Tag: Stephen Mallinder (Page 2 of 3)


After the release of their debut album ‘LA Spark’ in 2014, 2016 has seen a ramping up of activity in the WRANGLER camp, with June’s modular synth remix album ‘Sparked’ being shortly followed by a new collection of 9 tracks which make up ‘White Glue’.

There was also a high profile support slot for the band when they recently appeared at The Royal Albert Hall supporting US singer John Grant which has now blossomed into a forthcoming live collaboration between the two. For those unfamiliar with the make-up of the band, WRANGLER comprises Stephen Mallinder (ex-CABARET VOLTAIRE), Phil Winter (TUUNG) and Benge (JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS).

When played back-to-back with ‘LA Spark’, its successor is less dense texturally (there are fewer string chords) and features far more complexity in its interlocking of monophonic synthesizer parts. As with its predecessor, the order of the day is primarily linear, hypnotic electronics/sequencers with Mallinder’s vocal used as more of a textural instrument rather than a topline melody. The usage of Benge’s smorgasbord of vintage analogue synths with their slightly wonky tuning gives the album an edgy and unstable feel in places which suits the generally dark nature of the material.

Album opener ‘Alpha Omega’, with its dual note bassline starts off like a deconstructed analogue version of ‘Enjoy the Silence’ with a sound not dissimilar to that of one-man modular freak SOLVENT. Vocoders are used to mask Mallinder’s vocal here – “Alpha Omega, a favour for a favour…” and contribute to the robotic nature of the sound. At 2:42, things even turn a bit synthpop with a catchy 10 note riff coming out of nowhere to join the sequenced backing track.

‘Stupid’ sees a higher, almost falsetto vocal from Mallinder over a texture of interlinked hypnotic monophonic synths. The track’s rhythmic heart could almost be described as “funky” and the modulated synths which punctuate throughout the track combine to create a fantastic robotic electrofunk feel.

‘Clockwork’ with its title and ‘Computerwelt’ sound palette gives an obvious nod to KRAFTWERK whilst ‘Stop’ easily has the standout lyric here, with its anti-consumerism mantra: “Stop spending money that you don’t have / Stop buying sh*t that you don’t need!” As well as a generalised statement, the couplet itself could easily be applied to a few synth nerd trainspotters who get bitten by the bug and can’t stop investing in new modules (although Benge wouldn’t consider himself one of these!). The outro musically scaled synth line on ‘Stop’ adds in a touch of GARY NUMAN for good measure.

‘Real Life’ takes the listener to a futuristic motorik/robotic dance floor, referencing Acid House but without the over-obvious 303 clichés. It also introduces some welcome musical and tonal shifts which help differentiate it from most of the more linear pieces here. The best way to describe album closer ‘Colliding’ would be if AIR had originated in Düsseldorf rather than Versailles – the track has flanged Solina-style strings, vocodered vocals and the kind of lead melody sound that would have happily sat on the second side of ‘Autobahn’.

‘White Glue’ tends to work best when listened to as a whole, the combination of Benge and Tuung’s electronics with Mallinder’s vocal wash gives the listener the feel of a continually moving synthetic soundscape. For some listeners there may not quite be enough melody here as some of the vocal parts are melodically flimsy to say the least. But for fans of Benge’s work with JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS and Mallinder’s with CABARET VOLTAIRE, there is a plethora of synthetic delights to enjoy.

All in all, ‘White Glue’ is a worthy follow-up to ‘LA Spark’ and the upcoming collaboration with JOHN GRANT is sure to help bring the band to an even wider audience.

‘White Glue’ is released by Memetune in CD, vinyl and digital formats on 23rd September 2016

WRANGLER perform a collaborative set with JOHN GRANT at The Barbican in London on Saturday 22nd October 2016 as part of Rough Trade 40, more information at http://www.barbican.org.uk/music/event-detail.asp?id=20075




Text by Paul Boddy
19th September 2016

A Short Conversation with WRANGLER

WRANGLER are Stephen Mallinder AKA Mal (ex-CABARET VOLTAIRE), Benge (JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS) and Phil Winter (TUNNG).

Since talking to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK back in April 2014, the trio have followed their debut release ‘LA Spark’ with a modular synth remix album ‘Sparked’, a live show at The Royal Albert Hall and a follow-up album in the shape of ‘White Glue’.

