Tag: TR/ST (Page 1 of 2)

25 TRACKS FROM THE CIRCUIT BOARDS OF CANADA

Like Sweden, as a country with a relatively small population in relation to land mass, Canada punches above its weight when it comes to its contribution to popular music.

Canada’s internationally famous artists may be Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Céline Dion, Bryan Adams and Alanis Morisette, but there have been so many more that have been far more interesting.

Canada has been a significant presence in synth from the post-punk pioneers such as NASH THE SLASH and CERAMIC HELLO, to international MTV-era hits from the likes of MEN WITHOUT HATS, TRANS-X and KON KAN, up to the present day via the mainstream profile of GRIMES, PURITY RING and CRYSTAL CASTLES. Meanwhile, it also has developed into a hub for the burgeoning sub-genre of Synthwave thanks to FM ATTACK and DANA JEAN PHOENIX.

Like in the UK with the availability of affordability of technology from Japan in particular, Canadian youngsters were taking up synthesizers. And while several were to attain cult status like RATIONAL YOUTH and PYSCHE, some such as the Winnipeg trio EUROPA were destined just to have their moment on domestic television without an official release to their name.

Today, the tradition continues with artists such as DEADMAU5, TIGA, KOISHII & HUSH, LOLA DUTRONIC and TECHNIQUES BERLIN covering a wide spectrum of electronic pop and dance music.

So here is ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s list of 25 tracks from the circuit boards of Canada, subject to a limit of one per artist moniker, presented in yearly and then alphabetical order. But notice a void in between 1990 to 2000 when it could be said that the likes of Dion, Adams and Morisette dominated the airwaves of the globe.

However, the number of electronic acts who have appeared in the 21st Century have more than made up for things.


CERAMIC HELLO Climatic Nouveaux (1980)

CERAMIC HELLO were a duo who hailed from Burlington in Ontario, formed by Brett Wickens in 1980 after leaving post-punk band SPOONS. He teamed up with Roger Humphreys who added a more classical bent to their minimal synth in the vein of JOHN FOXX and FAD GADGET. Their first release was the detached cold wave paranoia of ‘Climatic Nouveaux’. Wickens later moved to England to join Peter Saville Associates, making a major contribution to the artwork for OMD’s ‘Architecture & Morality’.

Available on the album ‘The Absence Of A Canary’ via Suction Records

https://www.studiobrettwickens.com/


NASH THE SLASH Swing Shift – Flexi Version (1981)

NASH THE SLASH opened for GARY NUMAN and was signed to Dindisc Records. It was during this period that he had his highest mainstream media profile with features in ‘Smash Hits’; it was with the pop mag that his best known recording in the UK came via a blue flexi-disc with an early self-produced stripped down version of ‘Swing-Shift’ sitting next to his label mates OMD’s live rendition of ‘Pretending To See The Future’. He sadly passed away in 2014.

Available as a bonus track on the album ‘Children Of The Night’ via Artoffact Records ‎

http://nashtheslash.com/


MEN WITHOUT HATS The Safety Dance (1982)

Hailing from Montreal, ‘The Safety Dance’ was written by MEN WITHOUT HATS lead singer Ivan Doroschuk after he had been kicked out of a club for pogoing, thus it was effectively a protest song against conformity, a call for freedom of expression. it had been misinterpreted as a being about safe sex and as an anti-nuclear protest song. The bouncy almost medieval feel combined with Doroschuk’s vocals like a less doomy Andrew Eldritch to produce a huge international hit.

Available on the album ‘Rhythm Of Youth’ via Bulldog Brothers ‎

http://safetydance.com/


SPOONS Arias & Symphonies (1982)

Hailing from Toronto and lead by Gordon Deppe, after the acclaim for the 1981 debut album ‘Stick Figure Neighbourhood’, the songs on the second ‘Arias & Symphonies’ were more European influenced. With JAPAN producer John Punter behind the desk, the title song was an perfect amalgam of prog theatrics, new wave gallop and synth pomp. SPOONS were soon to be opening for bands such as SIMPLE MINDS and THE POLICE. Today, Deppe is also the guitarist for A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS.

