Tag: Susanne Freytag (Page 1 of 2)

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 30 SONGS OF 2022

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

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

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

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

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


ANNIEE featuring VON HERTZOG Danger Electricity

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

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

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


ALANAS CHOSNAU & MARK REEDER All You Need To Love

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

Available on the album ‘Life Everywhere’ via MFS

https://alanaschosnau.com/

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


RODNEY CROMWELL The Winter Palace

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

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

https://www.facebook.com/rodneycromwellartist


BOY HARSHER Machina featuring Ms. BOAN

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

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

https://boyharsher.com/


CIRCUIT3 Valentina Fly

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

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

http://www.circuit3.com/


GEMMA CULLINGFORD Tongue Tied

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

Available on the album ‘Tongue Tied’ via Elmo Recordings

https://www.facebook.com/gemcullingford


DAWN TO DAWN Stereo

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

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

https://www.facebook.com/dawntodawnmusic


DUBSTAR Token

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

Available on the album ‘Two’ via Northern Writes

https://www.dubstarofficial.co/


EMMON The Battle

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

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

https://www.facebook.com/emmonsweden


FADER Serpentine

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

Available on the album ‘Quartz’ via Blanc Check Records

https://www.facebook.com/WeAreFader


THE GOLDEN FILTER Drive

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

Available on the single ‘Drive’ via The Golden Filter

https://www.thegoldenfilter.com/


H/P Vicinities

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

Available on the album ‘Programma’ via BOREDOMproduct

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


I SPEAK MACHINE War

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

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

https://www.ispeakmachine.com


KAREN HUNTER Don’t Call My Name

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

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

https://karenhunter.hearnow.com/


KAVINSKY Outsider

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

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

https://kavinsky.com/


KID MOXIE Shine

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

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

http://www.facebook.com/kidmoxie


KITE Panic Music

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

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

https://www.facebook.com/KiteHQ


LEATHERS Runaway

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

Available on the digital single ‘Runaway’ via Artoffact Records

https://www.facebook.com/leathersmusic


MECHA MAIKO Sunny, Softly (I Feel Love)

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

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

https://www.mechamaiko.com/


MINIMAL SCHLAGER Submission

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

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

https://www.facebook.com/minimalschlager


R.MISSING New Present City

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

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

https://rmissing.com/


RÖYKSOPP & ALISON GOLDFRAPP Impossible

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

Available on the album ‘Profound Mysteries’ via Dog Triumph

http://royksopp.com/


HANNA RUA Light In Your Dark

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

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

https://www.hannarua.com/


SALLY SHAPIRO Fading Away

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

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

https://www.facebook.com/shapirosally


SIN COS TAN Endless

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

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

http://solinarecords.com/sincostan/


SOFT CELL Nighthawks

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

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

http://www.softcell.co.uk


UNIFY SEPARATE Closure

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

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

http://www.unifyseparate.com


BELLA UNWIN Cold Breeze

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

Available on the single ‘Cold Breeze’ via GOTO Records

https://www.facebook.com/bellaunwinmusic


THE WEEKND Less Than Zero

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

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

https://www.theweeknd.com


xPROPAGANDA The Wolves Are Returning

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

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

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


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


Text by Chi Ming Lai
12th December 2022

xPROPAGANDA Live in London

With “x” marking the spot in 2018, Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag launched themselves as xPROPAGANDA to perform ‘A Secret Wish’, the 1985 album released by ZTT which was recorded with their former bandmates Ralf Dörper and Michael Mertens as PROPAGANDA.

Dubbed “ABBA in hell”, the quartet’s album was produced by Stephen Lipson and heralded the advent of sampling and digital synthesis. But during those shows, Brücken and Freytag realised they needed more material.

With Lipson on-board to helm a brand new album, the end result has been an excellent collection of songs entitled ‘The Heart Is Strange’; both a debut and a continuation, the sonically satisfying long player was given its live debut at The Garage, the very venue where xPROPAGANDA became an entity.

The nine piece live ensemble was crammed onto the small stage with Brücken and Freytag joined by Lipson and David Rainger on guitar as well as James Watson and Philip Larsen on keyboards. Drummer Paul Jones and percussionist Luís Jardim were almost hidden on opposite sides of the stage while Nick Mead made appearances as appropriate on Flugelhorn and trumpet.

