Tag: Section 25 (Page 1 of 4)

ELECTRICAL LANGUAGE Independent British Synth Pop 78-84

From Cherry Red Records, the makers of the ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ trilogy showcasing formative and experimental electronic music from the UK, Europe and North America, comes their most accessible electronic collection yet.

Subtitled ‘Independent British Synth Pop 78-84’, ‘Electrical Language’ is a lavish 4CD 80 track boxed set covering the post-punk period when all that synthesizer experimentation and noise terrorism morphed into pop.

Largely eschewing the guitar and the drum kit, this was a fresh movement which sprung from a generation haunted by the spectre of the Cold War, Mutually Assured Destruction and closer to home, the Winter of Discontent.

As exemplified by known names like THE HUMAN LEAGUE, FAD GADGET, SECTION 25 and BLUE ZOO included in the set to draw in the more cautious consumer, this was pop in a very loose manner with melodies, riffs and danceable rhythms but hardly the stuff of ABBA or THE BEE GEES!

‘Red Frame/White Light’ by OMD was a chirpy ditty about the 632 3003 phone box which the band used as their office, while THOMAS DOLBY’s ‘Windpower’ was a rallying call for renewable energy sources. Then there was the dystopian ‘Warm Leatherette’ by THE NORMAL based around two noisy notes and lyrically based on JG Ballard’s ‘Crash’ with its story around car collision symphorophilia.

While those acts’ stories have been rightly celebrated for putting the electronic avant pop art form into the mainstream, with any truly great compilation or collection, the joy is in finding the lesser known jewels.

Made primarily by the idealistic outsiders and independent experimenters from the lesser known side of Synth Britannia, ‘Electrical Language’ has plenty of synthetic material to rediscover or hear for the first time. Indeed, the more appealing tracks appear to fall into three categories; forgotten songs that should have been hits, oddball cover versions and largely unknown archive wonders.

Those forgotten gems include the exotic ‘Electrical Language’ title track by BE BOP DELUXE, documenting the moment Bill Nelson went electro. His production on the gloriously emotive ‘Feels Like Winter Again’ by FIAT LUX is another welcome inclusion to the set.

But the two best tracks on ‘Electrical Language’ are coincidentally spoken word; ‘Touch’ by LORI & THE CHAMELEONS about a girl’s Japanese holiday romance is as enchanting and delightful as ever, while there is also THROBBING GRISTLE refugees CHRIS & COSEY’s wispy celebration of Autumnal neu romance ‘October (Love Song)’, later covered in the 21st Century in pure Hellectro style by MARSHEAUX.

Merseyside has always been a centre for creativity and this included synthpop back in the day. ‘I’m Thinking Of You Now’ from BOX OF TOYS was a superb angsty reflection of young manhood that included an oboe inflected twist which was released on the Inevitable label in 1983. From that same stable, FREEZE FRAME are represented by the atmospheric pop of ‘Your Voice’

Jayne Casey was considered the face of Liverpool post-punk fronting BIG IN JAPAN and PINK MILITARY; the lo-fi electronic offshoot PINK INDUSTRY released three albums but the superb ‘Taddy Up’ with its machine backbone to contrast the ethereal combination of voice and synths lay in the vaults until 2008 and is a welcome inclusion. The ‘other’ Wirral synth duo of note were DALEK I LOVE YOU whose ‘The World’ from 1980 remains eccentric and retro-futuristic.

Scotland was in on the action too despite many local musicians preferring THE BYRDS and STEELY DAN; although both ‘Mr Nobody’ from THOMAS LEER and ‘Time’ by PAUL HAIG were detached and electronic, they vocally expressed minor levels of Trans-Atlantic soul lilt compared with the more deadpan styles of the majority gathered on ‘Electrical Language’.

Under rated acts form a core of ‘Electrical Language’ and while THE MOBILES’ ‘Drowning In Berlin’ may have come across like a ‘Not The Nine O’Clock News’ New Romantic parody on first listen, its decaying Mittel Europa grandeur was infectious like Hazel O’Connor reinterpreting ‘Vienna’ with The Master of Ceremonies at the Kit Kat Klub in 3/4 time!

NEW MUSIK’s ‘The Planet Doesn’t Mind’ probably would have gone Top 20 if had been done by HOWARD JONES, although band leader Tony Mansfield had the last laugh when he later became a producer working with the likes of A-HA and NAKED EYES. The brassy arty synthpop of ‘XOYO’ from Dick Witts’ THE PASSAGE was immensely catchy with riffs galore, while POEME ELECTRONIQUE’s ‘She’s An Image’ offered stark European electro-cabaret.

Cut from a similar cloth, one-time ULTRAVOX support act EDDIE & SUNSHINE inventively (and some would say pretentiously) presented a Living TV art concept but they also possessed a few good songs. The quirkily charming ‘There’s Someone Following Me’ deserved greater recognition back in the day and its later single version was remixed by one Hans Zimmer.

