The esteemed Greek composer Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou, best known to the world by his stage name of Vangelis has sadly passed away aged 79.
A self-taught musician, although Vangelis found fame as the keyboard player of prog rockers APHRODITE’S CHILD who were fronted by Demis Roussos, he first became known in Greece for writing a song called ‘Summer Dream’ which featured in the 1968 film ‘Operation Apollo’. While a member of APHRODITE’S CHILD, he composed a number of soundtracks including ‘L’Apocalypse des Animaux’ which accompanied a 1970 French documentary series directed by Frédéric Rossif.
After APHRODITE’S CHILD disbanded, Vangelis was invited by Jon Anderson to join YES to replace Rick Wakeman. Although he opted for what was to become a remarkable solo career, it was the beginning of a friendship that would lead to occasional collaborations and later, three unlikely hit singles in ‘I Hear You Now’, ‘I’ll Find My Way Home’ and ‘State Of Independence’.
Releasing his first album ‘Earth’ as Vangelis in 1973, his style involved him playing virtually everything including guitar, various ethnic instruments, drums and percussion. Relocating to London, he established his iconic Nemo Studios complex near Marble Arch. There he recorded 1975’s ‘Heaven & Hell’ to start what was to be a series of imperial albums. 1976 saw Vangelis’ first space themed long player ‘Albedo 0.39’, the key track of which was the cosmic ‘Pulstar’ whose stabby synth lines were later sampled by Gary Numan for the song ‘Strange Charm’ in 1986.
Vangelis’ wider breakthrough came with the 1977 album ‘Spiral’ and it was here that he debuted the Yamaha CS80. An incredibly complex synthesizer, the CS80 boasted a ribbon controller which allowed for the application of pitch-bends and glissandos polyphonically, while also boasting velocity-sensitive and after-touch qualities. He put these to effective use on ‘To The Unknown Man’, a three part piece over nine minutes which was to become one of his most captivating recordings. But while much of Vangelis’ work possessed a sedate symphonic quality, he proved he could funk it with the best of them on ‘Dervish D’, which utilised a spinning Roland System 100 sequencer core with a brilliantly played jazz-inflected solo.
In 1979, Vangelis was to present his best work yet in ‘China’; although he had not visited the country at the time of record, he became fascinated by its people and culture while observing a connection between ethnic Greek and Chinese music. Using traditional instruments and compositional styles alongside ring modulated synthesizers, ‘The Tao Of Love’ was to be the album’s centrepiece.
Vangelis was continuing to make his name in soundtracks and ‘Opéra Sauvage’ featuring the mighty ‘Hymn’ was to become his most successful album in the US to date. However, it was in 1981 with ‘Chariots of Fire’, the David Puttnam produced movie which told the story of two British athletes at the 1924 Paris Olympics that set him towards a lucrative career in cinema. Composed after watching three run throughs, the film’s opening ‘Titles’ with its iconic six note melodic phrase became an international hit single. The soundtrack won an Oscar for Best Original Music Score.
His next soundtrack for 1982’s ‘Blade Runner’ was to be his most celebrated work but also most troubled. Capturing the futuristic dystopian unsettlement of the story based on Philip K Dick’s ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’, although nominated for a BAFTA and Golden Globe as Best Original Score, Vangelis felt unable to issue a soundtrack album at the time of the film’s release due to creative differences with director Ridley Scott.
The magnificent ‘End Titles’ would not appear until 1989’s ‘Themes’ compilation, while the 1994 ‘Blade Runner’ album omitted much of the original music that appeared with previously unheard tracks such as ‘Rachel’s Song’ featuring the voice of Mary Hopkin now included; the evocative piece was later sampled by THE FUTURE SOUND OF LONDON for their single ‘My Kingdom’.
Rarely giving interviews, Vangelis’ preference for low profile made him an ideal film composer with ‘Missing’, ‘Antarctica’, ‘Bounty’, ‘Bitter Moon’, ‘The Plague’, ‘1492: Conquest of Paradise’, ‘Alexander’ and ‘Twilight of Shadows’ among his other movie credits.
Vangelis adopted a more classical approach on ‘El Greco’, ‘Mythodea – Music for the NASA Mission: 2001 Mars Odyssey’ and ‘The 2002 FIFA World Cup Official Anthem’ but following an inspirational video call with Dutch astronaut André Kuipers from the International Space Station, 2016’s ‘Rosetta’ saw a return to the electronic music to celebrate the European Space Agency probe launched in 2004 to perform a detailed study of comet 67P while flying past Mars and several asteroids along the way.
