SIN COS TAN, the “synthesized duo of great promise, broken dreams, and long nights” return with a new EP after a six year absence.
Entitled ‘Drifted’, the Finnish pairing of Juho Paalosmaa and Jori Hulkkonen were inspired by the experiences of separation and resignation experience by most during 2020. “We had numerous discussions about doing something again with SCT over the years, but they never came to fruition” said Paalosmaa, “I think the whole COVID thing, in all its trouble, gave us the pause we needed in our lives for SIN COS TAN to make sense again”.
But Paalosmaa added ”Finns, as people, are quite well adapted to handle isolation. We’ve been doing that voluntarily for centuries already. Nevertheless, it’s still been a challenge at times.”
With three albums ‘Sin Cos Tan’, ‘Afterlife’ and ‘Blown Away’ already to their name, the last SIN COS TAN release was the dance focussed EP ‘Smile Tomorrow Will Be Worse’ in 2015. At around 7 minutes, ‘Disconnect’ recalls the nocturnal moods of the self-titled debut while strident piano makes a surprise appearance towards its dramatic final third. With a more metallic and danceable pace, ‘If I Was Gone’ is reminiscent of more uptempo SIN COS TAN material such as ‘History’ with crystalline synth tones and magnetic IDM vibes.
‘Unconditional’ exudes a hypnotic atmospheric groove with an emotive vocal delivery from Paalosmaa in a manner that is classic SIN COS TAN. “It’s really about the poison of absoluteness” clarified Hulkkonen, “and how doing things strictly your way can erode a lot of good will around your life”; it is undoubtedly a lesson for all. Almost funereal, ‘True To You’ captures the resignation and isolation where an e-Bowed guitar simulation played on a synth comes as the unexpected dressing to the largely instrumental template and doing as the EP title suggests.
A welcome return that is not short of drama or intensity, ‘Drifted’ sees SIN COS TAN dipping their toes in the water again after their hiatus. Once they fully hit their creative stride again over a long playing format, there is sure to be even more excellence to come in the vein of songs like ‘Trust’ and ‘Moonstruck’.
Juho Paalosmaa and Jori Hulkkonen are back as SIN COS TAN after a six year hiatus.
The Finnish synth duo opened their account in 2012 with a nocturnal self-titled ‘Sin Cos Tan’ album which included the magnificent “disco you can cry to” of ‘Trust’. The second album ‘Afterlife’ in 2013 added more colours and a collaboration with Casey Spooner of FISCHERSPOONER on the electro-new wave of ‘Avant Garde’.
Released in 2014, the third SIN COS TAN long player ‘Blown Away’ was a concept album about the fictional middle aged banker Michael Burana who following his divorce, becomes a drug courier and gets involved in a life of crime before his story comes to its inevitable conclusion when he is ‘Blown Away’ in the ‘Heart Of America’.
The last SIN COS TAN release was the three-track dance focussed EP ‘Smile Tomorrow Will Be Worse’ and although the pair worked together on ‘Ultima’, the 2016 second album from Paalosmaa’s other project VILLA NAH, the upcoming ‘Drifted’ EP will be their first new material as SIN COS TAN since 2015, inspired by the experiences of separation and resignation during the worldwide pandemic.
Juho Paalosmaa and Jori Hulkkonen chatted to ELECTRICITY CLUB.CO.UK about becoming ‘Drifted’ and returning from the wilderness as SIN COS TAN.
SIN COS TAN had been extremely prolific with three albums in three years, how do you look back on that catalogue of work produced in such a short time?
Juho: Looking back on it now, I’m honestly kind of surprised at how much of it still holds up. We were on a creative roll, but still managed to stay quite focused. It’s strange to listen to something you’ve done years ago and genuinely feel like you’re discovering it in the process.
Jori: Very proud of those albums. And, even though they were done in a relatively short period of time, they each really stand on their own and have a specific sound to them. I don’t really listen to my own music, but earlier this year I went through the full SCT catalogue as we were preparing our first live show in six years, and was really surprised how well the material has aged. But I guess that’s the advantage when you make retro sounding – or as I like to say, timeless – music.
Had there been any particular reason that after the concept album ‘Blown Away’, you opted for a more dance-oriented EP ‘Smile Tomorrow Will Be Worse’ as its follow-up in 2015?
Juho: We felt like we really went out on a high (no pun intended) with ‘Blown Away’. The downside is we really had a hard time thinking of how to pick up after it. ‘Smile…’ was the result of that conundrum: we just wanted to do something very different after our last album.
Jori: Exactly. I personally felt we had peaked creatively on ‘Blown Away’ on so many levels, that doing another album felt a bit overwhelming at the time. However, we still had the drive and ideas for songs, so we decided to take a slightly different approach.
Although you both worked together on the second VILLA NAH album ‘Ultima’ in 2016, what was the impetus for producing new SIN COS TAN material?