With a new single ‘Stupid’ recently unleashed as a trailer for the new long player, Mal, Benge and Phil kindly spoke about developments within the band and the forthcoming collaboration with US singer / songwriter JOHN GRANT.

‘White Glue’ is an intriguing title, is there a specific meaning behind it?

Mal: Well, I think I’ll let Phil go into the detail as it came from his idea, which was based on the exoticness of the Spanish translation of “White Glue”. Unfortunately we’d got that completely wrong, we actually meant the Italian translation “Colla Bianca” which as you can see started to sound a bit like a sh*t cocktail so went with the original, always a good idea, as we loved that anyway!

Phil: ‘White Glue’ is used to repair damaged record sleeves, of which I have many, the bottle I found had the mentioned translations which we played with and then discarded!

How do you see the new album differing from your debut ‘LA Spark’?

Mal: Well for me it expands on some of the sounds we used to make ‘LA Spark’ so has the connection, but seems to take those rhythms and sounds to another level.

We use and misuse technology, that’s what WRANGLER are about, so each release is another chapter in the story, just as ‘Sparked’ was. Everything should be a progression but also have some relationship, to build on the past.

For me personally there are themes that come out of ‘LA Spark’, which was a rather bleak and cautionary narrative in relation to human impact on the world. In turn ‘White Glue’ is a response to the corruption, exploitation and mindless materialism that engulfs us. It’s hard not to respond to a world that is dominated by elites, plutocracies and chumocracies.

Benge: To me, the difference this time round was we had quite a lot of the tracks written and in a playable state a long time before we finally recorded and mixed them in the studio, and we were playing them in our live set for ages which really helped flesh the music and arrangements out. It’s kind of the first time I’ve worked that way and it really changes the dynamic of a song when you play it and refine it in front of an audience before committing to tape. Having said that, the rest of the album was done in the studio in intense late night modular synth jams that none of us were in control of. That combination of refined arrangements and live studio experiments is where we ended up.

Phil: The time frame of the recordings definitely had an impact on the eventual sound of the record.

With ‘LA Spark’ we would generally work on a track until it was done, but with ‘White Glue’ we would start a track and then not work on it for ages, as other ideas/tracks had sprung up that we got diverted by.

But having that space in the working process really worked, as it meant we could live with them ie DJ them out or play them live before committing to the album.

The ‘Sparked’ modular remix album concept was an interesting one. Were you surprised by some of the mixes you were given?

Mal: Well you could say yes, as they were all wonderful in their own way and made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. so surprised that way. But in another way, not surprised at all as we had such respect and admiration for those artists. We directly approached them to work with us and I’m eternally grateful for them agreeing and contributing… everyone’s a Maserati, as the old saying goes (including the one we did).

WRANGLER recently played The Royal Albert Hall as support for JOHN GRANT, how did that come about?

Mal: Well we first met John a couple of years ago when we played ‘Sensoria’ with CHRIS & COSEY, and realised what an aficionado he was of electronic music. We stayed in touch and all became good friends; he’d asked us to do a mix of ‘Voodoo Doll’ from his latest album and then the Albert Hall gig came up and we were invited, I guess having seen us play and knowing our music, JG thought it was a good fit. A very generous and clever man.

How did you approach playing such a prestigious venue? Were there any nerves beforehand?

Mal: I don’t really get nervous. I think having played for so many years, you realise if you start to think about all things that can potentially f*** up, you’d be a quivering wreck. So “excited” is a better word and if things really screw up, I’ve been known to tell jokes – the last thing Benge says to me every time I’m about to go onstage is “no jokes!!” so I tend to be pretty minimal now when we play. To be fair it’s not very cool and they’re sh*t jokes so he is right.

Benge: Our thinking was if we can’t have a huge screen behind us on that massive stage then we would go the opposite way and just use 3 small TV monitors, one in front of each of us and go minimal. Actually on the night, JOHN GRANT and his stage team were really generous and gave us the full light show as well, which we didn’t expect as the guest act. That was really cool of them.

Phil: It’s such an awesome space, but everyone involved was so helpful and welcoming that it was very enjoyable.

This show has led onto a forthcoming live collaboration with JOHN GRANT at The Barbican celebrating 40 years of the Rough Trade label, what can we expect from that?