‘Nocturne: The Piano Album’ from 2019 was another recording inspired by Vangelis’ passion for space, while his final album ‘Juno to Jupiter’ in 2021 continued the theme with a work inspired by NASA’s mission with the Juno space probe to explore Jupiter, featuring opera star Angela Gheorghiu as the “voice” of Juno.
Vangelis leaves behind a vast legacy with some of the best electronic instrumental music ever recorded.
“There is only one hope for humanity… the synthesizer!”
Adult Swim is the night time wing of the Cartoon Network and frequently airs adult animation, mockumentaries and sketch comedy. Although ‘Live At The Necropolis: Lords Of Synth’ first aired in 2016, this little gem of a video is the gift that keeps giving for any fan of electronic music, especially the originators: Vangelis, Wendy Carlos and Giorgio Moroder.
For those that haven’t had the pleasure of seeing it, the skit adopts a wonderfully droll US sports commentary-style approach to a ‘synth-off’ (or as they word it, a “battle of fingoric dexterity”) between Xangelix, Carla Wendos and Morgio Zoroger. Each of the synth heroes are lovingly characterised with Zoroger being portrayed as a hard-drinking Italian (who harbours a long-running grudge against Xangelix and an ex-relationship with Wendos), Xangelis (a reclusive musician who is rarely seen in public) and Carlos Wendos (previously known as Carlton Wendos).
Also worthy of mention are the two US sports-style commentators, both named in homage to German electronic pioneers TANGERINE DREAM (Edgar Tangram and Zedd Centuari) who oversee the musical scoring of the return of Halley’s Comet to earth. The winner being subsequently crowned ‘Lord Of Synth’.
The parody was inspired by Greek-American musician Yanni’s extravagant 1993 ‘Live At The Acropolis’ concert which was seen in 65 countries and Public Broadcasting Service who originally promoted it. What adds to the overall enjoyment factor of ‘Live at the Necropolis’ is the attention to detail throughout, there are so many fantastic touches that it’s impossible to highlight all of them.
For a start, the synth equipment on stage is all appropriate to the individual ‘synth lords’ with Wendos having a Moog modular system, Moroger with a Jupiter 8 (fed through guitar pedals a la Johannes Schmoelling of TANGERINE DREAM) and a variety of other classic synths (including an Emulator I and a Prophet 5).
When it come apparent that Halley’s Comet is going to destroy earth and none of the Synth Lords (individually) will be able to halt its deadly trajectory, our trio combines forces and after sending a synth Morse Code to each other, metamorphosize into a streamlined all-white wearing synth ‘power trio’ with new keyboards to match.
With their collaborative performance, the “sheer coolness of the jam” cuts the heat from Halley’s Comet, a star constellation of Pegasus is summoned and a final triumphant chord sends a beam of light to the heavens and freezes the comet before it obliterates the Earth. Once it becomes apparent that humanity has been saved, former US President Gerald Ford returns (he had previously evacuated in a space pod) to bestow gold medals on our three Synth Lords.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK can’t recommend ‘Live At The Necropolis: Lords Of Synth’ highly enough, it is a joy from start to finish and repeated viewings reveal many fantastic comedic touches that may get missed first time around.
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.
Was 1981 the most important year in synth as far becoming ubiquitous in the mainstream and hitting the top of the charts internationally?
Yes, ‘Autobahn’ and ‘Oxygène’ came before, while the Giorgio Moroder produced ‘I Feel Love’ by Donna Summer is acknowledged as being the track that changed pop music forever and still sounds like the future even in the 21st Century. French electronic disco like ‘Magic Fly’ and ‘Supernature’ also made its impact.
Meanwhile closer to home, a post-punk revolution was already permeating in the UK with the advent of affordable synthesizers from Japan being adopted by the likes of THE NORMAL, THROBBING GRISTLE, CABARET VOLTAIRE and THE HUMAN LEAGUE. But it was Gary Numan who took the sound of British synth to No1 with ‘Are Friends Electric?’ and ‘Cars’ in 1979. It signalled a change in the musical landscape as the synth was considered a worthy mode of youthful expression rather than as a novelty, using one finger instead of three chords.
Despite first albums from John Foxx and OMD, 1980 was a transitional time when the synth was still the exception rather than the rule. But things were changing and there had also been the release of the first Midge Ure-fronted ULTRAVOX album ‘Vienna’ and the eponymous debut long player by VISAGE just as The Blitz Club and the New Romantic movement were making headlines. With the acclaim for the ‘Some Bizarre Album’ in early 1981 which launched the careers of DEPECHE MODE, SOFT CELL, BLANCMANGE, THE THE and B-MOVIE, a wider electronic breakthrough was now almost inevitable.