Available on the album ‘Arias & Symphonies’ via Ready Records

https://www.spoonsmusic.com/


STRANGE ADVANCE Love Games (1982)

STRANGE ADVANCE were a Canadian new wave band formed in Vancouver, made up of Drew Arnott (keyboards, percussion, vocals), Darryl Kromm (lead vocals, guitars), and Paul Iverson (bass). Utilising synthesizers and advances in programming technology, their music was a fusion of progressive rock and MTV friendly pop that struck a chord, with the lyrical couplet “The time is right / We’ll love tonight” of ‘Love Games’ capturing the mood of times.

Available on the album ‘Worlds Away’ via VR

https://www.strangeadvance.com/


MARTHA Light Years From Love (1983)

The stunning Martha Ladly was more than just a pretty face; she was a musician, vocalist, artist and designer. Following her stints with MARTHA & THE MUFFINS, ASSOCIATES and doing paintings for Peter Saville’s NEW ORDER sleeve artwork, she teamed up with Brett Wickens from CERAMIC HELLO on this charming pop tune which echoed THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Open Your Heart’. Peter Hook provided his distinctive melodic six-string bass while the dynamic production came from Steve Nye.

Originally released as a single by Island Records, currently unavailable

http://samemistakesmusic.blogspot.com/2009/01/charmed-life-of-martha-ladly_22.html


RATIONAL YOUTH Holiday In Bangkok (1983)

The classic RATIONAL YOUTH line-up of Tracy Howe, Bill Vorn and Kevin Komoda gained acclaim for their 1982 debut album ‘Cold War Night Life’, which became one of the biggest-selling Canadian independent albums at the time and secured a deal with Capitol Records. However, Vorn left to continue his university studies, but contributed synth programming to ‘Holiday In Bangkok’, a sinister overwrought warning about the dangers of becoming international drug mule.

Available on the album ‘Heredity’ via Capitol Records

https://rational-youth.com/


TRANS-X Living On Video (1983)

French-born Canadian Pascal Languirand was the man behind TRANS-X, and had previously been known for his spacey progressive rock solo albums like ‘Minos’ and ‘De Harmonia Universalia’. Originally issued in French as ‘Vivre Sur Video’, this cosmic octave-shifting electronic dance tune, with additional vocals by Laurie Ann Gill, became a massive hit worldwide after being re-released in 1985 and went onto to influence Electroclash artists such as FISCHERSPOONER and MISS KITTIN.

Available on the album ‘Living On Video’ via Unidisc

http://transx-music.com/


PSYCHE The Saint Became A Lush (1986)

PSYCHE are the acclaimed dark synthpop duo from Edmonton, founded by the Huss brothers Darrin and Stephen. Of the foreboding overtones of ‘The Saint Became A Lush’, “Many think the main sequence sounds like ‘Tubular Bells’ and there may be some element of that as it was used in ‘The Exorcist’ movie which my brother loved” Darrin said, “It’s also inspired by JOY DIVISION, as I was really going for the sound of a world weary preacher and channelling the voice of Ian Curtis for that.”

Available on the album ‘Unveiling The Secret’ via Artoffact Records

http://www.psyche-hq.de/


SKINNY PUPPY Dig It (1986)

“Love cannot attach itself to binding ugliness” goes the theatrical horror of ‘Dig It’; formed in Vancouver by cEvin Key of IMAGES IN VOGUE and vocalist Nivek Ogre, SKINNY PUPPY are widely considered as the pioneers of industrial. ‘Dig It’ was a big favourite of NINE INCH NAILS mainman Trent Reznor and heavily influenced his own track ‘Down In It’ which appeared on ‘Pretty Hate Machine’, so much so that he later confessed he had actually sampled it!

Available on the album ‘Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse’ via Nettwerk America

http://skinnypuppy.com/


MITSOU Les Chinois (1988)

Mitsou Annie Marie Gélinas achieved the comparatively unusual feat of having a francophone pop hit across Canada with ‘Bye Bye Mon Cowboy’. But her best tune was the saucy Fairlighted ‘Les Chinois’ from the multicultural-themed album ‘El Mundo’. Written and produced by Jean Pierre Isaac who later worked with Céline Dion, she exclaimed “Non non non c’est pas comme ça, qu’on fait l’amour, regarde les Chinois”… was she trying to make babies?

