Wolfgang Flür is best known as one of the two electronic percussionists in the classic line-up of KRAFTWERK that gave the world ‘Radio-Activity, ‘Trans-Europe Express’, ‘The Man Machine’ and ‘Computer World’.
But despite what has been close to a five decade recording career, Wolfgang Flür releases what is only his second full-length collection under his own name. Flür’s first album on departing Kling Klang was ‘Time Pie’ issued in 1997 under the moniker of YAMO, but ‘Magazine 1’ follows up 2015’s ‘Eloquence’ which collected a range of solo tracks and collaborations recorded since 2002.
‘Magazine 1’ also does this to a lesser extent by featuring ‘Zukunftsmusik’ with U96 which first appeared on the dance combo’s 2018 ‘Reboot’ collection and reappeared in edited form on the collaborative album ‘Transhuman’ in 2020. This is an excellent track but here it is again in its third long playing incarnation. This Teutonic “future music” with Flür’s distinctive vocal remains equal to ‘Activity Of Sound’, his 2014 collaboration with Ireland’s iEUROPEAN.
However, things are not all up to the standard of ‘Zukunftsmusik’; using an array of robotic voice treatments, the opening ‘Magazine’ song featuring Ramón Amezcua is frankly a mess as it moves between its metronomic and shuffling beat sections. Again with U96 and Flür rapping, ‘Best Buy’ distorts its robotics in a KRAFTWERK vein and promises Kling Klang aesthetics, but things are more ‘Tour De France Soundtracks’ than even the best material on ‘Electric Café’ with the middle eight speech dialogue being particularly irritating as the track morphs into another mess.
Released in 2021 by BAND ELECTRONICA, the new electronically focussed project of Midge Ure, ‘Das Beat’ was a glorious slice of robopop in collaboration with Flür with “Beats through wires, beats through walls”. Unfortunately in his own ‘Magazine 1’ version, things that were good about the song like the blisteringly catchy synth hook in the classic KRAFTWERK tradition have been watered down into a mush with a new melody that is nowhere near as appealing. Meanwhile the icy motorik bossa nova inexplicably has incongruous sections of electro beats thrown in.
With cutting Numan-esque synth riffs and the cast involved, the pulsating ‘Birmingham’ featuring Claudia Brücken on lead vocals duetting with Flür’s vocodered presence and Peter Hook on his low-slung bass should have been a highlight, but disappoints due to its lack of structure. Also using similar Numan keyboard stylings, ‘Night Drive’ features Anushka who adds a soulful tone of voice to the strident electro backdrop, recalling the dancefloors of New York like The Danceteria with an enjoyable club friendly excursion although halfway through, it adopts a darker cutting tone.
‘Electric Sheep’ with Carl Cox and U96 possesses a childlike quality that will polarise listeners but ‘Billionaire (Symphony Of Might)’ with Juan Atkins is the sort of generic techno that Flür often plays in his DJ sets which he misleadingly passes off as concerts. Closing the album with ‘Say No!’, the lengthy MAPS collaboration points to where ‘Magazine 1’ could easily have gone, utilising a Flür anti-war monologue with choral and vocoder interventions over an absorbing midtempo electronic soundscape that evolves into a wonderful Germanic crescendo.
A true mixed bag of an album, two of the best tracks have already come out while several of the collaborations do not live up to their potential. But for KRAFTWERK fans seeking new material from members of the classic line-up, ‘Magazine 1’ will be welcomed, providing flashing reminders of a pioneering era that will act as an escape from the disorientations and uncertainties of the present day.
‘Magazine 1’ is released by Cherry Red Records on 4th March 2022 in CD + vinyl LP formats
Former KRAFTWERK percussionist Wolfgang Flür needs no introduction.
But the German music project U96 is still best known in the UK for a 1991 techno rework of the theme to the Second World War film epic ‘Das Boot’ composed by Klaus Doldinger.