VISAGE’s ‘Fade To Grey’ went on to be a West German No1 in Spring 1981 and this exciting period culminated in THE HUMAN LEAGUE taking ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ to the top spot in the US six months year after becoming the 1981 UK Christmas No1. It would be fair to say that after this, the purer sound of synth was never quite the same again.
For many listeners, 1981 was a formative year and had so many significant new releases that it was difficult to stretch the limited pocket money to fund album purchases. ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK even took to selling bootleg C90 cassettes on the school playground, promising a value-for-money “two albums for one” deal to support this disgusting habit!
Looking back to four decades ago when there were also albums from DEVO, EURYTHMICS, FAD GADGET, LOGIC SYSTEM, SPANDAU BALLET, SPARKS and TANGERINE DREAM, here are twenty albums which ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK sees as contributing to the electronic legacy of 1981. Listed in alphabetical order with the restriction of one album per artist moniker, this is the way it was in the past, a long long time ago…
DAF Alles Ist Gut
Under a haze of “sex, drugs and sequencer”, the late Gabi Delgado and Robert Görl released an acclaimed album trilogy produced by Conny Plank. The first ‘Alles Ist Gut’ featured their fierce breakthrough track ‘Der Mussolini’ which flirted with right wing imagery in its sardonic reflections on ideology. Causing controversy and confusing observers, DAF attracted a following which Delgado hated. Despite his parents escaping from the Franco regime in Spain, he was always unapologetic about the provocation within his lyrics.
Having conceived the idea of a teenage synthpop group called SILICON TEENS, this dream of Daniel Miller became flesh and blood when he came across a young quartet from Basildon called DEPECHE MODE. Signing on a handshake 50/50 deal to his Mute Records, the group became a chart success. Despite other great songs like ‘Puppets’ and ‘Tora! Tora! Tora!’, the group fragmented on the release of their 1981 debut album ‘Speak & Spell’. The remaining trio of Andy Fletcher, Dave Gahan and Martin Gore recruited Alan Wilder, while Vince Clarke formed YAZOO with Alison Moyet.
Following the ‘retirement’ of Gary Numan with his spectacular farewell shows at Wembley Arena in April 1981, four of his erstwhile backing band became DRAMATIS. RRussell Bell, Denis Haines, Chris Payne and Ced Sharpley had been instrumental in the success of Numan’s powerful live presentation and their only album showcased the band’s virtuoso abilities. While the use of four different lead vocalists (including Numan himself on the superb ‘Love Needs No Disguise’) confused the continuity of the album, musically, there was much to enjoy.
Originally released by Rocket Records, currently unavailable
It would be fair to say that the classic line-up of Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Roger Taylor and Andy Taylor took the arty poise of JAPAN and toned down their androgynous outré to make it more accessible But the enduring appeal of DURAN DURAN is great timeless pop songs and that was apparent on the self-titled debut album which at times sounded like an electronic band with a heavy metal guitarist bolted on, especially on ‘Careless Memories’ and ‘Friends Of Mine’. But most will just remember the two hits ‘Planet Earth’ and ‘Girls on Film’.
Thawing considerably following the release of the acclaimed ‘Metamatic’, John Foxx admitted he had been “reading too much JG Ballard”. Exploring beautiful Italian gardens and taking on a more foppish appearance, his new mood was reflected in his music. ‘The Garden’ album featured acoustic guitar and piano as showcased in the Linn Drum driven single ‘Europe After The Rain’. With choral experiments like ‘Pater Noster’, a return to art rock on ‘Walk Away’ and the more pastoral climes of the lengthy title track, Foxx had now achieved his system of romance.
Fronted by the cool persona of vocalist Glenn Gregory, HEAVEN 17’s debut ‘Penthouse & Pavement’ was a landmark achievement, combining electronics with pop hooks and disco sounds while adding witty social and political commentary, taking in yuppie aspiration and mutually assured destruction. The first ‘Pavement’ side was a showcase of hybrid funk driven embellished by the guitar and bass of John Wilson. The second ‘Penthouse’ side was like an extension of THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Travelogue’, Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh’s swansong with the band.
After Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh left to form HEAVEN 17, vocalist Philip Oakey and Adrian Wright recruited Susanne Sulley, Joanne Catherall, Jo Callis and Ian Burden to record ‘Dare’ under the production helm of Martin Rushent. Like KRAFTWERK meeting ABBA, the dreamboat collection of worldwide hits like ‘Love Action’ and ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ had a marvellous supporting cast in ‘The Things That Dreams Are Made Of’, ‘I Am The Law’, ‘Seconds’ and ‘Darkness’. Only the Linn Drum rework of ‘The Sound Of The Crowd’ blotted the album’s near perfection.