Available on the album ‘El Mundo’ via Unidisc

http://mitsoumagazine.com/en/


KON KAN I Beg Your Pardon (1989)

The project of Barry Harris, the KON KAN name was a play on the policy of “Canadian Content” which enforced Canadian radio station to air at least 30% domestic music. Voiced by Kevin Wynne, ‘I Beg Your Pardon’ was not just content with borrowing off NEW ORDER but inspired by ‘Pump Up The Volume’, used samples of other songs like ‘Rose Garden’, ‘Disco Nights (Rock-Freak)’ and ‘Get Up & Boogie’, as well as National Lampoon’s ‘Disco Hotline’. This mash-up became a huge international one hit wonder.

Available on the album ‘Move To Move’ via A&M Records

https://www.facebook.com/konkanofficial


SOLVENT Wish (2005)

Toronto-based Jason Amm is all about “synthesizers, drum machines, fx, knobs, buttons, wires, wave, electro, acid”. But while he is now best known for his documentary film ‘I Dream Of Wires’, he has a vast catalogue of music released under the SOLVENT moniker. With gentle vocoder treatments and glorious whirring synths, ‘Wish’ set a pattern for acts like FOTONOVELA and QUIETER THAN SPIDERS to follow in the understated melodic machine pop stakes.

Available on the album ‘Demonstration Tape (1997-2007)’ via Ghostly International

http://www.solventcity.com/


DRAGONETTE I Get Around (2007)

Toronto’s DRAGONETTE comprised of singer Martina Sorbara, producer Dan Kurtz and drummer Joel Stouffer. The acclaim for their self-released self-titled EP led to a deal with Mercury Records and a relocation to the UK. Opening shows for BASEMENT JAXX and SUGABABES, the highlight of their debut album ‘Galore’ was ‘I Get Around’ which was previewed on Planet Clique and Lucky Pierre’s ‘Robopop – The Return’ compilation. It also was used in ‘The Vampire Diaries’.

Available on the album ‘Galore’ via Mercury Records

http://www.dragonetteonline.com/


FM ATTACK Sleepless Nights (2009)

With ‘Drive’ star Ryan Gosling being a notable FM ATTACK admirer, Shawn Ward has concocted a unique hybrid electronic sound combining Gino Soccio and Giorgio Moroder with Italo disco, French house, new wave and post-punk, all with a fine-honed musicality. From 2009’s ‘Dreamatic’ album which opened up the gates and led the way for what was to become Synthwave, ‘Sleepless Nights’ crossed arpeggios with octave lilts for an enjoyable vocoder-laced romp.

Available on the album ‘Dreamatic’ via Starfield Music

https://www.facebook.com/fmattackmusic/


CRYSTAL CASTLES Suffocation (2010)

Named after a line in ‘She-Ra: Princess of Power’ and capturing a gritty lo-fi electronic sound, Toronto’s CRYSTAL CASTLES were a world apart from other modern duos with chaotic live shows that had an almost demonic energy. With Ethan Kath’s deliberately distorted synthetic goth-punk and Alice Glass’ afflicted vocal presence, ‘Suffocation’ was haunted, yet captured an understated beauty. But in October 2014, Glass announced that she was leaving to pursue a solo career amid acrimony.

Available on the album ‘(II)’ via Fiction Records

https://www.crystalcastles.com/


AUSTRA Spellwork (2011)

Named after the goddess of light in Latvian mythology, Toronto’s  AUSTRA deliver a stark, baroque form of arty electronica fuelled by the sexual tension. Like a gothic opera which successfully blended light and darkness with fragility and power, Katie Stelmanis and friends borrowed from classic DEPECHE MODE and crossed it with THE KNIFE for ‘Spellwork’, their most accessibly brilliant synthpop offering from their debut album ‘Feel It Break’.

Available on the album ‘Feel It Break’ via Domino / Paper Bag Records

http://austra.fyi/


GRIMES Oblivion (2012)

While Claire Boucher might be now more widely known for being the girlfriend of Elon Musk, she began as the kooky Montreal sensation GRIMES, sounding like LYKKE LI fronting KRAFTWERK. Presented in a fun leftfield lady meets pop princess fusion, ‘Oblivion’ was a sumptuously infectious tune that despite the almost unintelligible vocals and weird noises, was probably the most immediate track on her ‘Visions’ album which also featured less immediate but equally enjoyable ‘Genesis’.

