Tag: Sally Shapiro (Page 1 of 2)

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 30 SONGS OF 2023

Making up for lost time and revenue since 2020, the music industry really went to town on their various income streams in 2023…

Albums were being released in multiple coloured vinyl editions with the same content, sometimes as many as eight versions… while this helped in inflating physical chart positions for marketing purposes, it also gave an incorrect perception of success. As Stephen Morris from NEW ORDER once remarked to Smash Hits back in 1983: “If you believe in the charts, then you may as well believe in fairies…”

With Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino declaring that concert ticket prices were generally too low and that artists could easily “charge a bit more”, this was exactly what quite a few did and there was a noticeable price hike observed across all levels over the year.

But what about the music? This year’s song listing was quite straightforward to compile, with a smaller shortlist compared to previous years with DURAN DURAN, KITE, PISTON DAMP, LEATHERS, DELERIUM and LADYTRON missing the final 30.

Just a note that ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has never compiled an albums list, due to long form releases now having a much longer gestation period than in the past. Therefore, songs are a much better representation of the music from a calendar year. If you like the song, then check out the parent album or EP if applicable via your chosen music platform…

Selected from tracks available on the usual online retail platforms with a restriction of one song per artist moniker (so yes NINA, John Grant,  Finlay Shakespeare and Laura Bailey each appear twice but in different combinations), here are the ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 30 SONGS OF 2023 listed in alphabetical order…


BRIGITTE BARDINI Start A Fire

Hailing from Melbourne in Australia, Brigitte Bardini is the latest artist to embrace her dark side having begun as an acoustic singer songwriter. Moving away from the dreampop and shoegaze of her earlier material, ‘Start A Fire’ captured an alluring gothique on top of a gritty dance tempo while simultaneously haunting and melodic. The stylised rage was sinister stuff but aurally and visually absorbing.

Available on the BRIGITTE BARDINI single ‘Start A Fire’ via Ruby Valley Records

https://www.facebook.com/BrigitteBardiniMusic


BEBORN BETON Dancer In The Dark

Not a rework of Bruce Springsteen, the brilliant ‘Dancer In The Dark’ saw BEBORN BETON managing to out Camouflage CAMOUFLAGE with an infectious pop sensibility that more than likely came from front man and lyric writer Stefan Netschio’s love of DURAN DURAN. With another Cold War looming as if The Berlin Wall never fell, ‘Dancer In The Dark’ was a message to remain positive in the face of adversity.

Available on the BEBORN BETON album ‘Darkness Falls Again’ via Dependent Records

https://www.bebornbeton.com/


BLACKCARBURNING The Mirror

A product of lockdown, BLACKCARBURNING is the solo vehicle of Mark Hockings with the lead singer of MESH taking on multiple roles including programming and production. The spikey throbbing energy of ‘The Mirror’ provided a dark disco highlight away from the parent band’s template. “I’m just generally a fan of arpeggiated bass lines” he said, “I don’t think you can go far wrong with a repetitive sequence and a Roland drum machine”.

Available on the BLACKCARBURNING album ‘Watching Sleepers’ via COP International

https://blackcarburning.com/


LLOYD COLE The Idiot

With Lloyd Cole “excited to still be finding new methods, new perspectives, new sounds”, the standout song ‘The Idiot’ from his Chris Hughes’ produced album ‘On Pain’ gave a touching synth-laden narrative on the relationship between David Bowie and Iggy Pop as they relocated to Berlin in 1976 in an imagined conversation as the pair escaped their narcotic dependency while cycling to the studio and discothèque.

Available on the LLOYD COLE album ‘On Pain’ via earMUSIC

https://www.lloydcole.com/


CREEP SHOW The Bellows

A supergroup comprising of John Grant and the trio WRANGLER comprising of Stephen Mallinder, Ben Benge Edwards and Phil Winter, CREEP SHOW released their acclaimed debut album ‘Mr Dynamite’ in 2018. Utilising a punchy backing track, ‘The Bellows’ was like a blippy PET SHOP BOYS with layers of treated and vocodered vocals before being countered by enticing Middle Eastern resonances in the synth solo.

Available on the CREEP SHOW album ‘Yawning Abyss’ via Bella Union

http://creepshowmusic.com


DAWN TO DAWN Seventh Floor

Their first new track from DAWN TO DAWN since their 2022 debut album ‘Postcards From The Sun To The Moon’, the Montreal trio of solo artist Tess Roby with THE BEAT ESCAPE’s Adam Ohr and Patrick Lee conjured images of headlights on night drives with the shimmering story of love and lust that was ‘Seventh Floor’. With dreamy synthscapes and hypnotic drum machine, this was a wonderfully understated dance number.

Available on the DAWN TO DAWN digital single ‘Seventh Floor’ via SSURROUNDSS

https://www.facebook.com/dawntodawnmusic


FERAL FIVE Silver Sky

Creating their own “Feraltropolis”, the palette of tools on ‘Truth Is The New Gold’ saw FERAL FIVE use traditional instruments, electronica and AI voicing in a quirky but accessible fashion for a commentary on today’s strangely dystopian post-truth world. Exploring the theme of light pollution, the fine squelch laden ‘Silver Sky’ saw great vocals and backing reminiscent of INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP and DUBSTAR meeting GOLDFRAPP.

Available on the FERAL FIVE album ‘Truth Is The New Gold’ via Reckless Yes

https://www.feralfive.com/


FRAGRANCE. Much More Like A Wave – M!R!M Remix

Matthieu Roche is the enigmatic Parisian behind FRAGRANCE. whose debut ‘Dust & Disorders’ was expanded in 2023 with five new tracks. The first remix from it came in the shape of an excellent ‘Much More Like A Wave’ rework by London-based Italian producer M!R!M. “I love his take on the song” said Roche, “I always felt that the chorus of this song could work as an anthem and he definitely achieved that with his remix”

Available on the FRAGRANCE. digital single ‘Much More Like A Wave – M!R!M Remix’ via Sugarcane Recordings

https://www.facebook.com/thisisfragrance/


GLÜME Dangerous Blue

Following the acclaim for her debut ‘The Internet’ and her first liev appearences, the second Glüme album ‘Main Character’ with high profile guests such as Sean Ono Lennon and Rufus Wainwright was set to elevate her to the next level. However, things did not quite work out that way with health and financial concerns by the end of the year. ‘Dangerous Blue’ was one of the sparkling highlights despite its cooing melancholy.

Available on the GLÜME album ‘Main Character’ via Italians Do It Better

https://www.instagram.com/babyglume/


MADELINE GOLDSTEIN Seed of Doubt

Formally of synth-tinged Portland band FRINGE CLASS, Madeline Goldstein presented her best single yet in ‘Seed Of Doubt’ to launch her ‘Other World’ EP. With a wider narrative on “the restlessness of alienation and isolation, the longing to move, to feel power, and to flee”, ‘Seed Of Doubt’ was a brooding slice of gothwave in a manner tinged with some ghostly allure thanks to a haunting soprano delivery.

Available on the self-released MADELINE GOLDSTEIN EP ‘Other World’

https://www.instagram.com/madelinegoldstein_/


JORI HULKKONEN featuring JOHN GRANT I’m Going To Hell

“For my 50th birthday I wanted to do something a bit special” said Jori Hulkkonen, “however, the list of realistic projects quickly narrowed down on yet another album. I did manage to invite some friends and heroes to be featured on it, though.” The album assembled an impressive supporting cast; displaying his love of PET SHOP BOYS, hearing John Grant with his rich baritone on a house-driven pop track like ‘I’m Going To Hell’ was pure joy.

Available on the JORI HULKKONEN album ‘There Is Light Hidden In These Shadows’ via Blanco & Tinto Recordings

http://www.jorihulkkonen.com


ITALOCONNECTION featuring JAIA SOWDEN On The Radio

ITALOCONNECTION’s long player ‘Nordisko’ came with a twist by paying tribute to pop from the Nordic region via a collection of cover versions. Written by Jay-Jay Johanson, his marvellous 2002 tune ‘On The Radio’ was given an airy feminine disco makeover featuring Jaia Sowden on vocals. With absorbent sequences and glistening keys, it was a fine disco friendly shapeshift from the artpop original.

