Tag: Techniques Berlin


History has been kind to Canada with regards its position in the pioneering electronic pop.

The trailblazing by the likes of RATIONAL YOUTH, PSYCHE, SKINNY PUPPY, FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY and MEN WITHOUT HATS successfully built the foundations for the nation’s modern crop including PURITY RING, GRIMES, TR/ST, AUSTRA, ELECTRIC YOUTH and PARALLELS. Formed in 1984 by Andreas Gregor and David Rout, Toronto’s TECHNIQUES BERLIN have returned with a new body of work ‘Breathing’, twinned with a bonus album of previously unreleased material and alternate versions of tracks from the vaults of their Bombshelter label, which issued the two volume ‘Back Issue’ series in 1992.

Considered too alternative to pop, and too pop to be alternative by the record labels of the day, the more open environment of the World Wide Web has renewed interest in TECHNIQUES BERLIN. With Dina Naskos added to the line-up, Gregor and Rout have delivered an album recalling the days of when experimental electronic pop could go mainstream, albeit with the refined benefits of modern technology in tandem with vintage gear like the Yamaha CS40M, Multivox MX-202 string / brass ensemble and Korg KPR-77 rhythm unit.

Opening song ‘Deep End’ is reminiscent of fellow Canadians TRANS-X with its swirling arpeggios, clanky drum machine and dispassionate vocals. Often a weak point in the Minimal Synth sub-genre, Gregor and Naskos’ voices however provide the desired effect without being too wayward. With the stark rhythmic template and dystopian synths on ‘Cold War’, it does exactly what it says on the tin and will please fans of RATIONAL YOUTH as it also features Tracy Howe; incidentally, Dave Rout was a member of the combo between 1998-99.

The octave shift driven ‘Serendipity’ is less satisfying with the vocals drifting off too much, while ‘Damage’ blips away in a percussive collage of sound. At a much less frantic pace, ‘Burning Down’ is musically impressive but is again let down by the vocals; use of Sprechstimme techniques might have turned this one into a winner…

Interestingly, Sprechstimme is adopted on the industrial lite of ‘Hollow Graphic Haze’, with Naskos’ harmony providing an enticing counterpoint, but ‘Driving Force’ is again spoilt by the vocals, left exposed by the minimal musical structure.

Relief comes with the excellent ‘Chances’ which works well as a slice of bouncy synthpop with its dual monotone voices, while the ‘Breathing’ title song could be considered a speedier second cousin.

Closing the main act with ‘Salvation’, it provides a lengthy conclusion to an album that is enjoyable musically, if occasionally less satisfactory vocally.

Taken in smaller doses, the most accomplished recordings on the first part of ‘Breathing’ would have made an excellent EP. But for those who enjoy a slightly more melodic take on Minimal Synth, this collection with its archive recordings bonus will be an essential purchase.

‘Breathing’ is released as a double vinyl LP or download on 2nd February 2018 by Nadanna Records, available from https://nadanna.bandcamp.com/album/breathing



Text by Chi Ming Lai
23rd January 2018

RATIONAL YOUTH Future Past Tense

RATIONAL YOUTH originated in Montreal in 1980 and to this day, the band is hailed as the first proper Canadian synth operation.

The self-confessed lovers of anything KRAFTWERK, Tracy Howe and Bill Vorn quickly became the leaders of the, up to then, fairly unknown electronic scene, opening for OMD in Montreal in only their second professional engagement.

Joined by Kevin Komoda on keyboards, the combo released ‘Cold War Night Life’, which is considered to be the very first Canadian full-on synth opus.

Following few hiatuses and member changes, Howe remained the only original member of Rational Youth, but the growing European interest in the band’s productions resulted, not only in ‘Cold War Night Life’ being reissued in Europe, but also a long touring stint throughout Scandinavia.

Still active, RATIONAL YOUTH released a 10 inch vinyl EP ‘Future Past Tense’ last year, which has now been reissued on CD format, together with bonus tracks, remixed by assorted artist, including the brilliant Swedes JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM and DISKODIKTATOR.

The EPs six tracks journey through the synth perfection of RY’s knowhow, with the KRAFTWERK-esque ‘Here It Comes Again’ and candied ‘Prison Of Flesh’. ‘This Side Of The Border’ opens with futuristic sci-fi electronica, with a depressingly gloomy lyric characteristic to Howe.

‘Western Man’ is an ironic poppy number glossing over serious subjects of war, politics and power, while ‘In The Future’ “we’re imagining the past”; yet another classic in RATIONAL YOUTH’s catalogue.

The closing ‘Unveiling The Secret (The Word Made Flesh)’ is a reincarnated version of PSYCHE’s hit and a shrine to electronic music and its influence worldwide.

A couple of the songs from ‘Future Past Tense’ have found their way into the additional, remixed versions such as ‘Western Man’, skilfully reworked by MX CARISMA into a minimalistic gem and ‘This Side of the Border’ by DECODED FEEDBACK, a rawer, almost EBM version of the track.

‘Here It Comes Again’ is showcased in multiple remixes by MARS TV and DISKODIKTATOR, giving the tune a factory feel. JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM features twice on the remix addendum, firstly on ‘The Face Of Dorian Gray’; a YAZOO blueprinted diamond originally recorded by Robert Marlow and a version of ‘Prison Of Flesh’.

Meanwhile, ‘Dancing To The Fall Of The Berlin Wall’ is an uptempo cover of TECHNIQUES BERLIN commemorating the poignant events leading to the fall of communism in the Eastern Block.

Being a cult enterprise, RATIONAL YOUTH tracks have been recently revamped by artists from UK, Sweden, Australia, Norway, Germany and Canada on ‘Heresy: a Tribute To RATIONAL YOUTH’, curated by the online electronic magazine Cold War Night Life.

Ever popular, even given the comparatively small back catalogue, RATIONAL YOUTH is still very much alive.

‘Future Past Tense’ is available as a CD and download direct from



Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell
21st January 2017