While Karin My has been providing backing vocals or playing cello for acts such as TWICE A MAN, CARBON BASED LIFEFORMS, FAKE MOSS and MACHINISTA over the last ten years, it was only in 2019 that she stepped out to the front to showcase her traditionally derived electronic songs with the haunting spectre of ‘The Silence’.
Although coming from a more traditional music background, her first experience of electronic music came when a friend of her mother gave her the five imperial phase KRAFTWERK albums.
The Swedish chanteuse and self-taught musician’s interest in electronic music broadened as the snowball effect rolled on and she met a variety of personalities from the Swedish scene. As a result, her own folk-laden compositions slowly evolved as beautiful synth sounds and technologically modelled approximations of more organic textures like harp and flute complimented their inherent melancholy.
There’s a forlorn abandonment in the captivating voice of Karin My and it is not difficult to imagine her singing alone out in the habit of the Scandinavian landscape. ‘Silence Amygdala’ is her debut solo long player, a part concept album with a narrative based on a long-forgotten diary and poems contained within it. While reading the diary re-exposes the pains of the past, it soon becomes time to burn it and move on.
Assisting Karin My realise her story in music is D. Kaufeldt, a producer from a more surprising industrial metal background, but who shared with her, a common love of folk and dark synthpop. While machines such as the Korg Mono/Poly, Roland SH09, Roland RS09 and Korg PS3200 form the backbone, the stark presence of a kantele from the Baltic box zither family provides an authentic twist.
Harking back to the days when writing on paper was the norm rather than using Messenger via smart phone, opening song ‘Letter’ is heartfelt and lonesome, although subtle backing vocals are provided by Dan Söderqvist of TWICE A MAN. But the track takes an unexpected diversion when a prominent four-to-the-floor rhythm enters the room and while this is not EBM by any imagination, this is quite boisterous for anyone familiar with Karin My’s recent run of solo singles. Despite the uptempo template, the construction is not incongruous but it is a slight red herring for the rest of the album.
Despite the melancholic chill, ‘Winter Tree’ has a gorgeous sparkle with glimmers of hope, although Karin My’s eerie delivery is reinforced with an extra ghostly atmosphere courtesy of D. Kaufeldt’s profound responses.
Despite dealing with imminent loss, the previously released ‘Time To Go’ has many melodic points of access in the tradition of ABBA and a heartfelt middle eight vocal ad-lib. Touching on the aftermath, the ‘Games Of Thrones’ fantasy drama air of ‘Autumn’ sees Karin My emotively “disappearing on a cold empty floor” while looking for the sun in layers with orchestration and subtle metallic percussion.
A steadfast drum machine propels ‘Loop’ while sweeping symphonic melodies in the vein of ULTRAVOX accompany the despairing resignation. The addition of a sombre computer generated female speech at its close with exclamations such as “identification- procedure – quote – hyphen – perform – display – go to – loop – full stop – execute” adds to the unsettlement.
Beginning with a music box and kantele, ‘The Silence’ remains beautifully sad, evoking abandonment as a cold spectre of darkness looms. Meanwhile, the dramatic waltz of ‘Stray From The Path’ shows an affinity with Scotland’s WITCH OF THE VALE in its use of traditional pagan modes and melodies, accentuated by drones.
On the Olympian ‘World From Orbit’, the Vangelis-inspired overtures soundtrack Karin My’s silent wishes to exist far from the harsh realities of life. Indeed, it is a number that floats like heaven in the manner of a Nordic Enya.
A sprightly piece compared with the other tracks on the album, the appropriately titled ‘Coming Up For Air’ surprises with a heavier if steadfast beat while there are synthetic choir stabs to back up the crystalline pulses and sweeping moods.
But a surprise comes with a largely acoustic cover of VNV NATION’s ‘Homeward’ which completely flips its original futurepop vision on its head. Although it sees Karin My return to folkie busker roots, it somehow fits in with the album’s aesthetic and narrative like an interlude before the finale. And that comes with the building tension of the ‘Silence Amygdala’ title song. Captured as a funereal waltz, strings, synths and percussion blend for a solemn but cathartic conclusion with reflections of space, heaven and a last breath…
‘Silence Amygdala’ is a melancholic affair embroiled in sadness that also uses silence as a tool to penetrate the noise. An unusual sound in synth with the nearest comparison possibly being Susanne Sundfør, there is also a Vangelis meets Stina Nordenstam quality reminiscent of when that esteemed pair worked together on ‘Ask The Mountains’.