Mal: Hopefully it will shift a few perceptions from both sides, but maybe less for us as we’ve all been writing and have quite a few tunes already sketched out. John has been busy touring so we started the process a month or so ago sending roughs over, but I caught up with him and he’s done some really cool sketches and rough mixes – we seem to be on the same flightpath – and we have a week or so together writing in the studio. It should be fun, we can take a break from our other roles and enjoy the process. Am hoping it will blow a few minds!

Benge: I’m really looking forward to spending time in the new studio working on this. It is such an unpredictable situation working with loads of wonky machines and so many wonky minds, anything could happen.

Phil: Expect the unexpected!

Because of the practicalities of taking the MemeTune studio equipment on the road, how do WRANGLER go about performing their music live?

Mal: Well it’s a bit of a mix and match process, so we capture and loop some of the key parts from the delicate studio gear then take the more robust equipment out with us on tour. It makes it very live and flexible, but we can build in the other parts to maintain the WRANGLER sound.

Phil: It’s a constant balancing act between the practical and the wished for!

The synth world is currently going a mad for synth hardware (modular and otherwise), would you have any advice to give to people wishing to invest in such gear?

Benge: My view is that you should try and create your own unique voice in the world if you are a creative artist. What you use is not as important as how you use it. Having said that, I love the fact that there is now so much more opportunity to use analogue hardware gear than ever before. You don’t need to scour the depths of eBay in remote far away countries to find exotic gear any more. Making music has never been more exciting than now.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK was present at the really entertaining lecture ‘Growing Up A Little Bit German’ which you gave as part of the ‘Boing Boom Tschak’ event during the Brighton Fringe Festival. How important still is the musical DNA of KRAFTWERK to the sound of WRANGLER?

Mal: Oh I think KRAFTWERK remain the benchmark for electronic music and I can’t see that ever changing. Not just the sounds themselve which still cut through for their purity, clarity and richness, but also the process. KRAFTWERK taught us all that less is more. I still listen to the albums and appreciate the sophistication of the mixes – always the correct delay, always the complimentary frequencies, the right timbre, everything in the right place and to the correct degree.

They still work because of the simplicity and symmetry which is the basis of beauty. WRANGLER understand that, although I think sometimes it’s nice to mess it up. If KRAFTWERK are sophisticated beauty, WRANGLER are the rebel twin occasionally getting tarted up for a mucky night out.

What are your future aspirations for WRANGLER?

Mal: To write some great music, maybe try and position what we do in different contexts and allow more people to appreciate it. But really, just to continue enjoying it and ruffling a few feathers on the way.

Benge: We have only ever done our music to please ourselves. We think the perfect sound doesn’t exist yet and if we can keep trying to find that sound we will be doing something incredibly worthwhile.

Phil: More of the same please, but maybe turn the clap up a bit!

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to WRANGLER

Additional thanks to Steve Malins at Random Management

‘Stupid’ is released as a download single on 9th September 2016

The new album ‘White Glue’ is released by Memetune in CD, vinyl and digital formats on 23rd September 2016

WRANGLER perform a collaborative set with JOHN GRANT at The Barbican in London on Saturday 22nd October 2016 as part of Rough Trade 40



Text and Interview by Paul Boddy
6th September 2016

WRANGLER Sparked Modular Remix Project

WRANGLER SparkedThe mission for this project (should the remixer choose to accept it) was as follows:

“WRANGLER would like to ask you to submit an experimental piece of music for inclusion on an album entitled ‘Modular Remix’. The idea is very simple. We provide some basic stems from a track selected by you from our debut album ‘LA Spark’ and you add whatever sounds you like – the only rule being that you use just one analog modular synthesiser system of your choice. We’ve approached you because we admire your passion and commitment to electronic music, and we hope you will be interested in taking part.”

Naturally, given the specialised nature of the brief, WRANGLER approached electronic artists known for their modular approach to synthesis, hence the presence here of DANIEL MILLER, ALESSANDRO CORTINI (NINE INCH NAILS), SOLVENT and CHRIS CARTER.

In what is arguably the stand-out remix on the album, Mute boss DANIEL MILLER extracts the gliding bassline and a vocal loop from ‘Theme from Wrangler’ and builds a new track around it with a driving 4/4 kick and flanged Solina strings. Ex-THROBBING GRISTLE synthesist CHRIS CARTER takes the dystopian ‘Lava Land’ and completely reconstructs it, turning it into an industrial wasteland soundscape, leaving the main Logan string part as a ghostly skeletal echo in the far off distance.