Formed by DJ Alex Christensen, U96 also included a production team named MATIZ comprising Ingo Hauss, Helmut Hoinkis, and Hayo Lewerentz. U96 were to go on to have a number of Europop oriented hits including ‘Love See No Colour’ featuring Ingo Hauss on lead vocals.
After that, the story got confusing with Alex Christensen returning as U96 in 2006 without MATIZ. Then after a stint reviving BOYTRONIC with James Knights for the ‘Jewel’ album in 2017, Ingo Hauss and Hayo Lewerentz did a 2018 ‘Reboot’ of U96 without Christensen and Hoinkis.
One track featuring on the corresponding long player was ‘Zukunftsmusik’ (translated as “future music”) featuring guest vocals by Wolfgang Flür. Stark and Teutonic with robotic vocoder aesthetics and Flür’s distinctive vocal, the union was equal to ‘Activity Of Sound’, Flür’s collaboration with iEUROPEAN from 2014.
This ultimately planted the seed for this ‘Transhuman’ collaborative double album and ‘Zukunftsmusik’ reappears in an altered ‘Radiophonique’ edit which luckily is not that drastically different from the original version.
A three way musical partnership with a number of melodies created using computer algorithms, the album’s theme is the transformation of people through technology and its interference on Planet Earth. The opening title salvo ‘Transhuman’ is a marvellous slice of technopop with self-referencing namechecks, rich in klassische elektronische Musik that will forever be associated with Kling Klang.
More metronomic, ‘Hamburg – Düsseldorf’ is a trancier club excursion with the title phrase repeated using various vocal source techniques. ‘Specimen’ though is less impressive in its quest for atmospheric techno, but ‘Clone’ is more energetic and threatening although this really could be any instrumental European dance track from the last 30 years.
‘To The Limit’ recalls the Bernard Sumner / Johnny Marr side project ELECTRONIC and the hypnotic bassline from the track ‘Freefall’ and then partly morphs into some of the ‘Electronica’ adventures of Jean-Michel Jarre within the more dance DJ end of the spectrum and BOYZ NOISE’s ‘The Time Machine’ in particular.
‘Zufallswelt’ meaning “random world” takes a less frantic approach which adopts some Far Eastern flavours. Flür returns on lead vocals for ‘Planet In Fever’ and although cut from a similar cloth to ‘Zukunftsmusik’, it is perhaps not as fully realised although the overall sound design is an aural pleasure.
Speaking of which, ‘Shifted Reality’ is very pretty with the sparking ambience of its arpeggios while ‘Kreiselkompass’ is a pleasing second cousin, although again less fulfilled.
Meanwhile ‘Data Landscape’ provides a satisfying percussive tempo to the KOMPUTER pop proceedings and ‘Transhumanist’ is moodier with its sampled grunt but still melodic, glistening away within its crispy backdrop.
‘Sexersizer’ attempts to get saucy with a synthetic female voice asking the listener to “just call my number – you have the choice” over a hard throbbing house bassline, but it doesn’t really get to the point. Similarly ‘Maschinenraum’ utilises a sombre-paced sequencer engine room but the end result is more incidental.
Closing ‘Transhuman’, Ingo Hauss takes the lead vocals on ‘Let Yourself Go’ and it is the Europop U96 of old and anyone who ever danced to ‘Love See No Colour’ in a Hanover disco back in 1993 will adore this one. And if once wasn’t enough, a modern EDM remix by BEATSOLE of ‘Let Yourself Go’ complete with drops comes as an enjoyable bonus, although it sticks out like a sore thumb.
At sixteen tracks, this is a long record and when ‘Transhuman’ excels, it does it very well. But it is stylistically a mixed bag. But does this matter in these days of playlists, when a rather good eight track album can be knocked up with a running order of one’s own choosing?
This is a welcome collaboration between two generations of electronic music but in an attempt to appeal to two quite different audiences, despite the spiritual connection, listeners may find themselves needing to take sides.
Covering a wide variety of niches, KRAFTWERK and U96 fans will find their favourite moments but some careful curation and fewer tracks may have made this collection a more rounded experience.