These eleven songs are like dark fairy tales yet manage to be immensely accessible and enjoyable. ‘Silence Amygdala’ may require a certain mood and mindset to appreciate, but as a body of work, it is ultimately timeless.
“It’s such a strange day, in such a lonely way” sang NEW ORDER on ‘Truth’ in 1981.
The coronavirus crisis of 2020 put the entire live music industry into limbo as concerts were postponed and tours rescheduled.
The situation was affecting everyone with several musicians like Bernard Sumner, Andy McCluskey, John Taylor and Sarah Nixey publicly stating that they had contracted the virus. Even when all pupils returned to schools in the Autumn, there was a ban on indoor singing in English classrooms. It was an indication that out of all professional fields, the arts was going suffer the most.
To make up for the absence of live shows, online streamed events become popular. Two of the best live online gigs were by Swedish veterans LUSTANS LAKEJER from the KB in Malmö and Sinomatic techno-rockers STOLEN with Lockdown Live From Chengdu. Not strictly a lockdown show but available for all to view on SVT was a magnificent live presentation of KITE at the Royal Opera House in Stockholm recorded in late 2019 combining synthesizers, orchestra and choir, proving again why Nicklas Stenemo and Christian Berg are the best electronic duo in Europe.
Concluding his ‘Songs: From the Lemon Tree’ series, Bon Harris of NITZER EBB presented a wonderful set of four electonic cover versions including songs made famous by Joan Armatrading, Connie Francis and Diana Ross. Meanwhile among independent musicians, Dubliner CIRCUIT3 led the way with an innovative multi-camera effected approach to his home studio presentation and Karin My performed al fresco in a forest near Gothenburg.
Taking the initiative, ERASURE did a delightful virtual album launch party for their new album ‘The Neon’ on Facebook with Vince Clarke in New York and Andy Bell in London, talking about everything from shopping to classic synthpop tunes.
Other streamed forms of entertainment came via podcasts and among the best was ‘The Album Years’ presented by Steven Wilson and Tim Bowness. Their knowledgeable and forthright views on selected years in music were both informative and amusing. It was interesting to note that at the end of the 1976 episode, the pair nominated ‘Oxygène’ by Jean-Michel Jarre as the most important album of that year while for 1979, it was ‘The Pleasure Principle’ by Gary Numan.
Many artists who had scheduled releases in 2020 went through with them, although in some cases, there were the inevitable delays to physical product. But a few notable acts couldn’t help but abuse the situation, notably a certain combo from Basildon.
There were already “quality control issues” with the lavish ‘MODE’ 18 CD boxed set, but there was uproar even among the most hardcore Devotees with the ‘Spirits In The Forest’ release. The cardboard packaging was reported to be flimsy and prone to dents, while there was continuity errors galore as Dave Gahan rather cluelessly and selfishly wore different coloured outfits over the two nights in Berlin that the live footage was filmed under the direction of Anton Corbijn.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, there was an Anton Corbijn official illustrated history of DEPECHE MODE entitled ‘DM AC’ in the form of a coffee table photo book published by Taschen which retailed at €750; even though it was signed by Messrs Gahan, Gore and Fletcher, the price tag was a mightily steep. The increasingly ironic words of “The grabbing hands grab all they can…” from ‘Everything Counts’ were not lost on people, who are people, after all!
But Andy Fletcher did provide the most amusing and spot-on quote of the year; during DEPECHE MODE’s acceptance speech into that dinosaur institution The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, when Dave Gahan remarked to his bandmates that “I dunno what the hell I would have been doing if I didn’t find music to be quite honest…”, the banana eating handclapper dryly retorted “YOU’D HAVE BEEN STILL STEALING CARS DAVE!”
There were lots of great albums released in 2020 and Berlin appeared to be at the creative centre of them.
There was ‘LP II’ from LINEA ASPERA who made a welcome return after eight years in hiatus and the playful debut by ULTRAFLEX, a collaborative offering from Berlin-based Nordic artists SPECIAL-K and FARAO which was “an ode to exercise, loaded with sex metaphors badly disguised as sports descriptions” .
The DDR born Jennifer Touch told her story with ‘Behind The Wall’ and resident New Yorker DISCOVERY ZONE was on ‘Remote Control’, while Lithuania’s top pop singer Alanas Chosnau made ‘Children of Nature’, his first album in English with Mark Reeder, who himself has lived in the former walled city since 1978; their collected experiences from both sides of the Iron Curtain made for a great record with the political statement of ‘Heavy Rainfall’ being one of the best songs of 2020.