Available on the ITALOCONNECTION album ‘Nordisko’ via Mordisco / Blanco Y Negro

https://www.facebook.com/italoconnection


JAAKKO EINO KALEVI The Chamber Of Love

Athens-based Finn Jaakko Eino Kalevi sought to find beauty in the chaotic nature of the everyday on his new double album ‘Chaos Magic’. One of its many highlights ‘The Chamber Of Love’ bore a resemblance to WHAM! “I wrote the song before I ever heard ‘Everything She Wants’ but the arrangement was different” the Finn said, “I love ‘Everything She Wants’ so I arranged this song sounding more like that. It is more electronic now…”

Available on the JAAKKO EINO KALEVI album ‘Chaos Magic’ via Weird World / Domino Recording Co

https://www.jaakkoeinokalevi.com/


KID MOXIE & NINA Lust

When artists are mutual fans, it can lead to collaborative possibilities and even ‘Lust’. KID MOXIE and NINA teamed up via Italians Do It Better to capture a seductive film-noir tension within a fantasy world with the EP launched by a cover of ‘Waiting For The Night’, a song made famous by Jennifer Lopez. With a cool air of enigmatic mystery, the downtempo synthwave treatment on ‘Lust’ exuded a sensual anticipation of consummation in their duet.

Available on the KID MOXIE & NINA EP ‘Lust’ via Italians Do It Better

http://www.facebook.com/kidmoxie

https://www.iloveninamusic.com/


KNIGHT$ What Planet Did You Come From?

The first new music from KNIGHT$ since 2021, the vibrant hook-laden Eurobeat of ‘What Planet Did You Come From? (Baby)’ threw in the kitchen sink with synth, sax and vocoder. With shades of Patrick Cowley’s work for Sylvester and Bobby Orlando’s Divine productions, it affirmed that James Knights’ Britalo was just the tonic in these difficult times despite highlighting existential issues closer to home.

Available on the KNIGHT$ EP ‘$auna Mu$ik’ via Specchio Uomo

http://knights101.com/


NATION OF LANGUAGE I Will Never Learn

From their third album ‘Strange Disciple’ themed around “toxic infatuation”, the fittingly titled ‘I Will Never Learn’ summed up life’s trials and tribulations in a wonderful example of why NATION OF LANGUAGE appeal so much in their glorious mix of synths, live bass, sequencers and electronic percussion. A haunting girly falsetto howl provided a beautiful touch alongside their usual NEW ORDER, OMD and ULTRAVOX influences.

Available on the NATION OF LANGUAGE album ‘Strange Disciple’ via PIAS

https://www.nationoflanguage.com/


NEU-ROMANCER Burning Eyes

Having impressed with her first NEU-ROMANCER EP ‘Neue Romantika’ earlier in 2023 while touring the world with ZANIAS, Berlin-based Australian Laura Bailey ended the year with the cowbell heavy Hi-NRG romp ‘Burning Eyes’ on CURSES’ enjoyable album ‘Next Wave Acid Punx DEUX’ compilation. It made use of both her vocal and bass prowess which were less prominent on her largely instrumental debut release.

Available on the compilation album ‘Next Wave Acid Punx DEUX’ (V/A) via Eskimo Recordings

https://www.facebook.com/neu.romacer.music/


NNHMN Soldier of Beauty

As NNHMN, wife and husband “non-humans” Lee Margot and Michal Laudarg have been encapsulating these unsettling times in music. Adapting their dark electronic body style with more varied dance elements on their appropriately titled ‘Circle of Doom’ album, courtesy of a particularly hypnotic bassline, the wonderful serene glory of ‘Soldier of Beauty’ gave the viewpoint that the only honest thing to fight for is peace.

Available on the NNHMN album ‘Circle of Doom’ via Young and Cold Records

https://www.nnhmn.com


OMD Look At You Now

Derived from a Paul Humphreys demo with the working title of ‘Zimmer Frame for Andy’, this came bursting with the usual OMD hooks and was perhaps only missing a Paul Humphreys lead vocal. Lyrics such as “When the energy is gone and the feeling is just wrong” and “The power in your hand is pouring out like sand” pointed towards the ‘Bauhaus Staircase’ album’s political themes on the blind stupidity of Brexit.

Available on the OMD album ‘Bauhaus Staircase’ via 100% Records

https://omd.uk.com/


PAGE Det Här Är Mitt Sätt

Although the ‘En Ny Våg’ album title song took the PAGE “Numanisation” process to its zenith by featuring Chris Payne, outstripping it was the excellent jaunty robopop of ‘Det Här Är Mitt Sätt’. Within its four chord progression, there were catchy riffs and some fabulous vintage Moog soloing in what was originally conceived as a homage to ‘Fade To Grey’, song which Payne co-wrote.

Available on the PAGE album ‘En Ny Våg’ via Energy Rekords

https://www.facebook.com/PageElektroniskPop


THE REMAINDER Broken Manhole Cover

As well as Neil Arthur, THE REMAINDER also comprises Liam Hutton and Finlay Shakespeare, both members of the live BLANCMANGE family. The excellent dance friendly ‘Broken Manhole Cover’ recalled LCD SOUNDSYSTEM and it was all intentional as Neil Arthur told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK “you’ll hear me singing via a gated tremolo FX the words ‘LCD SOUNDSYSTEM’ most of the way through the song.”

Available on THE REMAINDER album ‘Evensong’ via by Blanc Check Ltd

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

https://www.liamhutton.co.uk/

http://finlayshakespeare.com/


R. MISSING All Alone With Seas

Fronted by enigmatic Sharon Shy, having released enough singles this year to make up an album, R. MISSING are in danger of falling under the radar with the bubbly electronic pop noir of ‘All Alone With Seas’ almost passing by unnoticed despite being one of their best songs of late. A long playing release, while old fashioned and not playing the modern streaming algorithms, may provide the focal point that the New York-based duo deserve.

Available on the R. MISSING single ‘All Alone With Seas’ via Terminal Echo

https://rmissing.com/


SALLY SHAPIRO Rent

Covered by acts as diverse CARTER THE UNSTOBBALE SEX MACHINE and Liza Minnelli, the latest interpretation of PET SHOP BOYS stark narrative of a kept woman came via this wispy account by Swedish duo SALLY SHAPIRO. Keeping the original theme of relationship dependency close to its heart but offering an icier Nordic vision from a female perspective, Neil Tennant said “We’ve heard it! The chorus in particular sounds good”.

Available on the SALLY SHAPIRO single ‘Rent’ via Italians Do It Better

https://www.facebook.com/shapirosally


DIE SEXUAL Bound, I Rise

From out of the shadows to under the strobe lights, DIE SEXUAL are the Los Angeles-based wife-and-husband duo of Rosselinni and Anton Floriano, the latter part of BLACK LIGHT ODYSSEY who remixed the DEPECHE MODE bonus track ‘Oh Well’. Their dark electronic influences examine themes of domination and submission with the seductive ‘Bound, I Rise’ seeing the bottom switch to the top in a hypnotic EBM friendly stomper.

Available on DIE SEXUAL EP ‘Bound’ via A System Exclusive / Hush Ltd.

https://www.facebook.com/diesex


FINLAY SHAKESPEARE Ready Ready

“It’s an absolute rip off of OMD’s ‘2nd Thought’!” admitted Finlay Shakespeare of his glorious ‘Illusion + Memory’ album highlight ‘Ready Ready’. Almost Motorik in presence with a wonderfully pulsing drive and gorgeous synth tones, our hero doesn’t refrain from thoughts about “feeling at home through just a voice on the shortwave, when in fact you don’t know where you are and you could be in the crosshairs at any time and place.”

Available on the FINLAY SHAKESPEARE album ‘Illusion + Memory’ via Alter

http://finlayshakespeare.com/


SIERRA Stronger

Parisian producer Annelise Morel has been quietly impressing audiences over the past few years as SIERRA with her brand of intriguing darkwave. After several EP releases, her debut album ‘A Story Of Anger’ was a major artistic leap forward. Including collaborations with Carpenter Brut and HEALTH, the standout track was her autobiographical statement ‘Stronger’.

Available on the SIERRA album ‘A Story Of Anger’ via Universal Music

https://www.facebook.com/sierra.synthmusic


SOFT CELL The Day The World Turned Day-Glo

Always adept at doing covers having had hits with ‘Tainted Love’ and ‘What’, SOFT CELL presented a brilliant electro tribute to Poly Styrene with ‘The Day The World Turned Day-Glo’. Taking a musical leaf out of ‘Sex Dwarf’ with Dave Ball making his syndrums and synths sound so menacing yet accessible, while Marc Almond delivers a vocal recalling the anguish of ‘Martin’ with sleazy sax passages resonating with the dystopian lyrics.

Available on the SOFT CELL album ‘*Happiness now completed’ via BMG

http://www.softcell.co.uk


SOFTWAVE Taking Life For Granted

Despite its positive pop sound, the reflective lyrics on the second SOFTWAVE album ‘things we’ve done’ highlighted the challenges of living in a modern world full of dualities. ‘Taking Life For Granted’ saw the Danish duo of Catrine Christensen and Jerry Olsen go all ABBA-esque with someone “lacking gratitude” under attack, although the rousing chorus and a particularly joyous instrumental break gave the infinite hope.