‘Transhuman’ is released on 4th September 2020 by Radikal Records / UNLTD Recordings as a double red vinyl LP, CD and download
2018 was a year of good songs rather than good albums, with many of long players not as consistent or as of high a standard as the bumper crop from the Class of ’17.
However, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK had plenty of material to choose from for its 30 SONGS OF 2018 and for obvious reasons, cannot include everything that was in this year’s shortlist…
So worthy mentions go to ANI GLASS, BLACK NAIL CABARET, BRÜCKEN FROESE, DANA JEAN PHOENIX, DISQO VOLANTE, DUBSTAR, EKKOES, FAKE TEAK, FRAGRANCE, THE FRIXION, GUNSHIP, HILTIPOP, IAMX, LIZETTE LIZETTE, TRAIN TO SPAIN and WITCH OF THE VALE.
Interestingly, three graduates from the ‘Some Bizarre Album’ made it into the final list, thus highlighting the longevity of that particular vinyl showcase some 37 years on!
So with a restriction of one song per artist moniker, here are our 30 SONGS OF 2018 presented in alphabetical order…
AFTERHERE Breaking Rules
AFTERHERE is the brand new project of HEAVEN 17 singer Glenn Gregory and live keyboardist Berenice Scott, but with their roles reversed. Exploring their inner GOLDFRAPP but in a funkier vein, with groovy reminisces of ‘Twist’ and ‘Yes Sir’, the song seductively boasted a captivating sexually charged electronic energy. Berenice Scott said: “We always wanted to have a driving track on the album that you could hopefully move your feet to, party to… possibly get in a little trouble!”
Available on the AFTERHERE album ‘Addict’ via Manners McDade
While the Clarke was strong with this one, the first impression that came across with ‘Utopia’ was that things became a slight bit darker in the world of JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM. Despite that, there was a rousing chorus and percolating sequences to savour as he pointed out the futility of seeking that perfect future, when life has so much more on offer. “I wouldn´t describe the album as dark though” the DAILY PLANET synthesist helpfully added, “it´s absolutely a pop album.”
Available on the JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM album ‘Utopia’ via Progress Productions
For BLANCMANGE, ‘Distant Storm’ was rather unusual with its dance beat, reverberant Moog bassline and dreamy processed vocoder aesthetic. With a rousing, almost spiritual quality and elements of JAMES’ ‘Come Home’ creeping in for good measure, it displayed Neil Arthur’s comfort in working with producer Benge on effectively their third album together. “I wanted to sing it as though it was really detached with my voice being synthesized” he told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK.
Available on the BLANCMANGE album ‘Wanderlust’ via Blanc Check Records
Veteran Mansfield quartet B-MOVIE made their most electronic pop single to date with the chilling aesthetics of ‘Stalingrad’. Complete with an infectious synth melody, an eerie mezzo-soprano and using the crucial Second World War battle as a metaphor for a doomed relationship, it was possibly Steve Hovington, Paul Statham, Rick Holliday and Graham Boffey’s best song since their 21st Century reformation; appropriately, its B-side was called ‘Something Cold’…
Available on the B-MOVIE EP ‘Repetition’ via Loki Records
‘Get Out’ may have acted as a superb launch single, but starting off their ‘Love Is Dead’ album was the wonderful ‘Graffiti’. This was a classic kaleidoscopic CHVRCHES tune that punched the sky with some rousing vocals. It was also a supreme singalong showcasing Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Docherty in full bouncy Taylor mode. Despite the downcast lyrical demeanour on lost youth and the passing of time, this was still a grand pop statement.
Australian duo CONFIDENCE MAN were a ray of sunshine in 2018 with their own brand of campy dork pop, being everything SCISSOR SISTERS should have been. ‘Don’t You Know I’m In A Band’ was an amusing satire on ego and sense of entitlement in the music industry. With an electro take on the groovy swoop of WAR’s ‘Low Rider’, a pitch shifted Sugar Bones came over like an inebriate Teddy Pendergrass while Janet Planet delightfully counterpointed in her alluring girly manner.
