Following her well-received crowdfunded 2017 classical symphony ‘Melanfonie’ with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, Berlin-based Anglo-Czech musician and producer EMIKA returns to electronics with the hauntingly gorgeous ‘Close’.
The song comes from Ema Jolly’s new ten-track album ‘Falling In Love With Sadness’ which is pencilled in for release on 10th October 2018, also World Mental Health Day. It is said to be her most personal work to date and was recorded in parallel to ‘Melanfonie’ and her last electronically based release ‘Flashbacks’.
Sparse and chillingly melodic with cascading voices complimenting the drum machine backbone, the Milton Keynes born songstress asks “How much intimacy is too much? And where do we draw the line?”; the stark visual accompaniment gives an effective minimal explanation that concurs with her view that “there was some kind of sadness that was passed down to me through generations in my family, particularly the women. I didn’t necessarily feel it was my sadness but it’s something I’ve learned to live with.”
Since she founded her own Emika Records in 2014, EMIKA has shown herself to be a fine example of a modern independent artist with her brand of deeply European avant pop. A more expansive, immediate template came via her third album ‘Drei’ in 2015. The beautifully stuttering ‘Miracles’ was one of the record’s key highlights while the moody allure of ‘Serious Trouble’ recalled Róisín Murphy.
Also known for doing unusual cover versions, her striking reinterpretation of Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’ gave the iconic tune a deep asexual resonance, with only a passing resemblance to the original.
‘Close’ acts as an enticing trailer to ‘Falling In Love With Sadness’ which if the song’s inherent chromatic melancholy is anything to go by, will be a powerfully cathartic musical statement.
A portion of the album’s proceeds will be donated to a UK-based mental health charity.
‘Close’ is from the new album ‘Falling In Love With Sadness’, to be released by Emika Records on 10th October 2018
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 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.
Moody electronic duo KALEIDA finally release their debut album ‘Tear The Roots’.
Having come to wider attention opening for RÓISÍN MURPHY on her European tour in 2015, vocalist Christina Wood and synthesist Cicely Goulder released two EPs ‘Think’ and ‘Detune’ in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
The title song of the former release was included on the soundtrack of the 2014 noir action thriller ‘John Wick’; the thoughtful brooding synthpop of ‘Think’ contrasted the violence it accompanied. And ‘Think’ is the only track from those two EPs to adorn ‘Tear The Roots’.
But it all begins with an intriguing experiment in multi-layered staccato voices and inventive percussive textures entitled ‘Convolution’, which sees the forlorn melancholic voice of Wood take centre stage inside Goulder’s technological playground. The following ‘Echo Saw You’ also utilises an absorbing rhythmic template.
Of the ten brand new tracks on the long player, the wonderfully intense minimal house of ‘All The Pretty Pieces’ and its cacophony of CLANNAD styled vocals is one of the most immediate and a highlight of the set.
Meanwhile, the brooding electronic disco lento of ‘Division’ will be appreciated by anyone who loves SIN COS TAN’s ‘Trust’. Cut from a similar cloth, ‘Meter’ keeps the dance template minimal, procuring something that comparatively uptempo without being overbearing, as does ‘Coco’ with its strikingly subtle schaffel.
The album takes things down further with a piano-led ballad in ‘Free’ and no strangers to covers having already recorded ‘A Forest’ and ‘Take Me To The River’, KALEIDA’s sparse rendition of NENA’s ‘99 Luftballons’ will polarise, but it earns kudos for being very different. Included in the recent Cold War spy drama ‘Atomic Blonde’, it fully projects the currently relevant nuclear apocalypse warning that was lost on many back in the day.
‘House Of Pulp’ adds an almost folk tinged dimension to the synthetic lattice while on the emotive closing title song, a beautiful string section makes its presence felt.
With shades of sisters-in-arms like EMIKA and KITE BASE, in ‘Tear The Roots’, KALEIDA have successfully cultivated a curious mystique with their contemplative sound, capturing the existential dilemmas of the human condition and the unsettling nature of the modern world.
London based duo KALEIDA first gained wider attention while supporting RÓISÍN MURPHY on her 2015 European tour.
Some have compared vocalist Christina Wood and synthesist Cicely Goulder to PURITY RING, AUSTRA and LADYTRON. ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK thinks their brooding demeanour is more akin to BLACK NAIL CABARET, EMIKA and early EURYTHMICS.
Formed in 2013, Goulder had been working in the film industry and her contacts no doubt helped KALEIDA’s first single ‘Think’ to be considered for inclusion on the soundtrack of the 2014 noir action thriller ‘John Wick’, starring Keanu Reeves. With hints vocally of LONDON GRAMMAR and KOSHEEN, the thoughtful synthpop approach of ‘Think’ contrasted the violence it accompanied. It became the title track to their eventual EP issued in April 2015.