Meanwhile, the 4AD label could always be counted on more esoteric output and COLOURBOX’s ‘Tarantula’ was from that lineage, but then a few years later perhaps unexpectedly, they became the instigators of M/A/R/R/S ‘Pump Up the Volume’.

These days, modern synth artists think it is something an achievement to cover a synthpop classic, although it is rather pointless. But back in the day, as there were not really that many synthpop numbers to cover, the rock ‘n’ roll songbook was mined as a kind of post-modern statement. The synth was seen as the ultimate anti-institution instrument and the cover versions included on ‘Electrical Language’ are out-of-the-box and original, if not entirely successful.

Take TECHNO POP’s reinterpretation of ‘Paint It Black’ which comes over like Sci-Fi Arthur Brown while the brilliant ‘My Coo Ca Choo’ by BEASTS IN CAGES (which features half of HARD CORPS) is like PJ Proby with his characteristic pub singer warble fronting SILICON TEENS with a proto-GOLDFRAPP stomp.

Having contributed a T-REX cover for the ‘Some Bizzare Album’, THE FAST SET recorded another. Whereas ‘King Of The Rumbling Spires’ on the former was frantic electro-punk, ‘Children Of The Revolution’ is far more sombre and almost funereal. Least desirable of the covers though is ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ by HYBRID KIDS.

Of the obscurities worth checking out, the rousing standout is ‘Lying Next To You’ by Liverpool’s PASSION POLKA. A brilliant track akin to CHINA CRISIS ‘Working With Fire & Steel’ but with more synths and drum machine, it was recorded in 1983 but never actually saw the light of day until 2011 via a belated release on Anna Logue Records.

Delightfully odd, the VL Tone and organ infused ‘Bandwagon Tango’ from TESTCARD F is swathed with metallic rattles and possesses a suitably mechanical detachment. But with piercing pipey sounds and a hypnotic sequence, the metronomic ‘Destitution’ by cult minimal wavers CAMERA OBSCURA with its off key voice is one of the better productions of that type. Cut from a similar cloth, the perky ‘Videomatic’ by FINAL PROGRAM throws in some lovely string synths to close.

Swirlingly driven by Linn and her sisters, ‘Baby Won’t Phone’ by QUADRASCOPE comes from the Vince Clarke school of song with not only a great vocal, but also the surprise of a guitar solo in the vein of ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN!

‘The Secret Affair’ from JUPITER RED is a great ethereal midtempo synthpop song also using a Linn, while ‘Surface Tension’ from ANALYSIS is an appealing club friendly instrumental that was largely the work of the late Martin Lloyd who later was part of OPPENHEIMER ANALYSIS.

Produced by Daniel Miller, ALAN BURNHAM’s ‘Science Fiction’ from 1981 takes a leaf out of DALEK I LOVE YOU, while tightly sequenced and bursting with white noise in the intro, ‘Feel So Young’ by LAUGH CLOWN LAUGH has bubbling potential but is spoiled by some terribly flat vocals.

One of the weirder tracks is ELECTRONIC ENSEMBLE’s filmic ‘It Happened Then’ which recalls Parisian art rockers ROCKETS; backed by a brilliant ensemble of synths, it sees the return of the cosmic voice from Sparky’s Magic Piano and remember in that story, it could play all by itself!

Of course, other tracks are available and may suit more leftfield tastes… packaged as a lavish hardback book, there are extensive sleeve notes including artist commentaries, archive photos and an introductory essay by journalist Dave Henderson who cut his teeth with ‘Noise’, a short-lived ‘Smash Hits’ rival that featured a regular ‘Electrobop’ column covering the latest developments in synth.

While worthy, the ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ trilogy could at times be very challenging, but ‘Electrical Language’ provides some accessible balance, allowing tunes and beats in. It captures an important developmental phase in music, when technology got more sophisticated, cheaper and user friendly, that can be directly connected to ‘Pump Up the Volume’. Yes, this story is the unlikely seed of the later dance revolution, like it or not! And at just less than twenty five quid, this really is an essential purchase.

‘Electrical Language’ is released as 4CD boxed set on 31st May 2019 and can be pre-ordered from https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/electrical-language-independent-british-synth-pop-78-84-various-artists-4cd-48pp-bookpack/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
23rd May 2019

Lost Albums: ARTHUR & MARTHA Navigation

As the first long playing release on Happy Robots Records, from its SECTION 25 inspired artwork inwards, ARTHUR & MARTHA’s only album to date was always going to be a bit out of step.

2009 was the year of LA ROUX, LITTLE BOOTS and LADY GAGA, where electronic music returned to the mainstream and went superpop!

‘Navigation’ was the work of Alice Hubley and Adam Cresswell, an unusual looking couple described as “Gilbert & George, disguised as The Carpenters…”

Cresswell had been a member of the indie combo SALOON who garnered support from John Peel including a ‘Festive 50′ No1 in 2002 with ‘Girls Are The New Boys’. Meanwhile, Hubley was a DJ and a member of the all-girl trio THE DULOKS. After SALOON split in 2003, Cresswell turned to analogue synths for solace and when Hubley moved to London, they found common ground via the Korg MS10 and NEW ORDER.

