Tag: Section 25 (Page 1 of 5)

2021 End Of Year Review

As the world steadily emerged from a painful pandemic that put many lives on hold, nostalgia appeared to be the commodity most in demand as the music industry took steps to recover.

No matter which era, anything musically from the past was more desirable that anything that reminded the public of the past 20 or so months. The first escape destination in the summer for many restricted to staying on their own shores were the established retro festivals.

Meanwhile television provided an array of documentaries ranging from chart rundowns of past decades and informative classic song analysis on Channel 5 to Dylan Jones’ look at ‘Music’s Greatest Decade’ on BBC2 and Sky Arts’ ‘Blitzed’ with all the usual suspects such as Boy George, Philip Sallon, Marilyn, Gary Kemp and Rusty Egan.

SPARKS had their own comprehensive if slightly overlong film ‘The SPARKS Brothers’ directed by Edgar Wright, but the Maels’ musical ‘Annette’ starring Adam Driver was a step too far. Meanwhile the acclaimed ‘Sisters With Transistors’ presented the largely untold story of electronic music’s female pioneers.

It was big business for 40th anniversary live celebrations from the likes of HEAVEN 17, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, OMD and SOFT CELL, while other veterans such as NEW ORDER and ERASURE returned to the live circuit with the biggest indoor headlining shows of their career.

Meanwhile for 2022, Midge Ure announced an extensive ‘Voices & Visions’ tour to present material from the 1981-82 phase of ULTRAVOX.

Also next year and all being well, GOLDFRAPP will finally get their belated 20th Anniversary tour for their marvellous debut ‘Felt Mountain’ underway while there are rescheduled ‘Greatest Hits’ live presentations for PET SHOP BOYS and SIMPLE MINDS.

Always money for old rope, but also giving audiences who missed them at their pioneering height an opportunity to catch up, ‘best of’ collections were issued by YELLO and TELEX while JAPAN had their 1979 breakthrough album ‘Quiet Life’ given the lavish boxed set treatment. Meanwhile, while many labels were still doing their best to kill off CD, there was the puzzling wide scale return of the compact cassette, a poor quality carrier even at the zenith of its popularity.

“Reissue! Repackage! Repackage! Re-evaluate the songs! Double-pack with a photograph, extra track and a tacky badge!” a disgraced Northern English philosopher once bemoaned.

The boosted market for deluxe boxed sets and the repackaging of classic albums in coloured vinyl meant that the major corporations such as Universal, Sony and Warners hogged the pressing plants, leaving independent artists with lead times of nearly a year for delivery if they were lucky.

But there was new music in 2021. Having achieved the milestone of four decades as a recording act, DURAN DURAN worked with Giorgio Moroder on the appropriately titled ‘Future Past’ while not far behind, BLANCMANGE took a ‘Commercial Break’ and FIAT LUX explored ‘Twisted Culture’. David Cicero made his belated return to music with a mature second album that was about ‘Today’ as Steven Jones & Logan Sky focussed on the monochromatic mood of ‘European Lovers’. Continuing the European theme but towards the former Eastern Bloc, Mark Reeder gave a reminder that he was once declared ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ and fellow Mancunians UNE became inspired by the ‘Spomenik’ monoliths commissioned by Marshal Tito in the former Yugoslavia.

For those who preferred to immerse themselves in the darker present, Gary Numan presented ‘Intruder’, a poignant concept album produced by Ade Fenton about Mother Earth creating a virus to teach mankind a lesson! Meanwhile ITALOCONNECTION, the project of Italo veterans Fred Ventura and Paolo Gozzetti teamed up with French superstar Etienne Daho to tell the story of ‘Virus X’! The video of the year came from UNIFY SEPARATE whose motivation message to ‘Embrace The Fear’ despite the uncertainty reflected the thoughts of many.

Despite the general appetite for nostalgia, there was some excellent new music released from less established artists with the album of the year coming from Jorja Chalmers and her ‘Midnight Train’ released on Italians Do It Better. The critical acclaim for the UK based Aussie’s second long playing solo offering made up for the disbandment of the label’s biggest act CHROMATICS, as it went into its most prolific release schedule in its history with albums by GLÜME, JOON, DLINA VOLNY and LOVE OBJECT as well as its own self-titled compilation of in-house Madonna covers.