CREEP SHOW is the meeting of minds between eclectic singer / songwriter John Grant and the dark analogue electro of WRANGLER whose members comprise Stephen Mallinder, Benge and Phil Winter. On ‘Safe & Sound’, the quartet explored a spacious KRAFTWERK and GIORGIO MORODER hybrid to reveal gradually some wonderfully warm melodic synth textures to accompany Grant’s passionate lead croon. The project led to Benge also working on Grant’s ‘Love Is Magic’ album also released in 2018.
Driven by a meaty electronic bassline and metronomic backbone, the marvellous vocoder-laden ‘Comrades’ by RODNEY CROMWELL captured a really chilling Cold War atmosphere, bathed in an ensemble of sweeping synth oboes and cosmic string machines. “I ended up thumping at the MicroKorg and came up with the opening riff” he said. Rich with melody and a panoramic resonance, it surreally captured the sound of Moroder being played through a Soviet Foxtrot submarine intercom system.
With ‘Falling In Love With Sadness’, EMIKA produced one of the best electronic albums of 2018. The record was a concept album of sorts, a musical reflection on generations of sadness within the Anglo-Czech musician’s family in her most personal statement yet. The pacey ‘Promises’ made the most of her lower and higher vocal registers, providing an eerie cascading harmonic with some rumbling dubby tension and booming stabs driving Eastwards with solemn spine tingling qualities.
Taking in more synthetic ambitions, FARAO’s second album ‘Pure-O’ was a playful bleep forward. While ‘The Ghost Ship’ saw Kari Jahnsen focussed on her forlorn little girl lost lyrics, the wonderfully uptempo ‘Marry Me’ offered an accessible PET SHOP BOYS flavour and romantic layers of vocals masking a deep scepticism of the institution of marriage, while the lush backing and chugging electronic backbone carried the air of her compatriot SUSANNE SUNDFØR.
Available on the FARAO album ‘Pure-O’ via Western Vinyl
Releasing their first new material in over three decades, FIAT LUX returned with the most splendid ‘It’s You’. As well as the bassline and harmony from David P Crickmore, the sax style was a fitting tribute to the sadly departed Ian Nelson. Singer Steve Wright said: “Lyrically, I hope, it expresses feelings that possibly everyone can relate to…” – their long awaited debut album ‘Saved Symmetry’ is expected in 2019.
Available on the FIAT LUX single ‘It’s You’ via Splid Records
The ‘Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten’ album was easily equal to Jonna Lee’s work with IAMAMIWHOAMI. Best of the set was possibly the marvellous closing number ‘Fold’. Featuring exotic cascading timbres and spacey pulsars, distorted string synths added tan appropriate chill as Lee’s passionate vocals completed the filmic vibe. Less mysterious, the IONNALEE transition was a triumph, especially with one of the best value-for-money live presentations of 2018.
Asking if “it is foolish to dream”, ‘Someday’ saw KATJA VON KASSEL questioning a moment of passionate haste. “The phrase ‘Someday’ just opened it all up and everything else just fell into place.” the chanteuse said. Capturing the beautiful melancholy of ASSOCIATES’ Billy Mackenzie, the doomed romantic tragedy of the sadly departed Scot was echoed by the chanteuse’s deep forlorn delivery, accompanied by CHRIS PAYNE’s hypnotic bassline and haunting vox humana treatment over a simple rhythmic loop.
Despite their age, LET’S EAT GRANDMA have a feisty but mature musical ambition, as successfully realised on ‘Donnie Darko’, an 11 minute tribute to the troubled teenager haunted by a monstrous rabbit-like figure. Utilising a sedate start before morphing into a wonderful movement of cascading electronics set to a metronomic beat, there were passionate reflections on the subject of human suffering. It all went a bit “batsh*t crazy” into a glorious synthony before calming to its conclusion!
