Tag: The Department

SYNTH WAVE LIVE 3 at Electrowerkz

A truly international line-up gathered for Synth Wave Live 3, with acts from three continents present at London’s Electrowerkz on a rare sunny day in what has been a very rainy June.

Combining synthpop and new wave, hence the “Synth” and “Wave” tagline of the event, it was as if acid house had never happened.

Featuring a range of musicians from original Some Bizzare trailblazers and prog synthpop veterans to various musical descendants of Mute Records, things all came nicely together for a varied but coherent bill…

With a stage set comprising of TV monitors and glowing projections directed by Outland VJ Will Cunningham, THE DEPARTMENT opened Synth Wave Live 3 by performing tracks from the recently released ‘Pressure’ EP, a body of work channelling a midlife angst with observations on narcissism amongst its subject matter.

Following on was the stunning Parisian presence of YS ATLOVE who began her set with the danceable Europop of ‘Back To Yesterday’.

With her alluring stage manner and appealing nouvelle vague disco, she also presented her cover of ‘True Faith’, NEW ORDER’s paradoxically radio friendly tune about narcotic dependency, and prompted the first audience singalong of the day. Meanwhile, ‘You Can’t Fool Me’ revealed her moodier side.

Having been out of music for nearly four years, her return to live performance has without doubt rejuvenated her muse. But while YS ATLOVE may have approached things cautiously, there was not fear of that from CIRCUIT3. Armed with his Behringer MS-101 clone, the Dublin synthpop chap took to the stage to showcase material from his well-received ‘siliconchipsuperstar’ long player and the forthcoming second album ‘The Value Of Everything & The Price Of Nothing’.

Wearing a heavy black leather great coat inspired by Midge Ure at Live Aid, Peter Fitzpatrick’s songs like the dreamy ‘Ghost Machine’ and frantic ‘Hundred Hands’ donned their hat to HOWARD JONES and HEAVEN 17 respectively.

Meanwhile an affectionate reinterpretation of THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Being Boiled’ affirming CIRCUIT3’s spiritual connection to Synth Britannia.

Meanwhile, new tunes like ‘Breaking Point’ offered some political reflection with accompanying footage of a dancing policeman highlighting the absurdity of the current divisive stand-offs.

JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM is possibly Europe’s greatest synthpop secret; best known as a member of DAILY PLANET, the Swede however has been making a fine impression with his escapist solo work, as with the delightfully ERASURE-ish ‘Running Away From Myself’. But there were also more weightier concerns like the environment on ‘Like Before’ and the madness of materialism on Utopia’. He then naturally ventured ‘Into The 80s’ with a synthetic cover of a 1979 song by Canadian rocker Nick Gilder.

Although Baeckström is unashamedly candid about the influence of Vince Clarke on his music, another lesser known facet to his sound is that of prog synth trio WHITE DOOR who released their only album ‘Windows’ in 1983.

Having covered ‘School Days’ and ‘Jerusalem’ as B-sides, Baeckström invited Mac Austin, John Davies and Harry Davies to join him on stage for the first live rendition of those songs featuring the original band for 35 years.

Austin was in good voice although he was slightly overwhelmed as he came in a bar early for the chorus of ‘Jerusalem’. But this slight slip just brought smiles from all concerned on this highly emotional occasion. New material from WHITE DOOR featuring Baeckström as a new member is on the way with a promise of more live performances.

The wild cards of Synth Wave Live 3 and the youngsters of the event, synth assisted post-punk trio CENTRE EXCUSE offered some exuberant energy to proceedings.

Comprising of Teddy Lewis, Alex Rush and James Caine, their sound can be best exemplified by the single ‘Let It Ride’ which combines THE CURE and guitar driven NEW ORDER with elements of Britpop and occasional synthesizer textures.

A tight and engaging live band, their good looks certainly won’t do them any harm, with front man Lewis particularly noticeable thanks to his resemblance to Joseph Gordon-Levitt when he was in ‘3rd Rock From The Sun’. The joyous ‘Thank You (For Moving Me Up)’ had the bonus of some cascading voice-derived samples and with ‘Moon, Sky & Stars’ expressing their interest in synthesizers, it will be interesting to see if CENTRE EXCUSE do a MUMM-RA and morph into something like MIRRORS!

Hailed within the Synthwave community, the charming Italian EUGENE gave a superbly energetic performance with a passion and physicality that was the antithesis of the static laptop boys associated with that scene.

With his love of European synthpop, there were tunes, vocoders and uptempo rhythms too, particularly during the superb ‘HR Diagram’ with its inherent danceability and the Casiotone driven ‘Promenade’.