Beginning with the first seven tracks from ‘The Heart Is Strange’ in order, ‘The Night’ provided a lively cacophony of sequenced digitised bass, crashing beats and sweeping synthetic strings in true ZTT style with a long intro before Brücken broke into song. However feedback, particularly on Freytag’s mic and the buffering glitches on the visuals made it a shaky start.

More metronomic, ‘Chasing Utopia’ saw Freytag offer her distinctive spoken harmony next to Brücken before an alluring German monologue. Lyrically, ‘The Heart Is Strange’ has focussed on the world’s socio-political landscape and with commentary on fake news as well as social media’s unrealistic representation of beauty culture, ’Beauty Is The Truth’ came over quite aggressively with the two Germans sparring in their contrasting vocal styles.

Sounding at times like PET SHOP BOYS ‘Rent’ in its bassline, ‘Only Human’ acted as a moody breather although a synthetic rock edge propelled ‘Don’t (You Mess with Me)’ while with an exotic swirl, ‘No Ordinary Girl’ saw Freytag make reference to ‘A Secret Wish’ with a knowing “Don’t be a fool!”.

One of the best numbers on ‘The Heart Is Strange’, ‘The Wolves Are Returning’ gave a stark warning on rise again of extreme right wing agendas. Despite its bounce and superb twin guitar interventions, the message was poignant coming from two Germans whose grandparents’ generation had made the mistake of opening up the door to the Nazis by “doing nothing” and looking away.

The world needs to listen to people who know and understand that the likes of Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and their band of merry posh boys are actually veiled fascists with no interest in the plight of the British people. Only there to line the pockets of themselves and their mates, they are drunk on power with no motivation to govern, all while hobnobbing with criminal Russian oligarchs. The US saw common sense and toppled Trump, so that fraudulent grifter who pretends to be a Prime Minister needs to be next on the list…

The use of Brothers Grimm imagery in ‘The Wolves Are Returning’ was also highly appropriate, especially in relation to the UK’s Home Secretary Priti Patel, a vile woman so evil that comedian Bill Bailey accurately described her as “Cruella de Vil without the self-confidence issues…”

With their repertoire now satisfactorily expanded, the final third of the show featured highlights from ‘A Secret Wish’, beginning with the unsettling cinematic glory of ‘Dr Mabuse’. The machine rhythm of ‘The Murder Of Love’ maintained the momentum while with an equally percussive rumble, the cover of JOSEF K’s ‘Sorry For Laughing’ headed towards a powerfully enjoyable ‘P: Machinery’ to close the main set.

For the encore, Brücken gave a spirited first verse of ‘Duel’ backed by solo piano before the band joined in on the chorus, accompanied by the rousing crowd for a nostalgic high. With the love clearly being felt in the room, Freytag poetically took the lead on ‘Ribbons of Steel’, the cinematic closer from ‘The Heart Is Strange’ to finish. With a haunting narrative on the post-war division of Germany and The Berlin Wall which physically and ideologically split families, friends and lovers, its Cold War references had resonances with today’s world events.

Presented as a starker 21st Century follow-up to ‘Dream Within A Dream’ from ‘A Secret Wish’, with the declaration that “I’m trapped on the wrong side, or is it the right side”, the sentiment could be applied to those with common Ukrainian / Russian heritage now set against each other in a pointless war or closer to home in history, those Chinese seamen that served in the Merchant Navy during the Second World War who were suddenly rounded up and deported with their British-born families never told of their fate; more recently, there has been the disgusting Windrush scandal.

Those heinous repatriation policies fronted by that smirking race traitor Ugly Patel, in her own belief that her status is smugly safe as a Cooper, only highlighted the total lack of humanity existing in the current Tory government and provided food for thought…

Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag said: “We always thought it was a shame that an album as distinctive and acclaimed as ‘A Secret Wish’ seemed destined to be a one-off”. Tonight in London, that situation was formally corrected and presented to many satisfied faces.


With thanks to Stuart Kirkham PR

‘The Heart is Strange’ is out now by ZTT in CD, 2CD, vinyl LP, red vinyl LP, Bluray audio and digital formats

The ‘Secretstrange’ 2022 tour of Germany includes:

Berlin Columbia Theater (2nd November), München Schlachthof (4th November), Frankfurt Nachtleben (5th November), Bochum Zeche (6th November), Hamburg Kent Club (8th November)

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

https://www.facebook.com/xPropagandaOfficial

https://twitter.com/_xPropaganda

https://www.instagram.com/_xpropaganda/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Chi Ming Lai and Richard Price
28th May 2022

xPROPAGANDA Interview

Photo by Kai Freytag

As PROPAGANDA, die klassik quartett of Claudia Brücken, Susanne Freytag, Ralf Dörper and Michael Mertens dubbed “ABBA in hell” released their only album together ‘A Secret Wish’ in 1985 on ZTT.