With a Melodica, Stylophone and Theremin also thrown into the playroom, ARTHUR & MARTHA were born.

‘Autovia’ was the glorious opening track of ‘Navigation’, shaped by a charmingly nonchalant vocal from Hubley and hypnotically propelled by a synthetic motorik beat.

Coming over like an eccentric English take on STEREOLAB meeting NEU! on the M1 during its closing third wig-out,  the tune got the pair branded as ‘cutie krautrock’ or ‘tweetronica’ thanks to the gentle mode of propulsion used for their achingly pretty, minor-chord melodies.

Cresswell recalled: “I was on tour with my previous band SALOON in Spain and I saw the word ‘Autovia’ on the road; it sounded a bit like ‘Autobahn’ and so I wrote a song called that. Most of it was recorded in the downstairs toilet of my house!” 

Continuing the mood, ‘Music For Hairproducts’ placed its melancholic vocals and driving octaves for some mutant robotic disco.

With its acoustic guitar and mournful melodic bass, Cresswell took lead vocals on ‘Kasparov’, sounding not unlike SECTION 25’s Larry Cassidy, in a position now familiar in his more recent acclaim as RODNEY CROMWELL. While almost synth-less until the close, it captured a sign of things to come, especially when the melodica solo kicked in.

Hubley remembered “Adam didn’t really sing much initially. ‘Kasparov’ on ‘Navigation’ was the first song Adam did sing, I kind of had to talk him into it, partly because he made it sound more like THE POSTAL SERVICE. He was always in the background with SALOON even though he wrote a lot of the songs”.

Borrowing the rhythm from SOFT CELL’s ‘Sex Dwarf’, the organ tones of ‘Vallorian’ came over like a lo-fi CRYSTAL CASTLES, aided by rugged bursts of Moog and fading on a lovely cacophony of ARP Quartet. On the quaintly sparse ‘Navigation’ title song, beautiful string machine provided the bed for Hubley’s naturally unorthodox delivery before the appearance of clarinet over a clattering collage of percussion and a sudden motorik thrust featuring the entire ARTHUR & MARTHA synth armoury.

The brilliant ‘Follow the Path’ was the sort of brilliantly quirky instrumental that use to accompany the weird East European animations they used to show on BBC2, an array of pulsing sequences and deep complimentary four string with Hubley’s vocal refrain adding naïve charm along with some surprise glockenspiel.

The more avant pop rumble of ‘Memory’ was aggressive in comparison, with robotic vocoder assisting a Hubley / Cresswell duet resulting in a surreal Factory Records face-off between SECTION 25, NEW ORDER and THE WAKE.

Taking its lead from NEW ORDER’s ‘Power, Corruption & Lies’ album but with brighter bubbling synthy overtones, ‘This City Life’ charmed over a busy drum machine offbeat, the contrast between light and shade providing a unexpected lift before evolving into a steadfast cosmic romp invaded by squiggly electronics and innocent piano.

Using a brilliant title pun, the LADYTRON go Krautrock of ‘Squarewave To Heaven’ gave the closing straight some frantic energy before ending with ‘Turn to Dust’, another lovely mournful tune in the vein of ‘Leave Me Alone’.

Ten years on, ‘Navigation’ has stood up remarkably well with its charm and honesty.

And with a live reunion for ARTHUR & MARTHA on SATURDAY 2ND MARCH 2019, it is a perfect opportunity for even the keenest 21st Century electronic pop enthusiast who might have missed it first time to discover this lost long playing synthpop curio.

‘Navigation’ used the following instruments: Korg MS10, Moog Rogue, Moog Opus 3, Bass, Guitar, Casio DG50, Stylophone, Melodica, Theremin, ARP Quartet, MicroKorg, Casio 1000P, Omnichord, Glockenspiel.

‘Navigation’ is still available via Happy Robots Records on CD or download direct from https://arthurandmartha.bandcamp.com/album/navigation






Text by Chi Ming Lai
18th December 2018, updated 19th March 2020

SECTION 25 Elektra

Blackpool’s SECTION 25 went from post-punk gloom merchants on ‘Always Now’ in 1981 to mutant electronic dance pioneers with 1984’s ‘From The Hip’ and its seminal single ‘Looking From A Hilltop’, before evolving into a glossy pop act with the album ‘Dark Light’ in 2013.

Founded by the Cassidy brothers Larry and Vin, SECTION 25’s various stages have been shaped by the band’s lead vocalists, from Larry himself to his wife Jenny and now their daughter Bethany.