Whilst SCANNER reworks the title track from the original album, by jettisoning all the original musical parts and building a hypnotic sequencer driven web around Stephen Mallinder’s ‘LA Spark’ vocal, ALESSANDRO CORTINI strips out all of the vocals and percussion, leaving very little (if any residue) from the original ‘Modern World’. What remains is a throbbing, shifting, filtered piece which slowly rises over four minutes before dropping back down again – reminiscent of his film work with TRENT REZNOR, this ‘Modern World’ could quite easily function in a soundtrack context.

SOLVENT, who are probably best known for soundtracking the acclaimed ‘I Dream of Wires’ modular synthesizer documentary, remix ‘Harder’, adding a skanking electro-dub vibe with spring reverbed snares and tape delayed vocals. Hissing white noise and analogue drum machine beats frame the track as snippets of sound from the original drift in and out. This leaves the final piece on the album, entitled ‘Theme Meme’, where the band remix themselves over an epic 14 minutes.

WRANGLER live-greenWith KRAFTWERK styled electronic textures and retro Roland Compurhythm beats, the remix acts as a soundbed for Stephen Mallinder’s electronically mangled vocals and harsh synthetic sound effects on top. The final four minutes wind down and help bring the track to a half-tempo closedown.

With the emphasis being on the word ‘experimental’ from the original brief, none of these versions (with the exception of DANIEL MILLER’s ‘Theme…’ and DAVID BURRASTON’s ‘Mus IIC’) bear much resemblance to the ‘LA Spark’ originals which is undoubtedly what WRANGLER had in mind when first guesting out the project. As such, the band should be applauded for giving the remixers involved complete artistic freedom here.

But fans of ‘LA Spark’ will probably be more comfortable with the original versions, which despite occupying the darker fringes of synthesized music, still feature enough melodic hooks to act as a gateway for those into more mainstream electronica.

With thanks to Steve Malins at Random Music Management

‘Sparked Modular Remix Project’ is released by Memetune in double vinyl, CD and digital formats on 10th June 2016, available from http://wrangler.tmstor.es/

WRANGLER open for JOHN GRANT on 15th June 2016 at London’s Royal Albert Hall



Text by Paul Boddy
1st June 2016


Dance To The Future…

 Düsseldorf paid homage to its electronic music history with a three day event of lectures, discussions and live music.

The ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE celebrated the work of pioneers like KRAFTWERK, DAF, RIECHMANN, NEU! and LA DÜSSELDORF, as well as reflecting the city’s worldwide influence on bands such as NEW ORDER, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, DEPECHE MODE, CABARET VOLTAIRE, VISAGE and OMD.

A year in the planning, organisers Rudi Esch and Carsten Siewert assembled an impressive line-up of artists, musicians and academics which read like a ‘Who’s Who?’ of electronic music.

Daniel Miller-Carsten SiewertIt included names such as Benge, Gabi Delgado, Ralf Dörper, Rusty Egan, Harald Grosskopf, Peter Hook, Stephen Mallinder, Andy McCluskey, Daniel Miller, Mark Reeder, Michael Rother and Martyn Ware.

Also present was Dr Uwe Schütte, whose academic conference ‘Industrielle Volksmusik for the Twenty First Century – Kraftwerk & the Birth of Electronic Music in Germany’ at Aston University helped inspire the seeting up of the event.

While there have been numerous books about Germany and in particular KRAFTWERK, few have been written by people who were actually there at the time. Esch’s own book ‘Electri_City: Elektronische Musik aus Düsseldorf’ was published in 2014 and provided a much needed eyewitness account.

It fully related the Cold War tensions within Der Bundesrepublik that inspired many young Germans into pursuing adventures in art, music and cinema as a matter of self-expression and cultural identity.

The book’s success in Germany provided much of the impetus and momentum to curate this lavish gathering of kindred spirits. The first of the special guests taking part was Peter Hook who talked to Rob Keane about German influences on the UK’s post-punk scene and in particular, JOY DIVISION.

It was Ian Curtis who first introduced the others to KRAFTWERK. After the charismatic vocalist’s passing, the surviving band members became NEW ORDER and as they became more electronic, they acquired five Prophet 5s costing £2000 each.