As Kat Von D teamed up with Dan Haigh of GUNSHIP for her debut solo record ‘Love Made Me Do It’, acts like DANZ CM, CLASS ACTRESS, GLITBITER, PRIMO THE ALIEN, PARALLELS, KANGA, R.MISSING, I AM SNOW ANGEL, XENO & OAKLANDER, HELIX and DAWN TO DAWN showed that North America was still the creative hub as far as electronically derived pop songs went.

Attracting a lot of attention in 2021 were NATION OF LANGUAGE, who with their catchy blend of angst, melody and motorik beats welcomed synths as family in their evolving sound while also providing the song of the year in ‘This Fractured Mind’, reflecting the anxieties of these strange times. At the other end of the spectrum, DIAMOND FIELD went full pop with an optimistic multi-vocalist collection that captured the spirit of early MTV while BUNNY X looked back on their high school days with ‘Young & In Love’.

ACTORS delivered their most synthy album yet while as LEATHERS, they keyboardist Shannon Hamment went the full hog for her debut solo effort ‘Reckless’. FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY released a new album and some of that ‘Mechanical Soul’ was brought by their Rhys Fulber into his productions this year for AESTHETIC PERFECTION.

In Europe, long playing debuts came from PISTON DAMP and WE ARE REPLICA while NORTHERN LITE released their first album completely in German and FRAGRANCE. presented their second album ‘Salt Air’. There was also the welcome return of SIN COS TAN, KID KASIO, GUSGUS, MARVA VON THEO, TINY MAGNETIC PETS and MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY.

Featuring second generation members of NEW ORDER and SECTION 25, SEA FEVER released their eclectic debut ‘Folding Lines’ as fellow Mancunian LONELADY added sequencers and drum machines to her post-punk funk template. But Glasgow’s CHVRCHES disappointed with their fourth long player ‘Screen Violence’ by opting to sound like every other tired hipster band infesting the land.

The most promising artist to breakthrough in 2021 was Hattie Cooke whose application of traditional songwriting nous to self-production and arrangement techniques using comparatively basic tools such as GarageBand found a wider audience via her third album ‘Bliss Land’. In all, it was a strong year for female synth-friendly artists with impressive albums from Karin My, Laura Dre, Alina Valentina, Robin Hatch and Catherine Moan while comparative veterans like Fifi Rong, Alice Hubble, Brigitte Handley and Alison Lewis as ZANIAS maintained their cult popularity.

In 2021, sometimes words were very unnecessary and there were fine instrumental synth albums from BETAMAXX, WAVESHAPER, КЛЕТ and Richard Barbieri, with a Mercury nomination received by Hannah Peel for ‘Fir Wave’. But for those who preferred Italo Noir, popwave, post-punk techno and progressive pop, Tobias Bernstrup, Michael Oakley, Eric Random and Steven Wilson delivered the goods respectively.

With ‘The Never Ending’ being billed as the final FM ATTACK album and PERTURBATOR incorrectly paraphrased by Metal Hammer in a controversial “synthwave is dead” declaration, the community got itself in a pickle by simultaneously attacking THE WEEKND for “stealing from synthwave”, yet wanting to ride on the coat tails of Abel Tesfaye, misguidedly sensing an opportunity to snare new fans for their own music projects.

With THE WEEKND’s most recent single ‘Take My Breath’, there was the outcry over the use of a four note arpeggio allegedly sampled from MAKEUP & VANITY SET’s ‘The Last City’. But as one online observer put it, “Wow, an arpeggiated minor chord. Hate to break it to you but you might want to check out what Giorgio Moroder was doing 50 years ago. We’re ALL just rippin’ him off if that’s how you think creativity works”. Another added “If a four note minor key arpeggiated chord can go to court on the basis of copyright law, we are in for a hell of a few years my synthy friends”. It outlined once again that there are some who are still under the impression that music using synths was invented by Ryan Gosling in 2011 for ‘Drive’ soundtrack ??