Featuring the hit singles ‘Dr Mabuse’, ‘Duel’ and ‘P: Machinery’, ‘A Secret Wish’ was highly regarded with admirers including Martin Gore, John Taylor, Jim Kerr and Quincy Jones. PROPAGANDA had emerged from Düsseldorf’s post-punk art scene which had often gathered at the Ratinger Hof pub on Ratinger Straße.

Previously, Brücken and Freytag had been in an all-girl group called TOPOLINOS who appeared on the compilation ‘Partysnäks’ in 1982; their track ‘Mustafa’ became a favourite of the late John Peel who played it on his late night BBC Radio1 show.

But “x” marks the spot and with it, Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag have rebooted the esteemed brand as xPROPAGANDA with ‘A Secret Wish’ producer Stephen Lipson helming for an excellent collection of all-new material entitled ‘The Heart Is Strange’.

As another hope feeds another dream, during a break from live rehearsals for the upcoming London showcase of ‘The Heart Is Strange’, Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag kindly talked to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about the album’s creative genesis and realisation.

Over the past few years, you have worked together on the ‘This Happened’ shows and the song ‘Sweet Sense (Of) Liberation’ on the ‘Beginn’ album with Jerome Froese, but when did the impetus to do a project together come about?

Susanne: It started in 2018 when we played ‘A Secret Wish’ at The Garage and we thought we needed some new material. We had been thinking about this for a long time and thought it would be nice to have some new songs to expand our repertoire a bit.

Photo by Jimmy King

How do you look back the reception for those shows at The Garage?

Claudia: Amazing, it was just incredible that people from all over the world came, from Japan, America, Mexico and Europe. It was fantastic to see and you could feel it while we were performing. It was great to be working with Stephen Lipson and Luís Jardim in the band and it worked so well. During rehearsals back then, we already thought it would be nice to have new material.

You initially launched yourselves as D:UEL and did gigs under that name but how was it decided to settle on being called xPROPAGANDA?

Claudia: At some point, we thought we would call ourselves after a song we’d done but we questioned it. For that moment, we thought it would do, but we thought we should maybe find a different name…

Susanne: …and find an arrangement with Ralf and Michael to be able to call ourselves xPROPAGANDA. But this took us some time to negotiate; that’s why went under D:UEL.

What are you own favourite recollections of making ‘A Secret Wish’?

Claudia: Mine is being in Sarm West in this amazing atmosphere in Basing Street, surrounded by really creative people. There were three studios, Bob Marley recorded there in the 70s, and it had an incredible vibe. At that point, ZTT were in the same building so it felt really electrifying.

Susanne: It was about being in London, being in the studios, working with Trevor Horn, Stephen Lipson, meeting David Sylvian… KILLING JOKE were in the studio and obviously FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, it was just a very exciting time.

What was it like to meet David Sylvian, did either of you have a crush on him?

Claudia: We were real admirers of him and his work but we weren’t star struck or anything, we took it in our stride…

Susanne: … I loved JAPAN so I think I was a little bit! *laughs*

Photo by Jimmy King

Given your history and the fact that he was in the xPROPAGANDA live band, was it a no brainer that Stephen Lipson would be involved in ‘The Heart Is Strange’?

Claudia: It seemed so obvious as he did ‘A Secret Wish’… both Susanne and I had this sentiment that we wished there had been another album after that with our involvement. Throughout the years, Stephen said “Girls, if you ever want to do something, I’m here”

Susanne: He’s a very busy guy working with Hans Zimmer on films so it took a bit of time…

Claudia: …but then at some point, it was the right time. But the dynamic didn’t change too much because for us, the Stephen then and the Stephen now, although we have all changed in some ways, it was all so easy. We had common ground, shared experiences and stories to tell, so we are still the same people.

Another name on ‘The Heart Is Strange’ is John Owen Williams who produced the Claudia solo album ‘Where Else…’

Claudia: John lives locally to me as does Stephen, I worked with him so well on the ‘Where Else…’ album that I thought it would be good to work on melodies and lyrics with him again. He was really open, it was just a natural process, it’s good to have someone to throw ideas to, but not as a band member as such.