JAPAN took the influences of the Far East even further with the Chinese flavoured ‘Tin Drum’. A much more minimal album than its predecessor ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’, there was hardly any guitar while the synths used were restricted to an Oberheim OBX, Prophet 5 and occasionally the Roland System 700. David Sylvian’s lyrical themes of ‘Tin Drum’ flirted with Chinese Communism as Brian Eno had done on ‘Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), a point highlighted by the pentatonic polyrhythmic single ‘Visions Of China’ and its less frantic sister song ‘Cantonese Boy’.
With his synthesized symphonies, Jean-Michel Jarre helped popularise the sound of electronic music. ‘Magnetic Fields’ was his first long player to utilise the Fairlight CMI which allowed him to absorb some musique concrete ideas such as water splashing and hydraulic train doors into his compositions. Featuring the klanky Korg Rhythm KR55, it was a much more percussive album than ‘Oxygène’ and ‘Equinoxe’ had been, complementing the metallic textures that featured. However, ‘The Last Rumba’ confused some who considered the home organ closer incongruous.
Having scored an unexpected UK hit with the sonic beauty of ‘I Hear You Now’, Jon Anderson and Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou presented a second album in ‘The Friends Of Mr Cairo’. Featuring ‘State Of Independence’ which was to become a hit for Donna Summer, the album was laced with spiritual overtones over symphonic synths, cinematic piano and dialogue samples from films. However, the album is now best known for the single ‘I’ll Find My Way Home’ which had not been included on the original tracklisting.
‘Computer World’ could be considered one of the most prophetic albums of its time. KRAFTWERK forsaw the cultural impact of internet dating on ‘Computer Love’, but the title track highlighted the more sinister implications of surveillance by “Interpol and Deutsche Bank, FBI and Scotland Yard” with the consequences of its prophecy still very relevant discussion points today. But the dynamic rhythmic template of ‘Numbers’ was to have a major impact on Urban America as it was mutated into hip-hop, rap and techno.
LANDSCAPE From The Tea Rooms Of Mars To The Hell-holes Of Uranus
Jazz fusion combo LANDSCAPE were led by producer Richard James Burgess who co-designed the Simmons SDSV with Dave Simmons as the first standalone electronic drum kit, with circuitry based on the ARP 2600. Using a Lyricon, the first wind-controlled synth played by John Waters as its lead hook, ‘Einstein A-Go-Go’ was a fabulously cartoon-like tune about nuclear weapons falling into the hands of theocratic dictators and religious extremists! Meanwhile, ‘European Man’ predated EDM by having the phrase “electronic dance music” emblazoned on its single sleeve.
Rising from the ashes of JOY DIVISION and reconvening in late 1980, Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris chose the name NEW ORDER as a symbol of their fresh start and after deciding against recruiting a new vocalist, Morris’ girlfriend and later wife, Gillian Gilbert was recruited. Despite Martin Hannett still producing, recording sessions were fraught although synths were taking greater prominence while Morris used a Doctor Rhythm DR55 drum machine on ‘Truth’ and ‘Doubts Even Here’. ‘Movement’ may not have been a great debut album, but it was an important one.
Following his much-publicised retirement from live performance, the last thing Numanoids expected from their hero was an understated Brian Eno homage. At nearly an hour’s playing time, ‘Dance’ outstayed its welcome and despite the title, these were mostly downtempo pieces with ‘Slowcar To China’ and ‘Cry The Clock Said’ stretching to 10 minutes. Much was made of JAPAN’s Mick Karn playing fretless bass although he was only on five of the eleven tracks. It was the wrong album at the wrong time but in ‘A Subway Called You’ and ‘Crash’, there were some great moments.
‘Dance’ is still available via Beggars Banquet Records
”I think ‘Architecture & Morality’ was a complete album, it was just so whole” said Paul Humphreys in 2010. The big booming ambience of the album next to big blocks of Mellotron choir gave OMD their masterpiece, tinged more with the spectre of LA DÜSSELDORF rather than KRAFTWERK. Featuring two spirited songs about ‘Joan Of Arc’, these were to become another pair of UK Top 5 hits with the ‘Maid of Orleans’ variant also becoming 1982’s biggest selling single in West Germany.