Jori: We’ve had some get-togethers at my studio all through the years, with the intention of starting something, and there’s a bunch of demos that never quite made the cut, or got us excited enough to finalise a release. So there never really was a real break creatively, just a slight exhaustion from the three albums and an EP run, and personally I felt the bar was pretty high after ‘Blown Away’ especially. I guess it took some time for us to find the same loose vibe for writing songs together again.
Juho: We had numerous discussions about doing something again with SCT over the years, but they never came to fruition. I think the whole COVID thing, in all its trouble, gave us the pause we needed in our lives for SIN COS TAN to make sense again.
How have you both been handling the enforced isolation of the lockdown, have your perspectives changed?
Juho: As much as anyone’s, I suppose. This kind of experience is bound to highlight the importance of certain elements in life, and the absolute superficiality and uselessness of others. But Finns, as people, are quite well adapted to handle isolation. We’ve been doing that voluntarily for centuries already. Nevertheless, it’s still been a challenge at times.
Jori: I’ve handled this very poorly, but it’s still been better than normal life.
Did some of your experiences during lockdown affect your creative dynamic as SIN COS TAN? Was there more remote working than in the past with consultations on Zoom etc?
Jori: Not really, we still write some stuff separately, but the main magic happens always when we’re in the studio together just bouncing ideas.
Juho: Not really with the recording part, we were able to do all the recordings of ‘Drifted’ in a few days at Jori’s studio. But any rehearsing for live stuff has been completely different. We basically don’t meet at all, Jori lives in Turku and I live in Helsinki. We’re about 150km apart. So, we rehearse on our own and meet on-stage for the live show! It’s a bit mad. We’ve done it just once so far at a Finnish festival, but it went down surprisingly well…
The opening song ‘Disconnect’ from ‘Drifted’ recalls the nocturnal moods of your self-titled debut but piano makes a surprise appearance in the track’s final third, what was the idea or inspiration behind this?
Jori: The song came about when we were just jamming on top of this groove I had nicked from a Finnish new wave 12” from the 80s; basically I just sampled a drumbreak from it while playing the maxi single at 33rpm, and programmed the rhythm part around that. Then we just started layering things on top of it. Towards the end, we felt it needs to build up for a proper pay-off, and I can’t remember which first hit upon those pianos, but it seemed to do the trick.
Juho: No particular inspiration, it just felt like the right thing to do at the moment. You come up with ideas that flow with the track and match the tension or mood you’re creating. Spontaneity is essential when creating music.
Another new texture comes on ‘True To You’ which is primarily instrumental and throws in some E-Bowed guitar, was this quite tricky to nail down during recording?
Jori: Oh that’s all synth on the track. That lead sound was a bit of a placeholder for a vocal idea to emerge, but eventually it grew up on us, and realised it works better with this really sparse arrangement.
‘If I Was Gone’ is more typical of SIN COS TAN’s uptempo material with its IDM vibes, do you find yourselves still inspired by the dancefloor despite getting older?
Jori: Age has nothing to do with dancefloor really. I think with SCT, we have a few key approaches to how we frame a song. This particular track is based on Juho’s demo, and I immediately knew how it should sound.
Juho: ‘If I Was Gone’, as a song, could’ve also easily been a ballad. I originally wrote it on guitar as a slightly slower version. But it felt right to give it more tempo and pizzazz, and Jori had an Italo vision for it that worked out nicely with the lead melody.
‘Unconditional’ has a particularly emotive vocal delivery, what is the song about and is it autobiographical?
Jori: This again was based on a demo I had made, that had some placeholder lyrics from me, which Juho changed completely but kept the feel of the delivery and melody. It’s a really nice example of how we complete each other’s ideas.
Juho: It’s really about the poison of absoluteness, and how doing things strictly your way can erode a lot of good will around your life. I suppose all the tracks on ‘Drifted’ are autobiographical – lyrically, they’re quite a direct response to things I’ve experienced over 2020 and before.
Equipment-wise, are you using any new toys or are you sticking to your trusted tools? Do you have any thoughts about these clone vintage instruments that Behringer are making or the way synthesizer technology is heading?
Juho: No new toys on ‘Drifted’, as far as I know… I’m not a gear head, but I’ve started to come around to plug-ins over the years. They’re simply so high-quality nowadays that it’s hard to argue for a massive collection of synths, either in economic terms, or simply in the space that they require. At the end of the day, I still feel that the songs themselves matter the most: it’s easy to lose yourself in a sea of plugins, apps and synths, but none of those matter if the songwriting sucks.
Jori: This was actually the first SCT release to emerge from my current studio, after relocating in 2016. However, the main equipment – hardware and software – are the same. I don’t think I’ve bought any new gear in years, I’ve completely gotten over GAS (gear acquisition syndrome), and really been just focusing on ideas and their execution with the stuff I have. It’s all about efficiency. At the same time, I do follow all these amazing new and rebooted versions of classics that keep hitting the market. I mean, what’s not to love?
‘Drifted’ is an EP that captures a specific moment, but do you see yourselves working on a long playing record again in the future, does the album still have a place in modern music consumption?