Did you consciously decide to incorporate some classic ZTT references into ‘The Heart Is Strange’? I’m thinking of trumpets and proggy guitars alongside the crafted electronic backdrop etc…

Claudia: That’s Stephen’s production style so I guess it would naturally resemble that, because that was the sound. It’s just what comes out of us, it wasn’t like “oh, we need to make sure it sounds like PROPAGANDA”.

Photo by Kai Freytag

The opener ‘The Night’ does not disappoint with a dancey cacophony of sequenced digitised bass and percolating percussive colours, it does have that classic widescreen Lipson sound… 

Claudia: On this, we collaborated with Pete Murray who is a producer friend of Stephen. We asked Stephen if he had any ideas flying around in his library which he shared with us. So we picked a few as a starting point. I wanted to make a kind of poem or prayer, and then the whole idea came about, it’s a three parter. When Covid came, we would continue to develop things by file sharing but luckily, we had all the vocal parts already recorded. Stephen then worked his magic.

There’s quite a long intro ‘The Night’ before the vocal comes in which adds to the tension, it’s something that is missing from a lot music now, that anticipation…

Claudia: I’m really happy you say that because I like music to breathe and take you on a journey… a lot of songs these days are just designed for radio and they put on lot into that three and a half minute timeframe. I like things when they are stretched.

‘Beauty Is The Truth’ is more aggressive with the two of you sparring?

Claudia: We are just having a dialogue aren’t we? Susanne says something, then I say the opposite to prove her point, it’s very much a play and it’s inspired by John Keats, the romantic poet. It’s challenging romanticism as well. It has lots of different layers, like about fake news and warning people to be alert and be careful.

Susanne: For me, it also deals with social media and all this beauty culture, especially all these teenage girls and the image they want to present which is not real.

Photo by Kai Freytag

Photo by Kai FreytagHow you feel about social media, both in the context as artists and as mothers?

Claudia: I think it’s terribly addictive in how you are drawn to it, it’s a bit insane really how many hours people spend on it.

Susanne: As mothers, I am glad my two children are grown-up and that I don’t have teenage daughters. I see friends with teenage daughters where they can quickly get into this wanting the miration from others, looking at the clicks and struggling with themselves… it’s sad to see and I know somebody in Sweden where use of computers in schools started earlier than in Germany. But the amount of anorexia in school girls in Sweden is so high and my friend sees the direct link as being the age when they start using computers or are given mobile devices. I thought it was interesting, I never saw this connection with the age that children are introduced to computers…

Claudia: …and there’s this obsession with self-image…

Susanne: …and that’s what starts it, they become 11-12-13 and there’s this peer pressure to appear beautiful on social media.

Social media brings the fans a step closer to the artist than back in the day when they would have been more on a pedestal…

Susanne: For me, it’s really stressful, I’m happy if I don’t have to look at it. But you also need it because this is the modern way of advertising yourself and your product so…

Claudia: …it’s a double edged sword *laughs*

‘Only Human’ offers a mid-album breather?

Claudia: We felt a bit odd and vulnerable at that point of writing, it was thinking “hey, we’re all human”, all this uncertainty that’s going on…

Susanne: …it was Covid related.

Is ‘Don’t (You Mess with Me)’ something of a female empowerment song, given some of the challenges in your creative past?

Claudia: Yes, it is! *laughs*

Susanne: It is also about personal lives, being angry and female empowerment.

Claudia: It’s being fed up, we went to Stephen’s studio and he said “I’ve started this riff” and we were really impressed. So instead of what we came in for, we concentrated on this…

Susanne: ….it happened very quickly…

Claudia: …and we just wrote it on the spot basically! By the end of the session, we had finished the song and recorded it. At the time, it was cathartic for all of us, this burst of energy got captured. This is something that doesn’t happen that often. But I think we were all in this p*ssed off mood and that drove it *laughs*

There’s an exotic mystical swirl in ‘No Ordinary Girl’ with a knowing “Don’t be a fool!”, where did this combination come from?

Susanne: We were joking around with references to ‘A Secret Wish’ *laughs*

Claudia: We were thinking of sinister things that Susanne should say in contrast to the vocal melody so that came up *laughs*

Photo by Jimmy King

The melody is quite Eastern?

