SIN COS TAN, the “synthesized duo of great promise, broken dreams, and long nights” return with a new EP after a six year absence.
Entitled ‘Drifted’, the Finnish pairing of Juho Paalosmaa and Jori Hulkkonen were inspired by the experiences of separation and resignation experience by most during 2020. “We had numerous discussions about doing something again with SCT over the years, but they never came to fruition” said Paalosmaa, “I think the whole COVID thing, in all its trouble, gave us the pause we needed in our lives for SIN COS TAN to make sense again”.
But Paalosmaa added ”Finns, as people, are quite well adapted to handle isolation. We’ve been doing that voluntarily for centuries already. Nevertheless, it’s still been a challenge at times.”
With three albums ‘Sin Cos Tan’, ‘Afterlife’ and ‘Blown Away’ already to their name, the last SIN COS TAN release was the dance focussed EP ‘Smile Tomorrow Will Be Worse’ in 2015. At around 7 minutes, ‘Disconnect’ recalls the nocturnal moods of the self-titled debut while strident piano makes a surprise appearance towards its dramatic final third. With a more metallic and danceable pace, ‘If I Was Gone’ is reminiscent of more uptempo SIN COS TAN material such as ‘History’ with crystalline synth tones and magnetic IDM vibes.
‘Unconditional’ exudes a hypnotic atmospheric groove with an emotive vocal delivery from Paalosmaa in a manner that is classic SIN COS TAN. “It’s really about the poison of absoluteness” clarified Hulkkonen, “and how doing things strictly your way can erode a lot of good will around your life”; it is undoubtedly a lesson for all. Almost funereal, ‘True To You’ captures the resignation and isolation where an e-Bowed guitar simulation played on a synth comes as the unexpected dressing to the largely instrumental template and doing as the EP title suggests.
A welcome return that is not short of drama or intensity, ‘Drifted’ sees SIN COS TAN dipping their toes in the water again after their hiatus. Once they fully hit their creative stride again over a long playing format, there is sure to be even more excellence to come in the vein of songs like ‘Trust’ and ‘Moonstruck’.
‘Drifted’ comes out on September 24th 2021 via Solina Records as a limited edition vinyl 12″ and digital release
Juho Paalosmaa and Jori Hulkkonen are back as SIN COS TAN after a six year hiatus.
The Finnish synth duo opened their account in 2012 with a nocturnal self-titled ‘Sin Cos Tan’ album which included the magnificent “disco you can cry to” of ‘Trust’. The second album ‘Afterlife’ in 2013 added more colours and a collaboration with Casey Spooner of FISCHERSPOONER on the electro-new wave of ‘Avant Garde’.
Released in 2014, the third SIN COS TAN long player ‘Blown Away’ was a concept album about the fictional middle aged banker Michael Burana who following his divorce, becomes a drug courier and gets involved in a life of crime before his story comes to its inevitable conclusion when he is ‘Blown Away’ in the ‘Heart Of America’.
The last SIN COS TAN release was the three-track dance focussed EP ‘Smile Tomorrow Will Be Worse’ and although the pair worked together on ‘Ultima’, the 2016 second album from Paalosmaa’s other project VILLA NAH, the upcoming ‘Drifted’ EP will be their first new material as SIN COS TAN since 2015, inspired by the experiences of separation and resignation during the worldwide pandemic.
Juho Paalosmaa and Jori Hulkkonen chatted to ELECTRICITY CLUB.CO.UK about becoming ‘Drifted’ and returning from the wilderness as SIN COS TAN.
SIN COS TAN had been extremely prolific with three albums in three years, how do you look back on that catalogue of work produced in such a short time?
Juho: Looking back on it now, I’m honestly kind of surprised at how much of it still holds up. We were on a creative roll, but still managed to stay quite focused. It’s strange to listen to something you’ve done years ago and genuinely feel like you’re discovering it in the process.
Jori: Very proud of those albums. And, even though they were done in a relatively short period of time, they each really stand on their own and have a specific sound to them. I don’t really listen to my own music, but earlier this year I went through the full SCT catalogue as we were preparing our first live show in six years, and was really surprised how well the material has aged. But I guess that’s the advantage when you make retro sounding – or as I like to say, timeless – music.