Available on the album ‘Visions’ via 4AD Records

https://grimesmusic.com/


PARALLELS Moonlight Desires (2012)

Behind PARALLELS is Holly Dodson and on their second long player was a lovely synthpop version of GOWAN’s 1987 rock tune ‘Moonlight Desires’. She said of her love for the song: “We hear the original version it all the time in Canada. It’s always fulfilled all the necessary criteria – incredible hooks, the moon, magic melodies, nostalgia. I just recently learned that GOWAN’s actually heard the cover… and approves!! Which is SUCH a relief haha…”

Available on the album ‘XII’ via Marigold Productions

http://www.iloveparallels.com/


TR/ST Gloryhole (2012)

TR/ST began as the project of Robert Alfons and AUSTRA’s Maya Postepski. Although Postepski left to return to AUSTRA, the debut ‘TRST’ made a slow burning impact as Alfons toured his “Eeyore gone goth” electro template around the world. From it, the filthy ‘Gloryhole’ was a wondrous combination of sinister portamento and hypnotic dance beats. Postepski returned to the fold for the recent double album opus ‘The Destroyer’, but Alfons still remains something of an awkward character.

Available on the album ‘TRST’ via Arts & Crafts

https://tr-st.xyz/


FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY Killing Grounds (2013)

Bill Leeb formed FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY in 1986 after his short stint with SKINNY PUPPY under the name Wilhelm Schroeder. With Rhys Fulber as the other long standing member, they were influenced by acts such as CABARET VOLTAIRE, PORTION CONTROL, DAF, TEST DEPT and SPK. Having integrated guitars, FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY returned to making exclusively electronic music on their fifteenth album ‘Echogenetic’, the highlight of which was ‘Killing Grounds’.

Available on the album ‘Echogenetic’ via Dependent Records

http://www.mindphaser.com/


ELECTRIC YOUTH Without You (2014)

Hailing from Toronto, ELECTRIC YOUTH‘s collaboration with COLLEGE entitled ‘A Real Hero’ was included on the ‘Drive’ soundtrack’ in 2011. Their debut album ‘Innerworld’ finally came out in Autumn 2014 and one of its highlights was another collaboration, this time with ROOM8 called ‘Without You’. Echoing Aussie combo ICEHOUSE  and ‘Great Southern Land’ in particular, its bridge and chorus were particularly tremendous with a nostalgic Brat Pack movie presence.

Available on the album ‘Innerworld’ via Last Gang Entertainment / Secretly Canadian

https://electricyouthmusic.com/


PURITY RING Begin Again (2015)

With CHVRCHES having had success borrowing PURITY RING’s electro template, the Edmonton duo’s sophomore album ‘Another Eternity’ was more focussed than its predecessor ‘Shrines’. Still utilising glitch techniques, booming bass drops and Corin Roddick’s rattling drum machine programming, ‘Begin Again’ made the most of Megan James’ sweet and dreamy voice. The pair off a major surprise by working with Katy Perry on three songs for her 2017 album ‘Witness’.

Available on the album ‘Another Eternity’ via 4AD Records

https://purityringthing.com/


DANA JEAN PHOENIX Only For One Night (2018)

Self-described as a “Retro Synthwave Singer”, Toronto’s DANA JEAN PHOENIX isn’t a stranger to synthylicious ditties. Having moved away slightly from pure Synthwave styles, as one of the best live solo synth performers currently, she enjoys rocking out onstage with her keytar Jareth. The sparkling template of one of her most rousing numbers ‘Only One For One Night’ brought along a youthful escapism that reminisced about first loves and first disappointments.

Available on the album ‘PixelDust’ via New EmPire Entertainment

https://www.danajphoenix.com/


MECHA MAIKO Apathy (2019)

Behind the quirky avant pop of MECHA MAIKO‬ is the talented Torontonian, Hayley Stewart. The delightfully odd ‘Apathy’ from her second album ‘Let’s!’ was an inventive oddball fusion of jazz swing Charleston, frantic techno dance beats and vibrant synthpop hooks. It showed she was not afraid to blend seemingly incongruous influences to get an end result and with a slight sprinkling of Japanese instrumentation to close, the eclectic creative cycle was complete!‬‬‬‬‬

Available on the album ‘Let’s!’ via ORO Records

https://www.mechamaiko.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Simon Helm
17th February 2020

Introducing SOMEONE WHO ISN’T ME

“Pop. What else?” is the mission statement of Athens trio SOMEONE WHO ISN’T ME.