Synth-builder and artist Finlay Shakespeare presented the superb angst ridden long player ‘Solemnities’ with its opener ‘Occupation’ tackling the social injustice of unemployment. A most frightening future was captured in musical form by New York-resident Zachery Allan Starkey who saw his home become a ‘Fear City’, while WRANGLER got themselves into ‘A Situation’.
SPARKS discussed ‘The Existential Threat’ and ‘One For The Ages’ while pleading ‘Please Don’t F*ck Up My World’ on their eclectic 25th album ‘A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip’, just as NIGHT CLUB reflected what many were thinking on ‘Die Die Lullaby’ with ‘Miss Negativity’ looking to ‘Die In The Disco’ while riding the ‘Misery Go Round’.
ASSEMBLAGE 23 chose to ‘Mourn’ with one of its highlights ‘Confession’ illustrating what DEPECHE MODE could still be capable of, if they could still be bothered.
But it was not all doom and gloom musically in 2020. With the title ‘Pop Gossip’, INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP did not need to do much explaining about the ethos of their second album and drum ‘n’ synth girl GEORGIA was happily ‘Seeking Thrills’.
Veterans returned and 34 years after their debut ‘Windows’, WHITE DOOR teamed up with the comparative youngster Johan Baeckström for ‘The Great Awakening’, while CODE made a surprise return with their second album ‘Ghost Ship’ after an absence 25 years.
‘The Secret Lives’ of German duo Zeus B Held and Mani Neumeier illustrated that septuagenarians just want to have fun. Along with Gina Kikoine, Zeus B Held was also awarded with Der Holger Czukay Preis für Popmusik der Stadt Köln in recognition of their pioneering work as GINA X PERFORMANCE whose ‘No GDM’ was a staple at The Blitz Club in Rusty Egan’s DJ sets.
Incidentally, Rusty Egan announced that Zaine Griff would be joining him with Numan cohorts Chris Payne and David Brooks in a live presentation of VISAGE material, although the announced dates were postponed, pending rescheduling for 2021.
Swiss trailblazers YELLO were on ‘Point’ and continuing their occasional creative collaboration with Chinese songstress Fifi Rong, while one time YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA collaborator Hideki Matsutake returned as LOGIC SYSTEM and released a new long player ‘Technasma’, his project’s first for 18 years.
It was four decades since John Foxx’s ‘Metamatic’ and Gary Numan’s ‘Telekon’, with the man born Gary Webb publishing ‘(R)evolution’, a new autobiography to supersede 1997’s ‘Praying To The Aliens’. Meanwhile, the former Dennis Leigh teamed up with former ULTRAVOX guitarist Robin Simon plus his regular Maths collaborators Benge and Hannah Peel for the blistering art rock statement of ‘Howl’ as well as finally issuing his book of short stories ‘The Quiet Man’.
Back in 1980, it was not unusual for bands to release two albums in a calendar year as OMD did with their self-titled debut and ‘Organisation’, or JAPAN did with ‘Quiet Life’ and ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’.
It appeared to be a tradition that BLANCMANGE were adopting as Neil Arthur delivered the acclaimed ‘Mindset’ and an enjoyable outtakes collection ‘Waiting Room (Volume 1)’.
PET SHOP BOYS and CERRONE proved they still liked to dance to disco because they don’t like rock, but the year’s biggest surprise came with THE SMASHING PUMPKINS whose single ‘Cyr’ crossed the templates of classic DEPECHE MODE with DURAN DURAN.
Interestingly, Gary Daly of CHINA CRISIS and Michael Rother of NEU! used sketches recorded many moons ago to inspire their 2020 solo creations, proving that if something is a good idea, it will still make sense years later. Veteran Tonmeister Gareth Jones released his debut solo album ‘ELECTROGENETIC’ having first come to prominence as the studio engineer on ‘Metamatic’ back in 1980, but Jah Wobble was as prolific as ever, issuing his ninth album in four years, as well as a run of download singles over lockdown.
ANI GLASS had her debut long player ‘Mirores’ shortlisted for Welsh Music Prize and OMD remixed her song ‘Ynys Araul’ along the way, while SARAH P. was ‘Plotting Revolutions’. NINA and a returning ANNIE vied to be the Queen Of Synthwave with their respective albums ‘Synthian’ and ‘Dark Hearts’, although Canadian synth songstress DANA JEAN PHOENIX presented her most complete and consistent body of work yet in ‘Megawave’, a joint album with POWERNERD.