Susanne: It is, it’s a little bit strange, the things I am saying are a bit…

Claudia: …disturbed! But I think the melody sounds a bit French and filmic. I also really like the string steps, those figures at the end, I think that was Pete Murray with his beautiful keyboard playing. But it also has something exotic so that was me following the sound. I thought it would be nice to have a torch song on the album.

So are you dictating ideas and sketches to your phone now?

Claudia: All the time, a melody just pops into your head and you can immediately sing it. I’ve got about 1000 voice recordings on my phone, I just capture things.

Is it generally through vocal melodies that you write your musical ideas or do you have a mini-keyboard or software on a device?

Claudia: It’s pretty much in my head… or I will hear some nice chords somewhere and I will use that for referencing.

From the bounce of the track, the vocals from the two of you and a magnificent sax solo from Terry Edwards, ‘The Wolves Are Returning’ with its narrative on the rise of new far right using Brothers Grimm imagery really gels with a big expansive sound, it’s my favourite on the album…

Claudia: That’s so great that you say that, I think it’s so mad that there is such a long saxophone solo, it’s really bold to do that in a song these days! When I heard it, I thought “I love that!”, it’s so unexpected.

I love the confusion the sax causes, its processed so it sounds like a guitar but towards the end of the solo, the intonation is such that you are thinking “that’s not a guitar!” *laughs*

Claudia: That’s what I like about Stephen’s production, he just keeps messing and makes bold choices.

Susanne: It’s such a mad sax solo, it really fits the song.

Susanne’s son Alex also did some programming on The Wolves Are Returning’?

Susanne: Yes, he was working on some basslines and other things. We had talked about getting some different elements in there. One was Terry Edwards and the other was Alex; he lives in Berlin so that weird vibe came in. I was working with him on a few things so we looked at something we could integrate.

Claudia: Stephen is very open to ideas from others, he has this experimental mind which is great to have for creativity.

I’ve always felt the best producers are the ones who have progressive rock sensibilities, like Trevor Horn, Stephen Lipson, Mike Howlett, Zeus B Held and Conny Plank, they dare to apply this stuff to pop music…

Claudia: Yes, I like the mixing of genres so that you’re not this or that, I don’t have a purist mind, neither has Susanne or Stephen. A good song is a good song and you can style it in any way.

The closer ‘Ribbons of Steel’ could be considered the follow-up to ‘Dream Within A Dream’?

Susanne: The ‘Ribbons of Steel’ are a reference to barbed wire, it was inspired by The Berlin Wall. When it was built in the 60s, it just divided the people and the streets. So it’s about two people, one is in the East and one is in the West, who are unable to see each other again.

Claudia: There’s this loss of contact, this feeling of not knowing and having a lot of unanswered questions, it’s a story about the unknown, being plagued by uncertainty.

That feeling resonates with current world events…

Susanne: I was thinking that.

Was there the fascination for Berlin in Düsseldorf back in the day like there was for people in the UK and the US?

Claudia: In the 80s, definitely. The Berlin club scene in particular, it was completely mad… I remember going to clubs there and it was like WOW!

Susanne: Also, in Düsseldorf, places had to close at 1.00am but in Berlin, they were open all night. I remember being in an amazing discotheque and somebody opened the door and there was this really strange light coming in, not realising it was daylight! It was fascinating but it was quite dark, being in the Eastern Bloc…

Claudia: …but that is what made it so special.

Susanne: Of course, Berlin was full of students and people who didn’t want to go in the army so they brought a whole different culture to the place.

How are rehearsals going to present ‘The Heart Is Strange’ live alongside songs from ‘A Secret Wish’, who is in the band?

Susanne: It’s going well, it’s quite a big thing to present the new songs and everything, it’s huge. It’s a lot of work and we have lots of great musicians, it will be exciting!

Claudia: It’s going to be a nine piece band this time, Stephen is joining us in the band, along with Luís Jardim again. There’s also David Rainger who played a lot of guitar on the new album plus James Watson and Philip Larsen on keyboards and the drummer Paul Jones. Rehearsals are going great. We’re doing all the songs from ‘The Heart Is Strange’ and a big chunk of ‘A Secret Wish’.

Will there be any more xPROPAGANDA shows after this May date in London?