Also known as S.W.I.M. by those who find that a bit of a mouthful, the feisty threesome of Marilena Orfanou (synths, guitars + vocals), Maria Hatzakou (drums + vocals) and Gina Dimakopoulou (guitars + vocals) swear by analogue sounds, toy synths, chaotic guitars, fake strings, and off-beat rhythms complimented by deep voices in English and Greek.

The new single ‘Pinku’ comes over an interesting snarly mix of TR/ST and KITE crossed with NEW ORDER. Meanwhile, its superb visual presentation directed by Alkistis Terzi features striking time freeze effect portraits of five Biblical female figures Jezebel, Lilith, the Virgin Mary, Salome and Delilah.

The debut album ‘Dance With You’ was released in February 2019 by Amour Records, the Hellenic home of SARAH P. and KID MOXIE. SOMEONE WHO ISN’T ME’s two most overtly synthy numbers on the album are both instrumentals; ‘Night Flight’ is an airy dream pop number offset by an uptempo backbone while the electronically orchestrated cinematics of ‘Strange’ flirts with the enigmatic aura of arthouse soundtracks.

Meanwhile, the title song was a grand statement of baroque indie with a superb cutting synth solo while the moody synthesized shoegaze of ‘Gomenaki’ was a European radio hit in the summer of 2018; its accompanying video won the 2019 Sound Award for ‘Best Music Video’ at the Indie Memphis Film Festival.


‘Dance With You’ is released by Amour Records

http://www.swimtheband.com/

https://facebook.com/swimtheband.page

https://twitter.com/swimtheband_

https://instagram.com/swimtheband

https://soundcloud.com/swimtheband

https://open.spotify.com/album/0P0DJuiFd2CzDU9Vaxw0il


Text by Chi Ming Lai
9th May 2019

TR/ST The Destroyer – 1

Since releasing ‘Joyland’, TR/ST’s second album in 2014, mainman Robert Alfons has relocated from Toronto to work in southern Ontario and Los Angeles.

An ambitious two volume work, ‘The Destroyer’ sees Alfons reunite with debut long player collaborator Maya Postepski, who co-wrote and co-produced six of this project’s songs. “My first two records were put out so close to one another that I think of them as one” said Alfons on the reasoning for the new two part work, “Sonically, it teeters between warmth, melody and exhilaration on one hand, and isolating, industrial hardness on the other.”

With rumbles of sub-bass and Alfon’s deep grouchy baritone, the metronomic ‘Colossal’ offers the mysterious TR/ST that people know and love, as does ‘Unbleached’ but with doses of cosmic arpeggiation. But in ‘Gone’, Alfons springs a surprise with possibly the most TR/ST accessible song yet. Neon-lit and extremely melodic, it could be mistaken for COLDPLAY going synthwave but don’t let that be a deterrent; ‘Gone’ is glorious.

With a slight touch of muscular aggression, ‘Bicep’ provides some dynamic weirdness with a few industrialised textures thrown in for good measure during which Alfons’ noted “Eeyore gone Goth” vocal style takes centre stage.

The dramatic ‘Grouch’ sends up Alfons’ public persona, the combination of spacey vibes, hypnotic percussive pulses and neo-Wagnerian overtones providing a wonderfully usual dancefloor template. It’s a wonderful slice of gothic disco that makes the most out of Alfons’ vocal stylings.

The stuttering rhythms of ‘Poorly Coward’ with its swirling dubstep dressing develop on the vibe while more steadfast and atmospheric, ‘Control Me’ exploits an emotive widescreen side to TR/ST not heard before.

Closing proceedings with a decisively moody tone, ‘Wake With’ is one of those rare things, a TR/ST love song and perhaps a signal to the more personal compositions slated for Part 2 of ‘The Destroyer’.