Had there been any particular reason that after the concept album ‘Blown Away’, you opted for a more dance-oriented EP ‘Smile Tomorrow Will Be Worse’ as its follow-up in 2015?
Juho: We felt like we really went out on a high (no pun intended) with ‘Blown Away’. The downside is we really had a hard time thinking of how to pick up after it. ‘Smile…’ was the result of that conundrum: we just wanted to do something very different after our last album.
Jori: Exactly. I personally felt we had peaked creatively on ‘Blown Away’ on so many levels, that doing another album felt a bit overwhelming at the time. However, we still had the drive and ideas for songs, so we decided to take a slightly different approach.
Although you both worked together on the second VILLA NAH album ‘Ultima’ in 2016, what was the impetus for producing new SIN COS TAN material?
Jori: We’ve had some get-togethers at my studio all through the years, with the intention of starting something, and there’s a bunch of demos that never quite made the cut, or got us excited enough to finalise a release. So there never really was a real break creatively, just a slight exhaustion from the three albums and an EP run, and personally I felt the bar was pretty high after ‘Blown Away’ especially. I guess it took some time for us to find the same loose vibe for writing songs together again.
Juho: We had numerous discussions about doing something again with SCT over the years, but they never came to fruition. I think the whole COVID thing, in all its trouble, gave us the pause we needed in our lives for SIN COS TAN to make sense again.
How have you both been handling the enforced isolation of the lockdown, have your perspectives changed?
Juho: As much as anyone’s, I suppose. This kind of experience is bound to highlight the importance of certain elements in life, and the absolute superficiality and uselessness of others. But Finns, as people, are quite well adapted to handle isolation. We’ve been doing that voluntarily for centuries already. Nevertheless, it’s still been a challenge at times.
Jori: I’ve handled this very poorly, but it’s still been better than normal life.
Did some of your experiences during lockdown affect your creative dynamic as SIN COS TAN? Was there more remote working than in the past with consultations on Zoom etc?
Jori: Not really, we still write some stuff separately, but the main magic happens always when we’re in the studio together just bouncing ideas.
Juho: Not really with the recording part, we were able to do all the recordings of ‘Drifted’ in a few days at Jori’s studio. But any rehearsing for live stuff has been completely different. We basically don’t meet at all, Jori lives in Turku and I live in Helsinki. We’re about 150km apart. So, we rehearse on our own and meet on-stage for the live show! It’s a bit mad. We’ve done it just once so far at a Finnish festival, but it went down surprisingly well…
The opening song ‘Disconnect’ from ‘Drifted’ recalls the nocturnal moods of your self-titled debut but piano makes a surprise appearance in the track’s final third, what was the idea or inspiration behind this?
Jori: The song came about when we were just jamming on top of this groove I had nicked from a Finnish new wave 12” from the 80s; basically I just sampled a drumbreak from it while playing the maxi single at 33rpm, and programmed the rhythm part around that. Then we just started layering things on top of it. Towards the end, we felt it needs to build up for a proper pay-off, and I can’t remember which first hit upon those pianos, but it seemed to do the trick.
Juho: No particular inspiration, it just felt like the right thing to do at the moment. You come up with ideas that flow with the track and match the tension or mood you’re creating. Spontaneity is essential when creating music.
Another new texture comes on ‘True To You’ which is primarily instrumental and throws in some E-Bowed guitar, was this quite tricky to nail down during recording?
Jori: Oh that’s all synth on the track. That lead sound was a bit of a placeholder for a vocal idea to emerge, but eventually it grew up on us, and realised it works better with this really sparse arrangement.
‘If I Was Gone’ is more typical of SIN COS TAN’s uptempo material with its IDM vibes, do you find yourselves still inspired by the dancefloor despite getting older?
Jori: Age has nothing to do with dancefloor really. I think with SCT, we have a few key approaches to how we frame a song. This particular track is based on Juho’s demo, and I immediately knew how it should sound.