Jori: For SCT in the future, yes, but for the moment we feel the EP as a format is something that works best for us. Generally speaking though, I do love albums; most music I’m into these days requires that extended timeframe to pass on the ideas and textures, something that the single or EP formats simply can’t deliver.
Juho: I think albums still certainly matter and always will. My favourite records are often LPs. But it also feels quite liberating to do an EP as well. They allow for a more concise vision and give way for variety in the future as well. The idea of an entire LP can feel daunting at times. An EP, on the other hand, just sounds like fun. It’s like a great miniseries on HBO that never outstays its welcome.
Jori appeared in ‘808 – The Movie’, are there any music documentaries or other series you have both been enjoying that you would like to recommend?
Juho: I already told this to Jori, but I’ve really enjoyed some of Tiga’s ‘Last Party on Earth’ podcasts recently – particularly the episode with Trevor Jackson, which goes beyond of just DJs talking about their craft. Tiga is a great host, he’s funny as hell and has a pleasant voice for radio.
Jori: I did the intromusic and jingles for the Tiga podcasts, by the way. Anyways, I actually haven’t seen it yet, but I’m really looking forward to the Edgar Wright’s SPARKS documentary.
What are you hopes and fears as the world re-emerges from a difficult 20 months?
Jori: I don’t think it will re-emerge for a long time, so I have no hopes really.
Juho: Hoping it re-emerges as a better version of itself. Fearing that it most likely won’t.
What’s next for the two of you, both as SIN COS TAN and individually?
Juho: Hopefully more SCT in the future, but it all depends on how we’re feeling about it. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Music will always play a part in our individual lives, regardless.
Jori: Like Juho mentioned earlier, we played our first SCT live show for almost 6 years just a couple of weeks ago, and it was really fun, so that got us talking as to where to head next. Time will tell if any of those plans materialise at any point. As for me personally, there will be new Jori records popping out here and there. As always.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to SIN COS TAN
There is nothing like the other side of life. As a companion to its favourite 25 Classic Synth B-sides, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK presents a listing looking at the 21st Century equivalent.
B-sides often take on a cult following, provoking discussions among fans about why they might have missed inclusion on the parent album.
On why artists occasionally overlook a track when it is clearly good enough, Richard Silverthorn of MESH said “Sometimes you can’t see the wood for the trees”.
Then there are the occasional abstract studio experiments which often fail but occasionally work and the occasional cover versions which don’t always find favour with some listeners but are infinitely more preferable over pointless remixes of the A-side!
But how is a modern B-side been defined? There is a wider definition now due to digital and streaming formats, so they can include flipsides of vinyl, bonus tracks on CD singles and non-album tracks released as part of a download single or EP bundle. Despite all this, the term “B-side”, like “album” and “video”, still remains.
So for the purposes of this listing as before with the 25 Classic Synth B-sides, B-sides featured on the original issue of a full length album, or subsequently included on a new one are NOT included. However, those added as bonus tracks on later reissues, deluxe editions or compilations are permitted. Rules are good, rules help control the fun! ?
So with a restriction of one track per artist moniker, presented in date and then alphabetical order within, these are ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 25 Synth B-Sides Of The 21st Century…
LADYTRON Oops Oh My (2003)
LADYTRON surprised their audiences during live shows in support of the ‘Light & Magic’ album by closing with a feisty synthpunk cover of TWEET’s ‘Oops Oh My’. Co-written by Missy Elliot, the Timbaland produced original with a DEVO sample had been a hip-hop favourite but the aggressive Riot Grrrl styled take on this risqué song about self-love with lyrics like “There goes my skirt, droppin at my feet” added a rockier edge to their sound.
Available on the LADYTRON single ‘Evil’ via Telstar Records
“This was written in response to the Iraq War” said Sarah Blackwood aka Client B, “I remember endless discussions with Toast Hawaii boss Fletch about whether it was the right decision and with heavy hearts, watching endless shelling and firefighting, from the 24 hour news coverage on far flung European hotel TVs. It was the first time I had felt that disconnection and frustration with my home country, the ‘not in my name’ ringing loudly in my ears. Bit late to the party but that’s the story of my life.”
Available on the CLIENT single ‘Here & Now’ via Toast Hawaii / Mute Records
The eloquence and surreal atmospheres of the first GOLDFRAPP album ‘Felt Mountain’ may have taken a back seat on its follow-up ‘Black Cherry’ but the experimentation continued on the B-sides of the album’s singles. ‘White Soft Rope’ combined the unsettling imagery of bondage with a chorus sung a school choir, but ‘Gone To Earth’ was even more otherworldly. The reverberating bassline combined with swirling synths and dreamy glides while Alison’s alternate cosmic language startled with a spacey hypnotism.
Nathan Cooper who was in THE MODERN said: “The inspiration came from ROXY MUSIC’s ‘In Every Dream Home A Heartache’ which was about a blow up doll, we took that a step further and Model# 426 is about some kind of sex droid!! ‘Model #426’ was always the song that would get the audience talking because singer Emma would open a trunk on stage and lead a gimp out on a collar into the bemused looking audience!! I think it was actually that stunt that got us signed to Universal!”.