So with the second volume promising to reveal a more mellow intimate side of TR/ST, ‘The Destroyer-1’ presents an initial collection of enjoyable industrial pop alongside more dreamy backdrops and a sincere if weird emotional centre.


‘The Destroyer – 1’ is released on 19th April 2019 by Grouch / House Arrest in vinyl LP and digital formats

TR/ST 2019 Tour Dates:

Amsterdam Bitterzoet (15th April), Copenhagen Vega (17th April), Berlin Urban Spree (19th April), St Petersburg MOD (20th April), Moscow Pluton 21st April), Toronto Phoenix Concert Theatre (26th April), Montreal Corona Theatre (27th April), Boston Brighton Music Hall (1st May), Brooklyn Elsewhere (2nd – 3rd May), Philadelphia Underground Arts (4th May), Washington DC Street Music Hall (5th May), Detroit El Club (9th May), Chicago Lincoln Hall (10th May) , Minneapolis Fine Line Music Cafe (11th May), Portland Wonder Ballroom (14th May), Seattle Neumos (15th May), San Francisco Great American Music Hall (17th May), Los Angeles Fonda Theatre (18th May)

https://tr-st.xyz/

https://www.facebook.com/dressedforspace/

https://twitter.com/tr_st


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Eliot Hazel Lee
13th April 2019

FRAGRANCE. Now That I’m Real

Little is known of Matthieu Roche aka FRAGRANCE. apart from the self-description as a “dreamy synthpop project from Paris”.

Working by himself, Roche has been releasing single tracks via Soundcloud since 2016. Two years ago saw the artist present his first EP entitled ‘Dust & Disorders’ and more recently he covered the GALA hit ‘Freed From Desire’.

‘Now That I’m Real’ is his first long player and, for an album debut, this stuff is rather good.

Featuring Neil Tennant-like vocals and clear musical influences from PSB themselves, Roche is introducing the listener to his own sublime take on Parisian synth.

Starting with ‘Gone In A Wink’ with its tribal arpeggios alongside bubbly synth and scant elements of EBM made classy, the curiosity leads the way to something ‘So Typical’, except typical is what it is not. With the dreamy synthwave textures and a vocal that seems to sit comfortably on one level, hypnotic yet awakening, Roche is onto something special here. This is neither retro, nor is it future.

‘Endless Cold’ encapsulates club components along with a claustrophobic feel of a defined space, leading into the depths of ‘Gravity & Grace’. Here, the beat picks up onto a cacophony of dance and rhythm, while ‘Hazy Strobes’ meets vocalist Hante presenting more of a relaxed approach, with the qualities of a good electronic ballad.

‘Crawling To The Void’ moves the body with something of a classic PET SHOP BOYS again; Roche clearly feeling at his best while in this skin. The uneven steps of ‘Leaving The City’ represent a sweet return to the classic synthpop era, with a twist. It’s vintage but modern at the same time, soured with added depths and peppered with sublimal approach to electronic machinery. ‘Heatwave’ ushers the warmth and comfort of comprehensive musical rhetoric, painting a landscape of purity, almost ‘Crystalline’.

Maya Postepski joins FRAGRANCE. on ‘At Last’. The former drummer of AUSTRA and a TR/ST collaborator, Postepski has been making music for a long time, and enjoys remixing and production; here she brings the newest of visions musically, as well as lending her vocals en Français.

The opus ends on ‘The Missing Part’, which rushes through the paces, putting all the pieces together, while the “missing part” cannot be located. The track transcends colourful visions and fragments of reality as seen by Roche.

Maybe not a newcomer as such, FRAGRANCE. has created something of a conversation piece here.

The obvious PET SHOP BOYS connotations cannot be ignored, but this is neither a copy nor a direct steal.

Roche has provided some great new elements into something that could be described as retro, and he does it with Parisian style classic simplicity.

Certainly one to look out for…


‘Now That I’m Real’ is released by Synth Religion in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats, available direct from https://fragrancemusic.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/thisisfragrance/

https://twitter.com/Fragrance_Fra

https://www.instagram.com/fragrance.music/


Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell
28th February 2019

IONNALEE Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten

IONNALEE is both a new start and the continuation of a story that began with IAMAMIWHOAMI.