Juho: ‘If I Was Gone’, as a song, could’ve also easily been a ballad. I originally wrote it on guitar as a slightly slower version. But it felt right to give it more tempo and pizzazz, and Jori had an Italo vision for it that worked out nicely with the lead melody.
‘Unconditional’ has a particularly emotive vocal delivery, what is the song about and is it autobiographical?
Jori: This again was based on a demo I had made, that had some placeholder lyrics from me, which Juho changed completely but kept the feel of the delivery and melody. It’s a really nice example of how we complete each other’s ideas.
Juho: It’s really about the poison of absoluteness, and how doing things strictly your way can erode a lot of good will around your life. I suppose all the tracks on ‘Drifted’ are autobiographical – lyrically, they’re quite a direct response to things I’ve experienced over 2020 and before.
Equipment-wise, are you using any new toys or are you sticking to your trusted tools? Do you have any thoughts about these clone vintage instruments that Behringer are making or the way synthesizer technology is heading?
Juho: No new toys on ‘Drifted’, as far as I know… I’m not a gear head, but I’ve started to come around to plug-ins over the years. They’re simply so high-quality nowadays that it’s hard to argue for a massive collection of synths, either in economic terms, or simply in the space that they require. At the end of the day, I still feel that the songs themselves matter the most: it’s easy to lose yourself in a sea of plugins, apps and synths, but none of those matter if the songwriting sucks.
Jori: This was actually the first SCT release to emerge from my current studio, after relocating in 2016. However, the main equipment – hardware and software – are the same. I don’t think I’ve bought any new gear in years, I’ve completely gotten over GAS (gear acquisition syndrome), and really been just focusing on ideas and their execution with the stuff I have. It’s all about efficiency. At the same time, I do follow all these amazing new and rebooted versions of classics that keep hitting the market. I mean, what’s not to love?
‘Drifted’ is an EP that captures a specific moment, but do you see yourselves working on a long playing record again in the future, does the album still have a place in modern music consumption?
Jori: For SCT in the future, yes, but for the moment we feel the EP as a format is something that works best for us. Generally speaking though, I do love albums; most music I’m into these days requires that extended timeframe to pass on the ideas and textures, something that the single or EP formats simply can’t deliver.
Juho: I think albums still certainly matter and always will. My favourite records are often LPs. But it also feels quite liberating to do an EP as well. They allow for a more concise vision and give way for variety in the future as well. The idea of an entire LP can feel daunting at times. An EP, on the other hand, just sounds like fun. It’s like a great miniseries on HBO that never outstays its welcome.
Jori appeared in ‘808 – The Movie’, are there any music documentaries or other series you have both been enjoying that you would like to recommend?
Juho: I already told this to Jori, but I’ve really enjoyed some of Tiga’s ‘Last Party on Earth’ podcasts recently – particularly the episode with Trevor Jackson, which goes beyond of just DJs talking about their craft. Tiga is a great host, he’s funny as hell and has a pleasant voice for radio.
Jori: I did the intromusic and jingles for the Tiga podcasts, by the way. Anyways, I actually haven’t seen it yet, but I’m really looking forward to the Edgar Wright’s SPARKS documentary.
What are you hopes and fears as the world re-emerges from a difficult 20 months?
Jori: I don’t think it will re-emerge for a long time, so I have no hopes really.
Juho: Hoping it re-emerges as a better version of itself. Fearing that it most likely won’t.
What’s next for the two of you, both as SIN COS TAN and individually?
Juho: Hopefully more SCT in the future, but it all depends on how we’re feeling about it. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Music will always play a part in our individual lives, regardless.
Jori: Like Juho mentioned earlier, we played our first SCT live show for almost 6 years just a couple of weeks ago, and it was really fun, so that got us talking as to where to head next. Time will tell if any of those plans materialise at any point. As for me personally, there will be new Jori records popping out here and there. As always.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to SIN COS TAN
To narrow down ten years of electronic pop to 30 songs was always going to be a challenging task.
But ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has given it a go to offer its own subjective twist.
As the decade started, female artists like LITTLE BOOTS, LA ROUX and LADYHAWKE had appeared to have been making in-roads into the mainstream as new flag bearers for the synthesizer.