Available on the LET’S EAT GRANDMA album ‘I’m All Ears’ via Transgressive Records
CHRIS LIEBING featuring POLLY SCATTERGOOD And All Went Dark
Noted techno exponent CHRIS LIEBING teamed up with Mute label mate POLLY SCATTERGOOD on a stark polyrhythmic number appropriately titled ‘And All Went Dark’. The brooding minimalist electronic piece with its eerily poetic spoken contribution from Miss Scattergood saw the Essex songstress haunted by a “dark shadow on my shoulder” and telling how “a sickness took hold early on”.
Available on the CHRIS LIEBING album ‘Burn Slow’ via Mute Artists
With the name transcending Toronto based Hayley Stewart’s fascination with Japanese culture, cyber space and a love of vintage synthesis, ‘Mad But Soft’ was her first album as MECHA MAIKO. The magically crystalline ‘False Memories’ could have been part of the ‘Stranger Things’ soundtrack. Uncomplicated on the surface yet multi-layered and airy, this day-glow pink neo-instrumental concoction was well-thought through and deliciously produced.
One-time RÖYSKSOPP collaborator Ryan A James continues to hone and develop his hybrid mix of luxuriant synthetics and subtle guitar textures as MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY. He said about the gorgeous electronic bubblebath of ‘Lafayette’: “It’s really a song about the end of a relationship, disguised as a song about Scientology, and how defectors of Scientology are disowned by their loved ones. The name comes from the religion’s founder Lafayette Ron Hubbard.”
Available on the MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY album ‘Infinity Mirror’ via Killing Moon Records
“Beware! It’s a scary world” and with their BRITNEY SPEARS fronting NINE INCH NAILS template, NIGHT CLUB took their sweet but sinister synth rock sound to its zenith with the title track of their second album. And when the children’s choir joined in the chorus to sing of demons everywhere, this was a musical trick or treat that no parent would want their offspring to be part of, the message being “they only love you if you swallow”!
A fabulously optimistic closer to NINA’s debut album, ‘80s Girl’ came beaming over like some missing song from the film ‘Mannequin’. With big Simmons drums, sampled orchestra stabs and driving synthbass triplets, it was however delivered with subtlety and restraint so that it wasn’t a HEART or STARSHIP pastiche. Dedicated to her mother, it had a telling message of “don’t let the past hold you back”.
Perhaps best known as the alluring if slightly blunt chanteuse of BLACK BOX RECORDER, SARAH NIXEY released her best solo album to date in ‘Night Walks’, a quality record with air and presence, collecting everything she has ever been musically, all rolled into one. One of its key tracks was the delightful ‘Journey’, a glorious number of the type that Marc Almond has often been so good at, laced with crystalline synths and gorgeously breathy vocal tones à la Jane Birkin.
Available on the SARAH NIXEY album ‘Night Walks’ via Black Lead Records
The ‘Savage’ album turned out to be both an artistic and commercial vindication for GARY NUMAN. ‘It Will End Here’ from ‘The Fallen’ EP was a natural progression from that, exploring a heavy but melodic electronic sound without relying on the predictable backing of rock guitars. With and anthemic chorus and the apocalypse is looming over the aural desert, there was even a soaring vocal pitch shift up at the song’s conclusion which added an extra eerie vampiric quality.
NYXX is very much her own woman, like the Greek goddess of night she is named after, a figure of power and beauty with a Britney-like vocal presence that sweetly offsets some of her darker overtones. A collaboration with Daniel Graves of AESTHETIC PERFECTION who contributed a glorious evangelical middle eight, she said “It would not be what it is without him. I came in with a sketch of a song, a melody and lyric of another song… Daniel heard nuances in it and we built what is now ‘Voodoo’.”
Available on the NYXX single ‘Voodoo’ via Close To Human Music
Eddie Bengtsson and Marina Schiptjenko initially came together in PAGE releasing their first single ‘Dansande Man’ in 1983. Since then, the pair have parted and reunited on a number of occasions but the mission for the ‘Start’ EP was to party like it’s 1979 when GARY NUMAN was No1. ‘Nere För Räkning’ was an urgent slice of pulsing synthrock with a piercing vibratoed lead line akin to the keyboard interventions heard on ‘The Pleasure Principle’.