Available on the SOFTWAVE album ‘things we’ve done’ via Electro Shock Records

http://www.softwavemusic.com/


RICKY WILDE X NINA Lovers On A Beach

A fabulous cover of the Italo flavoured Kim Wilde B-side to ‘The Second Time’ from 1984, the throbbing ‘Lovers On A Beach’ is NINA sounding sexier than ever before. Ricky Wilde said “I just thought there was a little bit more that it needed that I maybe wanted to add back in the day”. With sharp spikey edges boosting the trancey template, he provided a superb extended end section that paid homage to Giorgio Moroder in the best way possible.

Available on the RICKY WILDE X NINA album ‘Scala Hearts’ via New Retro Wave

https://twitter.com/Wildericky

https://www.iloveninamusic.com/


ZANIAS Lovelife

Following one of the most traumatic periods of her life, Alison Lewis returned as her solo alter-ego Zoe Zanias to present ‘Chrysalis’.  As the title suggests, it was a rebirth. With glorious arpeggios and lush synth strings, ‘Lovelife’ was bolstered with bass guitar by live bandmate Laura Bailey aka NEU-ROMANCER while an array of pitch-shifted voice samples acted as an abstract lead vocal before the actual one kicked in.

Available on the ZANIAS album ‘Chrysalis’ via Fleisch

https://www.facebook.com/zoe.zanias/


A selection of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s favourite music of 2023 featuring 230+ tracks has been compiled for its ‘Initial After Brilliance’ playlist


Text by Chi Ming Lai
7 December 2023

A SYNTH IS FOR LIFE & NOT JUST FOR CHRISTMAS…

As the Yule Tide season gets into full swing, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK presents a collection of modern seasonal tunes with a more artful slant…

With a song to play on each of the 25 days in December until Christmas, some are covers with a modern approach while others gather their thoughts and emotions into original compositions. But each has their own take on the holiday period, whether happy or sad or both.

Synths at Christmas are not entirely new; ‘Last Christmas’ by WHAM! was primarily made with a Roland Juno 60 while BAND AID’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas? was dominated by PPG Wave 2.2 with a percussive sample taken from ‘Memories Fade’ by TEARS FOR FEARS also being key to the intro.

However the traditional nature of Christmas often dictates traditional instrumentation in its songs, which means that Christmas synth songs are comparatively uncommon and a more recent phenomenon.

Whatever your plans whether with the family or in the studio, please remember, a synth is for life and not just for Christmas… may it bring you lots of cheer! The 25 songs are presented in yearly then alphabetical order within…


BE MUSIC Rocking Carol (1982)

A Be Music production given away as limited edition flexi-disc of 4400 given away at The Haçienda on Christmas Eve 1982, with the greeting “Merry Xmas From The Haçienda And Factory Records”, this was NEW ORDER covering the traditional Czech seasonal tune also known as ‘Jesus Sweetly Sleep’ and ‘We Will Rock You’ as a robotic electronic tone poem.

Available on the compilation album ‘Ghosts of Christmas Past (Remake)’ (V/A) via Les Disques du Crépuscule

https://www.neworder.com/


EURYTHMICS Winter Wonderland (1987)

Recorded as part of an album on behalf of Special Olympics that featured U2, Madonna, Whitney Houston, Bruce Springsteen, Bryan Adams and Alison Moyet among others, EURYTHMICS’ glistening electronic take on romance during the winter season was cited by ASCAP as now the most played version of the song which was made famous by Darlene Love.

Available on the compilation album ‘A Very Special Christmas’ (V/A) via Universal Music

https://www.eurythmics.com/


S.P.O.C.K White Christmas (1992)

Originally recorded by S.P.O.C.K for Energy Rekords’ ‘Virtual X-Mas 92’ EP and then a bonus song on their 1995 compilation ‘A Piece Of The Action’, this cover of the Irving Berlin standard made famous by Bing Crosby was suitably melodramatic as the holiday season was celebrated in The Neutral Zone while under threat of an alien attack.

Available on the compilation album ‘Virtual 2020 X-Mas’ (V/A) via Energy Rekords

https://www.facebook.com/StarPilotOnChannelK/


SAINT ETIENNE Featuring TIM BURGESS I Was Born On Christmas Day (1993)

Delightfully catchy with a house-laden bounce, ‘I Was Born on Christmas Day’ was written in acknowledgement of band member Bob Stanley’s birthday for an EP ‘Xmas 93’. Featuring a duet between Sarah Cracknell and special guest vocals by Tim Burgess from THE CHARLATANS, the joyful narrative saw the couple elope, confusing some fans and press.

Available on the SAINT ETIENNE album ’A Glimpse Of Stocking’ via PIAS

http://www.saintetienne.com/


DEAD OR ALIVE Blue Christmas (2000)

Originally recorded as a sparse ballad for the B-side of 1990 single ‘Your Sweetness Is Your Weakness’, Pete Burns’ foray into the music for holiday season was given a dancier makeover in 2000 and in hindsight, now sounds like a stylistic blue print for PET SHOP BOYS ‘It Doesn’t Often Snow At Christmas’. The two would later work together on the excellent ‘Jack & Jill Party’ in 2004.

Available on the DEAD OR ALIVE album ‘Fragile’ via Demon Music Group

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


SALLY SHAPIRO Anorak Christmas (2006)

With their naïve wispiness, understated cinematics and disco beats, if there act who are ably suited to Christmas pop music, it is Swedish duo SALLY SHAPIRO. A cover of a song by fellow Swede Nixon, the lines “The first time that I saw your face on a cold December night, it was a Tuesday on a gig with a band that we both liked” captured an innocent romance and the aural warmth of the named apparel.

Available on the SALLY SHAPIRO album ‘Disco Romance’ via Paper Bag Records

https://www.facebook.com/shapirosally


PET SHOP BOYS It Doesn’t Often Snow At Christmas (2009)

Pet_Shop_Boys_-_ChristmasOriginally recorded in 1997 for an exclusive fan club single but remixed in 2009, ‘It Doesn’t Often Snow At Christmas’ was a suitably cynical offering. Famous for keeping THE POGUES ‘Farytale Of New York’ off the 1987 UK Christmas No1 spot with their cover of ‘Always On My Mind’, while this didn’t hit those commercial heights, it provided a very PET SHOP BOYS take on the madness of the festive season.

Available on the PET SHOP BOYS EP ‘Christmas’ via EMI Records

http://www.petshopboys.co.uk/


CHEW LIPS When You Wake Up (2010)

CHEW LIPS might have disbanded but in 2010, on the back of their only album ‘Unicorn’ and its subsequent tour, they were on a productive high. ‘When You Wake Up’ was a bonus tune recorded and given away as a Christmas gift to fans at the end of that very successful year. Delivered with lead singer Tigs’ usual feisty panache, listening back only highlights how much CHEW LIPS are missed.

Originally released as a free download

https://www.facebook.com/CHEWLiPS/


HURTS All I Want For Christmas Is New Year’s Day (2010)

Hurts-christmasWith their TAKE THAT dressed as ULTRAVOX template, Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson turned their attentions to memories of “the worst Christmas of our lives”. In true Bros Go To Bavaria style, despite the mournful start, ‘All I Want For Christmas Is New Year’s Day’ transformed itself into a hopeful anthem with a big chorus and lashings of tubular bells.

Available on the HURTS album  ‘Happiness’ via Major Label / RCA

http://www.informationhurts.com/


LOLA DUTRONIC Another Christmas Without Snow (2010)

Lola Dutronic-Christmas without snowIn the UK, a wet Christmas is always more likely,  but LOLA DUTRONIC’s ‘Another Christmas Without Snow’ resonated with its melancholic yet pretty demeanour. The project of Canadian producer Richard Citroen and using a flexible roster of wispy female vocalists, the tones of Lola Dee came over all dreamy like SAINT ETIENNE and conveyed the season’s mixed emotions.

Available on LOLA DUTRONIC single ‘(Another) Christmas Without Snow’ via Lola Dutronic

https://www.facebook.com/LOLA-DUTRONIC-80232595392/


ERASURE Gaudete (2013)

ERASURE GaudeteAndy Bell and Vince Clarke’s version of this traditional Ecclesiastical Latin carol continued an ERASURE tradition that had begun with ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ for the CD edition of the ‘Crackers International’ EP in 1988. With a precise electronic backbeat, ‘Gaudete’ was taken from its 16th Century origins and thrown into the new millennium with a cheeky ‘Ice Machine’ reference for good measure.

