Tag: Throbbing Gristle (Page 3 of 3)

I SPEAK MACHINE Zombies 1985

I SPEAK MACHINE is the audio / visual collaboration between musician Tara Busch and filmmaker Maf Lewis, inspired by Ennio Morricone and Sergio Leone who used to discuss score ideas while scripts were being written for the classic Spaghetti Westerns.

Having released the soundtrack to their horror short ‘The Silence’ in 2015, their latest offering is ‘Zombies 1985’, a musical collaboration with Benge of WRANGLER and JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS fame.

In Busch’s own words “What was meant to be a 3 song EP by Benge & I morphed into an 11 song brain chomping monster”.

The ‘Zombies 1985’ film itself tells the story of greed and self-obsession in Thatcher’s Britain as a businessman drives home, oblivious to the zombie apocalypse going on around him. It features GARY NUMAN’s three daughters Persia, Raven and Echo in cameo roles and was screened with the live score performed by Busch on a UK and US tour with Numan.

Fitting in with the film and album’s title, a conceptual rule of using only “1985 period equipment” was imposed including mixers and effects units. The end result is striking with the station idents, drones, percussive mantras and abstract electronic screeches forming the start of the album, supplemented by apocalyptic mutant pop songs influenced by the likes of CHRIS & COSEY and CABARET VOLTAIRE.

The hazy ‘Demon Days’ is the first of these songs and sounds like early GOLDFRAPP trapped aboard the starship Nostromo with Busch’s unsettling gothique and siren synths penetrating a distinct horror movie vibe.

The mysterious workshop electronica of ‘Blood From A Stone’ also evokes even more overtones of early GOLDFRAPP and while the superb track is perhaps nearer to Busch’s excellent solo ‘Rocket Wife’ EP from 2011, it is far less conventional as the pace picks up in a militaristic fashion with a vocoder harmony in tow.

The pacey ‘Hollywood Power’ is driven by fat sequences, with claustrophobic radio announcer samples and cold string machines capturing the tension as the airwaves get taken over by dark forces.

Meanwhile, the brilliant ‘Shame’ with its cascading synths and noise percussion is equal parts THROBBING GRISTLE, THE HUMAN LEAGUE and again GOLDFRAPP.

The robotic tech house of ‘Gone To LA’ leads to the crystalline arpeggios of ‘Trouble’ where a wholly synthetic reimagining of BRIAN ENO’s ‘No One Receiving’ is given an angel of death twist.

With a stuttering rhythmic passage and swimmy atmospherics, the deep bass driven ‘Petrified Mind’ sees Busch cross HEART with GAZELLE TWIN for the most American sounding track of the collection.

The deadpan ‘New Dawn (1986)’ has that air of finality about it, doomy and reminiscent of JOHN CARPENTER with rich synth tones that are complimented by Busch’s eerie vocal presence of spoken and sung phrases.

‘Zombies 1985’ is a wonderfully mutant mix of vintage synth collages and “Doris Day in outer space”, as JOHN FOXX once described Tara Busch and her delightfully odd electronic pop sound. And with the recent passing of George A Romero, the modern day Zombie film’s Godfather, this I SPEAK MACHINE album also now acts as a fitting tribute to his legacy with movies such as ‘Night of the Living Dead’ and ‘Day Of the Dead’.

One of the best electronic albums of 2017? ‘Zombies 1985’ is definitely a contender and will satisfy the curiosity of those with a penchant for stranger things.

‘Zombies 1985’ is released by Lex Records on 18th August 2017 in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats, available from https://ispeakmachine1.bandcamp.com/album/zombies-1985








Text by Chi Ming Lai
24th July 2017

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

CLOSE TO THE NOISE FLOOR Formative UK Electronica 1975-1984

Two years in the making, ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ is a Cherry Red Records compilation which binds together many of the formative roots of UK electronic music.

It mixes up recognised artists such as THE HUMAN LEAGUE, BLANCMANGE, BEF, OMD and THROBBING GRISTLE side-by-side with those that for a variety of reasons, managed to remain in the shadows of obscurity. This compilation makes a worthy companion piece to the ‘Mute Audio Documents’ set which was released back in 2007 and showcases that it wasn’t just Daniel Miller’s Mute label that was championing experimental synthetic music.

The four disc set lovingly curates an era of musical experimentation of artists initially “enthralled by the mysterious electronics of PINK FLOYD, HAWKWIND and German Kosmiche artists” and then went on to evolve into a scene, which would provide the stepping stone for the chart-conquering likes of DEPECHE MODE and Gary Numan.

In this 60 song collection, there are a few definite gems hidden here; ‘Tight As A Drum’ by Thomas Leer is a sparkling piece of electronic music, with KRAFTWERK-ish percussion and a semi-improvised synth solo winding its way throughout. ‘Holiday Camp’ by BLANCMANGE which made its re-appearance on the reissued ‘Irene and Mavis’ EP still remains an almost OMD-ish charming lo-fi slice of electronica.

‘I Am Your Shadow’ by the distinctly un-rock’n’roll sounding Colin Potter is an out-there electronic reimagining of Dick Dale’s ‘Miserlou’ combined with added lyrics from a stalker’s perspective, whilst ‘D’Ya Think I’m Sexy?’ (yes, that one!) by BRITISH STANDARD UNIT is transformed from its Rod Stewart sleazy / cheesy original into a hilariously dark and twisted piece with deadpan lyrics and menacing electronics.