Available on the PAGE EP ‘Start’ via Energy Rekords
From Mission Viejo in California, PLASMIC describes herself as an “Orange County one-woman dervish” and in a vivid haze that’s pretty in pink, “your abused Barbie doll from childhood”. Combining J-Pop with CRYSTAL CASTLES and DEVO, the undoubted standout from her ‘Validation Nation’ EP was ‘Baby Machine’, an immensely catchy feminist electropop anthem utilising a mixture of vintage Casio and Yamaha sounds that challenged the expectations of women to bear children.
Championed by none other than Vince Clarke, REED & CAROLINE successfully combine tunes with electronic experimentation. The haunting ‘Entropy’ was a tribute to a departed friend and a fabulously touching GARY NUMAN homage to his ‘Dance’ period, in particular ‘Cry The Clock Said’. The hypnotic soundtrack of gentle preset rhythms and eerie electric piano, courtesy of a Buchla modular synth, was complimented by Schutz even adopting the phrasing of the man born Gary Anthony James Webb.
Weird and wonderful, ‘Red Moon Voyage’ was a ghostly 10 minute epic comprising of glitchy voices and varying rhythm constructions recorded especially for Halloween. Free of album concepts and the pop song format, this was FIFI RONG at her most adventurous yet, delightfully adding her native Mandarin language towards the third part. “Having a long journey means you can get very deep and lots of moods and transitions” she told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK
Marc Almond and Dave Ball were the boys who came back-back-BACK as SOFT CELL in 2018. ‘Northern Lights’ reminisced about their days at the Wigan Casino and recaptured the pop essence that led to the duo having five consecutive Top 10 hits! Despite the grittiness and energetics, the duo always had melody and that came back in abundance on their welcome recorded return. The darker B-Side ‘Guilty (‘Cos I Say You Are)’ affirmed that as a creative force, SOFT CELL still had it.
Chinese six-piece STOLEN are reckoned by Berlin-based producer Mark Reeder to be possibly the most exciting band he has seen since NEW ORDER. Certainly their debut album ‘Fragment’ was impressive and one of the best of 2018, with ‘Turn Black’ being one of the standout tracks. “I like the idea of mixing of rock with techno…” said growly lead vocalist Liang Yi to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK, “we are very proud that we don’t sound like any of the other Chinese bands.”
Ingo Hauss and Hayo Lewerentz handed back the BOYTRONIC brand to Holger Wobker and returned to being U96, teaming up with former KRAFTWERK percussionist Wolfgang Flür for the best track by either party in recent years. Stark and Teutonic with stark robotic vocoder aesthetics, the union of two German musical heavyweights from different generations was equal to Flür’s ‘Activity Of Sound’ collaboration with Ireland’s iEUROPEAN.
Combining piano, synths, field recordings, drones, occasional beats, old string instruments and HILARY WOODS’ wonderfully forlorn voice in the vein of Julee Cruise, ‘Jesus Said’ questioned the existence of God. Described by the Irish songstress herself as “a song that seeks catharsis”, her child-like expression over the drifting synthesized tones and hypnotic drum machine to augment her beautiful piano playing gave ‘Jesus Said’ a gentle meditative quality.
Available on the HILARY WOODS album ‘Colt’ via Sacred Bones
BOYTRONIC certainly have been through many line-up changes, hiatuses and disappearances and reappearances from the German synth scene since 1983, but now it’s the time for the big return.
‘Jewel’ marks the 2017 reincarnation of the trio, with Ingo Hauss, Hayo Lewerentz and James Knights.
Since Hauss and Lewerentz have approached the project in a fluid manner, rather than “we are in a band, therefore we have to deliver” configuration, the artistic process has been more relaxed and not rushed, until they found Winchester boy James Knights.
The former vocalist of SCARLET SOHO recorded ‘Time After Midnight’ with the German duo, without any expectations or further plans, but, since musically it represented the kind of material BOYTRONIC have been loved for and it was warmly received by the hungry fans, the three musicians decided that a brand new BOYTRONIC album was in order.