This had only been made possible by the posthumous success of JOY DIVISION.

“God bless him, Ian… without him, we wouldn’t have been able to afford these machines to make electronic music…” Hooky said, “what happened in NEW ORDER was as the technology developed, it enabled you to buy the machines that KRAFTWERK were using. I’d love to watch them do something, I really would. Because for all the coverage you get of KRAFTWERK, you never actually know HOW they did it!”

But despite KRAFTWERK being the pioneers of electronic music, Ralf and Florian had been so impressed by ‘Blue Monday’, they arranged to meet its engineer Michael Johnson at Britannia Row Studios where it was recorded. “They wanted to book into the studio we used…” remembered Hooky, “and they wanted to use our engineer, because they wanted their next record to sound like ‘Blue Monday’, which is most ironic because we spent years trying to sound like them!”

KRAFTWERK had a look round Britannia Row but unimpressed with the old fashioned, faded grandeur of the studio, they cancelled the session. “I took that as quite a compliment” quipped the Salford Bass Viking playfully.

Hooky also reminisced about how he was very impressed by fellow Mancunian Mark Reeder’s mastery of speaking German while on JOY DIVISION’s only visit to Berlin in 1980.

But when he asked how Reeder had become fluent so quickly, the then Factory Records representative in Germany answered: “you can learn any language when you’re starving!”

Mark Reeder himself formed part of panel discussion on the German impact of the Düsseldorf Schule to give his ‘Englishman in Berlin’ point of view. As the man often credited with introducing Italo disco to NEW ORDER, Reeder’s recent film ‘B-Movie – Lust & Sound In West Berlin 1979-1989’ captured the spirit of the divided city and highlighted how a similar document about Düsseldorf would now be quite timely.

The ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE was not just about lectures and talks, but about live music too. Cologne’s EMOTIKON opened proceedings with some incongruous generic pop funk, so it was a welcome relief when HEAVEN 17 took to the stage at Zakk for the sold-out show.

Headlining their first ever concert in the German art capital, HEAVEN 17 gave one of their now famous electronically focussed sets which also featured material that had spawned from THE HUMAN LEAGUE Mk1 when Martyn Ware was a member.

Inviting him to join the band, Phil Oakey remembered how Ware turned up at his house with ‘Trans-Europe Express’ under his arm and told him “Look, we can do this!”. The song that best summed up the occasion was ‘I’m Your Money’, a synthetic train ride with multi-lingual business phrases that captured the essence of a European Union.

To follow a fine performance from HEAVEN 17, Daniel Miller’s aftershow DJ set reflected his influences and subsequent signings for Mute Records to conclude an excellent first day.

With a packed second day, Friday’s numerous academic and theoretical proceedings were concluded with a Krautrock discussion in German by a panel of veteran musicians that included one-time ASHRA member Harald Grosskopf, Michael Rother from NEU! and WALLENSTEIN’s Jürgen Dollase.

Whereas Germany has usually been associated with purer forms of electronic music, its kosmische outlook has influenced many rock and alternative bands too.

However, Dollase’s continual ranting about the joys of LSD proved tiresome and was exemplary evidence to children as to why they shouldn’t do drugs!

The panel was later opened up to questions from the audience so ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK took the opportunity to ask Michael Rother about his first three solo albums.

‘Flammende Herzen’ , ‘Sterntaler’ and ‘Katzenmusik’ were produced by the late Conny Plank and featured CAN’s Jaki Liebezeit on drums. Did he have a favourite?: “I don’t really have favourites, there are individual tracks I enjoy more, it depends on mood and circumstances. It would be unfair really to have a favourite album” Herr Rother replied, “Of course, I try to highlight Conny Plank’s contribution, he was so valuable… we wouldn’t have been able to record NEU! or the second HARMONIA album or my solo albums without Conny, so he’s all over the place in my music… thank you Conny”

Opening the second evening’s musical line-up, Dublin’s TINY MAGNETIC PETS have been championed by Rusty Egan and their appearance in Düsseldorf was their first in Europe.

The trio’s main strength was their engaging lead singer Paula Gilmer, while Sean Quinn’s synth soloing was also enjoyable. But the occasional rattle of an acoustic drum kit was a distraction and the trio sounded much better when Eugene Somers took to exclusively electronic percussion.