But it proved to be something of a false dawn and while those artists continue today, the music that has made the most lasting impact between 2010-2019 has been made by evergreens from Synth Britannia whose talent has not subsided or independently minded musicians who focussed on art over commerce but didn’t forget to throw in a tune along the way.
As per usual, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s lists are all about rules. So this one has not only been restricted to one song per artist moniker but also to one vocalist. Hence SIN COS TAN just get the nod over VILLA NAH, while MIRRORS take preference over James New’s guest slot for FOTONOVELA on ‘Our Sorrow’ and the Midge Ure vocalled ‘Glorious’ has been chosen instead ULTRAVOX’s ‘Live’.
Presented in alphabetical order, here are our 30 SONGS OF THE DECADE 2010-2019…
With alternative songstress NYXX on additional vocals, ‘Rhythm + Control’ saw Daniel Graves take his industrial pop to the next level. The magnificent Electro Mix successfully realised an oddball blend of Darren Hayes, Britney Spears and Marilyn Manson. With a mightily elastic bassline, when asked whether ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK had gone crazy coming up with the comparison, Daniel Graves replied “God no. Spot on, guys!” adding “The goal was to cram as many features into one song and have fun with it as possible.”
Close to the heart of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK with its solidarity to the synth, Synth Is Not Dead’ is a touching tribute to Messrs Clarke, Gore, Hütter and Schneider. Johan Baeckstrom said: “I guess I just wanted to reflect on the fact that there still IS a synthpop scene with some really great bands, both old and new. In another way, the song is sort of my ‘thank you’ to some of the artists that inspired me for several decades – some of them are mentioned in the lyrics, but far from all of course”.
‘Without A Trace Of Emotion’ saw Karl Bartos conversing with his showroom dummy Herr Karl and confronting his demons as an ex-member of the world’s most iconic electronic group. But whereas his former colleague Wolfgang Flür vented his spleen in book form with ‘I Was A Robot’, Bartos took a more ironic musical approach with the line “I wish I could remix my life to another beat” summing up a wry reference to ‘The Mix’ project which drove him out of Kling Klang!
BEYOND THE WIZARD’S SLEEVE featuring HANNAH PEEL Diagram Girl (2016)
BEYOND THE WIZARDS SLEEVE’s ‘Diagram Girl’ was the work of Erol Alkan and Richard Norris of THE GRID. Featuring the unisex vocals of Hannah Peel, a deeper pitch shift provided a psychedelic out-of-this-world feel which bizarrely fitted in alongside the songstress’ dreamily breathy tones. “They wanted me to sound like a man!” she remembered. Meanwhile the pulsing electronic soundtrack had surreal echoes of OMD, in particular their lesser known minor hit ‘Secret’.
Muscian, producer and Italians Do It Better head honcho Johnny Jewel, has lways been into all things Lynchian. So when CHROMATICS released the dreamy Badalamenti-inspired ‘Shadow’, it instantly recalled The Black Lodge’s red curtains in that sleepy Washington town. With Ruth Radelet’s wispy vocal and an eerie string machine for the main melodic theme, the ghostly wistful tune later came to further prominence thanks to its inclusion in ‘Twin Peaks: The Return’ in 2017.
CHVRCHES stuck to the synthpop template of their 2013 debut and as a result, delivered what LITTLE BOOTS, LA ROUX, and LADYHAWKE and HURTS all failed to do… a decent second album! The propulsive four-to-the-floor action of ‘Clearest Blue’ was wonderfully held in a state of tension before WHACK, there was a dynamic surprise in the final third that recalled the classic overtures of Vince Clarke. The song was electronic pop magnificence embroiled.
RODNEY CROMWELL is the alter-ego of Adam Cresswell, formally of ARTHUR & MARTHA. ‘Black Dog’ recalled the pulsing post-punk miserablism of SECTION 25 and was embellished by some Hooky styled bass. As with NEW ORDER’s ‘Temptation’, despite the inherent melancholy, there was an optimistic light at the end of the tunnel that made ‘Black Dog’ a most joyous listening experience despite its very personal themes of love, loss, depression and redemption.