RADIO WOLF & PARALLELS contributed to the soundtrack of the film ‘Proximity’ released on Lakeshore Records and from the same label, KID MOXIE made her first contribution to the movie world with the score to ‘Not To Be Unpleasant, But We Need To Have A Serious Talk’ that also featured a stark cover of ALPHAVILLE’s ‘Big In Japan’. Meanwhile gothwavers VANDAL MOON made their most electronic album yet in ‘Black Kiss’ and POLYCHROME got in on the kissing act too with their new single ‘Starts With A Kiss’.
It would be fair to say in recent times that the most interesting and best realised electronic pop has come from outside of the UK; the likes of TWICE A MAN explored the darker side of life, although TRAIN TO SPAIN used the dancefloor as their mode of expression, 808 DOT POP developed on the robopop of parent band METROLAND and ZIMBRU preferred disco art pop.
In Scandinavia, there was the welcome return of UNIFY SEPARATE (formally US) and HILTIPOP aka Magnus Johansson of ALISON who finally released some music in his own right; once he started, he didn’t stop with 9 releases and counting in 2020! APOPTYGMA BERZERK released ‘Nein Danke!’, their self-proclaimed return to “New Wave Synthpop” and out of that set-up sprang the very promising PISTON DAMP.
Within the PAGE camp, Eddie Bengtsson continued his Numan fixation on the ‘Under Mitt Skinn’ EP although his musical partner Marina Schiptjenko teamed up with LUSTANS LAKEJER bassist Julian Brandt to ride the Synth Riviera for a delightful second helping of their electro crooner concept cheekily titled ‘For Beautiful People Only’.
Over in Germany, U96 teamed up Wolfgang Flür while RENARD, the solo vehicle of Markus Reinhardt from WOLFSHEIM teamed with Marian Gold of ALPHAVILLE and Sarah Blackwood of DUBSTAR. DUBSTAR themselves released a striking corona crisis statement entitled ‘Hygiene Strip’ which saw reconfigured duo reunited with producer Stephen Hague. Meanwhile another poignant song on the topic ‘Small World’ came from SNS SENSATION, the new project by Sebastian Muravchik of HEARTBREAK. In lockdown, TINY MAGNETIC PETS recorded an entire album which they called ‘Blue Wave’.
Of course, 2020 was not full of joy, even without the pandemic, as the music world sadly lost Florian Schneider, Gabi Delgado-Lopez, Chris Huggett, Andrew Weatherall, Matthew Seligman, Dave Greenfield, Rupert Hine, Tom Wolgers, Harold Budd and Ennio Morricone.
An introspective tone was reflected the music of female fronted acts such as and ZANIAS, PURITY RING, WE ARE REPLICA, KALEIDA, LASTLINGS, NEW SPELL, WITCH OF THE VALE, REIN, BLACK NAIL CABARET, GLÜME, GEISTE THE FRIXION, FEMMEPOP and SCINTII. However, countering this, the optimism of RIDER, ROXI DRIVE and NEW RO presented a much brighter, hopeful take on life and the future.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK celebrated 10 years as a platform and affirming the site’s intuition about synth talent in anticipation of them achieving greater things, SOFTWAVE opened for OMD on the Scandinavia leg of their ‘Souvenir’ tour. The Danish duo became the sixth act which the site had written about to have become part of a tradition that has included VILLA NAH, MIRRORS, VILE ELECTRODES, METROLAND and TINY MAGNETIC PETS.
On a more cheerful note, S.P.O.C.K beamed down to Slimelight in London before lockdown for their first British live performance in 17 years. Meanwhile on the same night, LAU NAU and VILE ELECTRODES did modular sets at Cecil Sharp House, the spiritual home of English traditional music.
At that event, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK took delight in curating a DJ set comprising of John Cage’s 4’33” in variations by DEPECHE MODE, GOLDFRAPP, ERASURE, NEW ORDER and THE NORMAL from Mute’s Stumm433 boxed set. This defiant act of silence even caused a curious Jonathan Barnbrook to raise an eyebrow, this from the man who designed the artwork with the white square on David Bowie’s ‘The Next Day’ 😉
The final live event that ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK attended before the March lockdown was an informative lecture at Queen Mary University in London presented by noted cultural scholar Dr Uwe Schütte, in support of his book ‘KRAFTWERK Future Music From Germany’.