Available on the ERASURE album ‘Snow Globe’ via Mute Artists

http://www.erasureinfo.com/


HYPERBUBBLE A Synthesizer for Christmas (2013)

HYPERBUBBLE A Synthesizer for ChristmasWhether it was a Casio, Yamaha or Roland, everyone wanted ‘A Synthesizer For Christmas’. Texan couple HYPERBUBBLE took that enduring memory and turned it into a delightful synthpop ditty that could resonate with electronic geeks from 8 to 80 the world over. Short but sweet, it was another joyous “cartoon automaton symphony” from Jess and Jeff.

Available on the HYPERBUBBLE single ‘A Synthesizer For Christmas’ via Socket Sounds

http://www.hyperbubble.net/


VILE ELECTRODES The Ghosts Of Christmas (2013)

VILE ELECTRODES The Ghosts Of ChristmasIf ‘Twin Peaks’ met ‘Leader Of The Pack’ under the mistletoe, it would sound like this. Possibly the best Christmas tune of the last 10 or so years, VILE ELECTRODES’ harrowing tale of a departed loved one is strangely enticing, with the beautifully haunting echoes of Julee Cruise’s ‘The Nightingale’ lingering over the frozen lake.

Available on the ILE ELECTRODES EP ‘The Ghosts Of Christmas’ via Vile Electrodes

http://www.vileelectrodes.com/


HANNAH PEEL Find Peace (2014)

HANNAH PEEL Find Peace‘Find Peace’ was a Christmas song longing for the cold but merry winters of yesteryear under the modern day spectre of global warming, armed conflict and political tension. The off-kilter analogue buzzing and almost random sequences made for a striking listen as a frantic percussive death rattle and an emotive synth drone take hold to provide an appropriate backdrop for the eerie but beautiful voice of Hannah Peel.

Available on the HANNAH PEEL single ‘Find Peace’ via Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club

http://www.hannahpeel.com/


MARSHEAUX We Met Bernard Sumner At A Christmas Party Last Night (2015)

GHOSTS-OF-CHRISTMAS-PAST-twi158cd‘We Met Bernard Sumner At A Christmas Party Last Night’ was a wonderfully whispery synthpop number that was classic MARSHEAUX. The lyrics were constructed from the song and album titles of NEW ORDER to provide an imaginary narrative on Marianthi Melitsi and Sophie Sarigiannidou surreally bumping into the Manchester combo’s lead singer at a Yule Tide function.

Available on the album ‘Ghost Of Christmas Past (Remake)’ (V/A) via Les Disques du Crépuscule

http://www.marsheaux.com


SPARKS Christmas Without A Prayer (2015)

SPARKS Christmas Without A PrayerOn 1974’s ‘Kimono My House’ album, the Mael brothers recorded a song called ‘Thank God It’s Not Christmas’, a typically perverse SPARKS romp that had nothing to do as such with the holiday season. After their FFS collaboration, Russell and Ron ended the year with ‘Christmas Without A Prayer’, a fitting offering which also amusingly outlined that albums by WINGS were actually unwanted gifts.

Available on the SPARKS single ‘Christmas Without A Prayer’ via Lil’ Beethoven Records

http://www.allsparks.com/


VICE VERSA Little Drum Machine Boy (2015)

“A twisted cover of a cover of a cover”, this synth laden reinterpretation of the tune based on a traditional Czech carol made famous by a bizarre but highly enjoyable version by David Bowie and Bing Crosby, saw former ABC stalwarts Mark White and Stephen Singleton reconvene as  VICE VERSA to wax lyrical about 303s, 808s, 909s and a “shiny new Roland toy”. It was a fabulous combination of sleigh bells, squelching arpeggios and of course, drum machines…

Available as a free download via Soundclod

https://www.facebook.com/Vice-Versa-Electrogenesis-806726912703189/


ASSEMBLAGE 23 December (2016)

When you’ve had enough of Christmas shopping and the in-laws, there’s probably nothing better to let off steam than a bit of ASSEMBLAGE 23. While not exactly seasonal, Tom Shear’s Futurepop discoscape captured many of the mixed emotions endemic with the final month of the year, all “Silent and alone, trying to make sense”.

Available on the ASSEMBLAGE 23 album ‘Endure’ via Metropolis

https://www.assemblage23.com


SIN COS TAN Dead By X-Mas (2016)

A cover of Finnish metal glamsters HANOI ROCKS, this take on ‘Dead By X-Mas’ from the nocturnal synth duo SIN COS TAN aka Juho Paalosmaa and Jori Hulkkonen came over a bit like Billy Idol gone electro, but with an elegiac twist. Bizarrely in 2006, the former William Broad issued his own collection of seasonal themed tunes entitled ‘Happy Holidays’ … it’s a nice day for a ‘White Christmas!

Available as a free download via Soundcloud

https://www.facebook.com/homeofsincostan/


FERAL FIVE I Want U (2017)

With female empowerment lyrics like “I don’t need any money or a new handbag, I just need a kind of thing I’ve never had, who says you have to have some shabby gifts”, FERAL FIVE attacked tacky commercialism in a sonic cacophony of crunchy bass guitar, big beats, sparkling electronics and chilling string machines for an alternative take on festivities.

Available on the FERAL FIVE single ‘I Want U’ via Primitive Light Recordings

https://www.feralfive.com/


CIRCUIT3 I Believe In Father Christmas (2018)

Made famous by Greg Lake, CIRCUIT3 used analogue synths such as a Sequential Pro-One, Roland JX10, Korg Wavestation and Moog Sub37 to add an eerie chill to the already cynical song protesting at the commercialisation of Christmas. The lyricist was Peter Sinfield who later wrote the words to BUCKS FIZZ’s No1 ‘The Land Of Make Believe’ which warned against the evils of Thatcherism.

Available on the CIRCUIT 3 single ‘I Believe In Father Christmas’ via Diode Records

http://www.circuit3.com/


WAVESHAPER Walking In The Air (2020)

Written by Howard Blake for the 1982 animated film ‘The Snowman’ which later added a cameo intro by David Bowie, ‘Walking In The Air’ became a hit for Aled Jones although the original version was actually sung by choir boy Peter Auty. Tom Andersson is the Swedish synthesist and retro gamer known as WAVESHAPER and his symphonic instrumental synthwave cover was both respectful and beautiful.

Available as a free download via Soundcloud

https://www.facebook.com/Waveshaperofficial


RODNEY CROMWELL Cold Christmas (2022)

If ACTORS did Christmas songs, then it would have probably sounded like this gothic motorik number from the ever cheerful Rodney Cromwell. Written for by Cherryade Records’ ‘A Very Cherry Christmas’ compilation, its chilling ARP synth strings and driving bass guitar was in total antithesis to Cliff Richard with bleak observational lyrics “like ‘Eleanor Rigby’ turbo-charged for 2022”.

Available on the RODNEY CROMWELL single ‘Cold Christmas’ via Happy Robots Records

https://www.facebook.com/rodneycromwellartist


SOFTWAVE featuring Barney Ashton-Bullock Will It Ever Be Christmas Again? (2022)

Presented as “Probably the first synthpop Christmas song in Danish music history”, SOFTWAVE provided a hopeful message to hold back on overindulgence. ‘Andy Bell Is Torsten’ writer Barney Ashton-Bullock made a cameo as Santa Claus to remind everyone that “Self-service, doesn’t mean self, self, self…” and that joy comes from being able to give to others.

Available on the SOFTWAVE single ‘Will It Ever Be Christmas Again?’ via Softwave

http://www.softwavemusic.com


GEMMA CULLINGFORD In The Bleak Midwinter (2023)

Something of a tradition having covered ‘Walking In The Air’, ‘Lonely This Christmas’ and ‘Deck The Halls’ in previous years, Gemma Cullingford took Christina Rossetti’s poem and Gustav Holst’s musical arrangement of ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’ into darker and colder electro dance territory, reflecting today’s divided world in a cost of living crisis.

Available on the GEMMA CULLINGFORD single ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’ via Elmo Records

https://www.gemmacullingford.co.uk/


A further varied collection of seasonal synth based tunes compiled by ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK can be listened to at: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7vIIjZkGd3cVOSarUPvX85


Text by Chi Ming Lai
2 December 2023

JOHAN AGEBJÖRN Interview

Sweden producer Johan Agebjörn is perhaps best known as the instrumental half of dreamy electronic disco duo Sally Shapiro.

Their most recent fourth album ‘Sad Cities’ was released by Italians Do It Better in 2022. While Johan Agebjörn himself released a dance pop flavoured solo album ‘Casablanca Nights’ in 2011 and since has collaborated with the likes of Ryan Paris and Samantha Fox on various singles, his portfolio has included more downtempo and ambient works such as 2008’s ‘Mossebo’, 2011’s ‘The Mountain Lake’ and more recently ‘Artefact’ with Mikael Ögren.