The ‘All You Need Is Now’ album saw DURAN DURAN cyclically return to the funk-led syncopated pop of their first two classic albums. A superb sequencer assisted disco number with a tingling metallic edge, ‘Being Followed’ hinted at THE CURE’s ‘A Forest’ while Nick Rhodes’ vintage string machine captured the tension of post 9/11 paranoia. Simon Le Bon gave his wayward all and while he has technically never had a great voice, what he delivered was unique AND untouchable…
Despite EAST INDIA YOUTH being no more as a project, the debut long player ‘Total Strife’ pointed towards William Doyle’s potential to pen sublime pop, and with the follow-up ‘Culture Of Volume’, the album’s centrepiece was ‘Carousel’. It imagined OMD’s ‘Stanlow’ reworked during Brian Eno’s sessions for ‘Apollo: Soundtracks & Atmospheres’. With no percussive elements and over six minutes in length, Doyle gave a dramatic vocal performance resonating in beautifully crystalline melancholy.
‘Glorious’ not only reunited Midge Ure with Rusty Egan but also Chris Payne who co-wrote ‘Fade To Grey’; Ure told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK: “I liked the music, but I didn’t think the song / melody / lyrics were strong enough, so I rewrote all of that in my studio. I stripped the demo down to the basic track, edited it down into a more ‘song like’ format and started working on a glorious melody. I added the main melodic synth line and layered guitars over it, ending with the ‘hopefully’ uplifting solo over the outro”.
With ‘Falling In Love With Sadness’, EMIKA produced one of the best electronic albums of 2018. The record was a concept album of sorts, a musical reflection on generations of sadness within the Anglo-Czech musician’s family. The pacey ‘Promises’ made the most of her lower and higher vocal registers, providing an eerie cascading harmonic with some rumbling dubby tension and booming stabs driving Eastwards with solemn spine tingling qualities.
Available on the album ‘Falling In Love With Sadness’ via Emika Records
John Foxx and Jori Hulkkonen had worked together previously on singular songs like ‘Dislocated’ and ‘Never Been Here Before’, but never before on a body of work with a conceptual theme. ‘European Splendour’ took on a grainier downtempo template and the lead track ‘Evangeline’ was all the more beautiful for it. Full of depth, coupled with an anthemic chorus and vibrant exchange of character throughout, this rousing yet soothingly futuristic number was quite otherworldly.
Releasing their first new material in over three decades, FIAT LUX returned with the most splendid ‘It’s You’. As well as the bassline and harmony from David P Crickmore, the sax style was a fitting tribute to the sadly departed Ian Nelson. Singer Steve Wright said: “Lyrically, I hope, it expresses feelings that possibly everyone can relate to…” in this gloriously optimistic tune about finding love again in midlife. Their long awaited debut album ‘Saved Symmetry’ finally came out in 2019.
As the title suggested, the gorgeous and sophisticated ‘Dreaming’ adopted a distinctly European flavour compared with the mid-Atlantic AOR focus of songs like ‘Rocket’, ‘Alive’ and ‘Believer’ on the ‘Head First’ album. Alison Goldfrapp’s voice resonated angelically with beautiful high-register chorus alongside the with pulsing sequences and string machine washes of Will Gregory’s primarily electronic arrangement complimented by Davide Rossi’s cinematic orchestrations.
The Berlin period of IAMX has maintained a special quality in that Chris Corner captured an electro Gothic aesthetic that combined the theatrics of Weimar Cabaret with themes of sex, alienation and dependency. Despite the lyrical content, Corner’s songs were always strongly melodic with an accessible grandeur. ‘Ghosts Of Utopia’ had instant appeal for a dance in the dark with exhilarating mechanical drive. His scream of ”this is psychosis” was wholly believable!
As IAMAMIWHOAMI, Jonna Lee and Claes Björklund offered icy musical art. ‘Hunting For Pearls’ featured wonderfully pulsing sequences and trancey atmospheres, coupled with beautifully rich vocals. With a mysterious falsetto reach, the air might have been cold outside but inside, things were warm if delightfully odd. If Kate Bush made a modern electronic dance record at ABBA’s Polar Studios, it would probably have sounded like this. Jonna Lee continues the artistic adventure now as IONNALEE.