Susanne: Yes, there are gigs in Germany in November which have just been announced.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag

Special thanks to Stuart Kirkham

‘The Heart is Strange’ is released by ZTT on 20th May 2022 as in CD, 2CD, vinyl LP, red vinyl LP, Bluray audio and digital formats

xPROPAGANDA perform at The Garage in London on 24th May 2022

The ‘Secret Strange Thinking’ 2022 tour of Germany and The Netherlands includes:

Berlin Columbia Theater (2nd November), München Schlachthof (4th November), Frankfurt Nachtleben (5th November), Bochum Zeche (6th November), Hamburg Kent Club (8th November), Zoetermeer De Boerderij (10th November)

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

https://www.facebook.com/xPropagandaOfficial

https://twitter.com/_xPropaganda

https://www.instagram.com/_xpropaganda/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
21st May 2022

xPROPAGANDA The Heart Is Strange

The legend of German quartet PROPAGANDA was etched into the psyche of the music cognoscenti with the 1985 release of ‘A Secret Wish’ on ZTT, a classic of the electronic era which heralded the advent of sampling and digital synthesis.

Among its fans were Martin Gore, John Taylor and Jim Kerr; over the years, ‘A Secret Wish’ has grown in stature with its influence felt on Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’, produced by Quincy Jones. Meanwhile, the foursome of Claudia Brücken, Susanne Freytag, Ralf Dörper and Michael Mertens dubbed “ABBA in hell” were a forerunner of acts such as LADYTRON.

But it all ended acrimoniously and despite attempts to reform PROPAGANDA over the last 30 years, they have all come to nought, although the quartet performed together at the Trevor Horn celebratory concert for The Prince’s Trust in 2004, while Freytag and Dörper joined Brücken for her career retrospective show at The Scala in 2011.

More recently, Brücken and Freytag have teamed up with Stephen J Lipson, producer of ‘A Secret Wish’ and had introduced their new project as D:UEL – so it was a surprise when it was announced that the pair would be playing two London shows performing ‘A Secret Wish’ as xPROPAGANDA in 2018.

‘The Heart Is Strange’ is the first fruit of labour from xPROPAGANDA; with that classic widescreen Lipson sound, the impressive opener ‘The Night’ does not disappoint with a dancey cacophony of sequenced digitised bass, crashing beats and sweeping synthetic strings. Additional brass flourishes, orchestrated bursts and percolating percussive colours permeate over multi-minute intro before Claudia Brücken delivers a fabulous vocal.

The spacious metronomic template of ‘Chasing Utopia’ hypnotically builds with the addition of guitars from the pleasuredome and snappy live drums as Susanne Freytag provides a spoken harmony next to Brücken before an alluring German monologue and a flugelhorn solo. Although tapping with rimshot before packing a punch, ‘Beauty Is The Truth’ is more aggressive with Freytag sparring with Brücken as their contrasting styles provide the tension over the buzzy trance-laden air.

‘Only Human’ is less pacey, crossing six string strums with electronics, acting almost as a mid-album breather. However, ‘Don’t (You Mess with Me)’ provides a synthetic rock edge and a piano motif that could have come straight from the Gary Numan playbook but the end result actually comes over like ABBA although not quite in hell but more a jungle full of tigers. With an exotic swirl ‘No Ordinary Girl’ heads towards the Mystical East and is bolstered by some heavy guitar and choppy strings plus a reference to the past with a knowing “Don’t be a fool!”

A warning on the rise of the extreme right wing using Brothers Grimm imagery, ‘The Wolves Are Returning’ is back to classic Lipson. It’s a bouncy driving number with another superb vocal from Brücken, an enticing middle eight phrase from Freytag and a magnificent sax solo from Terry Edwards, processed to the point of sounding like a guitar. Over 9 minutes, the cinematic closer ‘Ribbons of Steel’ provides a fitting atmospheric backdrop to showcase Susanne Freytag’s poetry. With references to The Cold War that are equally applicable to today’s world events, it’s a starker 21st Century follow-up to ‘Dream Within A Dream’ declaring “I never heard The Division Bell… I’m trapped on the wrong side, or is it the right side”.

As Brücken and Freytag summarised: “We always thought it was a shame that an album as distinctive and acclaimed as ‘A Secret Wish’ seemed destined to be a one-off. It certainly meant a lot to us, and it never seemed right that the story stopped there. Working again with Stephen Lipson and means that we can turn our dreams about what the ZTT follow up to ‘A Secret Wish’ would sound like into a reality. The reality is ‘The Heart is Strange’”.

While the distinct pop approach of ‘The Heart Is Strange’ perhaps is missing the gothic industrial spike of Ralf Dörper and the classically schooled eccentricity of Michael Mertens that added some of the character to ‘A Secret Wish’, where it does not disappoint is vocally and sonically; fans of PROPAGANDA and ZTT will relish and savour this thoughtfully crafted work.