After three enticing bodies of work in ‘Bounty’, ‘Kin’ and ‘Blue’ since 2009 with producer Claes Björklund, Swedish singer / songwriter / producer / filmmaker Jonna Lee presents her solo album ‘Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten’.

“It’s the result of a period of frustration and anxiety” she explained about her artistic journey, “I collaborated mostly with myself and pushed through from co-producer to producer, experimenting with the mixing of organic and electronic genres, moods, soundscapes and beats, putting my voice in focus”

But Claes Björklund has not gone entirely with the self-produced album mixed by him under his BARBELLE moniker. Accompanied by films directed by Lee and John Strand, ‘Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten’ is assembled with a companion audio / visual experience.

Although as enigmatic and delightfully odd as IAMAMIWHOAMI, IONNALEE is Jonna Lee’s attempt to be more upfront and less abstract than in the past. No doubt buoyed by the success of touring with RÖYKSOPP, guest contributors such as Jamie McDermott of THE IRREPRESSIBLES, COM TRUISE and TR/ST figure on ‘Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten’.

The first track presented for the project in March 2017, the stuttering presence of ‘Samaritan’ saw Lee caught passionately in an almost Nordic rap delivery of literally tens of syllables. Meanwhile, the haunting crystalline arpeggio of ‘Simmer Down’ welcomed a more stripped down introduction before the stop/start song launched into a driving percussive cacophony of bass squelches and pronounced vocals layers.

Trailed by this staged online presence, it was actually difficult to see the join with IAMAMIWHOAMI. This was most apparent on the glorious ‘Not Human’ which unveiled itself in June 2017. Co-written with synthwave exponent COM TRUISE, there were still the icy electronic soundscapes, spacey dance beats and uplifting Scandipop vocals associated with her IAMAMIWHOAMI output. But the seamless development appealed to anyone remotely enticed by Jonna Lee’s vocal presence as she announced “the urge is animal, I’m not human”.

In duet with fellow RÖYKSOPP collaborator Jamie McDermott, ‘Dunes Of Sand’ was a widescreen duet that screamed of Scandinavian shorelines with an unexpectedly trancey tempo change in the final quarter.

‘Work’ explored brassier aesthetics at its start before pulses and beats led it to a kooky orchestrated drama. But the eerie presence of ‘Joy’ provided more mystery, gently paced before it expanded in volume and intensity. And while initially more sedate and subtly rhythmic, ‘Gone’ eventually mutated into what CHVRCHES might have sounded like had they been raised next to the Gulf of Bothnia.

Despite half the album already previewed online, IONNALEE does offer further gifts from the serene building opener ‘Watches Watches’ and the paradoxically pretty ‘Like Hell’, to the ornate surroundings of ‘Temple’ and the sparse neo-acapella drama of ‘Here Is A Warning’.

‘Blazing’ offers some stranger things as chipmunk voices, drones and a deadpan demeanour weld together, while on ‘Memento’ with BARBELLE, cello samples and mournful synths shape a much doomier soundscape.

But the mood changes on the frantically paced ‘Harvest’ with TR/ST; it is a mighty album highlight with Robert Alfons restraining his usual “Eeyore gone goth” delivery to compliment Lee’s angelic tones and the lovely pipey synth counterpoints in the track’s second half.

Perhaps best of all is the marvellous closing number ‘Fold’, featuring exotic cascading timbres and spacey pulsars while distorted string synths add the appropriate chill as Lee’s passionate vocals complete the filmic vibe.

Much anticipated, ‘Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten’ is easily equal to Jonna Lee’s work with IAMAMIWHOAMI. Although wanting to be more personal and less mysterious, IONNALEE’s first album is still a spacey immersion into another world with just the right level of disconnect for a wonderful escapist experience.

Yes at fifteen tracks, it’s rather a long trip, but worthy of the time and investment…


‘Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten’ is released by To Whom It May Concern via the usual digital platforms

A limited collectors edition in CD+DVD format including the album on CD and film on DVD with an image / lyric book is available from https://shop.towhomitmayconcern.cc

IONNALEE plays London Heaven on Wednesday 9th May 2018

https://ionnalee.com

https://www.facebook.com/iamionnalee/

https://twitter.com/ionnalee


Text by Chi Ming Lai
16th February 2018

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