Following previous multiple releases, with the last opus ‘Dependence’ some ten years ago , ‘Jewel’ promises “a new beginning as well as the continuation of the success story” for the Hamburg based project.
Inspired by Martin Scorsese’s ‘After Hours’, ‘Time After Midnight’ marries an excellent nostalgic synth sound and vocal à la Marc Almond in his prime, and is a perfect re-introduction into the quirky sound of BOYTRONIC, who have always had that edgy feel to their material.
‘The Universe’ distinguishes itself with masterful arrangements and rather original approach to synth. Lewerentz calls it – “a centre part in Alice in Wonderland mode”; its simplicity unparalleled, and its depth unreachable, a little gem.
Talking about which, the title track is certainly precious. A little bit of mystery, a dash of versatile vocal and a dose of nostalgia recalling CAMOUFLAGE equals a wonderfully rounded down tempo tune.
While the cinematic ‘Jewel’ is “shiny and clear”, ‘Mad Love’ is loaded with magically pulsating rhythm, reminiscent of BOYTRONIC’s earliest releases, with its metallic synth sound and an innate musicality seeded deeply in Lewerentz’s creations, making it a perfect choice of the first single.
‘Share’ is a dark horse, with breaking the boundaries of electronica as we know it; a bit EBM-ish but without the tedious stomps and unnecessary twists. Lyrically it describes the unruled sharing of contents on social networks, which has become somewhat a mare for the artists of today.
‘My Baby Lost Its Way’ is a minimalist pop hit, which dazzles with the danceability factor and brings back the club feels of old, while ‘Dark Passion’ ushers in the Eurotrance beats over nautical connotations a la ‘Das Boot’. No surprises there as Lewerentz, along with Ingo Hauss and producer Alex Christensen, was also involved in the successful U96 project.
Semi-instrumental and fully robotic, ‘Disco City’ leads to the most surprising entry on the album; a cover of U2’s ‘New Year’s Day’.
“We came up with the idea spontaneously at the studio”, says Lewerentz. “Ingo, James and I were jamming away when suddenly James joined in our chord harmonies with the ‘New Year’s Day’ chorus. We looked at each other in surprise and decided: Might as well have a go at the original.” The result is a very fitting electronic version of the well-known song, which actually sounds heavens better than the original.
It is indeed pleasing to see the BOYTRONIC spark light up again; much fresher, fuller and bigger, but still keeping in with its beginnings – something not many can deliver so easily.
“BOYTRONIC has always been about pop songs, danceable, catchy and always a little mysterious” says Lewerentz and ‘Jewel’ certainly provides on that level.
If you’re looking for something non-conforming and not quite fitting into the box, there you have it… BOYTRONIC at their best.
‘Jewel’ is released by SPV Records in Europe and Metropolis Records in North America on 3rd November 2017
Since 1983, the Hamburg based BOYTRONIC have dazzled with non-quintessential electronica, not quite fitting into any box.
Throughout the last two decades of the 20th century, the band have paved the way for the synth bands of all sorts, being one of the most important electronic acts of their time. Many line-up changes ensured freshness but guaranteed durability.
After ten years since their previous opus ‘Dependence’, they’re back with a dazzling ‘Jewel’. It marks the 2017 reincarnation of the trio with Ingo Hauss, Hayo Lewerentz and James Knights.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK had the pleasure of chatting to Hayo Lewerentz of BOYTRONIC just in time for their eleventh studio release.
1983… a long long time ago…
Yes, very long… it feels like a lifetime 😉
The line-up changes over the years can be a tad confusing…
True, but BOYTRONIC was always more of a project than a band. There was a time in the beginning with Holger Wobker singing two albums. Then he left and we put an ad in Melody Maker searching for a new singer and found Mark Wade from London for another two albums.
After that time, we established a new project called U96 which was more ‘techno’ and it became a huge success with Number 1 chart positions and millions of records sales, so BOYTRONIC was put on ice for some time.