WRANGLER, fronted by Stephen Mallinder who had lectured earlier in the day, delivered a screeching set of dystopian vibes and cold wave mechanics, demonstrating how the Düsseldorf gene has mutated into marvellous pieces such as ‘Lava Land’. Mallinder’s drowning gargoyle vocal was particularly striking within the venue’s effective stereo panning capability.

Incidentally, the trio’s incumbent synth collector extraordinaire Benge has recently relocated his MemeTune studio to rural South West of England, in an echo of Conny Plank’s legendary countryside complex which KRAFTWERK, NEU! and LA DÜSSELDORF all recorded in.

Michael Rother delivered a career spanning set of his works including NEU! evergreens like ‘Hallogallo’, ‘Neuschnee’ and ‘Seeland’.

There was also the welcome airing of material from his HARMONIA days too. Accompanied by Hans Lampe, formally of LA DÜSSELDORF, the drummer was unbelievably metronomic throughout, providing the hypnotic heartbeat to these much loved numbers. With assistance on bass and synth from a computer, the glorious symphony of ‘Karussell’ from ‘Flammende Herzen’ was a joy to behold. Watching enthusiastically in the crowd was OMD’s Andy McCluskey who remarked in passing to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK that ‘Flammende Herzen’ was the most played album on his iPod!

With another fine evening of live music over, proceedings then moved over to the famous club Dr Thompsons for the aftershow party featuring Rusty Egan.

Originally a location for a factory making floor wax, Egan’s DJ set reflected electronic music’s past and present, much to the approval of both TINY MAGNETIC PETS and METROLAND whose tunes got an airing on the dancefloor.

Day three featured SØLYST aka Thomas Klein who warmed up early attendees with an ambient percussive soundtrack that suited the time of day perfectly. Meanwhile, the Rusty Egan vs ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK discussion about the influence of Düsseldorf, Berlin and Bowie on the New Romantics brought up some amusing anecdotes from his Blitz Club and VISAGE days. “KRAFTWERK was all in time!” he retorted in a fascinating and at times, hilarious chat. On DAFT PUNK, he said “The reason why DAFT PUNK wear robot helmets is cos they can’t show their faces… cos THEY STOLE EVERYTHING! But they did it brilliantly!”

The conversation even turned to THIN LIZZY’s Phil Lynott who frequented the scene and recorded the synth friendly single ‘Yellow Pearl’ co-written with Midge Ure that featured Egan on drums. Also featuring Billy Currie, Egan confirmed that it was a VISAGE song in all but name. ‘Yellow Pearl’ was heavily influenced by LA DÜSSELDORF and was to later gain iconic status as the theme music to ‘Top of the Pops’ from 1981 to 1986, showing just how far reaching the influence of German electronic music had become.

Wolfgang Flür’s now famous video messages on the world wide web have been a delight to many in electronic music circles and in his absence, a special broadcast was prepared by the former KRAFTWERK percussionist for the conference.

Following on, Andy McCluskey and Rudi Esch presented some light hearted but music fan friendly banter in what was billed as The Electri_City Show.

Discussing a variety of records Esch had brought along from his own personal collection, the OMD frontman mentioned how he was a big fan of LA DÜSSELDORF: “Thinking about LA DÜSSELDORF and NEU! – the biggest loss to the scene is Klaus Dinger”. Following his death in 2008, Klaus Dinger was hailed as a legendary drummer, having popularised the Motorik beat.

But as Michael Rother once pointed out, before 2004 nobody cared about NEU! “It’s great that people are thinking about NEU! and LA DÜSSELDORF” said McCluskey, “they should be up there with KRAFTWERK”. However as documented in Esch’s ’Electri_City_Musik_Aus_Düsseldorf’ book, Dinger was known to be a difficult character and that didn’t help his reputation. “It’s the Van Gogh thing” added McCluskey, “you have to bloody die before people think you’re a genius”

Of course, OMD combined various influences to achieve their distinctive template. But what is not often realised is that it is closer to LA DÜSSELDORF than it is to KRAFTWERK, especially on ‘Architecture & Morality’: “It is great that the city of Dusseldorf has woken up to the fact that KRAFTWERK and other musicians changed the world. Whilst KRAFTWERK cement their position in the pantheon of the museums and the books, LA DÜSSELDORF and NEU! were very important. They also did something that was beautiful and different. And OMD unconsciously were combining the two, the electronic sound with the organic…”

The Techno / Industrial panel in Deutsch fittingly included DAF’s Gabi Delgado and DIE KRUPPS’ Ralf Dörper as well as Ramon Zenker, the man behind FRAGMA.