Interpolating KC & THE SUNSHINE BAND’s ‘That’s The Way (I Like It), the self-produced ‘Party Song’ was naturally a throbbing disco driven affair outshone the horrendous Diane Warren penned ballad ‘Numb’ which comprised the main act. Lyrically inspired by the classic Joan Collins and Leonard Rossiter fronted Campari adverts that, it began life as a dance cover of NIRVANA’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ suggested by Elton John and intended as a single for a new PET SHOP BOYS ‘Greatest Hits’!!
Originally the B-side of ‘Numb’, now available on the PET SHOP BOYS album ‘Format’ via EMI Music
‘Japanese Kiss’ was from the debut release on Happy Robots from Alice Hubley and Adam Cresswell. “This was the first track I wrote for ARTHUR & MARTHA” he recalled, “mostly recorded in the bedsit I’d moved into after splitting up with my girlfriend. I was absorbed in self-pity, comforting myself with Japanese-horror movies and the company of my ARP Quartet, Moog Rogue and the DR-55. Living my best life!”; 11 years later as Rodney Cromwell, Cresswell did a NEW ORDER inspired ‘KW1’ remix.
Available on the ARTHUR & MARTHA single ‘Autovia’ via Happy Robots
Basing its title on the well-known NEW ORDER tune, as with a number of the B-sides listed here, ‘Bizarre Love Duo’ outshone the main act ‘Ghost’. It all began with a pitch shifted groan sample repeated with hypnotic effect over some squelchy backing. But during the second half, the track built itself to a fabulous but abstract electrodisco number with a marvellously catchy refrain. While not quite a song and not quite an experiment, ‘Bizarre Love Duo’ was enjoyable tune in the MARSHEAUX canon.
Originally the B-side of ‘Ghost’, now available on the MARSHEAUX album ‘E-Bay Queen Is Dead’ via Undo Records
A cover of a cover, namely SHOCK’s take on THE GLITTER BAND’s 1974 Top5 hit; playing the role of the Latin lothario in response to the Annie song ‘Anthonio’, Sebastian Muravchik of HEARTBREAK and now SNS SENSATION remembered: “Richard X produced this version of ‘Angel Face’ as a side B in his single ‘Annie’. I sang both sides, which kind of shows two sides of Anthonio’s personality in a way. It was a fantastic experience – Richard is a great guy and über pro, so really a win-win.”
Available on the ANTHONIO single ‘Annie’ via Pleasure Masters
“Positive and negative can only attract” sang Victoria Hesketh on the bouncy ‘Catch 22’, a lesser known LITTLE BOOTS track which initially only appeared on the 7 inch single of ‘Earthquake’ in the UK. Gloriously synthpoppy, in hindsight along with other songs that did not make it onto the final tracklisting of her debut album ‘Hands’, it highlighted a possible direction that could have been taken, but which was ultimately watered down for wider acceptance after she was named BBC Sound Of 2009.
Originally the B-side of the single ‘Earthquake’, now available on the LITTLE BOOTS deluxe album ‘Hands’ via On Repeat Records
Continuing a great tradition among the synthpop acts of the past, VILLA NAH had ‘Benny’s Burning’ and ‘Daylight’ as part of their B-side armoury as well as the brilliant debut album ‘Origin’. Highlighting the inherent talent of Juho Paolosmaa and Tomi Hyyppä, ‘Benny’s Burning’ was a smoother and more atmospheric side of VILLA NAH compared with the uptempo technopop impressions of its A-side ‘Rainmaker’. The Helsinki duo later opened for OMD during the UK leg of 2010’s ‘History Of Modern’ tour.
Available on the VILLA NAH single ‘Rainmaker’ via Keys Of Life
Produced by Vince Clarke, ‘Never Let You Down’ was free of the many autotune treatments that Frankmusik had applied when helming the disappointing ‘Tomorrow’s World’ album in his attempts to make ERASURE sound more modern and contemporary. As a result, that heartfelt soul often associated with Andy Bell made its presence felt over a glorious galloping synthpop tune in the classic ERASURE vein, especially during the middle eight section in Spanish.
In their short career, MIRRORS left not only a great album in ‘Lights & Offerings’ but a body of wonderful B-sides too. Any number of them are worthy of mention but the nod goes to ‘Fall By Another Name’ as it was accessible enough to have been an A-side. Not as dense as MIRRORS’ usual pop noir hence its likely relegation to flipside, the bright pulsing melodies and James New’s Dave Gahan impression made this sound rather like a quality outtake from DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Speak & Spell’.
While the A-side was a faithful cover version of Peter Schilling’s anthemic ‘Major Tom’, ‘Dead Air Einz’ was a self-composed song by APOPTYGMA BERZERK mainman Stephan Groth that was eagerly welcomed at the time, thanks to it being his first original new track for four years. Utilising distorted radio broadcasts in its backdrop, it also featured some Korg MS20 from Jon Erik Martinsen and was something of a grower with its steadfast drum machine shuffle.