But in 2003 I met Holger again and we recorded a new album together called ‘Autotunes’ which was in parts produced by English producer legend Gareth Jones. This was the first time we actually did some live shows with BOYTRONIC.
At the same time, I established my label Major Records where I released bands like IAMX, LADYTRON, MESH or NITZER EBB, so we didn`t have much time anymore for BOYTRONIC and Holger recorded a new album on his own entitled ‘Dependence’ which wasn`t matching our expectations at all. This was the point where everyone lost interest in BOYTRONIC…
Then in 2016, we recorded some demos with James Knights for another project that we planned and realized, that it sounded very BOYTRONIC-ish. This was the moment where we decided to relaunch the project again but Holger had lost interest in the meantime…
…Holger was good, but…
…he was never very keen on playing live although I think that you need to play live to keep things running. Our fans are very happy as they say to see us perform now on a regular base. We love it also and can`t wait to play more shows – maybe also in the UK soon we hope.
James Knights seems a perfect successor though?
Yes, he is the perfect successor as it seems. His voice is in a similar range and also the old classics sound very “BOYTRONIC” with him. Many fans told us that they love his presence and voice and that it matches to the older songs very well.
The BOYTRONIC sound has always been one of the kind?
Well, it changed with the times but it still is BOYTRONIC and always will be.
What makes Germany a true leader in the electronic genre?
I don`t know… nowadays there are also many artists from other parts of the world who make great electronic stuff like THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS, UNDERWORLD, LADYTRON, IAMX etc. But I guess KRAFTWERK left a big footprint out there and also some of the other electronic pioneers such as NEU! or “Die kosmischen Kuriere”. We grew up listening only to electronic music in our teenage years but we also loved DAVID BOWIE, ROXY MUSIC or IGGY POP to name a few.
Do you continue with other projects such as U96 or similar?
Yes. We have just finished a new U96 album which we really are proud of. We are planning releases of tracks first until we will release the entire album though. We will also take U96 on tour next year. One of the tracks on that album is a collaboration with former KRAFTWERK member Wolfgang Flür by the way and we will release that track as a single in November.
Was the plan for ‘Jewel’ to bring back the original sounds of BOYTRONIC or introduce newer textures into your creations?
Both really. Of course we are influenced by new music as we listen to a lot of new stuff; but with James, we have a singer that matches the true BOYTRONIC sound, so I guess it is a good mixture.
What’s the primary inspiration behind BOYTRONIC in terms of influences?
Well… the inspiration was many songs we wrote that came to life with James finally 😉
In the early years it was listening to everything 80s, New Wave and electronic artists. We were all die-hard Bowie fans in our teenage times.
You describe yourselves as never having been “pure DEPECHE MODE devotees”. Would you expand on that?
We love DEPECHE MODE, don`t get me wrong. It is just that we do not want to be one of these bands that try to sound like them. There are many of those bands here in Germany. We think there are so many great other artists too and we are very open minded musically.
James’ voice is reminiscent of that of the younger Marc Almond. Was that intentional?
No…how can this be intentional? Marc Almond is obviously a great singer and was very influential on other artists too, but James voice is James voice – he was born that way 😉
What’s the story behind your U2 cover on ‘Jewel’?
We had some chords, a little layout for a new song and when James heard it, he sang a part of ‘New Years Day’ to it. As we realized that the chords were close to the U2 song, we decided to record the song as a cover instead. To have similar chords to an existing song happens sometimes unintentionally, but we don`t wanna be Copycats 😉
Will ‘Jewel’ be taken out on tour?
Yes, definitely. We have already played 7 shows this year and we will go on tour with the new album in early 2018. We will also play a lot of festivals like the WGT in Leipzig and more to come.
What does the future hold for BOYTRONIC?
We hope a lot. With James as the new singer, we are very inspired to write and record more material. Also we have a release with ‘Jewel’ in the US for the first time and we hope to play some concerts there too.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to BOYTRONIC
Special thanks to Jessica Schellberg at Result Promotion
‘Jewel’ is released by SPV Records in Europe and Metropolis Records in North America on 3rd November 2017