It would be fair to say that neither sub-genre could have had its roots in any country other than Germany.

Delgado caused some amusement when he casually lit up a cigarette in the middle of the discussion, reinforcing the rebellious and confrontational aura of DAF.

During the interlude, many went to take a look at the Monster Formant modular synthesizer, owned by local enthusiast Siegfried Brückner, which was being demonstrated in the foyer. Six years in the making and featuring a gobsmacking sixteen VCOs plus many other features too numerous to mention, it was an impressive sight that looked like one of those vintage telephone exchanges.

To begin Saturday night’s live music proceedings were Zurich based combo LEN SANDER; their languid style of trip hop has become a favourite of Rusty Egan who also lists LONDON GRAMMAR among his current favourites.

They provided a cerebral build before the appearance of two of the most impressive synthesizer duos in Europe at the moment.

With the amount of equipment VILE ELECTRODES possess, they could fill Klingklang itself. Using their more streamlined European touring set-up, the Home Counties couple are now effectively adopted Germans having impressed enough during their tour of Germany supporting OMD in 2013 to land two Schallwelle Awards. Splendid new songs like ‘Pulsar Timing Array’ and ‘Stark White’ from the just released EP were evidence of their continuing progression.

With a more minimalist set-up, METROLAND were the perfect act for the weekend to honour the artistic legacy of Düsseldorf. Their second long player ‘Triadic Ballet’ was a conceptual audio installation themed around das Staatliche Bauhaus.

The perfect realisation of Walter Gropius’ theory of uniting art with technology, with a combination of crisp electronics and art school visuals, the Belgian duo gave a wonderful presentation that was appreciated by all those present including Andy McCluskey and Rusty Egan.

Closing the event, escapist trio DELTA turned out to be the most disappointing of all the bands participating, their landfill indie totally at odds with the weekend’s ethos.

Meanwhile Düsseldorf duo BAR fared much better, their synth laden dreampop augmented on occasion by singer Christina Irrgang’s use of a recorder.

However, these two acts highlighted the lack of a clear headliner to finish the weekend on a true high.

Overall though, the ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE was fabulous weekend with representation from both sorcerers and apprentices of the Düsseldorf scene. With the English translation of the ’Electri_City_Musik_Aus_Düsseldorf’ book due in 2016, the story of what the city has contributed to the world can only spread further.

French icon JEAN-MICHEL JARRE said recently: “Electronic music has a family, a legacy and a future…” and there was nothing more truer than over these three days by der Rhein.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Rudi Esch and Carsten Siewert

Additional thanks to Tom Steinseifer, Roger Kamp and Tapio Normall for the use of their photos

‘Electri_City: The Dusseldorf School of Electronic Music’ is due to be published in English by Omnibus Press sometime in 2016

The ‘Electri_City – Elektronische_Musik_Aus_Düsseldorf’ compilation is released by Grönland Records.



Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Chi Ming Lai except where credited
8th November 2015


MUS_IIC-coverMemeTune, the acclaimed London studio and label curated its first festival just down the road from its base in Hoxton at Shoreditch’s Red Gallery.

Although lacking in natural ventilation, the sociable art space proved to be a fine venue to host live electronic music with several luminaries from the music scene present including Hannah Peel, Serafina Steer, James Nice, Anais Neon, Martin Swan and err… Bobby Gillespie!

Proceedings started at precisely 7.41pm with cult Dutch combo MINNY POPS who are probably best known for being signed to Factory Records and supporting JOY DIVISION at the notorious Bury gig in 1980 which ended in a riot.

Formed in 1978 and named after the 1967 Keio Minupops 7 rhythm box and not the dodgy children’s entertainment show produced by Mike Mansfield, it began with vocalist Wally van Middendorp standing in the audience, blindfolded and silent for what felt like 10 minutes before holding a placard which announced “FAC57 NOT FUC57… Secret Story revisited” and launching into the track itsellf. It was all very art school and prolonged, but there appeared to be a glint of sly Low Countries humour lurking.