Part of the iconic Factory Records family, Ian Curtis, Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris all took a productive interest in the band’s creative fortunes over the years, while there was a boost in profile when rapper Kanye West sampled the song ‘Hit’ from ‘Always Now’ for the outro of his 2016 track ‘FML’ which eventually boasted seventeen names in its publishing split due to the number of samples it used!

Sadly Larry and Jenny passed away in 2010 and 2004 respectively, but the family tradition of SECTION 25 continues today with Vin and Bethany joined by cousin Jo on backing vocals and keyboards, along with the newest family member Michael on bass.

The new album ‘Elektra’ sees a return to SECTION 25’s post-punk roots and this move is signified by multi-instrumentalist Steve Stringer being joined by the band’s original guitarist from that period Paul Wiggin as the recording’s special guest.

The result of jam sessions and recorded as a live band in the studio, the dreamy opener ‘Laid Back’ with its layers of gentle string machine might indicate business as usual at least with more recent SXXV offerings, but ‘Chase The Blue’ offers live drums and a gritty guitar driven sound to offset Bethany’s voice and some lingering vibratoed synth. Then there’s the dubbier excursion of ‘Creatures’ and the quirky indie of ‘All I Ask’ before a more aggressive new wave demeanour sets in for ‘It Don’t Get’.

‘You Want Some’ continues on the new wave path, while the amusingly titled ‘You Don’t Have To Be Liked To Be Good’ plays with squelches and baggy piano over a percussive template that recalls PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED. The most electronically assisted track ‘The Greatest Thing’ has that fizz reminiscent of NEW ORDER. With Bethany joyfully exclaiming “this is my time”, it offers possibly the highlight of ‘Elektra’.

Again playing with squelches over live drums and incessant bass, ‘This Is The Love’ is another that goes into new wave territory although is a little too long while ‘Floating Sun’ soothes via its swirly textural atmospheres and a hypnotic rhythmic mantra from Vin.

To close ‘Elektra’, there’s a surprising band cover of ‘FML’, the very Kanye track which sampled of ‘Hit’. It bizarrely sounds like CHVRCHES going West Coast rap with the austere essence of the North West looming courtesy of the lingering voice of Larry Cassidy.

Those hoping for more electropop in the vein of the ‘Dark Light’ album might be disappointed, but those who prefer to party like it’s 1979 with guitars, bass and drums will love this latest offering from SECTION 25 as a worthy addition to the Cassidy tradition.

‘Elektra’ is released by Klanggalarie Records as a CD available from http://www.klanggalerie.com/gg278

A selection of the SECTION 25 back catalogue is available from http://www.factorybenelux.com/section25.html





Text by Chi Ming Lai
1st August 2018

A Beginner’s Guide To NEW ORDER Collaborations + Projects

Photo by Glenn A Baker

Like PET SHOP BOYS, NEW ORDER collaborated with other artists from quite an early stage in their career, as well as later working on their own various projects during the band’s recurring hiatuses.

Even in the JOY DIVISION era, Ian Curtis, together with manager Rob Gretton produced ‘Knew Noise’ by SECTION 25 in 1979. Following the passing of the charismatic front man, NEW ORDER underwent a well-documented transformation, aided by the advancements in technology. While NEW ORDER began with electronic instruments such as the Doctor Rhythm DR-55 drum machine, ARP Quadra and Sequential Pro-One, their synth armoury would expand to a Moog Source, Emulator, several Prophet 5s and an Oberheim DMX.

Bernard Sumner in particular relished the opportunity to further his craft by recording with other artists. Although more naturally inclined to the live environment, Peter Hook did bring his experience into the studio as well, while Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert primarily found an outlet for their knowhow within television. The compilation boxed set ‘NEW ORDER Presents Be Music’ released on Factory Benelux gathered many of these works.

Photo by Donald Christie

But there are still a significant number of tracks which featured the artistic input and involvement of a NEW ORDER member that are worthy of discovery and recognition.

So here are 20 tracks which encapsulate the spirit of NEW ORDER through the medium of collaboration and joint working, restricted to one track per project and presented in chronological order.

MARTHA Light Years From Love (1983)

Martha Ladly was already part of the NEW ORDER family having produced the paintings for the Peter Saville Associates artwork of ‘Temptation’ and the ‘1981-1982’ EP. Formally of MARTHA & THE MUFFINS, she teamed up with fellow Canadian Brett Wickens on this charming pop tune that echoed THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Open Your Heart’. Peter Hook provided his distinctive melodic six-string bass and dynamic production came from Steve Nye. The promo video was directed by Midge Ure and Chris Cross of ULTRAVOX.

Originally released as a single on Island Records, currently unavailable


52ND STREET Cool As Ice (1983)

While the trailblazing electro of ‘Cool As Ice’ was solely produced by Donald Johnson, Bernard Sumner contributed the synth basslines which were from a Moog Source run from a Powertran 1024 sequencer; it was to become the trademark feature on many of the NEW ORDER front man’s productions. The hybrid of authentic Manchester soul courtesy of Beverley McDonald’s vocals and New York urban influences was unsurprisingly a cult success across the Atlantic.

