT aka Ester Ideskog had a rethink and started venturing into artier climes with the dreamy and enigmatic ‘Trooper’. With layers of vocals and rushes of lush synth, it started a journey towards the otherworldly template of IAMAMIWHOAMI. Her icy journey continues on her next album ‘Siberia’ which was written and recorded on a 17 day trip aboard the Trans-Siberian Railway.
REIN I Don’t Get Anything But Sh*t From You (2016)
Feisty, ambitious and not to be messed with, REIN has certainly caused a stir with Europe’s male dominated EBM scene. A true Rebel Girl as suggested by one of the highlights from her self-titled debut 2016 EP, even within the inherent shouty nature of the genre and Joanna Reinikainen’s debut song ‘Can’t Handle Me’ effectively being a mission statement, things are ramped up to 11 on ‘I Don’t Get Anything But Sh*t From You’. She’s an artist to watch for sure…
Canada often treats the listener of electronica to some sparkling gems, including GRIMES, DELERIUM, FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY or RATIONAL YOUTH, and PARALLELS are now one of them.
The Toronto based trio consisting of the siblings Holly and Nick Dodson plus Artem Galperine, topped the electronic charts in 2015 and have toured extensively since.
Known for their use of vintage synths, including the Korg PolySix and Juno 60, the self-confessed fans of DEPECHE MODE, KATE BUSH and NEW ORDER have now released their third opus ‘Metropolis’.
The claim that “PARALLELS has been more than just a music project to us – it’s something we’ve lived, breathed and dreamt about for many years now” proves that the passion to make music is deeply ingrained in the trio, who joined many other artists to present their work through Pledge.
The synthy and dishy title track, which also opens the long player, has been featured as Song Of The Week on CBC Radio 1’s ‘Here & Now’. It’s all about high energy, wholesome songs, sung in a stunning voice, which at times recalls MADONNA in her prime. Apart from the mellower pieces, there are some Eurovision worthy anthems, like ‘Civilisation’.
There’s also something dark lurking behind the candied front, which represents itself beautifully on ‘I.R.L’. The hounding vocal leads the elusive melody, studded with perfect electronica and that bass, as if taken from the soundtrack to ‘Twin Peaks’.
‘Ocean, Moon & Tide’ sounds like a female-led ERASURE and ‘Catch’ has the urgency found in the familiar tracks by ROBYN, with synth lines of AND ONE.
The exuberant synth is joined by soft rock elements in ‘The Kids Will Save Detroit’, which also featured on ‘Civilisation’ EP. This tune could truly pass as a something from a film soundtrack. Similarly, ‘Technicolor’ has those larger than life BON JOVI or BRYAN ADAMS guitar riffs, before a more contemporary sound comes back on ‘The Last Man’. The lineal, almost tribal textures here, together with gentle synthesis and subdued lead, close the production.
While the sugar-coated vocal may not appeal to some listeners of the genre, it has to be said that PARALLELS have done their homework and produced an excellent dance album once again. Dodson’s voice has a luscious quality, without being too sickly, and it corresponds with the poppy electronica beautifully. Could she be the female Andy Bell? Sure so!