Available on the album ‘Blue’ via towhomitmayconcern
Sweden’s KITE are probably the best synth act in Europe right now. Nicklas Stenemo and Christian Berg’s wonderfully exuberant array of sounds and rugged majestic vocals certainly deserve a much larger audience. Issuing only EPs and never albums, the magnificent progressive electronic epic ‘Up For Life’ was a two-part nine minute masterpiece, the passionate and sublime first half mutated into a beautifully surreal journey of VANGELIS-like proportions for its second.
Asking if “it is foolish to dream”, ‘Someday’ saw Katja von Kassel questioning a moment of passionate haste. “The phrase ‘Someday’ just opened it all up and everything else just fell into place.” the chanteuse said. Capturing the beautiful melancholy of Billy Mackenzie, the doomed romantic tragedy of the sadly departed Scot was echoed by the chanteuse’s deep forlorn delivery, accompanied by Chris Payne’s hypnotic bassline and haunting vox humana treatment over a simple rhythmic loop.
The beautiful ‘Ambulances’ was totally different to anything LADYTRON had done before, almost in te vein of SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES. Moving at a much slower pace, Helen Marnie’s voice adopted an unexpected angelic falsetto over the lush spacious mix featuring dramatic strings, synthetic timpani and an almost random hi-hat pattern. Daniel Hunt said he “wanted it to sound ethereal and otherworldly” and with a glorious crescendo, ‘Ambulances’ was certainly something to be to be savoured.
A worthy of re-assessment of DEPECHE MODE ‘A Broken Frame’ was long overdue and MARSHEAUX have certainly gave a number of its songs some interesting arrangements. Their version of ‘Monument’ borrowed its bassline from latter day DM B-side ‘Painkiller’. Combined with the wispily resigned vocals of Marianthi Melitsi and Sophie Sarigiannidou, it provided a tense soundtrack. It’s not often that cover versions are better than the originals, but this was one of them.
With their smart suits, MIRRORS presented an intense and artful approach to electronic pop that recalled Dindisc era OMD. With a dense synthetic chill and pulsing effects dominating this brilliantly uptempo electro number, ‘Ways To An End’ came over like TALKING HEADS ‘Crossed Eyed & Painless’ given a claustrophobic post-punk makeover. Sadly, MIRRORS were to only make the one album ‘Lights & Offerings’ which although under-appreciated on release, is now acknowledged as a classic of the decade.
Having worked successfully in 2013 with Guy Sigsworth on ‘the minutes’, which saw Alison Moyet return to the synthesized music forms to compliment her powerful and self-assured voice, the follow-up ‘Other’ was a natural progression. The startling orchestrated electro-dub drama of ‘Alive’ gave Moyet’s two former classmates in DEPECHE MODE a stark lesson in how to actually fully realise electronic blues. Indeed, it was ‘In Chains’, the lame opener from ‘Sounds Of The Universe’ gone right…
After the guitar dominated proceedings of the last few NEW ORDER albums, Bernard Sumner promised a return to electronic music for the Mancunians’ first album of new material without estranged founder member and bassist Peter Hook. That was certainly delivered on with ‘Plastic’, a full-on throbbing seven minute electro number mixed by Richard X with blippy echoes of ‘Mr Disco’. Dealing with the issue of superficiality, it declared “this love is poison, but it’s like gold”… beware of anything plastic and artificial!
With a lot less goth metal guitar and much more prominent use of synths, the ‘Savage’ album successfully outstripped ‘Splinter’. And it was the haunting ‘And It All Began With You’ that stopped all in its tracks, with an exposed and soulful vocal. Borrowing Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’ for its chorus, the subtle orchestrations and a gentle shuffling beat coupled to a steadily discordant electric piano riff to close, it beautifully brought out the best in classic Gary Numan while maintaining forward momentum.