There were also belated complaints that 2019’s A-HA inspired ‘Blinding Lights’ had a simple melody and needed five writers to realise it… but then, so did UTRAVOX’s ‘Slow Motion’ and DURAN DURAN’s ‘Rio’! Collaboration, whether in bands, with producers or even outsiders has always been a key aspect of the compositional process. If it is THAT simple, do it yourself! As Andy McCluskey of OMD said on ‘Synth Britannia’ in 2009 about the pioneering era when Ryan Gosling was still in nappies: “The number of people who thought that the equipment wrote the song for you: ‘well anybody can do it with the equipment you’ve got!’ “F*** OFF!!”

Over the last two years, THE WEEKND has become the biggest mainstream pop act on the planet, thanks to spectacles such as the impressive gothic theatre of the Super Bowl LV half time showcase while in a special performance on the BRITS, there was a charming presentation of the ERASURE-ish ‘Save Your Tears’ where he played air synth in a moment relatable to many. But everything is ultimately down to catchy songs, regardless of synth usage.

So ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK would like to present a hypothetical case to consider… if someone uses the arpeggio function with a sparkling patch from a Juno 6 synth in a recording, does Cyndi Lauper sue for infringing the copyright of ‘All Through The Night’ or the original songwriter Jules Shear or even the Roland Corporation themselves as they created it? More than one producer has suggested that THE WEEKND’s soundbite came from a hardware preset or more than likely, a software sample pack, of which there are now many.

However, sample culture had hit another new low when Tracklib marketed a package as “A real game-changer for sample based music. Now everyone can afford to clear samples” with rapper and producer Erick Sermon declaring “Yo, this is incredible. They’re trying to put creativity back into music again. By having samples you can actually pay for and afford”.

Err creativity? How about writing your own songs and playing or even programming YOUR OWN instrumentation??!?

One sampling enthusiast even declared “I might go as far as to say you don’t really like dance music if you’ve got a problem with adding a beat to a huge (even instantly recognizable) sample”… well guess what? ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK LOATHES IT!!! ?

In 2021, music promotion became a bit strange with publicists at all levels keen more than ever to have their clients’ press releases just cut ‘n’ pasted onto online platforms, but very reluctant to allow albums to be reviewed in advance in the event of a potential negative prognosis.

While cut ‘n’ paste journalism has been a disease that has always afflicted online media, in a sad sign of the times, one long established international website moved to a “pay to get your press release featured” business model.

The emergence of reaction vloggers was another bizarre development while the “Mention your favourite artist and see if they respond to you” posts on social media only added more wood to the dumbing down bonfire already existing within audience engagement.

It was as if the wider public was no longer interested in more in-depth analysis while many artists turned their publicity into a reliance on others doing “big ups” via Twitter and Facebook. But then, if artists are being successfully crowdfunded with subscriptions via Patreon, Kickstarter, Bandcamp and the like, do they need a media intermediary any longer as they are dealing direct with their fanbases?

However, it wasn’t all bad in the media with ‘Electronically Yours With Martyn Ware’ providing insightful artist interviews and the largely entertaining ‘Beyond Synth’ podcast celebrating its 300th show. Due to their own music commitments, Steven Wilson and Tim Bowness were less prolific with their discussion show ‘The Album Years’ but it was still refreshing for commentators to be able to say that a record was sh*t when it actually was, rather than conform to the modern day adage that all music is good but not always to the listener’s taste!  And while various programmes came and went, other such as ‘Operating//Generating’, ‘KZL Live’ and ‘Absynth’ came to prominence.

Post-pandemic, interesting if uncertain times are ahead within the music industry. But as live performance returns, while the mainstream is likely to hit the crowd walking, will there be enough cost effective venues to host independent artists? Things have been tough but for some, but things might be about to get even tougher.

However, music was what got many through the last 18 months and as times are still uncertain, music in its live variant will help to get everyone through the next year and a half and beyond.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s year in music is gathered in its 2021 Playlist – Missing U at
https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4rlJgJhiGkOw8q2JcunJfw


Text by Chi Ming Lai
17th December 2021

SEA FEVER Folding Lines

Manchester, so much to answer for…

SEA FEVER are a new but seasoned quintet whose musical family trees link up through their various associations with some of the city’s best known bands such as NEW ORDER, THE SMITHS, SECTION 25 and THE FALL.

Comprising of Iwan Gronow, Beth Cassidy, Tom Chapman, Phil Cunningham and Elliot Barlow, their debut album ‘Folding Lines’ is the sound of a band instinctively working together, exploring the music that has inspired each band member to merge into a new whole.