Also attending was Rusty Egan who held court at the reception afterwards by having a debate with another musician about the state of UK synth music. He then loudly beckoned ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK over and mentioned how the site was only interested acts that scored “9 out of 10” before admitting that a number of acts he supported only scored “6 out of 10”, with his reasoning being that if acts aren’t supported, then there will be no synth acts existing at all. After a decade in existence, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK remains proud that it is still extremely selective.
In 2020, the notion of reviews being needed to achieve a promotional profile underwent an existential crisis among media platforms. With streaming now being the main method of music consumption, why would anyone want to read a blog for an opinion about an album when they can just hit ‘play’ and hear the thing for themselves on Spotify, Amazon, Tidal or Bandcamp?
The sound of classic synthpop does live on happily in today’s mainstream via singles by THE WEEKND, DUA LIPA and even STEPS! In that respect, the trailblazing kings and queens of Synth Britannia from four decades ago did their job rather well.
From SUGABABES mashing-up ‘Are Friends Electric?’ for ‘Freak Like Me’ in 2002 to ‘Blinding Lights’ borrowing a bit of A-HA in 2020, the sound of synth is still strong.
It is up to any potential successors to live up to that high standard of Synth Britannia, which was as much down to the quality of the songwriting, as much as it was to do with the sound of the synthesizer. It is a fact that many overlook and if aspiring musicians could pay more attention to the song, instead of making the synthesizer the excuse for the song, then classic electronic pop music may still be around for a little longer and continue to evolve.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK Contributor Listings of 2020
In the dark times, will there also be singing? Yes, there will also be singing, about the dark times. – Bertolt Brecht (1939)
It is almost forty years since TWICE A MAN first took to the London stage. Sweden’s godfathers of electronic music first played a show at Heaven—on a bill organised by the legendary Final Solution—in the winter of 1981.
The fall of 2020 finds them with a new album, ‘On the Other Side of the Mirror’, expressing concern about the state of our planet. And it really is in a state. The view from their northern shore is an unhappy one, full of decay.
It wasn’t that long ago that TWICE A MAN were writing that ‘Everything Is Possible,’ but that gave way to ‘A Time of Terror.’ Now they sing about ‘A Rain of Shame.’ Their hopes for the world have diminished, even if their instincts for melody and atmosphere have not.
The band is currently a trio, composed of Dan Söderqvist, Karl Gasleben and Jocke Söderqvist. Their catalogue includes twenty-one studio albums, many of which are regularly cited as influences by other Scandinavian artists. Starting with 1982’s ‘Music for Girls’, TWICE A MAN have cut a distinctive path, combining its members’ progressive rock and new wave roots with modern tools and sounds.
‘On the Other Side of the Mirror’ invades the alternative dancefloor with epic chords (‘A Rain of Shame’) and strident beats (‘Naked’). It sweeps the bodies aside with thundering rhythms (‘Modern World’) and magnificent swells (‘Breath’). The Viking spirit is impressed into the tracks, as if overseen by Odin’s birds.
Linked up remotely, TWICE A MAN spoke from their homes in Sweden to discuss the new album, their plans, and the prospects for political change.
How did the album come together? Was there a definite theme or sound that you were aiming for?
Jocke: The basic tracks were created at the same time that we were working on ‘Cocoon’. We started to make songs in other ways that were not fit for that album. We took a break, but Karl cannot do that. So, he made a lot of the basic tracks, and he had some basic lyrics, too. Normally, we all come in with things as a start, and we have a discussion how to do this next album or what direction we are going to go.
Dan: We didn’t want to make ‘Presence 2’. We wanted to do something that was different from Presence. There were a number of possible frameworks for what the album should be about.
We were talking about other influences. Like, we talked about the things from the 70s—bands like early GENESIS. We talked about the movement of surrealism. We talked about a lot of different themes that come into this picture. We called it ‘On the Other Side of the Mirror’, but it’s also mirroring ourselves when we made things in the 80s.
Was the album recorded with a view to the dystopian world we are living in now? Did the changes led by Covid-19 have any impact?
Dan: We recorded it in 2019, so before the Covid-19 situation. We were thinking about the kind of society that we are living in today.
Jocke: In a way, we were living in a situation where a change was bound to come, whether it was climate change or horrific wars or whatever. Covid-19 was a surprise, but it was not a surprise that something was going to happen.