Available on the compilation boxed set ‘‘NEW ORDER Presents Be Music’ (V/A) via Factory Benelux


MARCEL KING Reach For Love (1984)

One of Bernard Sumner’s productions for Factory with Donald Johnson, ‘Reach For Love’ featured the late Marcel King who was a member of SWEET SENSATION, a vocal group who won ‘New Faces’ and had a No1 with ‘Sad Sweet Dreamer’. With its distinctive Moog bassline programming, this was a vibrant electro disco tune that couldn’t have been more different. Shaun Ryder of HAPPY MONDAYS remarked that if this had been released on a label other than Factory Records, it would have been a hit!

Available on the compilation boxed set ‘NEW ORDER Presents Be Music’ (V/A) via Factory Benelux


NYAM NYAM Fate/Hate (1984)

Despite Peter Hook’s more rock inclined sympathies and productions for acts like STOCKHOLM MONSTERS and THE STONE ROSES, he showed that he knew his way around the dancefloor as well with this Moroder-esque offering by Hull combo NYAM NYAM which he produced. Featuring a Roland TR808 plus NEW ORDER’s Emulator and Prophet 5 amongst its instrumentation, ‘Fate/Hate’ certainly today deserves to be as lauded as SECTION 25’s ‘Looking From A Hilltop’.

Available on the compilation album ‘NEW ORDER Presents Be Music’ (V/A) via Factory Benelux


SECTION 25 Looking From A Hilltop – Restructure (1984)

In a change of direction where founder member Larry Cassidy stated “you can’t be a punk all your life”, Factory Records stalwarts SECTION 25 recruited vocalist Jenny Ross and keyboardist Angela Cassidy to go electro. Produced by Bernard Sumner and Donald Johnson, the clattering drum machine accompanied by ominous synth lines and hypnotic sequenced modulations dominated what was to become a much revered cult club classic.

Available on the SECTION 25 album ‘From The Hip’ via Factory Benelux


PAUL HAIG The Only Truth (1984)

Possibly the best NEW ORDER song that NEW ORDER never recorded, although ex-JOSEF K front man Paul Haig demoed the song to an almost complete standard, when as Haig told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK: “Bernard Sumner and Donald Johnson started adding more to it like extra guitar, bass and percussion. We spent a long time on the sound of the percussion”. ‘The Only Truth’ was like a brilliant cross between ‘Blue Monday’ and ‘Temptation’, and the 12 inch version was almost as long!

Available on the PAUL HAIG album ‘At Twilight’ via Les Disques Du Crepuscule


SHARK VEGAS You Hurt Me (1986)

Mark Reeder moved from Manchester to Berlin in 1978 having become fascinated by the artistic diversity of the city and was for a time Factory Records’ representative in Germany. Reeder often sent records to Bernard Sumner from the emerging electronic club scenes around the world. His own Deutsche musical journey started with DIE UNBEKANNTEN, who mutated into SHARK VEGAS; the sequencer heavy ‘You Hurt Me’ was produced by Sumner at Conny Plank’s studios near Cologne.

Available on the MARK REEDER album ‘Collaborator’ via Factory Benelux


REVENGE Jesus I Love You (1989)

The aptly named REVENGE was Peter Hook’s response to Bernard Sumner’s ELECTRONIC. Comprising of Hook, Dave Hicks and Chris Jones, the  single ‘Seven Reasons’ backed with the edgy gothique of ‘Jesus I Love You’ got in the shops a few weeks before ‘Getting Away With It’. Coming over like early SISTERS OF MERCY with some extra raw power, it was a promising calling card. However, as things progressed, the output of REVENGE was not particularly well-received by the music press.

Available on REVENGE album ‘One True Passion V2.0’ via LTM Recordings


THE BEAT CLUB Security – Remix (1990)

Miami duo THE BEAT CLUB were the husband and wife team of producer Ony Rodriguez and singer Mireya Valls. The Bernard Sumner remix of ‘Security’ was the first ever release on Rob’s Records, the imprint of Rob Gretton. Sumner’s creative additions saw an overhaul of the original version with the crucial addition of his own vocal contribution, giving it an unsurprisingly NEW ORDER-like feel along the lines of a more fully realised ‘State Of The Nation’.

Available on the compilation boxed set ‘NEW ORDER Presents Be Music’ (V/A) via Factory Benelux


808 STATE Spanish Heart featuring BERNARD SUMNER (1991)

Having been largely instrumental and sample based on their debut ‘90’, the Manchester dance collective used guest vocalists on their more melodic second long player ‘Ex:El’; while Björk contributed to ‘Ooops’, Bernard Sumner added his voice to the dreamy Balearic of ‘Spanish Heart. A less frantic cousin of ‘Mr Disco’ from ‘Technique’ with its holiday romance subject matter, ‘Spanish Heart’ had a blissful feel not too distantly related to ELECTRONIC’s ‘Some Distant Memory’.

