New York City-based darklings R. MISSING are fronted by Sharon Shy, a vocalist with an elegant Jane Birkin-like presence while the studious Toppy Frost does the music.
Shy has been quoted as saying “While most people seem to bond over things they both like, I think it was a very long shared list of dislikes that kept our initial conversations going”.
Previously going under the moniker of THE ROPES with gloomy indie fare such as ‘Love Is A Chain Store’, R. MISSING are much more electronic if no less enigmatic, exploring more shadowy forms akin to other North American acts such as CHROMATICS, TR/ST and NATION OF LANGUAGE.
Their debut six track mini-album ‘Unsummering’ came out in 2017 on the French label Talitres with the doom disco of ‘Kelly Was a Philistine’ being particularly intriguing, although the pair’s post-punk tendencies were still very much looming the brooding title track. The 2020 singles ‘Suzywhereabout’ and ‘Placeholder For The Night’ signalled airier developments in their increasingly synthier sound.
But on signing to Sugarcane Recordings who have been a North American home to artists such as SIN COS TAN, GUSGUS, PROCESSORY, GAZELLE TWIN, FRAGILE SELF and The KVB, the wonderful new single ‘Crimeless’ is R. MISSING’s most electronic pop noir statement yet, like CHROMATICS carefully reconfigured for the dancefloor with Sharon Shy presenting a whispery singing style that could easily be mistaken for Ruth Radelet.
Accompanied by a video made by Nadia Hironaka and Matthew Suib, it is a variation on their 2019 installation ‘Vanitas MMXVlll’. Using still life like half-eaten fruit, broken glass, snapped candles, wilting flowers and skulls falling upwards in slo-mo, its original concept was “to reflect our current cultural moment, where formerly stable institutions that once embodied shared values are undermined while pride and avarice have been elevated to virtues”.
As if to reinforce R. MISSING’s fully focussed electronic direction, Icelandic label mates GUSGUS provide two tight dance remixes for ‘Crimeless’ although THE KVB contribute something with more of a psychedelic shoegaze demeanour that also acts a reflection of Shy and Frost’s roots. It could all get very interesting…
‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ was the East German Secret Police classification given to Berlin-based producer and remixer Mark Reeder in his STASI file.
On Mayday 1982, Mark Reeder paid a visit to the DDR part of the then-walled city and while he was taking photos of the grand parade, he was arrested by the STASI and taken in for interrogation.
He had been under surveillance as they suspected he was working for M16 and about to assassinate their esteemed leader Erich Honecker… either that or he going to corrupt the youth of East Germany with pop music!
Indeed, it was the latter; but for those who received Reeder’s smuggled-in cassettes of JOY DIVISION, NEW ORDER and the like, it was more like an education as fictionally documented when Mark Reeder lookalike Martin Rauch, HVA agent codename Kolibri, in ‘Deutschland 83’ lit up with joy on hearing DURAN DURAN for the first time on that prize symbol of capitalism, the Sony Walkman!
During those tense Cold War times of East versus West and The Iron Curtain, all the eternally optimistic Reeder wanted to do was to unite people through music. So when The Berlin Wall fell at the end of 1989 and the imminent threat of nuclear holocaust was lifted with the promise of a better, more open-minded world, he did his bit by establishing Masterminded For Success (MFS), a dance label that achieved great success across the European club scene.
Fast forward to the 21st century, and the world is struggling with narcissists despite a pandemic crisis, driven into conflict by power, corruption and lies by that age-old management and control technique of “divide and rule” which most citizens understand but ultimately fail to actually recognise.
A recognised internationalist, Mark Reeder is doing his bit again by issuing a double album named after his STASI classification of productions and remixes made by himself and his engineer Micha Adam.
Celebrating his cross-border artistic ethos, where the songs have been restyled, he has added guitar, bass and synths while he has also lent his spoken voice to his own solo productions.
‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ is bookended by Fifi Rong who Reeder first met at the Berlin Kraftwerk in 2016 when she was singing in concert with Swiss trailblazers YELLO. The first track ‘Figure of 8’ is a magical new collaboration between the two with a cinematic backdrop of sparse piano and glistening sequences over which the exquisite Chinese songstress adds her distinctive air of mystery to a more metronomic rhythm construction than perhaps heard on her own work.
Closing the collection, Reeder offers ‘The Present is a Gift Mix’ of Fifi Rong’s 2016 single ‘Future Never Comes’, an eerie and very Berlin-inspired concoction where Chinese musical theatre meets electro Weimer Cabaret via Synth Britannia for a haunting slice of initial after brilliance
YELLO themselves appear via the superb ‘Wet&Hard Remix’ of ‘Vicious Games’; tightened up and given a modern treatment without losing the essence of the 1985 original with the sexy vocals of Rush Winters given the spotlight.