His latest release is ‘Subtracted Soundscapes’ where he has reworked eight pieces from across his career into something warmer and calmer than their original incarnations, “subtracted” into being entirely beatless so that only the key elements of the music remain. Focussing on calmness and serenity, this wonderful record creates “a sonic sanctuary for the listener and another world to explore”. The end result is an extremely satisfying sonic experience with a distinct environmental atmosphere.

Johan Agebjörn chatted to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about his interest in ambient music and the intimate ideas behind ‘Subtracted Soundscapes’.

As someone best known for electronic disco, was it a reaction to that which led you onto an ambient path, or was the interest always there from when you started making music?

My love for ambient music has been there from the early 1990s and I’ve been making ambient music from time to time since the late 1990s. My disco / synthpop music, especially with Sally Shapiro, has reached more people, but my creative effort put into ambient is probably comparable.

What would be your definition of “ambient” music?

Difficult question! For me it’s music that is atmospheric, floating and transcends pop structure – then it can be with or without beats or electronic instruments.

Although it often gets confused with “chillout”, “beach bar” or “elevator” music, and even the electronic classical stylists like Isao Tomita or the synthonies of Jean-Michel Jarre, ambient does have a distinct style of its own, what are your thoughts about how it has been misinterpreted?

Well I don’t bother so much, though I would say that ambient music is richer in its emotional scope than “elevator music”, which I guess is only there to be in the background. Ambient can be very expressive of different emotions in my opinion, it can be sad, it can be happy, it can be healing, it can be painful, it can be scary.

Who would you say are your influences in ambient music?

Brian Eno of course, Pete Namlook, The KLF (‘Chill Out’ and the original ambient version of ‘Last Train To Trancentral’), Scandinavian “arctic ambient” like Biosphere and Krister Linder, also the early ambient works of Moby, those are my most important influences.

Are there any preferred synths, effects or techniques you like to use to make ambient music?

One favourite technique to find warm sounds is to record a very high-pitched waveform to tape, resample it, and transpose it a few octaves down. You get a noise and a slight sway from the tape, that makes it very warm and analogue sounding. For example, I recorded the high-pitched sound of Aphex Twin ’Ventolin’ to tape and resampled it, it’s now one of my favourite pad sounds. I also found some very warm sounds by sampling a tape that was used to store games on my old Commodore 64. As for effects, I really like the built-in reverb in Propellerheads Reason.

How did ‘Subtracted Soundscapes’ come about as an idea?

I was listening to my 2008 album ‘Mossebo’ in the car and suddenly thought “hey, I want to hear these tracks without beats”. I had been listening to a lot of beatless ambient lately (John Serrie, 36), especially in the evenings after work and putting kids to sleep, and I felt a wish to make more beatless ambient music myself.

Although ‘Subtracted Soundscapes’ is an ambient record, it IS very melodic, is this a consequence of the bones of the tracks being songs in the first place, as opposed to being composed specifically ground up as ambient pieces?

Probably. I also feel it’s often kind of boring to make music without harmonies and melodies. It’s not necessarily boring to listen to, I can enjoy drone ambient for example, but it’s not my kind of thing to sit a whole day in the studio with that kind of music, I usually lose the excitement if there are no harmonies or melodies.

As an example, how did it occur to you that a rhythmic track such as ‘Ambient Computer Dance’ would work in a subtracted environmental manner?

Actually I think that track was the first one that I wanted to “subtract”. The track was originally influenced by early Autechre, like if Autechre would have listened a lot to Italo disco. I like the original but after removing the beats, slowing it down etc, there’s a different kind of calm magic to it, I think.

What about the process for ‘Sleep In My Arms’ with Sally Shapiro which admittedly already had a serene quality about it?

That track was actually originally a cover version of ‘Ursa Major 7’ by Erik van den Broek which I heard on John Acquaviva’s DJ mix for X-MIX-3. The flute melody is taken from that track, and Erik agreed to let us make a new track out of it. Sally did some minimal spoken word on it and it became a nice ambient ending track on ‘Disco Romance’. The version on this album is even more ambient and minimal.

‘Swimming Through The Blue Lagoon’ comes from ‘The Mountain Lake’ album of 2011 and had beats from a Casio MT52 on the original, how did this evolve into an ambient journey over the years?

This is one of my all-time favourite tracks of mine, the original version with beats was made already in 2005 and was included on the album you mentioned. A short ambient version with some vocals by Sally was also included on the album ‘My Guilty Pleasure’ in 2009, and has been included a lot in the background of TV programs around the world. In this version I have removed even more parts from it, added reverb etc and it has the length of the original. The melody is actually also played with the Casio MT52… the sound is called “electric guitar”!

The new version of ‘Zero Gravitation’ has this glorious floating quality about it, but was almost like a trance track when it featured on ‘The Mountain Lake’; so did that begin in ambient form and then layered into something more lively?

Yes, the starting point of the track was these emotional, spacey strings. Actually that’s another sound that is sampled from a tape, some high-pitched string sound taken from a break of some drum ’n’ bass track, sampled by my old Roland DJ-70 and then played live by myself with lots of reverb from Reason. The tape effect makes it a bit Mellotron-ish.

One of the more vocal-led tracks is ‘Dulciter Somni’ and you kept Lisa Barra’s voice in for the Subtracted version?

This track had Lisa Barra’s magic vocal loop as a starting point, everything else was built around it. Here you have some sounds from the tape of the Commodore 64.

Did you actually ride the ‘Siberian Train’ for real yourself?

Oh yes – my mum took me on a journey to China by train through the Soviet Union in 1987! She was a journalist, so she brought a tape recorder, and we recorded a few tapes along the journey. Some of the train sounds are actually sampled from one of those tapes. On the original version (Part I) of ‘Siberian Train’ on ‘Mossebo’, there’s also a vocal sample when the train approaches the Siberian city of Ulan-Ude close to the Mongolian border. One memorable moment was when I was contacted by a listener from Ulan-Ude who had heard the track!

I think this train journey – plus The KLF’s original ambient version of ‘Last Train To Trancentral’ – has had a big influence on my music, as there are train samples and train references in a lot of my tracks.

What satisfaction does ambient work give you that you can’t get from song writing and disco productions?

Sometimes I’m simply more in a calm ambient mood!

Have you ever considered taking on the challenge of constructing much longer ambient pieces, for example like Brian Eno’s ‘Thursday Afternoon’, ‘Neroli’ or ‘Reflection’ which are around an hour in length?

I’ve been thinking about it, as I sometimes listen to some of these long pieces, Brian Eno’s ‘Discreet Music’ is a favourite for example. Let’s see if it happens sometime!

What is next for you?

I’m in a very musically active period lately – I’m working on three different kinds of music: new Sally Shapiro tracks, new synthpop-ish tracks with other singers, and new ambient music. This autumn I’m also planning an ambient concert in a church together with my musical collaborator Mikael Ögren (Malmö, October 21st in case anyone’s interested), as well as a DJ set at an Italo disco festival in Helsingborg Sweden on October 7th, Den Harrow, Linda Jo Rizzo and some others will be performing there too.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Johan Agebjörn

‘Subtracted Soundscapes’ is released by Spotted Peccary Music and available as a digital album via https://johan-agebjorn.bandcamp.com/album/subtracted-soundscapes

Johan Agebjörn DJs at BEATBOXHBG23 in Helsingborg on Saturday 7th October 2023 – information on the event at Charles Dickens Bar & Scen which features appareances from Den Harrow, Linda Jo Rizzo, Paul Rein, Tobias Bernstrup + many more can be found via here

https://www.johanagebjorn.info/

https://www.facebook.com/agebjorn

https://twitter.com/johanagebjorn

https://www.instagram.com/johan.agebjorn/

https://linktr.ee/johanagebjorn


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Mika Stjärnglinder.
5 August 2023

2022 END OF YEAR REVIEW

Photo by Tapio Normall

It was hoped to be a year of positive electricity but with the oddball burst of negative waves, 2022 was summed up by the title of its best album.

The product of Finnish duo SIN COS TAN, ‘Living In Fear’ captured the anxieties of living with The Bear Next Door in a post-pandemic world. With billionaires taking over social media with the intent of allowing the extreme right wing an increased voice, it was as if the lessons of Trump and Bolsonaro had not been learned.

‘The Wolves Are Returning’ warned xPROPAGANDA on a track from their excellent album ‘The Heart Is Strange’, the message coming from two Germans whose grandparents’ generation “did nothing” and had made the mistake of opening up the door to the Nazis was extremely poignant.

It was as if The Cold War had never ended; the poetry of one who has escaped ethnic genocide and been separated from next of kin as a refugee has substance. So for Alanas Chosnau on his second album with Mark Reeder, this was ‘Life Everywhere’ and provided a deeper statement on life during wartime. Meanwhile China’s STOLEN presented their ‘Eroded Creation’ and explained ‘Why We Follow’.