Available on the 808 STATE album ‘Ex:El’ via ZTT Records


ELECTRONIC Some Distant Memory (1991)

Frustrated with the conflicts and confines within NEW ORDER, Bernard Sumner had planned a solo album. But on bumping into Johnny Marr who had just departed THE SMITHS, it was turned into a collaborative project with the occasional guests including Neil Tennant, Chris Lowe and later Karl Bartos. It was ELECTRONIC not just in name but also in nature. The beautiful closing section of ‘Some Distant Memory’ featuring the oboe of Helen Powell enhanced the string synth melancholy.

Available on the ELECTRONIC album ‘Electronic’ via EMI Records


THE OTHER TWO Tasty Fish (1991)

Having done the music for the BBC shows including ‘Making Out’ and ‘Reportage’, Gillian Gilbert and Stephen Morris began turning their stockpile of unused material into songs when NEW ORDER went into hiatus. The original singer slated as the vehicle for these tunes was Kim Wilde, but when this fell through, Gilbert took over on lead vocals. Amusingly titled after a fish and chip shop near Stockport, ‘Tasty Fish’ was a catchy electropop single that should have been a big hit.

Available on THE OTHER TWO album ‘And You’ via LTM Recordings


A CERTAIN RATIO Shack Up – Radio Edit (1994)

Smoother, tighter, speedier and dancier plus more ELECTRONIC in both name and nature, A CERTAIN RATIO reconfigured and re-recorded their 1980 signature cover with Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr at the production controls, all as part of a 1994 updates retrospective for Creation Records. Originally a rare groove track by BANBARRA from 1975, this new version was popular with those who had not previously enjoyed the Mancunian band’s earlier industrial funk exploits.

Available on the A CERTAIN RATIO album ‘Looking For…’ via Creation Records


MONACO What Do You Want From Me? (1996)

With the demise of REVENGE and seemingly NEW ORDER, Peter Hook regrouped with guitarist David Potts to form MONACO, a combo very much in the mould of the latter. Proudly embracing his signature melodic bass sound, the first single ‘What Do You Want From Me?’ sounded like it could have come off ‘Technique’, with Hook’s Curtis-like baritone and Potts’ Sumner-esque refrain enabling a prompt audience acceptance for the duo.

Available on the MONACO album ‘Music For Pleasure’ via Polydor Records



‘Out Of Control’ was THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS’ sonic template actually fulfilling its potential within a song based format with Bernard Sumner as the willing conspirator. With echoes of NEW ORDER’s 12 inch only excursions like ‘Blue Monday’, ‘Confusion’ and ‘Thieves like Us’, ‘Out Of Control’ had everything from a bombastic backbeat, cerebral sequences and bizarre lyrics, especially when Sumner resigned to the fact that “Maybe my moustache is too much…”

Available on THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS album ‘Singles 93-03’ via Virgin Records


BLANK & JONES featuring BERNARD SUMNER Miracle Cure (2008)

Having worked with Robert Smith of THE CURE, German trance duo Piet Blank and Jaspa Jones had Bernard Sumner high on their list of singers for their album ‘The Logic Of Pleasure’, which also featured Claudia Brücken. The track managed to fill the electronic dance gap that had opened up with NEW ORDER’s more rock focused albums ‘Get Ready’ and ‘Waiting For The Siren’s Call’, while the single release came with excellent remixes  from Mark Reeder and Paul Humphreys from OMD.

Available on the BLANK & JONES album ‘The Logic Of Pleasure’ via Soundcolours


FACTORY FLOOR A Wooden Box – STEPHEN MORRIS remix (2010)

Some say the music of FACTORY FLOOR is genius, others a load of repetitive bleeping to an incessant four-to-the-floor beat. Stephen Morris was a fan, hearing kindred spirits in their use of sequencers next to live drums and guitars, sometimes on the brink of post-industrial noise chaos. With his remix of ‘Wooden Box’, Morris brought out its more tuneful elements and added some vocoder processing. He continued to work with the band as the producer of 2011’s ‘(Real Love)’.

Available on the FACTORY FLOOR single ‘A Wooden Box’ via Blast First Petite ‎


WESTBAM featuring BERNARD SUMNER She Wants (2013)

Techno DJ WESTBAM celebrated 30 years in the music business with an intriguing mature collection of songs under the title of ‘Götterstrasse’ which featured Iggy Pop, Brian Molko and Hugh Cornwall as guest vocalists. ‘She Wants’ saw the return of Bernard Sumner on a new electronic recording. With the guitar driven BAD LIEUTENANT having been his main vehicle over the intervening years, it was great to hear him on something approaching the classic sound of synth-centred NEW ORDER again.