LISBON KID’s Danny De Matos joined EUGENE to reprise their collaboration ‘Waiting For You’ before the Portuguese singer / songwriter outlined an important message about suicide awareness via a cover of RADIOHEAD’s ‘No Surprises’ which would have upset purists with its electronic rearrangement, but was glorious none the less. Ending with the catchy Italo flavoured pulse of ‘Radiowave’, it was an impressive performance by Signore Valente.

Like WHITE DOOR, Mansfield quartet B-MOVIE deserved greater recognition for their work back in the day, having achieved critcal acclaim and BBC Radio1 airplay. Their appearance on the ‘Some Bizzare Album’ with SOFT CELL, DEPECHE MODE, THE THE and BLANCMANGE had earmarked them for great things, but wider fame as a band was to pass by Steve Hovington, Rick Holliday, Graham Boffey and Paul Statham.

However quality numbers like ‘Polar Opposites’, ‘Moles’ and ‘Institution Walls’ performed tonight only highlighted how their music has stood the test of time.

There was a slight technical glitch during ‘Welcome To The Shrink’, but things got back on track with the synthetic chill of ‘Stalingrad’, a single as good as anything B-MOVIE did in their creative prime when they were considered to have more potential than SOFT CELL.

Of course, the songs that fulfilled that promise ‘Nowhere Girl’ and ‘Remembrance Day’ closed a highly enjoyable set and while commercial success may have eluded B-MOVIE, the fact that they are here still making great new music is a blessing and a bonus.

SOL FLARE have changed considerably since their charismatic vocalist Jenny Jones departed in 2018. But since then, Australian musician Dominic Wood has soldiered on with the name as a solo act with primarily instrumental material and the occasional song with guest vocalists. Not far from a DJ set with a neon tinged backdrop, the club friendly vibe kept things warm.

Closing proceedings were LUCKY+LOVE from sunny Los Angeles. With a new album ‘Transitions’ just unleashed for public consumption, April Love’s vocal enthusiasm could not be doubted on during their brooding set.

The duo’s indie darkwave soundtrack was a fitting backdrop to finish Synth Wave Live 3 as Electrowerkz transformed itself into the long standing resident Goth club night Slimelight and the regular clientele drifted in.

With a wide age range of acts celebrating the art of synthpop and new wave, Synth Wave Live 3 entertained with its multi-generational line-up. What stood out most throughout the event were the songs being performed, whether as originals or cover versions from the Synth Britannia era or as brand new work influenced by that amazingly creative period of crafted synthetic material.

As JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM himself sang in ‘Synth Is Not Dead’, his own rather wonderful tribute to the electronic pop form: “Some might say that it’s an old forgotten relic from the past. But I claim it is the most inspiring music to be heard…”

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK really couldn’t have put it much better itself ??

With thanks to Rob Green











Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Simon Helm
27th June 2019


London-based synth combo THE DEPARTMENT have a penchant for classic electro and new wave.

Led by Rob Green, he is backed ‘Some Bizzare Album’ veteran Cliff Chapman and Magnus Lindstrom, a member of MR JONES MACHINE who feature Jarmo Ollila from  DAILY PLANET among their number while live, there is the brand new addition of Pete Dolan.

The first long form release since 2015’s ‘Alpha’, their only album to date, the ‘Pressure’ EP is not exactly a cheerful affair with Green channelling his life experiences over the past four years, but it is danceable and synthy.

Clocking it at just over two and a half minutes, the Phillip Larkin inspired ‘This Be The Verse’ sees Green snarling “they f*ck you up your mum and dad… don’t have any kids yourself” over cinematic JX8P from Chapman; his frustration also makes its presence felt on ‘About A Boy’, a pulsing synthpop number wallowing in the lost innocence of youth

Meanwhile with some heavily fraught vocal expression, the dystopian anxiety of ‘Pressure’ vibes electronic darkness with Lindström hauntingly arpeggiating with his Waldorf Blofeld. ‘Throne Of Nothing’ throws a curveball having been written on guitar and documents the end of a friendship; it’s all set to the raincoated spectre of THE CURE.

The ‘Pressure’ EP sees THE DEPARTMENT imagining an alternate universe where acid house never happened and morbid gothic angst remained very much within the mainstream, along with pop music using synthesizers.