Battles both worldwide and personal were being reflected in music everywhere with ‘War’ by I SPEAK MACHINE being another example. Things did not get much cheerier with Rodney Cromwell whose long-awaited second long player ‘Memory Box’ provided commentary on a sadly post-truth world, the so-called “alternative facts” as Donald Trump’s extremely dim advisor Kellyanne Conway liked to put it.

The decade so far has not been a barrel of laughs and the likes of UNIFY SEPARATE, BOY HARSHER, O+HER, NNHMN, VANDAL MOON and ADULT. captured the zeitgeist of the past 3 years.

Meanwhile, MECHA MAIKO maintained it was still ‘NOT OK’, I AM SNOW ANGEL felt it was now a ‘Lost World’ and Swedish duo SALLY SHAPIRO made their comeback by reflecting on ‘Sad Cities’.

As sardonic as ever, DUBSTAR presented their second collection of kitchen sink dramas since they reconfigured as a duo with ‘Two’ and reunited with producer Stephen Hague for their most acclaimed record since their 1995 debut ‘Disgraceful’.

On a more optimistic note, Italians Do It Better brought their cinematic world to London with headline shows by DESIRE and MOTHERMARY who each had new long form releases to air, while shyness was nice for the most promising breakthrough act of the year Gemma Cullingford who got all ‘Tongue Tied’ on her second long player. Meanwhile DAWN TO DAWN, ULTRAFLEX and H/P offered electronically escapist solutions to the year,

But KID MOXIE was happy to ‘Shine’ with the best video of 2022 while CZARINA got mystical with ‘Arcana’, Karin Park looked back at her ‘Private Collection’ and Patricia Wolf explored ambience on ‘See-Through’. Other female talent that shone brightly in 2022 included Norway’s SEA CHANGE, Sweden’s Hanna Rua, Alina Valentina from The Netherlands, Mexican Valentina Moretti and Anglo-French avant songstress Julia-Sophie but sister / brother duos MINIMAL SCHLAGER and SPRAY proved siblings could continue to work well together in synth.

40 years after the release of their debut album ‘Happy Families’, BLANCMANGE returned home to London Records for a ‘Private View’ while mainman Neil Arthur was keeping himself busy with FADER too. Having being shelved for 30 years, the second ELECTRIBE 101 album ‘Electribal Soul’ finally saw the light of day. And some 39 years after it was first conceived, the lost Warren Cann and Hans Zimmer opus ‘Spies’ was released in a new 21st Century recording by the HELDEN Project’s lead vocalist Zaine Griff.

Although PET SHOP BOYS celebrated their career with the magnificent ‘Dreamworld’ tour for the best live event of 2022 and joined SOFT CELL in the ‘Purple Zone’, Marc Almond and David Ball presented the disclaimer ‘*Happiness Not Included’ before announcing that they would be performing at a run of outdoor events in 2023 despite having stated their 2018 O2 extravaganza would be their last.

Also having declared a final album in 2014, RÖYKSOPP returned with the triple volumed ‘Profound Mysteries’ that featured Susanne Sundfør and Alison Goldfrapp.

Veterans Howard Jones, William Orbit, Jean-Michel Jarre and Wolfgang Flür as well as long-standing Nordic combos LUSTANS LAKEJER and A-HA released new albums but while the quality across the releases was mixed, fans were loyal and happy. After various trials and tribulations, TEARS FOR FEARS returned with ‘The Tipping Point’ and erased memories of the lacklustre 2004 comeback ‘Everybody Loves A Happy Ending’, but the duo were unable to capitalise when the majority of the UK concert tour of stately homes was cancelled due to an unfortunate accident that befell Curt Smith.

Creating a dehumanised technologically dependent Sci-Fi world, DIE KRUPPS opted for more machine than metal under their EBM pseudonym DIE ROBO SAPIENS. With NASA making its first steps back to the moon with the Artemis project, fittingly Italian producer EUGENE spent ‘Seven Years In Space’ and Ireland’s CIRCUIT3 looked back at space travel’s past on ‘Technology For The Youth’. Back on earth, THE WEEKND was still being accused of stealing from synthwave while coming up with the song of the year in ‘Less Than Zero’. In the meantime, having infuriated audiences by saying “f*ck that ‘synthwave’ stuff as u name it” in 2018, KAVINSKY was ‘Reborn’ with a second album that had much less of the wave and expanded into broader electronically generated templates with the occasional funkier overtones.

Celebrating ‘40 Years Of Hits’ on a sell-out arena tour and issuing a new album ‘Direction Of The Heart’ which featured a guest appearance by Russell Mael of SPARKS on the single ‘Traffic’ with the obligatory ‘Acoustic Mix’, as the excellent book ‘Themes For Great Cities’ by Graeme Thomson highlighted, the best years of SIMPLE MINDS are now well behind them. They are a poor facsimile of the great band they once were and as a special Summer concert in Edinburgh in honour of ‘New Gold Dream’ proved, Jim Kerr and Co can’t even play their best album properly.

Music-related books continued to be popular with Martyn Ware and Karl Bartos respectively writing their memoirs ‘Electronically Yours Vol1’ and ‘The Sound Of The Machine’. In a wider historical context, that crucial 1978-1983 period where electronic pop was more or less invented got documented in the encyclopaedic ‘Listening To The Music The Machines Make’ by Richard Evans.

2022 saw several prominent figures depart for the jukebox in the sky; Vangelis, Manuel Göttsching, Angelo Badalamenti, Julee Cruise, Dave Smith, Herb Deutsch, Terry Hall, Robert Marlow and Andy Fletcher will be sadly missed but ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK was particularly devasted by the passing of German electronic legend Klaus Schulze only 4 days after he gave a rare interview to the site.

Meanwhile Dave Gahan and Martin Gore announced yet another tour of underwhelming arena shows plonked into stadiums for an as-yet-unfinished album that at least had a title ‘Momento Mori’. Ticketscalper took advantage with so-called dynamic pricing (or legalised touting) as hapless Devotees were fleeced thousands of dollars in North America… all this just to see a continually ungrateful frontman (who didn’t even sing is own words on a DEPECHE MODE song until 2005) gesture with a microphone in the air on a catwalk rather than actually singing on it and to possibly hear a pre-1985 song performed that will inevitably ruined by The Drumhead and The Noodler!

As Juls Garat of Massachusetts goth band PILGRIMS OF YEARNING observed via social media: “If you’re spending a kidney on DEPECHE MODE tickets and not attending a local show this weekend, I don’t wanna see you complaining that there’s no scene, local venues or new music anymore”. With the lack of curiosity amongst audiences who were content with nostalgia and the like, it was a difficult year for independent acts.

There is no easy answer and as the old saying goes, you can take a horse to water but you can’t force it to drink. But one promoter that did hit on an innovative idea was Duskwaves who came up with afternoon synth gigs. Hosted at various locations in the South East of England with the aim of drumming up daytime weekend business at venues, events started at 2.00pm and ended by 6.00pm to allow for an easy journey home or possibly dinner afterwards. Artists such as YOUNG EMPRESS, INFRA VIOLET, STRIKE EAGLE and AUW joined in the family friendly fun and while the concept was unusual, with classic synth audiences not getting any younger, it has potential.

While the worldwide situation remains uncomfortable and unsettling, for The Cold War generation, it all seemed strangely familiar. As Jori Hulkkonen of SIN COS TAN said in an interview with ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK recently: “It feels kind of comfortable to be back in that same state of mind that you grew up in!! It’s like you grew up in not a nice place, but you get 20-30 years out of it and then you get drawn back into The Cold War state of mind. It’s where I come from and there’s nothing good about it, but somehow feels very familiar so you can handle it in a different way”.

The Cold War inspired songs such as ‘Enola Gay’, ‘Fireside Favourite’, ‘All Stood Still’, ‘Let’s All Make A Bomb’, ‘I Melt With You’, ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’ and ‘Five Minutes To Midnight’ which encapsulated the nuclear paranoia of the times. So if the current tensions go on any longer, how will artistic expression be affected and driven?

But as Synthesizer Patel actor Sanjeev Kohli wittily remarked of the UK’s 41 day Prime Minister aka Mad Lizzie following her successful leadership bid: “Liz Truss has now been trusted with the nuclear button. I honestly wouldn’t trust her with the bossanova button on a broken Yamaha keyboard”.