Available on the APOPTYGMA BERZERK single ‘Major Tom’ via Pitch Black Drive Productions
Making their initial impression with the mighty ‘Lies’ in 2012, Glasgow trio CHVRCHES actually became the mainstream saviours of synthpop that LITTLE BOOTS and LA ROUX had promised but ultimately failed to deliver on. ‘Now Is Not The Time’ was a fantastic midtempo tune with a great chorus that like ‘The Mother We Share’ sounded like Taylor Swift gone electro. However, it got relegated to B-side status despite being superior to several songs on their debut long player ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’.
Available on the CHVRCHES single ‘Recover’ via Virgin Records
In a pattern similar to the ‘Sounds Of The Universe’ boxed set only track ‘Oh Well’, the best song from ‘Delta Machine’ sessions was left out of the main act. ‘All That’s Mine’ featured a tightly sequenced backbone, electronically derived rhythms and a gloomy Eurocentric austere, all the perfect ingredients for a classic DM tune! While it was no doubt rejected for not fitting into the faux blues aspirations of modern DEPECHE MODE, it made up for the dreary notions of the A-side ‘Heaven’ which were more like hell…
Originally the B-side of the single ‘Heaven’, now available on the DEPECHE MODE deluxe album ‘Delta Machine’ via Columbia Records
OMD’s twelfth album ‘English Electric’ was notable for combining conceptual art pieces alongside supreme electronic pop in a manner reminiscent of their fourth long player ‘Dazzle Ships’ and KRAFTWERK’s ‘Radio-Activity’. Although four of these concepts made it onto the final running order of the album, one that didn’t was ‘Time Burns’, a intriguing sound collage comprising of clock movements, chimes and digital watch alarms over rumbles of sub-bass and profound computer generated speech.
Originally the B-side of the single ‘The Future Will Be Silent’, now available on the OMD EP ‘Night Café’ via BMG
A stomping electro disco number produced by Mark Reeder and Micha Adam, Elizabeth Morphew’s cooing Bush-like howls and breathy euphoria are a total delight to the ears while the mighty cavernous sound provided the heat! However, ‘United’ has ended up as the B-side. Reeder said ”I saw a piece posted on ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about QUEEN OF HEARTS and I was curious. I really liked Elizabeth’s voice from the moment I heard the first couple of tracks.”
Originally the B-side of ‘Secret’, now available on the QUEEN OF HEARTS deluxe album ‘Cocoon’ via Night Moves
With an alluringly haunting vocal from Anais Neon, the eerily stark ‘Little Death Capsule’ saw VILE ELECTRODES tell the story of early space travel when these primitive craft were sent out of the earth’s atmosphere effectively sitting on inter-continental ballistic missiles, with burning up also a possibility on return. With pulsing instrumentation from Martin Swan, it featured the sort of sterling analogue treatments that would make KRAFTWERK and YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA proud.
A touching tribute to Messrs Clarke, Gore, Hütter and Schneider with hints of YAZOO’s ‘In My Room’, Johan Baeckström said of ‘Synth Is Not Dead’: “I guess I just wanted to reflect on the fact that there still IS a synthpop scene with some really great bands, both old and new. In another way, the song is sort of my ‘thank you’ to some of the artists that inspired me for several decades – some of them are mentioned in the lyrics, but far from all of course”.
Available on the JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM single ‘Come With Me via Progress Productions
METROLAND (We Need) Machines Without Romance (2015)
METROLAND’s second album ‘Triadic Ballet’ was a triumphant electronic celebration of the Bauhaus, art movement led by Walter Gropius. Gropius theorized about uniting art and technology and on the B-side of its launch single ‘Zeppelin’, METROLAND worked towards the 21st Century interpretation of that goal. Now imagine if Gary Numan had actually joined KRAFTWERK in 1979? Then the brilliantly uptempo ‘(We Need) Machines Without Romance’ would have surely been the result.
Originally the B-side of ‘Zeppelin’, now available on the METROLAND boxed set ’12×12′ via Alfa Matrix
Of the superbly rousing ‘Paper Thin’, Richard Silverthorn of MESH recalled: “Mark Hockings presented me with a demo at the time we were writing material for ‘Looking Skyward’. On first listen, I wasn’t too sure about the track as I thought it didn’t really fit with the overall feeling of the album so it kind of got shelved. The record company asked ‘what about the B-side?’ so Mark suggested ‘Paper Thin’ again. The bassline, drums and many other lines were changed and the new version came to life.”
After SCARLET SOHO, James Knights busied himself with a new Britalo inspired solo project. With hints of NEW ORDER’s ‘Subculture’ and found on KNIGHT$ debut EP ‘What’s Your Poison?’, he said “’So Cold’ is the second or third song I wrote as KNIGHT$. It’s a little darker than my other material, and the only song I’ve recorded using a marxophone (a fretless zither which I borrowed from my friend Alun Davies). It didn’t make it onto my debut album, but it’s still a song the audience enjoy, as do I.”