Dan: You can see this on ‘Presence’, as well, of course. Trump and Boris Johnson were not around when we made that. Perhaps it doesn’t matter who is the President of the United States, but it is starting to be even more right-wing. The oligarchs are more openly running the show in England and in the United States—and here, in Sweden, too. The people have no one to speak for them; and, if they come—someone like Corbyn in England or Bernie Sanders in the US —then they are taken out.
Songs like ‘High in the Clouds’ sounded the alarm on the risks of environmental catastrophe. People have been unable to use their cars or fly in the normal way for many months. Do you think that the lessons from that will be learned?
Jocke: I’m very afraid that that the main thing on the agenda now is to get the wheels rolling again. I’m not sure, but everything needs to be up again, like usual. Then you sort of skip the climate for a while, because it is more important to get everything back to normal again. Maybe not flying but getting all the factories and so on back to where it was.
Karl: I think the only thing that maybe we change is that video conferencing is a more common way of meeting than it used to be; people don’t fly to every meeting. In the future, maybe that’s the only thing we can get out of this as a positive thing.
Disinformation and conspiracy theories are working to dumb down society in general. Do you think the rich and powerful are taking advantage of this, applying the theory of divide and rule? And do you think this is our ‘Modern World’?
Dan: Yes, that is one angle of that song, but it is very difficult to know what the truth is. It has become more and more difficult to know what who you can trust. You don’t have enough time to really perform research on everything that is happening. We have this for the virus—how to handle it? Should I wear the mask? It’s not possible to decide in every case who is right and who is wrong. I tend not to believe in anyone.
The new songs from ‘On the Other Side of the Mirror’ are fewer but longer, compared to ‘Presence’. They generally exceed radio play times. Is that a statement in itself?
Karl: They just became the length that they needed to be.
Jocke: I think also that, when we were making these songs, we weren’t really sure that it was going to be an album. We were searching, but we weren’t really sure. Maybe that let us have more freedom to let the songs be what whatever they wanted to be. Maybe that’s why they were longer.
The material doesn’t shy away from the dancefloor. The single version of ‘Naked’ comes with a number of remixes. Were you aiming for a danceable style over the ambience of ‘Cocoon’?
Dan: No, it is more in the area of ‘Presence’ and our 80s albums. If you take ‘Modern World,’ the end of it is like a flow, and that has a lot to do with our ambient stuff. It’s a little more aggressive in the sound, but it’s got this mantra feeling.
Karl: Because some of the songs we did parallel while working on ‘Cocoon’, we have a kind of injection of that style.
Karin My provides background vocals. What does Karin bring to the songs for you?
Dan: We have been working with Karin My for ten years now, on and off. We know her well by now and besides that she is a wonderful person, she has a voice that works very well with mine.
Jocke: Her voice—a female voice—there is a reserved space for it in our music. It really adds something.
Dan: Karin brought us together with Daniel Kaufeldt, who is now the producer for both Karin´s own work and for TWICE A MAN´s ‘Presence’ and ‘The Other Side of the Mirror’.
Karl: He is like a fourth member of the band, too, because in the mixing he put a lot of his own instruments in. It’s a good collaboration with him now.
How would you sum up the feeling of the album? Is there hope for change after everything that has happened?
Karl: Within the lyrics, the perspective is of the little man looking at the society from his chambers. You know, we can be the silence in the voice. That’s why it can be depressing—because I don’t think we leave any doors open to a bright future. It’s one for reflecting.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to TWICE A MAN
Having released 21 albums since 1982, Swedish veterans TWICE A MAN have never been ones to shy away from serious issues.
The trio’s superb 2015 song ‘High in The Clouds’ confronted the prospect of environmental armageddon aided by the eerily beautiful voice of Karin My.
Having ventured down the ambient route with ‘Cocoon’ as a kind of interim solace following the release of the ‘Presence’ album from which ‘High In The Clouds’ came, TWICE A MAN have literally come out of the woods and found the world in a state of corrupt turmoil.
Like a delayed ‘1984′ with misinformation and paranoia everywhere and eugenics being pushed through the backdoor by right wing governments using the current pandemic crisis as a smokescreen and capitalism as its reasoning, TWICE A MAN highlight this increasingly dystopian situation emerging in front of everyone’s eyes on ‘On The Other Side Of The Mirror’.
Led by Dan Söderqvist with Karl Gasleben and Jocke Söderqvist providing the dark gentle storm of sound, the opening ’Breath’ exudes brooding industrial moods and sombre vocals, with chilling string machines enhancing the melancholic alienation.