OMD began their recorded career with a KRAFTWERK homage in ‘Electricity’ and four decades on, they came full circle. A great grandchild of Klingklang and cousin of ‘Metroland’ from ‘English Electric’, ‘Don’t Go’ captured the essence of OMD’s enduring electronic appeal. With crystalline synths and a spirited vocal delivery attached to a hypnotic Synthanorma backdrop, OMD continue to produce quality avant pop tunes, using beautiful melodies to tell terrible things…
SIN COS TAN was the new mathematically charged project of producer Jori Hulkkonen and VILLA NAH vocalist Juho Paalosmaa. “A synthesized duo of great promise, broken dreams, and long nights”, they have certainly delivered with ‘Trust’, all draped in melancholy with emotive vocals haunted by the ghost of Billy Mackenzie. With driving hypnotic, layered strings, sampled cimbalom and Cold War dramatics, this was as Jori Hulkkonen put it: “Disco You Can Cry To”…
Chinese six-piece STOLEN are reckoned by Berlin-based producer Mark Reeder to be the most exciting band since NEW ORDER and they closed the decade opening for them on tour in Europe. Certainly their debut album ‘Fragment’ was impressive with ‘Turn Black’ being one of its standout tracks. “I like the idea of mixing of rock with techno…” said growly lead vocalist Liang Yi, “we are very proud that we don’t sound like any of the other Chinese bands.”
The Nordic vocalist of the decade has to be Susanne Sundfør who worked with M83, KLEERUP and RÖYKSOPP as she built her international profile as a solo artist. Propelled by a pulsing electronic backbone, ‘Fade Away’ from Sundfør’s breakthrough album ‘Ten Love Songs’ caught her in rousing form with a tune that came over like Scandinavian gospel. Meanwhile, a fabulous polyphonic synth solo inspired by QUEEN’s ‘I Want To Break Free’ added another dimension.
First appearing online as a video exclusive in 2010, ‘Deep Red’ was inspired by Dario Argento’s ‘Profondo Rosso’. A gorgeous seven and a half minute funeral ballad that came over like CLIENT fronting classic OMD, this was tremendously dramatic stuff from Anais Neon and Martin Swan. It caught the ear of a certain Andy McCluskey who spotted VILE ELECTRODES while perusing ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK and later invited them to open for OMD in Germany during their 2013 ‘English Electric’ tour.
Techno DJ WESTBAM celebrated 30 years in music with an intriguing mature collection of songs under the title of ‘Götterstrasse’. While the theme of the album centred on the joy and euphoria of underground nightlife, he said ‘You Need The Drugs’ was “the first explicit electronic appeal AGAINST the use of drugs with a clear message: drugs are a bore!”. Voiced brilliantly by Richard Butler of THE PSYCHEDELIC FURS’, it featured prominently in Mark Reeder’s film ‘B Movie: Lust & Sound in West-Berlin 1979–1989’.
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 Twelve Days of 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 comparitively uncommon and a more recent phenomemon. 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 🎹🎄😉
CHEW LIPS When You Wake Up (2010)
CHEW LIPS may be on hiatus 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.
Andy Bell and Vince Clarke’s version of this traditional Ecclesiastical Latin carol continued an ERASURE tradition that had begun in 1988 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 whilst still retaining its original essence with a cheeky ‘Ice Machine’ reference for good measure.
HURTS All I Want For Christmas Is New Year’s Day (2010)
With their TAKE THAT dressed as ULTRAVOX template having achieved great success in Europe, courtesy of their debut album ‘Happiness’, Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson parradoxically 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’ steadily transformed itself into a hopeful anthem with a big chorus and lashings of tubular bells.
Whether 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 eight to eighty the world over. Short but sweet, it was another joyous “cartoon automaton symphony” from Jess and Jeff.
LOLA DUTRONIC Another Christmas Without Snow (2010)
In 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.
MARSHEAUX We Met Bernard Sumner At A Christmas Party Last Night (2015)
‘We Met Bernard Sumner At A Christmas Party Last Night’ is a wonderfully whispery synthpop number that is classic MARSHEAUX. The lyrics are 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.
‘Find Peace’ is 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. It is certainly a suitably poignant message for the festive season. With hints of GAZELLE TWIN, the off-kilter analogue buzzing and almost random sequences make for a striking listen as a frantic percussive death rattle and an emotive synth drone take hold to provide an appropriate backdrop for HANNAH PEEL’s eerie but beautiful voice.