SIMPLE MINDS Sons & Fascination / Sister Feelings Call
A generally overlooked ‘double’ opus, ‘Sons & Fascination / Sister Feelings Call’ exploited the KRAFTWERK, NEU! and LA DÜSSELDORF influences of SIMPLE MINDS to the full, under the production auspices of Steve Hillage. From the singles ‘The American’ and ‘Love Song’ to the mighty instrumental ‘Theme For Great Cities’ and the unsettling dentist drill menace of ‘70 Cities As Love Brings The Fall’, with basslines articulating alongside synths and guitars layered in effects that when harmonised together were almost as one, this was SIMPLE MINDS at close to their very best.
In their cover of Northern Soul favourite ‘Tainted Love’, SOFT CELL provided the first true Synth Britannia crossover record. Possibly one of the best albums of 1981, ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ captured the edginess of minimal synth arrangements while married to an actual tune. At the time, art school boys Marc Almond and Dave Ball were rated higher than DEPECHE MODE. But with the follow-up success of the Top5 singles ‘Bedsitter’ and ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’, the pair became reluctant popstars, chased around by both teenagers and paparazzi.
‘Sex’ was Belgian trio TELEX’s third album and a collaboration with SPARKS that saw the Mael brothers contribute lyrics to all nine tracks. Experiments in swing on ‘Sigmund Freud’s Party’ displayed a sophisticated vintage musicality and ‘Haven’t We Met Somewhere Before?’ was the hit single that never was. Meanwhile, like KRAFTWERK meeting YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA, ‘Brainwash’ was quite obviously the blueprint for LCD SOUNDSYSTEM’s ‘Get Innocuous!’. However, the tracklisting was considerably revamped for the UK release in 1982 as ‘Birds & Bees’.
‘Sex’ was released by Ariola, currently unavailable
‘Rage in Eden’ began with the optimistic spark of ‘The Voice’ but it was something of a paranoia ridden affair having been created from the bottom up at Conny Plank’s remote countryside studio near Cologne. There was synthetic bass power on tracks like ‘The Thin Wall’, ‘We Stand Alone’ and ‘I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)’, but there was also the tape experimentation of the title track which used the chorus of ‘I Remember’ played backwards to give an eerie Arabic toned “noonretfa eht ni htaed… rebmemer i ho” vocal effect.
‘BGM’, the third full length album from YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA was the first recording to feature the now iconic Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer and was also made using a digital 3M 32-track machine. Following the technopop of the self-titled debut and ‘Solid State Survivor’ albums, ‘BGM’ included reworked pieces such as ‘Loom’ and ‘1000 Knives’. The best song ‘Camouflage’ was a curious beat laden blend of Eastern pentatonics and Western metallics from which the German synth band CAMOUFLAGE took their name.
MUSE’s use of glowing artwork by Kyle Lambert of ‘Stranger Things’ fame on their eighth album ‘Simulation Theory’ in 2018 sent sections of the Synthwave community into meltdown.
There were cries that they had “stolen the aesthetics and concept” and how “it’s not relevant to their sound”! But WHAM! had Peter Saville designed sleeves and never sounded like NEW ORDER or OMD. However, their touch paper is likely to be lit even further with the video to ‘Behold, The Glove’, an enjoyable solo synth instrumental by front man Matt Bellamy in the vein of Vangelis and Jean-Michel Jarre.
The video directed by Lance Drake is part of MUSE’s lavish ‘Simulation Theory’ film which “follows a team of scientists as they investigate the source of a paranormal anomaly appearing around the world. Blurring the lines between narrative and concert film, virtual and reality”.
Reminiscent of the closing scene from the 1968 film ‘Planet Of The Apes’ directed by Franklin J Schaffner, Bellamy is seen crawling around a desolate landscape when he finds what looks like a Nintendo power glove in the sand. Upon wearing it, it allows him to master the rather obscure and expensive Schmidt 8 Voice Polyphonic synth, a snip at 20,000 Euros!
While a Roland Juno 60 has been there since the band’s first album ‘Showbiz’, a Buchla 200e modular synthesizer was part of the armoury for the 2006 album ‘Black Holes & Revelations’ which featured ‘Map Of The Problematique’, a song quite clearly influenced by DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Enjoy The Silence’. More recently,
ERASURE’s lawyers were probably knocking on the door of their tour bus for the similarities between ‘Something Human’ and ‘A Little Respect’. But the synth-friendly combo who have been most key to the sound of MUSE has been ULTRAVOX. It’s not difficult to imagine Midge Ure singing ‘Starlight’ while ‘Vienna’ has been borrowed not once but twice, first on ‘Apocalypse Please’ where the middle eight bass synth section was more or less lifted note-for-note and the second time was more obviously with the drum intro to ‘Guiding Light’.