Aiming to explore new sounds and unusual instrumentations, examples of this approach come with the sombre indie rock of ‘Crossed Wires’ where Phil Cunningham’s guitar sounds are played through one of Tom Chapman’s synths and ‘Built To Last’ which uses a string quartet to complement the virtual orchestra sound.

Similarly filmic, ‘The Finder’ takes inspiration from the soundtracks of Bernard Hermann, Georges Delerue, Ennio Morricone and Ryuichi Sakamoto, while a hammered dulcimer makes an appearance to add tension and mood to the dual vocalled ‘Folding Lines’ title track.

‘Under Duress’ also exudes a particularly expansive sound with electronics, strings and anthemic vocal lines like Björk’s ‘Homogenic’ meeting a modern Mancunian Spaghetti Western soundtrack, while the buzzing electronically assisted indie rock of ‘Afterthought’ is equally spirited.

Two of the album’s best songs are tightly electronically driven; ‘De Facto’ is a delightful indie-disco feast with an adrenalin rush guaranteeing dancefloor satisfaction. Meanwhile cut from a similar cloth, the slightly less frantic ‘Le Coup’ sees Beth Cassidy take the lead vocal over a blend of many Mancunian club influences.

Closing with a choir on ‘Programme Your Life’ recorded at the Royal Northern School of Music in Manchester alongside woodwinds and strings, ‘Folding Lines’ is an eclectic collection of music showcasing no particular sound or feel other than being SEA FEVER.

If you a fan of any of the bands that SEA FEVER are linked with, you will be sure to love at least 3-4 tracks. Although all the members have other bands to return to, album number two has already been written, so more is to come…


‘Folding Lines’ is released by Kartel Records on 22nd October 2021 in vinyl LP, CD and digital formats – pre-order from https://seafever.lnk.to/foldinglines

SEA FEVER play Manchester Night & Day Cafe on 22nd October and London Rough Trade East on 29th October 2021

https://seafeverband.com/

https://www.facebook.com/seafeverband

https://twitter.com/SeaFeverBand

https://www.instagram.com/SeaFeverBand/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Anthony Harrison
17th October 2021

SEA FEVER Interview

SEA FEVER are the new eclectic Manchester combo featuring second generation members of SECTION 25 and NEW ORDER, Beth Cassidy, Tom Chapman and Phil Cunningham.

Fronted by Johnny Marr band member Iwan Gronow, sticksman and BIMM Tutor Elliot Barlow completes the experienced quintet.

With their debut album ‘Folding Lines’ due out in the Autumn, SEA FEVER began their journey with the sombre indie rock of ‘Crossed Wires’. Meanwhile the ‘Folding Lines’ title song offered some orchestrated filmic drama.

However ‘De Facto’ was a delightful electro-disco feast with a rhythm rush that screamed strobelights and likely to fill indie club dancefloors while also crossing over to lovers of synth. Cut from a similar cloth if less frantic is the upcoming album cut ‘Le Coup’.

Overall, ‘Folding Lines’ is the sound of a band instinctively working together, exploring the music that inspired each band member to merge into a new whole. With the rousing new single ‘Under Duress’ breaking cover, Tom Chapman and Beth Cassidy chatted to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about the making of the ‘Folding Lines’ album and the chemistry within…

So how does SEA FEVER differ from the other bands and projects you have been involved in?

Beth: This feels really different for me… the SEA FEVER set-up seems to flow in and out of these real intense periods of focus, working together, and then calmness.

Tom: SEA FEVER has a really good chemistry between all band members. We’re all on the same page musically and pushing forward in the same direction.

Did you set out to present a particular sound? In terms of direction, were you setting out any particular templates or did anything go?

Tom: I wanted to explore new sounds and unusual instrumentations for this album, I also experimented with sampling beats and noises to generate unusual rhythms throughout the LP, but the key thing was to deliberately push myself out of my comfort zone with the songwriting.

How would you describe the band creative dynamic?

Tom: I’ll usually come up with instrumental song demos that I will pass onto the rest of the band, it’s a collective effort and only sounds like a finished SEA FEVER song once everyone have added their musical parts. We took a road trip to France during the writing process before lockdown, the idea was to immerse ourselves into the creative process without any distractions, we packed out the studio and instruments and headed to Brittany, it was intense but very prolific, ‘Beleaguered Land’ and ‘The Finder’ came out of that trip.