The original ‘Vicious Games’ was an intricately woven patchwork of samples and Reeder even amusingly drops in an ‘I Feel Love’ sequence during the middle eight.
‘United’ by QUEEN OF HEARTS was one of the outstanding highlights from Reeder’s previous 2017 collection ‘Mauerstadt’ and making a welcome appearance on ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ is the track that precipitated his union with frontfrau Liz Morphew; dressed with cooing vampishness, the ‘Electrically Excited Remix’ of ‘Neon’ is nearly 8 minutes of gently energetic Schaffel.
Both having also appeared on ‘Mauerstadt’, MFU return with a ‘Brexile Remix’ of ‘Law’ that is a blend of distorted guitars, synth pulses and post-punk Mancunian vocals while THE KVB have ‘White Walls’ remodelled as a ‘Stoner Remix’, which is actually a fairly good description despite the frantic arpeggio and claustrophobic string machine.
China’s STOLEN are considered by Reeder to be the most exciting band he’s seen since NEW ORDER and his ‘Sinner Remix’ of ‘The Loop Sin’ is another of his classic productions; full of heavy propulsive grit and live textural enhancements, this denser but more compact version applies an extra bounce on the bass and highlights why the Chengdu six-piece were chosen to open for NEW ORDER on their European tour on 2019.
Of course, Reeder is known for his close friendship with NEW ORDER and his remixes of ‘Singularity’, ‘Academic’ and ‘The Game’ were notable for improving on their initial guises from the ‘Music Complete’ album. His driving ‘Cheeky Devil Remix’ of their most recent single ‘Be A Rebel’ presents a more rigid staccato treatment before tripleting in the chorus while adding guitars that were actually absent from the original mix.
One notable new inclusion to the Mark Reeder portfolio is BIRMINGHAM ELECTRIC led by Dutch-based American Andrew Evans whose previous singles ‘Light of the World’ and ‘Moving Target’ featured long-time OMD drummer Malcolm Holmes; The ‘Crying Remix’ of ‘How Do We End Up Here?’ is a rather good vibey tune with vocoder treatments like a disco lento AIR.
‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ is not just about remixes and Reeder gets to fly solo as well. The percussive ‘21st Century Girl’ sees him quoting from cult TV show ‘The Prisoner’ as his soundtrack penetrates with its almost industrial demeanour, augmented by a guitar lick reprise from his own Save Yourself Mix of ‘Manifesto’ by BLANK & JONES and a cheeky burst of T-REX’s ‘20th Century Boy’,
Described by Reeder himself as “a Wet&Hard trilogy”, the three part ‘You Can Touch Me’ starts in a moody mantric fashion with groans and synth sweeps, before pacing up with a growly bass. It all seems a bit superfluous at first but it sets the scene and gets progressively hypnotic, segueing into a propulsive rumbling section that adds more menace to an already sinister track. As Reeder impassively asks “do you want to touch me?”, it eventually slows down after a frenzy of frenetic rhythmic clatter. This is fine provocative dance music if a little too long, but when it hits the spot during the majority of its 13 minutes, it is mighty!
‘Children Of Nature’ was Reeder’s fine 2019 long player with Alanas Chosnau, best known as one of Lithuania’s biggest singing stars with his penchant for DEPECHE MODE. In an ‘Unpredictable Remix’, ‘Love Of My Life’ mutates into something more minimal but harder compared with the original mix. Meanwhile, in collaboration with Mr Sam and Rani Kamal, ‘I Surrender’ is soulful pop given a shadier new wave treatment with the incongruity adding more tension.
‘Dead Souls’ from Hong Kong domiciled Mexicans DEER Mx is not the JOY DIVISION song but a fit of snarling aggression and strident gothic drama to electronic screeches not heard since ‘Crazy Horses’ by THE OSMONDS. Ending with sampled blasts of mariachi trumpets in the background, it is delightfully odd. However, the heavy deadpan resonance of LIARS and ‘Staring at Zero’ will not be for everybody although their eccentric frontman Angus Andrew has declared Reeder’s ‘Two Thousand Yards Stare Remix’ as his favourite of his own work.