Sitting in nicely alongside darker gloomier electronic acts like BOY HARSHER, there’s a gloomy intensity which is fittingly reflective of the times, although this might not be everyone’s pint of snakebite…

‘Pressure’ is released by Hard Cell Records, available via the usual digital outlets and direct from https://hardcellrecords.bandcamp.com/album/pressure-ep

THE DEPARTMENT play Synth Wave Live 3 at Electrowerkz in London on Saturday 22nd June 2019, the line-up also includes B-MOVIE, JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM, EUGENE, LUCKYANDLOVE, CENTRE EXCUSE, YS ATLOV, LOW SEA + SOL FLARE – tickets available from https://www.wegottickets.com/event/461473




Text by Chi Ming Lai
18th May 2019

A Short Conversation with THE DEPARTMENT

With a penchant for classic electro and new wave, THE DEPARTMENT are led by Rob Green, who is ably backed by keyboardists Magnus Lindstrom, Cliff Chapman and brand new addition Pete Dolan.

While their only album so far ‘Alpha’ showed some flashes of promise, their newer material points to a more cinematic presence as with the Phillip Larkin inspired ‘This Be The Verse’.

Enthused on-stage and off, Rob Green took time out from a mixing session in the studio and chatted from THE DEPARTMENT…

THE DEPARTMENT have expanded the live line-up to three synth players now… so you just can get enough?

Hahaha! ouché!!! That wasn’t on purpose but I think the 3 synths will give us a bigger sound. Pete Dolan who is very talented on the keys joins us on his Prophet 12, along with the present line-up of Cliff Chapman on Roland JX8P and Magnus Lindstrom from Sweden’s MR JONES MACHINE on Waldorf Blofeld.

How is the next release coming along? What form is it likely to take? EP or album etc?

The songs are there, it’s just a question of time!!! We’ll get the EP out before summer as soon as I get some spare time away from mixing records for other artists, which is becoming one of the main strings on my bow.

Now you’ve had some distance, how do you look back on the debut album ‘Alpha’ and what it achieved?

I’m proud of that album, and we’ve now sold almost all of the CDs that were pressed. It was a limited edition of only 300 copies and there’s only 15 left. One of the tracks from the record was played on Radio 6 Music which gave us a better reach earlier on and got people down to our first gigs, though I would have hoped for more national radio play TBH.

I’m pleased that the record connected with people though, I’ve had some lovely comments about what the songs mean to people. ‘Alpha’ was exactly what I needed to do at the time as I’d always wanted to make an album about my life experiences.

The term ‘synthwave’ is getting bounded about a lot, so what you see as its definition?

Synthwave as a term has been coined since the 1980s to describe underground synthpop with a new wave feel to it. I figured that as the word ‘pop’ has a stigma attached to it for some, why not dig up the term synthwave, although the term has been hijacked in recent years to describe modern electro inspired by 80s movies.

What are the newer artists who you see as fitting in with this philosophy and what do you hear as being special about them?

Artists like THE MIDNIGHT, NEON LINES and THE FRIXION, have a verve that stems from the 80s in a way, but in fact is quite modern – it’s almost like a continuation from the work that was going on back in the 80s, in an alternate universe where acid house never happened. That’s quite interesting and cool no?

THE DEPARTMENT will be joining NINA at the Retro Future Festival II taking place at London’s 229 in July. Do you feel any affinity with the organisers Outland and what they’re doing?

I love the fact that the Retro Future Festival and Outland guys are doing such a great passionate job and have upped the game. The more the merrier as far as I’m concerned. More events and better events are only beneficial for this movement and I’m not at all competitive with them. We all work together for the good of the scene, as it should be!

How do you see live music within the electronic field at the moment and that perceived void between live bands and DJs?

I think some electronic artists could maybe up their game live. Personally I don’t see standing behind a laptop as being a true live gig but hey, this is the 21st century!

As a DEPECHE MODE fan and having met Dave Gahan, what’s your take on the varied reactions to the ‘Spirit’ album and the ‘Global Spirit’ tour?

No comment!!!

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Rob Green

‘Alpha’ is still available as a CD or download from Hard Cell Records at https://hardcellrecords.bandcamp.com/album/alpha




Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
4th February 2018, updated 9th February 2018

SYNTH CLUB Live at Electrowerkz

Electronic music comes in many shapes and sizes. Whether synthpop, dark wave, ambient, dance or industrial, some of it is good and some of it is most definitely bad…

So it’s important to differentiate and Synth Club did just that at Electrowerkz in the heart of London. Centred around a formal album launch of ‘Dichromat’, the excellent third album by Hungary’s BLACK NAIL CABARET, the evening was bolstered by an impressive line-up..