Surpassing both the Brücken-less PROPAGANDA long player ‘1234’ and ACT’s ‘Laughter, Tears & Rage’, ‘The Heart Is Strange’ can be considered a worthy follow-up to ‘A Secret Wish’.


‘The Heart is Strange’ is released by ZTT on 20th May 2022 as in CD, 2CD, vinyl LP, red vinyl LP, Bluray audio and digital formats

xPROPAGANDA perform at The Garage in London on 24th May 2022

The ‘Secretstrange’ 2022 tour of Germany includes:
Berlin Columbia Theater (2nd November), München Schlachthof (4th November), Frankfurt Nachtleben (5th November), Bochum Zeche (6th November), Hamburg Kent Club (8th November)

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

https://www.facebook.com/xPropagandaOfficial

https://twitter.com/_xPropaganda

https://www.instagram.com/_xpropaganda/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Jimmy King
15th May 2022

PROPAGANDA The Murder Of Love

A new fan-made PROPAGANDA video which founder member Ralf Dörper has described as “unglaublich” has just hit the web. Set against ‘The Murder Of Love’ from ‘A Secret Wish’, it reimagines a visit to New York by PROPAGANDA during their ‘Outside World’ tour in 1985 when they performed at the Irving Plaza.

With cinematography by Rick Martinez plus makeup by Connie Ojeda Smith and Jaelene Jaquez, the superb and affectionate visual presentation is directed and edited by Vlad Panov. A humorous and nostalgic tribute to PROPAGANDA, Hannah Fleming and Talia Shvedova as respectfully Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag are quite convincing, while Panov himself could pass for Michael Mertens in the way the actors who played Stephen Morris in ’24 Hour Party People’ and ‘Control’ did.

However, Vladimir Putin lookalike Michael DeGrandpre could do with a pair of stack heels or stilts as Ralf Dörper. As is always the way, these type of films play with artistic licence and in this instance, the very tall Düsseldorfer actually declined to be part of the ‘Outside World’ tour so was not even in New York on 26th September 1985.

Ralf Dörper told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK in Autumn 2012: “I had a quite stubborn view on playing live as PROPAGANDA as I believed it would be not possible to give a proper impression without lifting the studio on stage. And I did not consider it an option to use guest musicians … especially no guitar player.” – their label ZTT just issued a press release to say he was at his day-job in a bank to cover for his absence!

While Dörper continues today touring and recording as a member of DIE KRUPPS, Brücken and Freytag will be opening as xPROPAGANDA for HEAVEN 17 on ‘The Luxury Gap’ tour this Autumn.

Meanwhile, Mertens continues as a successful freelance composer whose production company Escape Route has had commissions from Volkswagen, Renault, Ford, Autostadt and C&A.


‘The Murder Of Love’ is from ‘A Secret Wish’, available via BMG in vinyl LP, CD and digital formats

xPROPAGANDA open for HEAVEN 17 on ‘The Luxury Gap’ 35th Anniversary Tour, dates include:

Northampton Roadmender (Friday 9th November), Norwich UEA (Saturday 10th November), Bournemouth O2 Academy (Friday 16th November), Birmingham O2 Institute (Saturday 17th November), Glasgow O2 ABC (Friday 23rd November), Liverpool O2 Academy (Saturday 24 November), London O2 Shepherds Bush Empire (Friday 30th November), Bristol O2 Academy (Saturday 1st December), Manchester O2 Ritz (Friday 7th December), Sheffield O2 Academy (Saturday 8th November)

DIE KRUPPS go on ‘The Machinists United Tour’ with FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY in 2018, dates include:

London O2 Islington Academy (19th August), Paris La Machine (20th August), Utrecht De Helling (21 August), Krefeld Kulturfabrik (22 August), Gothenburg Truck Stop (24 august 2018), Stockholm Klubben (25 August), Wroclaw Stary Klasztor (29 August), Prague Lucerna Music Bar (30 August),
Budapest A38 (31 August), Bratislava Majestic Music Club (1st September), Vienna Viper Room (2nd September, Munich Backstage Halle (4th September), Frankfurt Batschkapp (5th September)

https://www.facebook.com/claudiaandsusanne/

http://www.diekrupps.com/

http://escaperoute.de/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
11th August 2018

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