Already rock focussed, ‘Coked Up Biker Anthem’ from New York-based Zachery Allan Starkey sees Reeder realise some of his mad axeman fantasies with his guitar enhanced ‘Leather & Beers’ rework by taking the dystopian metal original into even more speedy Alice Cooper territory. But with an icy build, CEMETERY SEX FAIRIES’ ‘Tanz Allein’ sees a move away from Reeder’s usual four-on-the-floor template and maintains an enjoyably creepy quality with the scary German Grimm tales vocal.
While many purchasers will be NEW ORDER and YELLO completists after the exclusive remixes on ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’, this Mark Reeder collector has so much more to offer. As well for presenting his sometimes lesser-lauded abilities as a composer, it also provides a platform for emergent acts from all around the world to be discovered.
Despite being regarded as ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’, through music Mark Reeder has unified more people than any politician has. In this modern online environment, the influence of music is more international than ever. It makes people connect, love, dance, escape and protest. This diverse collection does that, and isn’t that what music is all about.
BOY HARSHER formed through an urgent need to produce and consume, so by the winter of 2014, Jae Matthews and Augustus Muller started to experiment with sound, video and text.
With just a few synths, a drum machine and a laptop, their second full length album ‘Careful’ was conceived in Massachusetts, with the duo utilising their minimal electronics and intense demeanour to create a compelling narrative of a deteriorating family and a need to escape from it, expressing an understanding of love and loss, fear and joy, tenderness and pain.
An introductory mood piece ‘Keep Driving’ opens ‘Careful’ with a building percussive mantra, but the stark drama of ‘Face The Fire’ is eerie and unsettling while also accessible, with driving drum machine rhythms and cosmic synth hooks all present and correct, despite Jae Matthews’ expressions of discomfort. Meanwhile, ‘Fate’ is a brilliant sister song to ‘Face The Fire’, coming over like ADULT. meeting THE KVB with hints of SAVAGES too.
‘LA’ features a wonderfully incongruous mix of icy string synths and orchestra stabs for an enticing display of mutant electronic disco, but brilliantly sinister thanks to its varied use of effects and Matthews’ mournful demeanour. Things get even more urgent and frantic with the pulsating ‘Come Closer’, its rhythmically threatening backbone and fraught tension providing an uneasy but thrilling listen!
What is captivating about ‘Careful’ is the fabulous range of synthetic sounds on display, as exemplified by ‘The Look You Gave (Jerry)’, a perfect number for those seeking substance craving a darker edge to their synthpop… and yes BOY HARSHER are pop because they do have tunes, even if they dress them up in an appealingly unconventional and morose manner.
‘Tears’ follows the pattern laid down of ‘Careful’, strangely chunky and danceable with Matthews all deviantly alluring, while the more abstract ‘Crush’ takes proceedings down in a suitably claustrophobic manner. A steadfast hypnotism appropriately directs ‘Lost’ towards the final straight before a short cerebral conceptual piece for the closing title track.
With ‘Careful’, BOY HARSHER have refined their template without losing any of their unsettling edge. This is the first really great album of 2019, with the six song sequence from ‘Face The Fire’ to ‘Tears’ particularly outstanding.
With that, the final third does suffer slightly in comparison but this does not detract from what an excellent work this is, a fine musical document confronting personal demons and traumas.
Following up the moody cosmic synthpop of ‘Face The Fire’, Massachusetts duo BOY HARSHER have issued a second single ‘Fate’ from their forthcoming sophomore album ‘Careful’.
Coming over a bit like ADULT. meeting THE KVB, the pairing of Jae Matthews and Augustus Muller first started working together in 2014 through a need to produce and consume, experimenting with sound, video and text.
Their first full length album ‘Yr Body is Nothing’ came out in 2016 and featured the gloomy single ‘Last Days’. ‘Fate’ is comparatively brighter but no less introspective, with a spiky electronic hook and hypnotic staccato bass line laced with Matthews’ hazy nonchalant vocals and layers of disconcerting synthesizers.
“This song is about how there’s no amount of running that will prevent you from your life” the duo explain, “You are raw and beat-down, yet you will continue to behave the same way – Fate is your own trouble, a magnetic force that’s stuck on you forever.”
With suitably blood curdling horror video directed by Bryan M. Ferguson recalling the Scarlet Johansson art horror flick ‘Under The Skin’ but without the nudity, it too was also filmed in Glasgow, the city where you go out for a laugh but leave in stiches…
Out in February 2019 via their own Nude Club Records imprint, ‘Careful’ is said to see BOY HARSHER “use the medium of minimal electronics to create a compelling narrative of a deteriorating family and the reaction to run away from it”.
Embroiled in Matthews and Muller’s emotional surroundings and potentially self-destructive creative tension, it attempts “to detail the enveloping trauma of loss combined with the fantasy of escape”.