PSYCHE co-founder Darrin Huss said of ‘Truth Or Consequence’: “It started out under the title ‘Life On Trial’ and was about the Bradley Manning (now Chelsea) situation. It’s about the NSA surveillance, whistleblowers, etc. It’s also about the confusion between what is Truth, and what are the consequences of telling it, living it? Do we have safety in numbers? etc. It’s all in the lyrics. It’s a very PSYCHE song with even a nod to ‘The Brain Collapses’ with our use of that song’s drum machine the Oberheim DMX.”
That Marc Almond and Dave Ball reunited for a farewell gig and new material was a pleasant surprise. The frustration and anger expressed in ‘Guilty (Cos I Say You Are)’ with the lines “I can denounce you just because I can, I didn’t have the life I wanted, I didn’t do the things I dreamed” saw SOFT CELL continue where they left of in 2003. With dark resonances like ‘The Omen’ gone disco, its eerie gothique countered the celebratory electro-soul of A-side ‘Northern Lights’
INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP Another Brick In The Wall – Remoaner mix (2019)
Inheriting the mantle of THE HUMAN LEAGUE in the modern synthpop stakes, INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP impressed with their self-titled debut album. With the single release of ‘The Ballad Of Remedy Wilson’ was a timely Remoaner mix of PINK FLOYD’s ‘Another Brick In The Wall’ sung in German that made a bold musical and political statement. Headteacher Adrian Flanagan said: “I hope that statement is ‘I hate PINK FLOYD but love KRAFTWERK’ and / or – ‘I hate you but love the EU’”.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK celebrates its tenth birthday and it really has been synthly the best.
At the HEAVEN 17 aftershow party for their triumphant gig at The Magna Science Park on 6th March 2010, following chats with Glenn Gregory, Martyn Ware, Paul Humphreys and Claudia Brücken, interview opportunities opened up. It was obvious there was gap waiting to be filled for a quality web publication that featured the best in new and classic electronic pop without having to lower itself to using the dreaded “80s” label.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK was it and became reality on 15th March 2010. Electronic pop music didn’t start in that Thatcher decade and certainly didn’t end there either. So there was even an editorial diktat which banned ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s writers from using the lazy”80s” term as a reference. Tellingly, several PR representatives said that one of the site’s main appeals was that it avoided the whole nostalgia bent that had been presented by both virtual and physical media.
At the time, kooky female fronted keyboard based pop like LA ROUX, LITTLE BOOTS, LADYHAWKE, LADY GAGA and MARINA & THE DIAMONDS were among those touted as being the future at the time. But it proved to be something of a red herring, as those acts evolved back into what they actually were, conventional pop acts.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK preferred the sort of innovative synthpop as outlined in BBC4’s Synth Britannia documentary.
Meanwhile, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s portfolio expanded swiftly with key personalities such as Rusty Egan, Sarah Blackwood, Richard James Burgess, Warren Cann, Chris Payne, Thomas Dolby, John Foxx, Andy McCluskey, Neil Arthur, Alan Wilder, Mark Reeder, Gary Langan, Jori Hulkkonen, Howard Jones, Mira Aroyo, Sarah Nixey and Hannah Peel among those giving interviews to the site during its first two years.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has always prided itself in asking the questions that have never usually been asked, but which fans want to know the answers to. And it was with this reputation for intelligent and well researched interviewing that in March 2011, the site was granted its biggest coup yet.
Speaking to Stephen Morris of the then-on hiatus NEW ORDER, the drummer cryptically hinted during the ensuing chat that Manchester’s finest would return by saying “I never say never really”.
And that is exactly what happened in Autumn of that year and the band have been there since, as popular as ever and still making great music with the release of ‘Music Complete’ in 2015.
Monday 21st March 2011 was an interesting day that partied like it was 1981 when it saw the release of albums by DURAN DURAN, THE HUMAN LEAGUE and JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS. Also in 2011, Mute Records celebrated their influential legacy with a weekender also at London’s Roundhouse which culminated in ERASURE, YAZOO and THE ASSEMBLY performing in the same set.
Despite the ‘Brilliant’ return of ULTRAVOX, 2012 paled in comparison after such a fruitful year and several acts who were featured probably would not have gained as much coverage in more competitive periods. With pressure from outsiders as to what was hot and what was not, this was the only time ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK felt it was obliged to support a domestic scene.
But realising acts like HURTS and STRANGERS were actually just jumping on an apparent synth bandwagon and possessing more style than substance, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK decided to change tact and only featured acts it felt truly passionate about, even if it meant upsetting the wider synth community. The reasoning being that just because a band uses a synthesizer doesn’t mean it is good.
During this time, MIRRORS sadly disbanded while VILLA NAH mutated into SIN COS TAN. But the year did see the launch of CHVRCHES who stood out from the crowd with their opening gambit ‘Lies’.
With their Taylor Swift gone electro template, Lauren Mayberry and Co managed to engage an audience who didn’t know or care what a Moog Voyager was, to listen to synthpop!