Was there anything that was brought to the table that perhaps wouldn’t necessarily have been considered in another band or project?

Beth: I’m sure Tom had a vision in his mind of a set-up with two singers up front, working in tandem.

Tom: We made use of a choir on ‘Programme Your Life’ recorded at the Royal Northern School of Music in Manchester alongside a clarinet and a string quartet, I’d never tried anything like this previously on a song. A hammered dulcimer makes an appearance on ‘Folding Lines’, adding perfect tension and mood to the track. Phil experimented a lot with guitar sounds, he played his Gretsch through one of my synths on ‘Crossed Wires’.

One of the influences mentioned in the SEA FEVER playlist is Neil Young’s polarising ‘Trans’, what fascinates you about this record?

Tom: This is one of Phil’s choices, he is a big fan of Neil Young’s guitar playing and songwriting. I think he loves the fact it doesn’t sound anything like Neil Young’s previous releases, it sees him experimenting with vocoder on his vocals, it confused his fans at the time. Great album, a real hidden gem.

The new single ‘Under Duress’ has a particularly expansive sound with electronics, strings and anthemic vocal lines, had there been any particular inspirations here?

Beth: Iwan left these natural pauses throughout his vocal arrangement, so I filled them with subtle, sweeping harmonies. It seemed to balance things out really well. I was listening to Björk’s ‘Homogenic’ album at the time. It was the first track we all worked on together actually.

Tom: I am proud of that one and the way it turned out, a lot of thoughts went into it. One of the first ideas we worked on as a group, it was a good indicator of what was to come musically. It’s a beautifully crafted song with great lyrics and haunting melodies, great guitar work from Phil, and Elliot’s drumming is class, it perfectly captures the essence of a modern Mancunian Spaghetti Western soundtrack with a beat.

There are quite a few string orchestrations on the album like on ‘Built To Last’, but with everything going on, were these synthesized by necessity or were you able to assemble the real thing?

Tom: They are combined. We used a string quartet on the album to complement the orchestra sound.

There are a number of blinders on this album, the club friendly ‘De Facto’ with its electronic sequencing in particular, what was the genesis of this and how did you achieve the balance between dance and rock?

Tom: I think being part of NEW ORDER really helps for that! The writing of ‘Music Complete’ was a big learning curve for me as a songwriter and producer, I picked up a lot from the studio experiences acquired working with Tom Rowland from THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS and the rest of NEW ORDER, all this was applied on this record. I was locked in my studio for days programming the sequencing on ‘De Facto’ with one synth triggering another, it was a bit of an experiment but came out really good in the end! We didn’t want the final result to be a conventional structured song, it’s more a melodic beat and bass generator with the sole purpose of dragging you onto the dance floor!

Another track in a similar vein but less frantic is ‘Le Coup’ which sees Beth take the lead vocal and is a blend of many Mancunian influences, how did that come together?

Beth: Haha, slowly…! It was a labour of love, a marathon of edits, back and forth over email. We figured out the general vibe and main vocal melodies quite early on, but then the main structure evolved quite a bit over time.

‘The Finder’ captures a solemn Spaghetti Western feel, did influences from cinema come into play when making the record?

Tom: Majorly yes! I’ve always been a big fan of film scores from Bernard Hermann, Georges Delerue, Ennio Morricone, Ryuichi Sakamoto to name a few.

Which are your own favourites tracks from the ‘Folding Lines’ album?

Beth: ‘De Facto’ is a banger to play live, it’s fun and chaotic!

Tom: That’s a tough one ! I like them all. I think the album is very coherent from start to finish and the interplay between songs works really well.

SEA FEVER were able to film some live performances which are now acting as trailers for the album, do you see the concert setting as the best way to experience the band?

Beth: From the offset, we always set out to play our songs live, you go through the writing and production process in a new band, and you never think in a million years that you won’t physically be able to play live… it was such a weird time, and a real downer. We had all this new material that we were just sitting on for months! We’re dead excited to play our first actual gig….

Tom: Absolutely, we can’t wait to get out there and play some shows, songs take on a life of their own when played live. We keep evolving as a band in rehearsals and some of the song’s interpretations are now different, it keeps the creative juices going and makes it interesting for us as a band.