‘Fate’ is from upcoming album ‘Careful’ released on 1st February 2019 by Nude Club Records
BOY HARSHER play the following UK dates in 2019: Bristol Lanes (24th February), Leeds Wharf Chambers (25th February), Manchester Soup Kitchen (26th February), London Heaven (27th February)
The follow-up to 2016’s ‘Of Desire’, ‘Only Now Forever’ develops on the brooding post-punk sound of THE KVB.
Getting together in 2011, the British audio-visual duo of multi-instrumentalist Nicholas Wood and keyboardist Kat Day actually relocated to write and record in Berlin, adding a more independently-minded edge to their reverb coated sound in the process.
If NEW ORDER had been weaned on shoegaze, they might have sounded like THE KVB.
Signed to Geoff Barrow’s Invada Records, with previous collaborators such as Joe Dilworth and Mark Reeder on their curriculum vitae and a prestigious invitation to perform at Robert Smith’s meltdown Festival 2018, THE KVB certainly have their esteemed admirers.
The excellent uptempo motorik of ‘Above Us’ is a good start, accessible yet suitably mysterious and coming over like LADYTRON fronted by Kevin Shields. Under layers of string synths and attached to a solid bass rumble, ‘On My Skin’ has a good chorus while with more psychedelic overtones, ‘Only Now Forever’ recalls early ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN when they used the odd smidgen of synth and drum machine.
The unsurprisingly gothic ‘Afterglow’ looms with heavy beats and penetrating textural six string as Wood announces “here comes the night” but with ‘Violet Noon’, there’s a more steadfast nocturnal mood, like THE JESUS & THE MARY CHAIN with more washes of atmospheric synths, as if the Reid brothers had been dropped onto the set of ‘Twin Peaks’.
The guitars take more of a backseat on ‘Into Life’ while the spectre of CABARET VOLTAIRE circa ‘The Crackdown’ make its presence felt via a hypnotic bass sequence and assorted sweeps; it also sees Day put her breathy allure to the forefront on this arty slice of moody electro-disco
‘Live In Fiction’ recalls THE CURE meeting THE SOFT MOON but is less reliant on wall of sound intensity, but the wonderful clubby vibe of ‘Tides’ offers some vibrant electricity with a combination of sequences and synths for possibly the album’s highlight.
The 6/8 percussive drift of ‘No Shelter’ looms away but cut from a similar cloth to ‘Above Us’, ‘Cerulean’ does have a slightly more frantic edge, Woods’ vocals harmonised by Day’s angelic tones although the track does seem to disappear into a cacophony of haze.
More refined and sharper than previous offerings, the melodic emphasis on ‘Only Now Forever’ has paid off and there is plenty of crossover appeal for those who like a bit of synth and a dash of alternative rock. Some might find THE KVB’s overall template old-fashioned, but being uninhibited in their willingness to mix technology with live instruments and a bit of darkness like in days of yore can only be a good thing.
‘Only Now Forever’ is released by Invada Records on CD, double vinyl LP and digital formats
THE KVB 2018 live dates include:
Glasgow Hug and Pint (24 October), Newcastle Think Tank (25th October), Manchester Yes (26th October), Leeds Hyde Park Book Club (27th October), York The Crescent (28th October), Birmingham Hare & Hounds (29th October), Brighton Green Door Store (30th October), London Corsica Studios (31st October), Bristol Rough Trade (1st November), Roubaix La Cave Aux Poetes (2nd November), Nantes Soy Festival (3rd November), Le Havre McDaids (4th November), Amsterdam Sugarfactory (6th November), Cologne Bumann & Sohn (7th November), Gent Charlatan (8th November), Hamburg Hafenklang (9th November), Copenhagen Stengade (10th November), Stockholm Debaser Strand (11th November), Oslo Revolver (12th November), Berlin Lido (14th November), Poznan Meskalina (15 November), Warsaw Poglos (16th November), Prague Café v Lese (17th November), Brno Kabinet MUZ (18th November), Budapest Dürer Kert (20th November), Vienna Fluc (21 November), Munich Kranhalle (23rd November), Yverdon-les-Bains L’Amalgame (24th November), Zurich La Mascotte (25th November), Rome Largo Venue (27th November), Bologna Locomotivclub (28th November), Barcelona SiDecemberar (30th November), Madrid Moby Dick (1 December), Jurançon La Ferronnerie (3rd December), La Rochelle La Sirene (4th December), Bordeaux Iboat (5th December), Paris Le Badaboum (6th December), Amiens La Lune des Pirates (7th December)