Available on the WESTBAM album ‘Götterstrasse’ via Vertigo Germany


NEW ORDER featuring BRANDON FLOWERS Superheated (2015)

Brandon Flowers named THE KILLERS after a fictional band in the ‘Crystal’ video while his own combo covered the JOY DIVISION standard ‘Shadowplay’ for the ‘Control’ film. So a collaboration was not totally unexpected in this union of the sorcerer and the apprentice. A Stuart Price production featuring Flowers on the chorus, ‘Superheated’ was a slice of supreme pop which despite the frantic drum ‘n’ bass elements, sounded more like THE KILLERS than it did NEW ORDER.

Available on the NEW ORDER album ‘Music Complete’ via Mute Artists


KOISHII & HUSH featuring GILLIAN GILBERT Lifetime – FM ATTACK Remix (2016)

Simon Langford and Alex Sowyrda are the British-Canadian duo KOISHII & HUSH whose tracks have featured unusual vocalists ranging from DURAN DURAN’s John Taylor to actress Joanne Whalley. Gillian Gilbert lent her voice to ‘Lifetime’, sounding not unlike Sarah Blackwood who incidentally sang on their 2015 offering ‘Rules & Lies’. The remix from FM ATTACK aka Canadian synthwave exponent Shawn Ward added a serene crystalline quality to proceedings.

Available on the KOISHII & HUSH single ‘Lifetime’ via Grammaton Recordings


RUSTY EGAN featuring PETER HOOK The Other Side (2017)

With the opening salvo ‘The Otherside’ featuring Peter Hook on Rusty Egan’s debut solo album, sonic comparisons with NEW ORDER were inevitable and the song’s melodic basslines showed how much his sound was a vital part of the band. The Bass Viking’s vocals also exuded a vulnerability that listeners could empathise with. But with Hooky touring the JOY DIVISION and NEW ORDER back catalogue, new material from him has been rare.

Available on the RUSTY EGAN album ‘Welcome To The Dance Floor’ via Black Mosaic


FREEBASS You Don’t Know This About Me – Remix Instrumental (2017)

A Mancunian supergroup of three bassists Hooky, Mani and Andy Rourke that spent five years in gestation before imploding. Producer Derek Miller aka OUTERNATIONALE was a fan and told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK: “Really liked this song despite Hooky’s project falling apart on him! As you know, I’ve started and thought it deserved a proper release, albeit belatedly! So, I’ve been back in the studio with it and totally overhauled it sonically. There’s also a surprisingly punchy instrumental mix now”

Available on the FREEBASS single ‘You Don’t Know This About Me’ via 5 Pin Din Recordings


Text by Chi Ming Lai
24th March 2017

A Short Conversation with RODNEY CROMWELL

Like the sound of GIORGIO MORODER played through a Soviet Foxtrot submarine intercom system, ‘Comrades’ is the brand new single from RODNEY CROMWELL.

The musical vehicle of musician and Happy Robots Records CEO Adam Cresswell, it comes from ‘Rodney’s English Disco’ EP, the first all new material since the critically acclaimed ‘Age Of Anxiety’.

Dusting off his Boss DR-55 Doctor Rhythm and what appeared to have become his redundant MicroKorg to use alongside his vintage Moogs, the new RODNEY CROMWELL EP sees Cresswell take on wider issues inspired by the world’s confrontational political climate after the very personal lyrical statements of songs like ‘Black Dog’ and ‘You Will Struggle’ on his debut long player.

To support the upcoming release ‘Rodney’s English Disco’, Cresswell will shortly embarking on the ‘Ohm From Ohm’ tour. Adam Cresswell kindly chatted about life, synths and the Happy Robots way…

The new EP is called ‘Rodney’s English Disco’? Are you leaving the beany hat at home and donning a flared white suit instead?

Ha ha! Not at all. In fact the selection of beany hats has increased. I’ve not gone any more disco than previously. This record is very much inspired by these strange unsettled times living in England right now, and the juxtaposition of Englishness and Disco seemed to fit. And I would look terrible in a white suit.

But in many ways, RODNEY CROMWELL has always been disco, just in that detached SECTION 25 kind of way?

Absolutely. I mean ‘One Two Seven’ on ‘Age of Anxiety’ was a paean to the disco beat. In fact there is probably more direct GIORGIO MORODER, BLACK DEVIL DISCO CLUB or DIVINE influences in the RODNEY CROMWELL sound than there is DEPECHE MODE or GARY NUMAN. As for SXXV, well you know I’ve always been a fan; my favourite LP of theirs is probably ‘Love & Hate’, but ‘Dark Light’ is a close second these days.

Nearly three years on since its release, how do you look back on ‘Age Of Anxiety’?

Well I can’t say I’ve listened to it lately but after our first rehearsal in ages, I felt I probably should have. I still think very fondly of it. If I had known anyone would listen to it, I should have spent a bit longer mixing it, maybe corrected some of the mistakes, but equally that rough and ready-ness added to its honest confessional nature, it was part of its charm. I was incredibly happy how well it was received and I’m still really proud of it.

The vocoder laden ‘Comrades’ has a really chilling Cold War atmosphere, what inspired that?