A new song ‘Patti Hurst’ followed as coruscating guitars, mournful string synths and the band’s trademark drum machine reverbed around the venue like INTERPOL trapped down a well.

Wally van Middendorp was charismatic if nothing else with his dead fly moves and deathly baritone… it all rather made JOY DIVISION sound like STEPS. With their early albums ‘Drastic Measures Drastic Movement’ and ‘Sparks In A Dark Roomm’ out now as 2CD deluxe packages via Factory Benelux, MINNY POPS’ polarising experimentation is being re-investigated by a new audience if nothing else.

With the level of the PA raised a notch, the rumbling sub bass caused part of the lighting rig to judder and drop off the front of the stage just before the fierce and uncompromising GAZELLE TWIN commenced her set. Sounding tune-based in comparison with MINNY POPS, GAZELLE TWIN aka Elizabeth Bernholz stalked the stage like a caged animal, occasionally dropping to her knees to (almost) worship her loop pedal.

MUS_IIC-GazelleTwinIn what was the most minimal of set-ups, a hooded programmer / sample player triggered and manipulated a tiny podium-based sample pad whilst Bernholz projected a completely asexual persona.

With her facial features disguised with a sheer stocking mask and dressed in a deliberately unflattering hooded track suit tucked into a pair of sports socks, the cumulative effect was to focus the listener on the music.

Bernholz admits to being a nervous / anxious performer, donning a mask and anti-fashion dress code in an attempt to distance herself from the standard “LOOK AT ME!” stage persona – if anything, this unique approach makes GAZELLE TWIN even more voyeuristically watchable.

Unlike much current electronic music, there was very little common frames of reference here, songs from current album ‘Unflesh’ drifted into each other, shards of melody occasionally appearing, then disappearing and the vocal hook “It’s coming at me” of the album’s title track being the most memorable of the evening.

What impressed most was Bernholz’s vocal range and ability to switch into different styles, this combined with a charismatic stage presence meant that the Red Gallery crowd were held in rapture fully for the duration of their 40 minute set.

With the headline act WRANGLER approaching, it became apparent that most of the Red Gallery audience were here to see Stephen Mallinder’s new outfit as the crowd significantly filled out during the break after GAZELLE TWIN. In the seminal ‘Made in Sheffield’ documentary, another former CABARET VOLTAIRE member Chris Watson ruminated as to what the ‘perfect Cabaret Voltaire performance’ would be, whether it was driving around Sheffield city centre in a van blaring out their music or even in a public toilet somewhere.

But tonight the Shoreditch venue with its superb sound system suited WRANGLER perfectly, the gloomy and arty ambience although initially intimidating, suiting the dark / dystopian sound of the band to a tee. On the left of the stage, JOHN FOXX’s right hand man Benge spent most of the performance hammering away at a minimal twin pad drum synth whilst on the other side of a centrally placed Mallinder was Phil Winter who handled synths and MIDI controllers.

MUS_IIC-wrangler-by-EMPWith just one album under their collective belts, most of the evening material was taken up with tracks from ‘LA Spark’ with the title track, ‘Lava Land’ and a Kaoss Pad driven ‘Mus_IIC’ all getting strong outings. The biggest cheer of the evening was reserved for a faithful version of The Cabs’ ‘Sensoria’, the sequenced riffs and danceable drum patterns getting the crowd really moving.

What also impressed was the use of front screen projection onto a curtain in front of the act, the recognisable WRANGLER “W” logo and a variety of semi-3D computer graphics appeared to float hypnotically in front of the band during their hour set. Drawing the set to close, the final track of the night was a re-worked version of ‘Crackdown’.

Despite the dark nature of their material, Mallinder and the rest of WRANGLER seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves throughout and the combination of the diverse acts on the bill made this a perfect way to enjoy a Saturday nights electronic music. On the strength of tonight’s event, it can only be a matter of time before we get MUS_IIC Festival.02.

With thanks to Steve Malins at Random PR

WRANGLER ‘LA Spark’ is released by MemeTune

GAZELLE TWIN ‘Unflesh’ is released by Anti-Ghost Moon Ray / Last Gang

MINNY POPS ‘Drastic Measures Drastic Movement’ and ‘Sparks In A Dark Room’ are released by Factory Benelux





Text and Photos by Chi Ming Lai and Paul Boddy
23rd October 2014


« Older posts Newer posts »