But ‘Fireflies’ utilises ethnic percussive flavours and the return of Karin My to feed the claustrophobic air with Lampyridae acting as deadly symbolism for the end of future dreams.
The sinister gothic militarism that accompanies ’Rain of Shame’ is deeply fitting; fuelling a combustive atmosphere, Söderqvist realises “this is not my world, this is not my time”.
However, a variation in tempo and construction time again makes a highlight of ‘Naked’ with its penetrating basslines and swirling dramatic overtures that echo imperial phase DEPECHE MODE.
The shortest track on the album at four minutes, ’Growing’ sees TWICE A MAN emulating Gary Numan but in a more abstract psychedelic fashion with a sound that also recalls ‘New Head’, OMD’s unusual collaboration with Simon Fung of CHINA BLACK from 1996.
Closing with ’Modern World’, this is another warning in the vein of ‘High In The Clouds’, an orchestrated epic featuring another heavenly Karin My vocal as a dense cacophony of textural guitars, haunting high register synths and thunderous drumming points towards a deadly apocalyptic darkness.
Perhaps more organic and even heavier in tone than ‘Presence’, ‘On The Other Side Of The Mirror’ however reflects a world “where fear is the face of reality”; it is not an easy listen, offering observations and ambiguity rather than answers.
Is there light at the end of the tunnel? Maybe there is, but that light could actually be an oncoming train! “Your future dreams are fireflies, you see them through your children’s eyes.”
With ‘The Silence’, Karin My released the first truly great song of 2019.
Swathed in beautiful synths and embroiled in wonderful melancholy, her gorgeous vocals evoked a forlorn abandonment like a Nordic Mary Hopkin.
For the follow-up, the tearful double-header ‘Time To Go’ and ‘Voices In The Wall’ dealt with personal loss and touched the heartstrings. The latest in her series of acoustically derived electronic songs is the dreamy observation of ‘World From Orbit’.
Stating that “From a distance, I see it all, I’m everywhere. I’m not a part of anything. Just an observer”, Karin My is an experienced self-taught musician who has largely remained in the background for most of her career. The Swedish chanteuse kindly spoke about the making of her singles quadrilogy and much more…
You have a comparatively traditional music background, so how did you first become interested in electronic music and who are your favourite artists of this type in particular?
I have as far I can remember always been fascinated by the sound of electronic devices, but it wasn’t until I was about eleven years old that I got my first “electronic experience” so to speak. A friend of my mother’s gave me five KRAFTWERK LPs (from ‘Autobahn’ to ‘Computer World’) and l remember the moment I first listened to them, sitting on the floor listening to something that took me to another world. I was deeply touched and scared at the same time, to me the music sounded almost like it wasn’t created by humans.
Shortly after that, bands like TANGERINE DREAM and DEPECHE MODE came into my life. The electronic snowball effect rolled on after that and filled my life with beautiful and inspiring music from bands like ELEGANT MACHINERY, DIVE, DE/VISION, APOPTYGMA BERZERK, VNV NATION, IRIS and KITE just to mention a few.
The quality of electronic music appears to be very strong in Sweden at the moment, why do you think that might be?
I’m wildly guessing here, but maybe it’s the fact that since the 90s, we’ve had a lot of talented artists in the electronic music scene, who over time have evolved and fine-tuned their skills. Maybe right now they’ve all reached a point of maturity which makes both the productions and the performances stronger. Because we´ve been doing this side by side throughout the years, we have been ageing together to reach this point. Or maybe it’s just something in the water.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK first spotted you doing backing vocals on ‘High In The Clouds’ by TWICE A MAN, how did this collaboration come about?
I was doing a small gig with my guitar, playing some electronic covers in a basement café in Gothenburg, I came in directly from the streets where I used to busk for surviving. Dan Söderqvist was in the audience that evening and after the gig, he asked me if he could use my voice for the next TWICE A MAN album. We gave it a try and liked what we heard, so we decided to continue working together, both in studio and live on stage where I’ve had the honour of being their guest voice on several occasions.
Your time in music goes back further than that in the band NEMO, whose song ‘Voices In The Wall’ you revived for a solo single?
Yes that’s very true. My interest in music started early. I sang Dan Andersson and other folk songs as soon as I was old enough to talk. Later on, as the restless teenager I became, I played every instrument I could lay my hands on, often terribly, but I had fun and learned a lot.