I’d written ‘Dreamland’ but I was struggling with writers block – or at least I wasn’t writing anything I liked. One afternoon I ended up thumping at the MicroKorg and came up with the opening riff – I thought it sounded a bit Numan or Foxx-ish and I just built the song around that. Chilling is a good word for it. I wanted this record to be a bit darker and atmospheric – I was probably arguing with some alt-right crackpot on Twitter while recording, so that is likely what inspired it.

‘Barbed Wire’ appears to continue this sombre Cold War theme?

This was the first track I’ve ever written inspired by my Facebook wallpaper. I wanted to write something on the bass guitar mainly because I was listening to a lot of BLACK MARBLE at the time. But the track came out sounding much more ‘indie’ than I wanted. So when it came to producing, we tried to make it as sombre and austere as possible. Lots of reverb and synthy drones with a touch of ‘Deutschland 83’ vibe.

The neo-instrumental ‘Technocrats’ drops in some quite weird sounding chords?

I have no idea what the difference between a neo-instrumental and an instrumental is – but I like it!
This one started out really poppy and upbeat, in a ‘Popcorn’ meets ‘Pocket Calculator’ way; but by throwing in a couple of weird chords, it became a bit more whacky and disconcerting, like the rest of the record. I actually wrote this track really quickly – it went to concept to mixed in about three weeks which is a miracle for me. I have my producer Rich Bennett to thank for that. He described this one as a kraut-jam which sounds about right.

There’s a bit of an early OMD feel on ‘Dreamland’?

That’s probably due to the drums and the Solina strings. This was the first track written for the EP and I decided to dig out the old Boss DR-55 – it’s the drum machine on the first NEW ORDER album ‘Movement’. And anyway I just loved those sounds, so I decided to build the whole EP around them. ‘Dreamland’ is ultimately a break-up song and OMD do great breakup songs.

Are there any new synths in your armoury?

Nope. Don’t you know, I run a record label – I don’t have money for buying new synths. I’ve have actually succumbed to the convenience of soft synths though. After someone told me one of my very favourite albums LADYTRON’s ‘604’ was recorded entirely with soft synths, I got over my innate snobbishness and I use the Arturia Solina String Ensemble soft synth all over this record.

What do you think of those clones that Behringer are attempting to market?

I’m completely oblivious to what new synths are coming to market. But if Behringer want to send me a couple, I will happily test them extensively.

So how have you been juggling making music, along with running Happy Robots Records and releasing acts like HOLOGRAM TEEN, PATTERN LAGUAGE, TINY MAGNETIC PETS and SINOSA? Is this why it’s just an EP?

Nah! Even at my most prolific I’ve never managed more than four or five good songs a year, so a new Rodders album was never going to happen.

Running the label has been great – and it has been awesome working with such great bands. But it is such a lot of work trying to make a success of it – particularly when juggling with a day job. You do sometimes feel trapped in a great endless cycle of work and it starts to make you go a bit crackers to be honest. And obviously, it’s even harder financially now that it was even two years ago – when I did the Hologram Teen 7” in 2016, I got 300 units for £700 but now the same is over a grand. It’s crazy and likely to get much worse.

‘Ohm From Ohm’? But Ohm is where the ARP is?

The ARP is in my new studio room in the loft. Gathering dust. I’m sure someone wrote a song about that once.

What can potential punters expect if they come along to any of your upcoming shows?

From me, three tracks from the new EP, three or four of the big hitters from ‘Age of Anxiety’, some nice looking visuals and maybe a costume change (or at least a hat change). With four bands, we’re going to be running a tight ship, so perhaps you won’t get as much banter as some RODNEY CROMWELL shows. It’s going to be fun though, all the bands are great and we get on really well (for now).

Where is electronic music heading? Are you happy that CHVRCHES have gone the full Taylor or are you more of a CHRIS CARTER man?

I like pop music, but I’m not a TAYLOR SWIFT fan really. Not enough melody for me, she makes my stuff sound like PAUL McCARTNEY. I read something on Twitter saying she’s a Trump supporting neo-nazi, but even I think is going a bit far. I’ve not heard the new CHRIS CARTER although it’s on the list and I’m sure the new CHVRCHES will be good.

As for where electronic music is heading; well it all seems to be getting a bit darker, doesn’t it. I listened to the new COMPUTER MAGIC yesterday and even that is a bit dark in places. It’s the creatives rallying together. The post post-truth pop revolution has begun.

ELECTRICITY CLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to RODNEY CROMWELL

‘Comrades’ is released by Happy Robots Records as a download single including a remix by VIEON via https://rodneycromwell.bandcamp.com/album/comrades

‘Rodney’s English Disco’ EP will be released on 25th May 2018 in a 7” vinyl+CD combo, pre-order from the Botshop at https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/product-page/rodney-cromwell-7-cd-rodney-s-english-disco-bot12








Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
12th March 2018

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