In a year which saw the bizarre scenario of a black vicar worshipping Enoch Powell on the repulsive gammon TV channel GB News and the truth about Tory PPE scandals becoming clearer, Richy Sunak, Ugly Patel, Cruella Braverman and Krazi Kwarteng continued to be the ultimate race traitors in their Westminster tribute band A FLOCK OF SIEG HEILS. Failing to look in the mirror, their role as collaborators was all as part of a wider self-serving mission to help keep the whites Reich and line the pockets of their already loaded banker mates instead of paying nurses a fair wage. Nurses are for life and not just for Covid. So what did happen to that £350 million promised for the NHS by that pompous lying posh boy Boris Johnson if Brexit happened? As Tim Burgess of THE CHARLATANS summed it all up rather succinctly on Twitter: “Worth remembering that the real enemy travels by private jet, not by dinghy” ✊😉


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 2022 playlist ‘Stay Negative To Be Positive’ playlist can be listened to at https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4Mw0Fn10yNZQcrGzod98MM


Text by Chi Ming Lai
22nd December 2022

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 30 SONGS OF 2022

During lockdown, electronic music displayed its emotional empathy with isolation and solitary working.

But as during The Cold War in its breakthrough years, it read the room again with the onset of worldwide and domestic conflicts, both armed and political. There were times in 2022 that were as if The Cold War had never ended and in amongst the turmoil, artists reflected their anxieties on top of those already existing.

Jori Hulkkonen of SIN COS TAN said: “Overall, this decade has been a real downer with the pandemic and now the war, so if we are trying to look for silver linings here, I think it will be interesting for the creative community to get something out of it, the frustration, the fears and all that.”

As further pandemic songs were released as well, what emerged were songs of varying moods and while there was fresh optimising in the air, there were calls to arms and resignation looming too. Overall, 2022 saw many great individual tracks issued and mention must be made of NNHMN, NATION OF LANGUAGE, O+HER, DIE ROBO SAPIENS, DESIRE and MOTHERMARY who were among those shortlisted for this year’s listing.

As ever on ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK, rules help control the fun… so restricted to tracks available on the usual online retail platforms with a limit of one song per artist moniker, here are the 30 SONGS OF 2022 in alphabetical order by artist…


ANNIEE featuring VON HERTZOG Danger Electricity

Bubbling with a dynamic thrust, the angelic voice of Anniee evoked the excitement of a night clubbing while Von Hertzog provided the hypnotic backing and beautiful soundscape. “I was jogging in London and came across the words in the sidewalk ‘danger electricity’” she said, “I had always wanted to create a dance track – something that reflected my love for EDM”.

Available on the single ‘Danger Electricity’ via Anniee and Von Hertzog

https://www.instagram.com/anniee_music/


ALANAS CHOSNAU & MARK REEDER All You Need To Love

For Alanas Chosnau and Mark Reeder, the ongoing world tensions were a symbol of ‘Life Everywhere’. Like a Harry Palmer film given an electro soundtrack and hidden behind the facade of love songs, they poignantly made a statement on life during wartime. With a speedy conga mantra and a dominant digital clap, ‘All You Need Is Love’ entered funky electronic disco territory.

Available on the album ‘Life Everywhere’ via MFS

https://alanaschosnau.com/

https://www.facebook.com/markreeder.mfs


RODNEY CROMWELL The Winter Palace

Despite questioning selective memories on his second album ‘Memory Box’, with ‘The Winter Palace’, Rodney Cromwell was wanting to forget a former beau because “I dream of you regardless, whether I am asleep or awake”. With hints of classic NEW ORDER and OMD, the wonderfully icy number embraced motorik mechanisation and a glorious synth solo for a hopeful uplift.

Available on the album ‘Memory Box’ via Happy Robots Records

https://www.facebook.com/rodneycromwellartist


BOY HARSHER Machina featuring Ms. BOAN

BOY HARSHER made a short horror movie ‘The Runner’ and a soundtrack to go with it. Although comprising of their usual dark and danceable electronic pop, it featured several special guests. Sung in Spanish and English, ‘Machina’ featuring Ms. BOAN aka Mariana Saldaña was aimed at the dancefloor, recalling the Latino electronic disco of Bobby Orlando, particularly PET SHOP BOYS ‘A Man Could Get Arrested’.

Available on the album ‘The Runner’ via Nude Club / City Slang

https://boyharsher.com/


CIRCUIT3 Valentina Fly

For his third CIRCUIT3 album, Peter Fitzpatrick presented a retro-futuristic narrative on the world before the space shuttle. Valentina Tereshkova whose 1963 adventure in Vostok 6 made her the first woman in space was celebrated with ‘Valentina Fly’, the wonderful piece evoking OMD. “She’s not a celebrated as Yuri Gagarin” said the Dubliner, but “in some respects, what she achieved was much greater.”

Available on the album ‘Technology For The Youth’ via https://circuit3.bandcamp.com/

http://www.circuit3.com/


GEMMA CULLINGFORD Tongue Tied

If Yoko Ono’s ‘Walking On Thin Ice’ had been reconfigured as a Balearic friendly electronic disco number, then it would have come out like ‘Tongue Tied’, the title track of the second album by Gemma Cullingford. With a nonchalant but sensual vocal style reminiscent of Sarah Nixey, ‘Tongue Tied’ exuded a positive if nervous energy in a purer metronomic adoption of electronics. Shyness is nice…

Available on the album ‘Tongue Tied’ via Elmo Recordings

https://www.facebook.com/gemcullingford


DAWN TO DAWN Stereo

Canadian danceable dreampop trio DAWN TO DAWN celebrated the joy of music in times of adversity with ‘Stereo’. Driven by a Roland TR909, the song touched on the acceptance of confinement where “I wait for no one to ask ‘when do we go?’”. In its romantic reflection of good times, a breezy infectious allure was captured with a promise of better things to come.

Available on the album ‘Postcards From The Sun To The Moon’ via SSURROUNDSS

https://www.facebook.com/dawntodawnmusic


DUBSTAR Token

Since Sarah Blackwood and Chris Wilkie reconfigured DUBSTAR as a duo, there was always the impression that the comeback album ‘One’ was a warm-up. Opening album ‘Two’  was ‘Token’; co-produced by Stephen Hague, it pointed to his work with PET SHOP BOYS and ERASURE. Its narrative about leaving behind abusive relationships and minor gestures was a topic that many could relate to.

Available on the album ‘Two’ via Northern Writes

https://www.dubstarofficial.co/


EMMON The Battle

Since releasing her first sassy pop album ‘The Art & The Evil’ in 2007, Emma Nylen has got progressively darker and harder while still retaining an enigmatic presence. While most of her ‘Recon’ album headed in an EBM direction, synthpop was the sound on the ‘Black Celebration’ inflected mission that was ‘The Battle’, a timely commentary on world and deomestic events.

Available on the album ‘Recon’ via Icons Creating Real Art

https://www.facebook.com/emmonsweden


FADER Serpentine

As with previous FADER works, Benge worked alone on the instrumentation in Cornwall while Neil Arthur did his lyrics and vocals. Their third album together ‘Quartz’ was inspired by incidental atmospheric music used in vintage TV shows. Minimalistic structures provided a reflective and elegiac backdrop. The icy waltz ‘Serpentine’ opened the album with its sparse keys like Gary Numan meeting Brian Eno.

Available on the album ‘Quartz’ via Blanc Check Records

https://www.facebook.com/WeAreFader


THE GOLDEN FILTER Drive

A reinterpretation of THE CARS’ mournful classic’, this chilling version of ‘Drive’ by THE GOLDEN FILTER simply captured the zeitgeist in amongst the turmoil of world events… the work of Penelope Trappes and Stephen Hindman, the duo defied people not to well up on hearing the words “Who’s gonna tell you when it’s too late? Who’s gonna tell you things aren’t so great?”.

Available on the single ‘Drive’ via The Golden Filter

https://www.thegoldenfilter.com/


H/P Vicinities

H/P were formally known as HAPPINESS PROJECT, issuing their first album in 2008. For their H/P debut ‘Programma’, the trio not only shortened their moniker but also adopted a minimal synth approach. Acknowledging the debt of influence to cult French act MARTIN DUPONT, ‘Vicinities’ appled a complex spiral of delicate blips, while was enclosed is an emotional centre that recalled OMD.

Available on the album ‘Programma’ via BOREDOMproduct

https://www.facebook.com/hp.programma


I SPEAK MACHINE War

Adopting the dishevelled persona of a satanic Libertas, ‘War’ by I SPEAK MACHINE was another album that captured the zeitgeist. With hints of Gary Numan, the screeching title song set the scene. “It definitely has ‘Metal’ in there as an influence” she said, “It came about from me messing with my Casio SK1 and then running that through a Moogerfooger ClusterFlux to make it all bendy and provide actual notes from the feedback.”