THE DEPARTMENT took the opportunity to premiere some new songs, as well as playing fan favourites like ‘Glass Houses’ and ‘Slow Down’. While their only album so far ‘Alpha’ showed some flashes of promise, their newer material points towards a strengthened sound with a more cinematic presence. ‘This Be The Verse’ inspired by the Phillip Larkin poem and ‘About A Boy’ both benefited from Rob Green’s enthused on-stage delivery.

Meanwhile, new pairing THE FRIXION are an interesting proposition. Originally a side project of MASSIVE EGO’s Lloyd Price, this duo featuring the rich and stellar vocals of Gene Serene could not be more different to the alternative eyeliner punk combo signed to Out Of Line. For their first ever live performance, they began with ‘Don’t Think About It 2 Much’, a fine introduction to their dark but accessible electronic pop.

This was followed by the danceable ‘If U Ever Wonder’ which captured a feeling of space within Price’s inventive arrangements. As a tribute to the passing of The Purple One, Serene introduced her touching take on ‘Under The Cherry Moon’.

And with the recent single ‘From Dusk ‘Til Dawn’, THE FRIXION exerted their brooding musicality before finishing with ‘Heartbroke Disco’ and leaving the Electrowerkz crowd wanting more.

After all the darkness, some light was let in courtesy of KNIGHT$, the new vehicle for former SCARLET SOHO frontman James Knights. It’s been an interesting time for Londoner, with him also acting as lead vocalist for the current incarnation of cult German electropopsters BOYTRONIC. Shiny pop is very much the ethos of KNIGHT$, but underneath that skin are hidden layers as proven by the opening song ‘Uncivilized’, originally recorded by Canadian darkwave trailblazers PSYCHE.

Meanwhile ‘Cards On The Table’ came over like a poptastic IAMX. James Knights is a natural crowd pleaser and the loose electro-funk of ‘What’s Your Poison?’ was particularly well-received.

A rendition of SCARLET SOHO favourite ‘Gigolo’ was a reminder of a song that would have been a hit 30 years ago, while a straightforward cover of a hit from almost 30 years ago in the shape of PET SHOP BOYS ‘Heart’ completed a half hour of innocent synth assisted fun.

Since BLACK NAIL CABARET’s last London gig in 2015, the duo’s line-up has changed with Krisztian Arvai taking over the keyboardist’s role from Sophie Tarr. But charismatic front woman Emese Arvai-Illes remains, with her hybrid of Siouxsie Sioux and Billie Ray Martin being the key that has drawn in admirers from around Europe following support slots for CAMOUFLAGE and COVENANT.

Beginning with ‘Sister Sister’ from ‘Dichromat’, Illes-Arvai adorned a chainmail veil and noir leather in a live presentation that befitted the BLACK NAIL CABARET name.

‘(The Critical Cult of) Dora’ added some gothic R’n’B to proceedings while ‘We Like To Suffer’ and ‘Therapy’ highlighted the strength in depth of their third album. However, it was ‘Satisfaction’ that drew the biggest cheers of the set while a new uptempo reboot of early single ‘Veronica’ concluded a fine performance.

Like BLACK NAIL CABARET, VILE ELECTRODES haven’t played live in London since late 2015. The intervening period has seen Anais Neon and Martin Swan release their second long player, the wonderfully bleak ‘In The Shadows Of Monuments’ which featured a ghostly cameo from a certain George Andrew McCluskey on the epic closer ‘The Vanished Past’.

Bringing the desolate mood into a concert setting, the duo opened with the almost skeletal ‘Like Satellites’ before thundering into the sophomore album’s percussive title track, complete with sharp cuts of stroboscopic lighting.

To lighten things up slightly, the more accessible ‘Empire Of Wolves’ allowed Swan to put his new Behringer DeepMind 12 through its paces.

Meanwhile, Neon stuck with her trusty Roland RS09 and used its eerie string preset to great effect on what has become VILE ELECTRODES signature song ‘Proximity’. ‘The Red Bead’, ‘As We Turn To Rust’ and ‘Incision’ from ‘In The Shadows Of Monuments’ all ensured things remained enjoyably artful and stoic.

This edition of Synth Club was a fabulous evening of electronic entertainment that gathered some of the best independent synth acts from Europe; while all different, they successfully managed to complement each other.

With the warm fuzzy extended family feeling it generated, it was proof that Ohm is indeed where the ARP is…

The Electricity Club gives its synthtastic thanks to Rob Green and Pete Dolan






Text and photos by Chi Ming Lai
7th May 2017