Available on the download and 7 inch single ‘Find Peace’ via Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club
PET SHOP BOYS It Doesn’t Often Snow At Christmas (2009)
Originally recorded in 1997 for an exclusive fan club single but remixed in 2009 for an official release, ‘It Doesn’t Often Snow At Christmas’ was a suitably camp offering that couldn’t have been anyone else. 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.
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!
Back in 1974 for their ‘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. Currently enjoying their highest profile since their pop heyday, thanks to their FFS collaboration with FRANZ FERDINAND, 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.
“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…
If ‘Twin Peaks’ met ‘Leader Of The Pack’ under the mistletoe, it would sound like this. Possibly the best Christmas tune of the last five or ten years, Anais Neon’s 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.
Having started as a group of performers, the enterprise that is now FISCHERSPOONER consists of core members Warren Fischer and Casey Spooner, who are joined by a troupe of dancers and singers.
Fischer is a classically trained musician, while Spooner has his fingers in many pies, including performing in experimental theatre, fashion and producing various types of art.
Their first album came in 2001, named ‘1’, cleverly released on many labels, to be followed by ‘Odyssey’
With their third opus, ‘Entertainment’, the duo went to Jeff Saltzman to aid the production and the current offering ‘Sir’ is being produced by none other than Michael Stipe from REM.
‘Sir’ follows Spooner’s art exhibition of the same name, which centres around nudity, featuring himself and many of his former partners, friends and lovers in assorted sorts of nakedness. “We’re living through this sexual revolution. Everyone has a camera. People are redrawing their boundaries of what they share and what they don’t” claims Spooner, introducing his saucy enterprise, to which the newest album is a perfect accompaniment.
With the tone being “aggressively homosexual”, with love moans being used as part of the soundtrack, Spooner showcases the liberated states of today’s society.
‘Have Fun Tonight’ heralds the album as the first single, and what an entrance it is! Big, bold, full of defined synth but not devoid of good melody and sexually charged vocals by Spooner. Mantric drum rolls and arpeggiated electronic elements flow freely throughout this sublime dance track, leading into sweet oblivion.
‘Togetherness’ with CHAIRLIFT’s Caroline Polachek, sounds like vintage PET SHOP BOYS meets GOLDFRAPP, with love pains present. ‘Butterscotch Goddam’ describes the vocalist’s long standing relationship which ended, resulting in Spooner’s liberation and the discovery of endless sensual possibilities.
The apparent sleazy Brazilian trysts are being described in ear-ringing ‘Top Brazil’, which marries marvellous synth a la DEPECHE MODE with filthy lyrics, as one can never have enough of gay sex! ‘Stranger Strange’ with its offbeat tribal simplicity boils up to a hallucinating psychedelic plea to be “fixed up”, while ‘Everything Is Just Alright’ brings a heavier synth line into play.
Multiple vocals on ‘Discreet’ frolic within the realms of simple melody depicting the urgency of “now” in sexual relations, leading gently onto ‘Strut’ with its club feel euphoria and contributions from Juho Paalosmaa of VILLA NAH and SIN COS TAN. While Spooner admits: ‘I Need Love’, he also needs to ‘Get It On’.
Andy LeMaster joins in on ‘Try Again’; an arpeggiated gem full of sadness in the lyrical content, where the desperate cries for “everything I ever wanted, everything I ever needed” prevail.
‘Oh Rio’ with Holly Miranda closes the opus with an alternative twist to wrap up the record of sexual freedom, the power of choice and the beauty of partying and being able to do what one wishes, no strings attached.
Spooner muses: “When I started, the record was optimistic because I was in a happy, open, long-term relationship”, but it wasn’t to be; otherwise the eclectic, sex laden product would never surface. Fischer agrees with “The best thing that happened to this record is you getting dumped.”
‘Sir’ marks the time to play and explore and Spooner is grabbing the opportunities with both hands: “Everyone thinks I’m having a midlife crisis, and maybe I am”…
And if it wasn’t for his midlife crisis, we wouldn’t be listening to the marvel that ‘Sir’ is!