Available on the album ‘War’ via https://ispeakmachine.bandcamp.com/

https://www.ispeakmachine.com


KAREN HUNTER Don’t Call My Name

Karen Hunter was a Gary Numan live band member between 1984-85 and recorded a wonderful cover of the ballad ‘Don’t Call My Name’ in support of The Ced Sharpley Drumming Bursary. The original was on the 1988 album ‘Metal Rhythm’ and given a serene feminine twist. Produced by music veteran Steve Hunter, Numan associates Chris Payne and Andy Coughlan also contributed.

Available as a digital single ‘Don’t Call My Name’ via Living Ornaments

https://karenhunter.hearnow.com/


KAVINSKY Outsider

Vincent Belorgey aka Kavinsky made his name with ‘Night Call’. But it was featured in the cult movie ‘Drive’, the Frenchman found it was an albatross around his neck. He upset people when he said “f*ck that ‘synthwave’ stuff as u name it”.  Now ‘Reborn’, channelling his inner Moroder circa ‘Midnight Express’, ‘Outsider’ was a magnificent instrumental laced with orchestrated drama and tension.

Available on the album ‘Reborn’ via Record Makers / Protovision

https://kavinsky.com/


KID MOXIE Shine

Taking both musical and lyrical inspiration from DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Never Let Me Down Again’, there were darker and harder aesthetics at play on ‘Shine’ with KID MOXIE assertively declaring “I’m taking the lead in the back seat”. “We definitely channelled some DM vibes” she remembered, “it was even a running joke while we were in studio recording it with FADERHEAD”.

Available on the album ‘Better Than Electric’ via Pasadena Records

http://www.facebook.com/kidmoxie


KITE Panic Music

“Sweden’s best kept pop-secret” returned with ‘Panic Music’ and exuded a fierce anxiety with front man Nicklas Stenemo presenting his characteristic screaming delivery. Over an epic neo-gothic backdrop now associated with KITE, Christian Berg continued his fascination for electronic drones and swoops while there was also the surprise of a guitar solo. The stress and strain of the past two years was captured in song.

Available on the digital single ‘Panic Music’ via Astronaut Recordings

https://www.facebook.com/KiteHQ


LEATHERS Runaway

From Vancouver in British Columbia, ACTORS keyboardist Shannon Hemmett continued with her more synth focussed solo project LEATHERS. Not completely divorced from the main band family, frontman Jason Corbett acts as producer and collaborator, just as Daniel Hunt did with Helen Marnie on her solo work during the LADYTRON hiatus. ‘Runaway’ was gorgeous dreamy synthpop to elope to.

Available on the digital single ‘Runaway’ via Artoffact Records

https://www.facebook.com/leathersmusic


MECHA MAIKO Sunny, Softly (I Feel Love)

Hayley Stewart returned as MECHA MAIKO with ‘NOT OK’ to highlight the social-political flashpoints that emerged during the pandemic. But focussing on warmer moments and feeling the force of some mighty electro, ‘Sunny, Softly (I Feel Love)’ threw in the iconic throb from the Giorgio Moroder produced Donna Summer hit for a glorious beat driven statement enhanced by an angelic delivery.

Available on the album ‘NOT OK’ via New Retro Wave

https://www.mechamaiko.com/


MINIMAL SCHLAGER Submission

Sister and brother duo MINIMAL SCHLAGER began in 2020 as a consequence of the pandemic. Based between London and Berlin, Alicia Macanás and Francisco Parisi began to develop a brand of synth heavy dreampop. While bubbling with glistening synths, ‘Submission’ was a more of a new wave number with subtle guitar and a rhythmic bounce that set it apart from the other songs on their first album.

Available on the album ‘Love, Sex & Dreams’ via Duchess Box Records

https://www.facebook.com/minimalschlager


R.MISSING New Present City

Fronted by enigmatic Sharon Shy, having released some fabulously ethereal singles in the past 18 months, New York-based darklings R. MISSING presented the sinister beauty of ‘New Present City’. In their embracement of the fragility of life with gently propelled soundscapes swathed in icy melancholia, this slice of electronic pop noir fittingly filled a gap left by the now disbanded CHROMATICS.

Available on the digital single ‘New Present City’ via Terminal Echo

https://rmissing.com/


RÖYKSOPP & ALISON GOLDFRAPP Impossible

‘The Inevitable End’ in 2014 was said to be the final RÖYKSOPP album but after various singles and soundtracks, they returned with the ‘Profound Mysteries’ trilogy. Featuring Alison Goldfrapp, the delicious ‘Impossible’ was a mighty avant disco excursion with a seductive high soprano middle eight drifting into an intergalactic twist.

Available on the album ‘Profound Mysteries’ via Dog Triumph

http://royksopp.com/


HANNA RUA Light In Your Dark

Swedish songstress Hanna Rua has a dreamy electronic pop sensibility with the emphasis on the pop, but her debut EP ‘Light Up Your Dark’ also demonstrated her scope and capability using darker aesthetics. With a wonderfully gritty austere, the title song played with gothier influences while remaining melodic, coming over like a Nordic NINA in her more recent work in a battle against the demons.

Available on the EP ‘Light Up Your Dark’ via Aztec Records

https://www.hannarua.com/


SALLY SHAPIRO Fading Away

Although they announced a retirement of sorts in 2016, Swedish duo SALLY SHAPIRO joined the Italian Do It Better family in 2021 to make an unexpected return. ‘Fading Away’ was an epic dance tune where an atmospheric template was merged with a relentless disco synthwave hybrid, utilising a glorious plethora of trancey electronics and thumping rhythms across its seven minutes.

Available on the album ‘Sad Cities’ via Italians Do It Better

https://www.facebook.com/shapirosally


SIN COS TAN Endless

With the bear next door, the title of SIN COS TAN’s fourth album ‘Living In Fear’ resonated with anyone resident in Finland or anywhere in the civilised world; “Do you fear the dark, love, war, or yourself? Whatever the answer, you can be certain: Fear is a powerful thing.” The windswept electro-motorik of ‘Endless’ used the melodic synthy highs of OMD to counter the melancholic expression.

Available on the album ‘Living In Fear’ via Solina Records

http://solinarecords.com/sincostan/


SOFT CELL Nighthawks

The tense industrialised pulse of ‘Nighthawks’ recalled the sweaty alternative club overtures of one-time Some Bizzare stable mates CABARET VOLTAIRE. Featuring a deranged expletive laden rap from drag performance artist Christeene, SOFT CELL fans were even treated to the deep growly voice of Mr Ball himself alongside Marc Almond while ‘Staying Alive’ backing vocals provided another counterpoint.

Available on the album ‘*Happiness Not Included’ via BMG

http://www.softcell.co.uk


UNIFY SEPARATE Closure

Documenting a period of personal struggle, the new UNIFY SEPARATE album attempted ‘Closure’ which set the scene with a building atmospheric trance tune that simply mesmerised, especially when front man Andrew Montgomery hit his trademark falsetto. Instrumentalist Leo Josefsson cited influences such as MODERAT, NITZER EBB, UNDERWORLD and FRONT 242.

Available on the album ‘Music Since Tomorrow’ via How Music Group

http://www.unifyseparate.com


BELLA UNWIN Cold Breeze

With shades of Alison Goldfrapp, Hannah Peel and the often forgotten Stella Grundy, the positively feline and angelic ‘Cold Breeze’ was the London-based Aussie Bella Unwin’s best song yet. The additional production and mix by Finlay Shakespeare boosted the punchy and immediate machine funk that was laced with wispy and alluringly coy vocals.

Available on the single ‘Cold Breeze’ via GOTO Records

https://www.facebook.com/bellaunwinmusic


THE WEEKND Less Than Zero

THE WEEKND again reminded the mainstream of the emotive beauty that can come from classic synthpop with ‘Less Than Zero’. ‘Less Than Zero’ itself sounded not unlike Michael Jackson produced by Tony Mansfield. The cross of catchy hooks, glorious counter-melodies and acoustic strums were reminiscent of Mansfield’s own combo NEW MUSIK who went produced most of A-HA’s debut album.

Available on the album ‘Dawn FM’ via by XO / Republic Records

https://www.theweeknd.com


xPROPAGANDA The Wolves Are Returning

Porduced by Stephen J Lipson, a stark warning on rise again of the far right was highlighted on ‘The Wolves Are Returning’. The message coming from two Germans whose grandparents’ generation had made the mistake of opening up the door to the Nazis and “did nothing” was poignant. Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag provided a worthy follow-up to ‘A Secret Wish’ as xPROPAGANDA.

Available on the album ‘The Heart is Strange’ via ZTT Records

https://www.xpropaganda.co.uk/


A selection of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s favourite music of 2022 is featured in its ‘Stay Negative To Be Positive’ playlist


Text by Chi Ming Lai
12th December 2022

« Older posts