Have you been able to get out to view the ‘Use Hearing Protection’ Factory Records exhibition at the Manchester Science + Industry Museum?

Beth: Yeah, it felt like a really comprehensive exhibition, unreleased posters I’d never seen before, loads of hand written ramblings, one of the Factory envelopes on display has my first home address scrawled across it… one person’s junk is another person’s treasure!

Tom: Not yet, it’s on the “to do” list!

It’s been a tough 18 months for many, what are your hopes and fears for the future?

Beth: I hope we can all enjoy live music and other arts events together soon. That beautiful connection you have with other people when you’re experiencing something live together in that moment, it’s priceless, it’s like therapy for me. To watch and to play.

Tom: The last 18 months have been tough for many reasons, the lack of interest and support shown by the government regarding The Arts in general has added to the frustration to be honest! But on the positive side, it’s shown us that music plays a big part in people’s daily lives. Being a lockdown band or “Rockdown” as I like to call it without doing gigs has been a challenge to say the least, But musicians are resilient and where there’s a will there’s a way. My hope is that when things open up and gigs are fully allowed again, people will go mad for it!

What is next for SEA FEVER? Will this just be a one-off adventure or will there be more music?

Beth: We’re not going anywhere…. already writing new material!

Tom: One of the good things that came out of these lockdowns was the amount of time we got to spend in the studio writing and being creative, album number two is done, next is recording it. Loads more to come from us…


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to SEA FEVER

Special thanks to Federica Furlotti at Kartel Music Group

‘Under Duress’ single is out now via Kartel Records, ‘Folding Lines’ is released on 22nd October 2021 – pre-order the album ‘Folding Lines’ from https://seafever.lnk.to/foldinglines

SEA FEVER will play Manchester Night & Day Cafe on 13th August 2021, the evening will also feature a DJ set by Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert – tickets available from https://www.gigantic.com/sea-fever-tickets

https://seafeverband.com/

https://www.facebook.com/seafeverband

https://twitter.com/SeaFeverBand

https://www.instagram.com/SeaFeverBand/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Anthony Harrison
5th August 2021

SEA FEVER De Facto

Continuing the musical lineage of Manchester, SEA FEVER began their account with the sombre indie rock of ‘Crossed Wires’ while ‘Folding Lines’ offered some orchestrated filmic drama.

But their frantic new single ‘De Facto’ is their much more electronic statement, a punchy sequenced construction that is likely to fill indie club dancefloors while also crossing over to lovers of synth.

It is a delightful electro-disco feast with a rhythm rush that screams strobelights and shoulder shuffles! But then this is not entirely surprising when closer scrutiny reveals that behind frontman Iwan Gronow are second generation members of SECTION 25 and NEW ORDER, Beth Cassidy, Tom Chapman and Phil Cunningham. Meanwhile Elliot Barlow, whose CV includes playing alongside Brix Smith Start of THE FALL, completes the quintet.

‘De Facto’ could be considered a more energetic second cousin of SHADOWPARTY’s ‘Reverse The Curse’, a band that Tom Chapman and Phil Cunningham were part of with latter day members of DEVO. Iwan Gronow said: “It’s SEA FEVER experimenting with song structures and sounds. We wrote the song with a thumping backbeat and pulsating analog synth. The song is about not being afraid to speak up, voicing your opinion and opening this void”

As SEA FEVER prepare for the release of their debut album, they have revealed influences such as SOULWAX, THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS, YEAH YEAH YEAHS, CHROMATICS, SUICIDE, AIR, TALKING HEADS, PJ HARVEY, THE HORRORS, THE CLASH, THE WHO and THE STOOGES as well as interestingly, Neil Young’s polarising 1982 vocoder-laden album ‘Trans’.

With the instrument line-up, gender ratio and band history, comparisons with NEW ORDER will be almost inevitable but if the music is really good, then that doesn’t really matter.


‘De Facto’ is released by Kartel Records via the usual digital platforms

https://seafeverband.com/

https://www.facebook.com/seafeverband

https://twitter.com/SeaFeverBand

https://www.instagram.com/SeaFeverBand/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
29th May 2021, updated 11th August 2021

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/

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Text by Chi Ming Lai
23rd May 2019

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