From the money I got picking strawberries, I bought my first piano. Then I found a drum kit in a garage, got it for free and spent one year torturing the neighbours, but at least I got good enough to play drums and sing in a jazz n’ blues band, with some good old silver foxes. I then bought my first cello, learned how to use it and that was a long-time dream coming true.
At this time, I also wrote my first Swedish lyrics which I many years later translated to English and used for my music. Then I met Carl Lundgren, became the female voice of NEMO and finally started to learn about the process of creating the electronic music that I loved so much.
You twinned ‘Voices In The Wall’ with ‘Time To Go’ in a rather emotive video presentation, was this two party story based on personal experiences?
Every story I tell has a grain or a mountain of truth to it. I was surprised though, how hard it was to watch the video. I didn’t expect that. I watched it three times, first to celebrate that we were done, then to see our work and to focus on the details, and then once again just to watch it. I think it’s really well made and I’m so grateful to the girl who acted the young part in the video, but I prefer not to watch it again.
The quadrilogy started with ‘The Silence’, a truly striking song and video.
Thank you, it makes me really glad that you think it is!
How would you describe your creative process, from composition, arrangement, production and visuals?
I’ll try to describe the creative process as briefly as I can, or this will be a never ending story. The visuals for this song started as a dream, literally. I saw what later became the video when I was sleeping and made some sketches of it. When I wrote ‘The Silence’ on my acoustic guitar, we realised that the dream and the song belonged together. We spent the spring and summer building the abandoned winter city which serves as the setting in the video.
I was then filmed on a huge white fabric, dragging the sack back and forth for days, with a person standing on a ladder throwing fake snow at me. This was the hottest summer in Stockholm since forever, so me struggling in the video in that winter outfit is not fake. Then I was super imposed into the city.
Creating the musical part of ‘The Silence’ can best be described as a constant search for the most beautiful and mood setting sounds that were hiding inside the machines, to match the sounds of the acoustic instruments.
It would be fair to say that your music has a very melancholic tone, does that reflect you as a person, where your life is your art?
Yes, in some way. The music reflects one part of me that I most of the time carry on the inside, but in the name of art, I have all the freedom I can wish for to let it out, without it being a heavy burden for anyone else. At the same time, I’m genuinely happy for all the beautiful things out there and I easily get emotionally touched in a good way as well.
The new single is called ‘World From Orbit’, what is that about?
As I see it, it’s about someone’s silent wishes, to exist just as a floating thought, far from the difficulties that we for some reason choose to live with. To see it all from a distance and dream about making it better. Even though it’s sad to have to live with such wishes, I think this is also a song about hope.
The monochromatic video for ‘World From Orbit’ is very Olympian, what does the burning star symbolise?
We did that scene by illustrating the lyrics literally, (“…a star, shining down on all the children”) so that’s what it is, a shining star. But I’m sure there can be many more fantastic interpretations of that, it’s up to each and every one. I have to mention I was surprised afterwards when I was looking at the video and got especially touched by that scene, seeing it as a mother’s warm and safe utero carrying a new life, and got a bit emotional.
For many years, you have been in the background doing backing vocals or cello for acts like MACHINISTA, CARBON BASED LIFEFORMS and FAKE MOSS, so how does it feel to be at the front? Are you enjoying the experience with all the attention that entails?
Thank you, it feels very good, like a piece of a puzzle that falls into its place. I am very grateful for all the artists I’ve had the honour of working with during all these years, amazing people and musicians each and every one, and it’s exciting to finally release something of my own.
The attention generated so far is both heartwarming and inspiring. Some people seem to have been touched by the songs and sometimes share their own stories with me and tell me I am brave; I wasn’t expecting a response like that.
You are getting to work with a lot of great equipment of all vintages for your music, so what is your favourite synth and why?
This was a really difficult question and I hope I don’t make all the other synths sad by choosing only one. But using the Korg PS3200 is like opening a door to another world and I feel honoured to have some of her sounds on my album. The special one I’m referring to here is called “Bettan” (short for Beatrice) so I guess she’s a lady model.
What’s next for you?
I’m continuing the work on the album which hopefully will be released in late 2019. Prior to that a digital EP featuring remixes by different artists will also be released. I’m also doing a wedding concert for Gasleben of TWICE A MAN and Anna Öberg who are getting married this summer. Recently I also got a request from a legend about working together on his next project, to which I of course responded “yes”.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Karin My