From it, the almost spritely ‘Tropea’ maintained the standard of ‘Think’, with a bass synth motif seemingly borrowed from the middle section JEAN-MICHEL JARRE’s ‘Second Rendez-Vous’. Meanwhile ‘Aliaa’, a tribute to women’s rights activist Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, showcased their developing downtempo sound and a haunting drum machine driven reinterpretation of AL GREEN’s ‘Take Me To The River’ illustrated the breadth of their musical knowledge and a knack for inventive cover versions.
While some acts have been trying to make a big noise about themselves after just a handful of singles, KALEIDA have been biding their time, letting the music and visuals do the talking for them. They have gradually and carefully built up a mystique that provokes curiosity.
From their recently released second EP ‘Detune’, the marvellous ‘It’s Not Right’ stands head and shoulders above much of the output that has been released independently in the UK during the last 18 months. With a contemplative atmosphere providing resonance, a spike in tempo utilising sequences and variation in percussive colours provides an access point for those intrigued by KALEIDA.
The deeper stance displayed on ‘Aliaa’ makes its presence felt on the mellow title track and ‘Power’; both show a close affinity with EMIKA, with the prominent use of multi-layered voices, sub-bass and inventive percussion programming on the former.
However, be prepared for a surprise with the vocal arrangement for THE CURE’s ‘A Forest’, which is almost from the folk tradition and barely recognisable from the original.
KALEIDA are in the studio to record their debut album for 2017 release. Based on the evidence of the two EPs so far, it will be eagerly anticipated.
Berlin-based EMIKA is one of the dark horses of UK electronic music.
With her trademark sub-dub bass, an unsettling creepiness looms in her brand of experimental pop.
A classically schooled musician with a degree in Music Technology, Milton Keynes born Ema Jolly began work as a sound designer for Native Instruments in the former divided city, where in parallel she honed what started off as a moody dubstep orientated sound with a voice that was like a cross between RÓISÍN MURPHY and GAZELLE TWIN.
Since her self-titled debut album was released in 2011, her introverted electronica as exemplified by the single ‘Drop The Other’ has developed into a more expansive, immediate template via her third album ‘Drei’ in 2015. One of the highlights was the excellent ‘My Heart Bleeds Melody’, a concoction of intricate pulsing layers and solemn detachment that made for a captivating experience that grew with each listen.
Also from ‘Drei’, ‘Battles’ demonstrated her attention to detail with regards production, particularly with the pitch shifting of vocals and the careful processing of sibilant cut-ups for a hauntingly percussive effect while the enticing ‘Miracles’ was beautifully stuttering avant pop.
Known for doing unusual cover versions like CHRIS ISAAK’s ‘Wicked Game’ on her second album ‘Dva’, her most striking reinterpretation to date has been DAVID BOWIE’s ‘Let’s Dance’. While not quite slowed to a funereal pace, EMIKA gave the song a deep asexual resonance, with only a passing resemblance to the original.
Ever the busy soul, EMIKA is currently completing her first classical project ‘How To Make A Symphony’ with the Prague Metropolitan Orchestra, an adventure that has been helped to fruition by a crowdfunding campaign. But the interregnum sees the release of an EP entitled ‘Flashbacks’.
Laced with chromatic hints of her Czech heritage and a chattering rhythm, the title track touches on her ongoing demons of being held back by trapped memories. “I try to forget about you” she exclaims.
A sombre electronic number with angelic qualities, ‘Flashbacks’ is accessible yet retains all those esoteric qualities that have made EMIKA’s work so critically acclaimed. The monochromatic video, filmed by Tving Stage Design on some forlorn Icelandic beach using two iPhones, compliments the delightfully gloomy atmosphere provided by echoing piano and eerie chorals.
Also on the ‘Flashbacks’ EP, the lengthy ‘Restless Wings’ is a rhythmical mood piece with haunting string machine that continues EMIKA’s interest in more leftfield forms, while ‘Total’ features the soprano stylings of regular collaborator Michaela Šrumová.
The gently percussive and synth laden ‘Total’ could be seen as a vocal-led sonic progression on ‘Restless Wings’. Šrumová makes reappearance on a Bonus Mix of ‘Flashbacks’ which naturally takes on a more ambient overtone in its arrangement.
Now casting a wider net, showcasing her genre crossing diversity and independence as a recording artist, EMIKA is an artist for the long haul.
As EMIKA herself has said: “I am grateful that some how I’ve got to a place where it is all about the music and creativity”.
Her music may not necessarily be immediate, but in amongst those layers is music of distinct quality that deserves time and investment.