2013 turned out to be one of the best years for electronic pop since its Synth Britannia heyday. What ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK achieved during this year would take up a whole article in itself… there were high profile interviews with Alison Moyet, Gary Numan and Karl Bartos while OMD released the album of the decade in ‘English Electric’. PET SHOP BOYS made up for their ‘Elysium’ misstep with ‘Electric’ while there was finally a third volume in BEF’s ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction’ covers series.
Although 2014 started tremendously with ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK being invited to meet Karl Bartos and Wolfgang Flür in Cologne, the year suffered next to quality of 2013.
The interviews continued, particularly with key figures from the Synth Britannia era including Midge Ure and the often forgotten man of the period Jo Callis who was a key member of THE HUMAN LEAGUE during their imperial phase.
But the year saw grandeurs of delusion at their highest. There was the clueless Alt-Fest debacle which saw the organisers play Fantasy Festival with no cash to underwrite the infrastructure to enable it to actually happen!
Sadly today, there are still egotistic chancers organising events with zero budget and the money from ticket sales being fleeced to fund their holidays. But these artificial factors are rarely considered and so long as there are lower league artists desperate to play for nowt and a misguided enhancement in profile that is often on a platform that provides minimal exposure anyway, then the confidence tricks will continue.
2015 saw the local emergence of Rodney Cromwell and Gwenno, while the majestic Swedish duo KITE proved that they were the best synth act in Europe with the ‘VI’ EP and their impressive live show.
It was also the year when ERASURE front man Andy Bell gave his first interview to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK to offer some revealing insights.
Making something of a comeback after a recorded absence of nearly eight years, Jean-Michel Jarre presented his ambitious two volume ‘Electronica’ project which saw collaborations with a varied pool of musicians including Pete Townsend, Lang Lang, John Carpenter, Vince Clarke, Hans Zimmer, Cyndi Lauper, Sebastien Tellier and Gary Numan.
VILLA NAH returned in 2016, as did YELLO with Fifi Rong as one of their guest vocalists while APOPTYGMA BERZERK went instrumental and entered the ‘Exit Popularity Contest’. Riding on the profile generated from their ‘A Broken Frame’ covers album, MARSHEAUX released their biggest-selling long player to date, a two city concept in ‘Ath.Lon’. This was also the year that ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK first became acquainted with the analogue synthesizer heaven of Johan Baeckström, a modern day Vince Clarke if ever there was one.
However DEPECHE MODE unleashed their most dire record yet in ‘Spirit’, a dreary exercise in faux activism bereft of tunes. Salt was rubbed into the wound when they merely plonked an underwhelming arena show into a stadium for their summer London show.
The trend was to continue later in 2019 as DEPECHE MODE just plonked 14 albums into a boxed set, while OMD offered an album of quality unreleased material in their ‘Souvenir’ package.
And with DEPECHE MODE’s sad descent into a third rate pseudo-rock combo during the last 15 years to appease that ghastly mainstream American institution called The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame with guitars and drums, Dave Gahan in particular with his ungrateful dismissal of the pioneering synth-based material with which he made his fortune with, now has what he has always coveted.
And don’t get ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK started on the 2019 Moog Innovation Award being given to Martin Gore, a real insult to true synth pioneers if ever there was one, including Daniel Miller, Vince Clarke and Alan Wilder, the three men who actually did the electronic donkey work on those imperial phase DEPECHE MODE albums! Gore may have been a very good songwriter during that time, but a synth innovator? Oh come on!?!
With regards Synth Britannia veterans, new albums in 2017 from Richard Barbieri and Steve Jansen saw a revived interest in JAPAN, the band with which they made their name.
Despite releasing their final album ‘Tin Drum’ in 1981, as a later conversation with one-time guitarist Rob Dean proved, cumulatively from related article views, JAPAN became the most popular act on ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK.
The return of SOFT CELL dominated 2018 with a lavish boxed set that was not just comprised of previously released long players, new songs, new books, a BBC documentary and a spectacular farewell show at London’s O2 Arena.
EMIKA was ‘Falling In Love With Sadness’ and Swedish songstress IONNALEE showcased one of the best value-for-money live presentations in town, with a show that surreal imagined Kate Bush at a rave!
But from China came STOLEN, one of the most exciting bands in years who were then later rewarded for their graft with a European tour opening for NEW ORDER.
2019 was the year when synthwave graduates Dana Jean Phoenix and Ollie Wride were coming into their own as live performers, while electronic disco maestro Giorgio Moroder embarked on a concert tour for the first time with his songs being the true stars of the show.
Gary Daly of CHINA CRISIS gave his first interview to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK to tie in with his solo album ‘Gone From Here’, while a pub lunch with Mark White and Stephen Singleton mutated into an extensive chat about their days in ABC. Lloyd Cole adopted a more synthesized template on ‘Guessworks’ and Britpop went synth as GENEVA’s Andrew Montgomery formed US with Leo Josefsson of Swedish trio LOWE.
If ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK does have a proudest achievement in its first ten years, then it is giving extensive early coverage to VILLA NAH, MIRRORS, VILE ELECTRODES, METROLAND, TINY MAGNETIC PETS and SOFTWAVE, six acts who were later invited to open on tour for OMD. Partly because of this success, some of those who were less talented felt aggrieved despite feeling an entitlement to be featured. If an act is good enough, the fact that ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK hasn’t featured them should not matter, especially as other electronic and synth blogs are available. After taking its eye of the ball once before in 2012, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK maintained a trust of its own gut instinct.
Meanwhile, its stance has been tested by those shouting loudest who instantly champion what they perceive as the next big thing like sheep, without really looking ahead at a wider picture. However, TRAVIS on VSTs is just not ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s thing frankly…
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s participation in the annual ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE in Düsseldorf for on-stage interviews with Rusty Egan, Chris Payne, Mark Reeder and Zeus B Held was another high profile engagement to be proud of. Then there were six live events and five rounds of hosting ‘An Audience with Rusty Egan’ in one of the most unenviable but highly entertaining refereeing assignments in music ?
Other highlights over the last ten years have included ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 2015 career retrospective on German trio CAMOUFLAGE being edited and used as booklet notes for the Universal Music sanctioned compilation CD ‘The Singles’.
As 2020 settles in, highly regarded artists within the electronic community continue to engage with ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK. Neil Arthur recently gave his seventh interview as BLANCMANGE and his tenth interview overall, taking into account his side projects FADER and NEAR FUTURE. Not far behind, Martyn Ware has also been a regular interviewee having spoken to the site on six occasions while Paul Humphreys has been interviewed no less than five times.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK is still pushing the envelope, continuing to reflect the interests of people who love the Synth Britannia era and have a desire to hear new music seeded from that ilk.
Having started as a group of performers, the enterprise that is now FISCHERSPOONER consists of core members Warren Fischer and Casey Spooner, who are joined by a troupe of dancers and singers.
Fischer is a classically trained musician, while Spooner has his fingers in many pies, including performing in experimental theatre, fashion and producing various types of art.
Their first album came in 2001, named ‘1’, cleverly released on many labels, to be followed by ‘Odyssey’
With their third opus, ‘Entertainment’, the duo went to Jeff Saltzman to aid the production and the current offering ‘Sir’ is being produced by none other than Michael Stipe from REM.
‘Sir’ follows Spooner’s art exhibition of the same name, which centres around nudity, featuring himself and many of his former partners, friends and lovers in assorted sorts of nakedness. “We’re living through this sexual revolution. Everyone has a camera. People are redrawing their boundaries of what they share and what they don’t” claims Spooner, introducing his saucy enterprise, to which the newest album is a perfect accompaniment.
With the tone being “aggressively homosexual”, with love moans being used as part of the soundtrack, Spooner showcases the liberated states of today’s society.
‘Have Fun Tonight’ heralds the album as the first single, and what an entrance it is! Big, bold, full of defined synth but not devoid of good melody and sexually charged vocals by Spooner. Mantric drum rolls and arpeggiated electronic elements flow freely throughout this sublime dance track, leading into sweet oblivion.
‘Togetherness’ with CHAIRLIFT’s Caroline Polachek, sounds like vintage PET SHOP BOYS meets GOLDFRAPP, with love pains present. ‘Butterscotch Goddam’ describes the vocalist’s long standing relationship which ended, resulting in Spooner’s liberation and the discovery of endless sensual possibilities.
The apparent sleazy Brazilian trysts are being described in ear-ringing ‘Top Brazil’, which marries marvellous synth a la DEPECHE MODE with filthy lyrics, as one can never have enough of gay sex! ‘Stranger Strange’ with its offbeat tribal simplicity boils up to a hallucinating psychedelic plea to be “fixed up”, while ‘Everything Is Just Alright’ brings a heavier synth line into play.
Multiple vocals on ‘Discreet’ frolic within the realms of simple melody depicting the urgency of “now” in sexual relations, leading gently onto ‘Strut’ with its club feel euphoria and contributions from Juho Paalosmaa of VILLA NAH and SIN COS TAN. While Spooner admits: ‘I Need Love’, he also needs to ‘Get It On’.
Andy LeMaster joins in on ‘Try Again’; an arpeggiated gem full of sadness in the lyrical content, where the desperate cries for “everything I ever wanted, everything I ever needed” prevail.
‘Oh Rio’ with Holly Miranda closes the opus with an alternative twist to wrap up the record of sexual freedom, the power of choice and the beauty of partying and being able to do what one wishes, no strings attached.
Spooner muses: “When I started, the record was optimistic because I was in a happy, open, long-term relationship”, but it wasn’t to be; otherwise the eclectic, sex laden product would never surface. Fischer agrees with “The best thing that happened to this record is you getting dumped.”
‘Sir’ marks the time to play and explore and Spooner is grabbing the opportunities with both hands: “Everyone thinks I’m having a midlife crisis, and maybe I am”…
And if it wasn’t for his midlife crisis, we wouldn’t be listening to the marvel that ‘Sir’ is!