‘Drugrace’ by THE PASSAGE has some wonderful almost TANGERINE DREAM style synth melodies and ‘(Leaving Me) Now’ by WORLDBACKWARDS is like a long-lost Gary Numan track with female vocals and added sampled dialogue.

Disc three of the set changes direction in that it mainly showcases instrumental or more soundscape-oriented electronic pieces. It is here that sees instrumental synthesists Mark Shreeve (‘Embryo’) and Paul Nagle (‘Yns Scaith’) gaining some long overdue recognition – whilst Jean-Michel Jarre, Klaus Schulze and TANGERINE DREAM dominated this genre, it is easy to forget that there was a thriving underground scene in the UK too.

Although as you would expect from a collection of music of this type, a lot of it is (putting it kindly) “challenging”, or if listened to as a teen “back in the day” would have a probably prompted a parental response of “turn that bloody racket down!”.

‘Sedation Strokes’ by Malcolm Brown on disc one neatly falls into this particular category with a cyclical bassline overlaid with what sounds like a mix of an elephant being abused and a screaming woman thrown in for good measure.

Unsurprisingly, ‘All Day’ by THROBBING GRISTLE falls into this category too and alongside tracks such as ‘In The Army’ by BLAH BLAH BLAH, these are pieces that are unlikely ever to appear on your typical ‘Now That’s What I Call Synthpop’ compilations any day soon!

However, songs which have since been recognised as classics of the genre also feature (‘Being Boiled’ by THE HUMAN LEAGUE being the most obvious), but thankfully the choices are not always predictable, hence ‘Almost’ by OMD, rather than the ubiquitous ‘Messages’ and an alternative mix of ‘A New Kind of Man’ by John Foxx features instead of ‘Underpass’ or ‘No-One Driving’.

The main feeling you are left with after listening to ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ is how the punk DIY ethic of four track portastudio production and affordable synths, with a probable lack of A&R involvement, became the ultimate glass ceiling for these acts being able to break through to a wider audience and any form of commercial success. ‘Back to the Beginning’ by SPÖÖN FAZER would be a typical case in a point, a potential hit with a killer chorus given a bigger budget and some quality control in the lyrical department… “You want babies with curly hair, well come on, dance if you dare”(!).

The ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ package itself also contains over 9,000 words of artist sleeve notes, archive photographs and extracts from Sounds journalist Dave Henderson’s ‘Wild Planet’ overview of the underground / industrial electronic music scene. Although you may find yourself listening to some of these tracks only once, there is plenty here to give you an appreciation of a wildly experimental and creative era, the likes of which we are unlikely to see again…

‘Close To The Noise Floor’ is released by Cherry Red on 29th April 2016

Details of the full tracklisting and how to pre-order at:


Text by Paul Boddy
23rd April 2016

SOFT METALS Live in London

SOFT METALS delightfully impressed with their debut London gig at The Shacklewell Arms in Daltson. 

The LA based duo have felt an affinity with Europe since their ‘The Cold World Melts’ EP released in 2010. Indeed, the title of one the tracks ‘Métaux Mous’ (French for “Soft Metals”) summed up their enthralling angelic mix of Detroit techno fused with minimal European synth forms as influenced by the likes of THROBBING GRISTLE and its offshoot CHRIS & COSEY.

And that’s not forgetting to mention the style of singer Patricia Hall with its nods to fashion icons such as Françoise Hardy. SOFT METALS made further in-roads with their first self-titled full length album in 2011 and its naturally progressive follow-up ‘Lenses’ released last year.

For this European tour, instrumentalist Ian Hicks’ arsenal of vintage synths and drum machines was simplified to feature a more straightforward, modern but still analogue set-up that was obviously easier to carry but no less punchy. Meanwhile, as well as providing her innocent reverbed vocals, Patricia Hall had a Dave Smith Mopho x4 at her disposal instead of her usual Juno60 and added some icy string machine sections to the bright and danceable electronic sketches that came forth.

SOFT METALS’ repeating rhythms, incessant blips and uplifting arpeggios on tracks such as ‘Voices’, ‘Lenses’ and ‘Always’ were powerful and crisp although occasionally, Patricia Hall’s vocals did struggle to be heard.

But this did not hinder her flirtatious enthusiasm as she occasionally ventured toward her studious musical partner in the engine room, clearly enjoying her first time performing in London. ‘Psychic Driving’ and ‘When I Look Into Your Eyes’ allowed for some dreamy breathers in the middle amongst all the frantic action but it was the final part of the set that stole the show.

The wonderful ‘Tell Me’ totally mesmerised the audience into a trance, the detuned bursts providing a arty counterpoint to the dance while the sexy ‘In the Air’ provided a euphoric climax with Ian Hicks controlling the various pulsing layers to provide the dynamic highs and lows for a perfectly hypnotic finish.

But there was more as the good looking couple threw in a brilliantly alluring club friendly version of THROBBING GRISTLE’s ‘Hot On The Heels Of Love’ as a bonus.

With the likes of TRUST, FEATHERS, AUSTRA, GRIMES, NIGHT CLUB, I AM SNOW ANGEL and ELEVEN: ELEVEN proving that North America is currently the proving ground for new, quality electronic pop music, SOFT METALS more than confirmed that they were part of this elite group with this first London performance.

The albums ‘Soft Metals’ and ‘Lenses’ are released by Captured Tracks and available in CD, vinyl and download formats





Text and Photos by Chi Ming Lai
2nd June 2014

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