TOPANGA Midnight Jungle

Euphoric pop outfit welcomes you to the jungle…

The sun-baked streets of Los Angeles seems an unlikely place for an indie synthpop group to emerge from, but the pop power of TOPANGA offer up an appeal that’s difficult to ignore.

Drawing from an eclectic number of influences that include David Byrne, Tame Impala and Miike Snow, Topnaga’s founder members Derek Brambles and Eric Johnson also cite Paul McCartney’s RAM and David Bowie’s Hunky Dory as being particularly special records. Taking their name from Topanga Canyon in LA, the duo were struck by the Native American meaning of the word which meant “where the mountains meet the sea”.

Brambles and Johnson had previously created ad spots for various companies and this knack for catchy tunes is evident on the material they’ve released as Topanga.

Their debut release Midnight Jungle (the title refers to the nickname that the duo had given LA after dark) manages to show off the outfit’s range, which is an unashamed punt at the commercial market, but still crafted from shrewd composition, deft instrumentation and pure melodic hooks.

There’s more than a hint of The Flaming Lips in the spacey vocal delivery on ‘Shadows’, which was Topanga’s first single. Originally penned as a melody for a commercial spot, Brambles felt there was something special there and instead took the composition to craft into a Topanga song.

Inspired by a childhood memory, the lyrics on ‘Shadows’ deals with memory and the idea of letting things go to live in the present. “Slow down now, relax and let the world take over you” offers the song, whose power is through the driving vocal melodies. There’s even a few brass stabs in there for good effect.

There’s a more dreamy arrangement in place for ‘Inmates’ whose unusual lyrics revolve around incarceration with a repeated motif of “prison and sun”. Elsewhere, ‘Life’s A Coma’ has a more Latin flavour to it with its choppy rhythms – and has an immersive 360 degree video to go with it.


The EP’s standout moment however is the euphoric ‘American Promises’, a tune that has ‘banger’ written all over it. The tune has sweeping vocal trills and a clean, tight production style. With lyrics that offer a nod to the uncertain American political climate (“You can’t fake this”), the song is not only timely but boasts synth melodies that will stay in your head for days.

Meanwhile, the pop appeal of ‘Hey Stranger’ has a sun-drenched selection of melodies and clipped vocals. It’s little telephone dialogue segments adding to the charm.

Ultimately, the songs on Midnight Jungle demonstrates a positive and joyful approach that’s the perfect antidote to the gloomy weather and even gloomier political climate currently surrounding us. While the outfit are leaning much more heavily on the pop side of things, it’s difficult to ignore the talents at work behind the tunes.

SAILOR & I The Invention Of Loneliness

SAILOR & I’s debut album bounces between icy pop and beats-driven electronica…

The brooding, glacial pop appeal of Swedish artist Alexander Sjödin, under the guise of Sailor & I, previously caught our attention with the arrival of tracks such as ‘Black Swan’ and ‘Chameleon’.

Sjödin’s Nordic music sensibilities brought forth intriguing compositions that were often melancholic, yet had a sense of melody and charm about them. Now with the arrival of debut album The Invention Of Loneliness, it gives Sjödin an opportunity to demonstrate the breadth of his musical abilities.

“This process has taught me a lot about myself” suggests Sjödin, “It has taught me to not only use music as a form of escapism, but also as a way of connecting to myself, to get in tune with my inner self and luckily being able to find a way to share my story with other people to be able to connect with them. Making music can still make me feel like I’m five years old again and at tough times, it can make me feel isolated. It’s an emotional ride and that’s why I find it so important to keep on doing this, because it’s real. I need it in my life to stay in balance, to stay in tune with myself”.

The album opens with ‘Black Swan’, which was one of the tracks that really put Sailor & I on the map when it was released in 2016 (in particular, the superb remix by Maceo Plex). The track shows Sjödin embracing a dramatic soundscape with his ghostly vocals interjecting at moments.

As we previously said, ‘Chameleon’ has a subtle power to it that can take a few spins to appreciate. There’s a dark piano melody over which Sjödin’s yearning vocal offers hints of change or transformation. Meanwhile, a gradually-building slab of stark electronics gives the track a dark pop appeal.

Meanwhile, ‘Fire On the Moon’ utilises a lot of elements to arrive at the big, cinematic sound of the final composition (including the use of the classic Moog Rogue). “There’s a cold wind blowing through my aching bones” intones Sjödin on a track that’s big on cinematic arrangements and a busy set of electronics layered on top of each other.

‘Flickering Lights’ is, apparently, Sjödin’s attempt to pull in classical, house and electronica into one song. The result is a song that opens with a very sedate piano motif before opening up into a much more beats-orientated affair.


There’s a nice use of energetic strings on ‘Next To You’ which gives this track an unusual power that’s augmented by the almost baroque electronic rhythms that call to mind the likes of Austra.

The album steps down a gear for the slower paced ‘Rivers’, a track that at times called to mind fellow Swedes The Sound Of Arrows. There’s a nice combination of moody rhythms and smooth synth melodies at work here which changes gear yet again at the end with a detached and oddly evocative music box tune.

There’s a warmer feel on ‘Supervisions’ with its use of tribal chants and driving bassy synths. Meanwhile, the closes with ‘Black Stars’, an electronic reverie that’s a collage of different sounds, from choirs and strings to noise synths.

The Invention Of Loneliness is an album that adopts a range of styles that include both the glacial pop of the likes of ‘Chameleon’, as well as more instrumental compositions such as ‘Supervisions’. There’s also a competent sense of production on this release that gives the material a vital humanity next to the icy thematic tunes.

The Invention Of Loneliness is out now on Skint.

Sailor & I play at The Pickle Factory on 2nd March
Tickets on sale now –

Video Killed The Radio Star with POLLY SCATTERGOOD and BRUCE WOOLEY

Iconic pop tune gets re-imagined for the 21st Century…

When it comes to pop tunes, there’s a select few that manage to be immediately recognisable regardless of whatever decade they were recorded in. So the iconic opening bars of The Buggles’ ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ have been so impressed on popular culture that it’s difficult to imagine that there’s anyone unfamiliar with the tune anywhere on the planet.

Now the song is being re-imagined for the 21st Century care of one of the tune’s original composers in collaboration with dark pop chanteuse Polly Scattergood. Bruce Wooley had been part of the original proto-Buggles lineup alongside Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes, but left before the outfit released ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ back in 1979 (although Wooley did release his own take on the song care of The Camera Club the same year).

There’s a timeless quality to the song that established Trevor Horn’s production chops – and it’s no surprise that he later hung up his hat as a performing musician to focus on production full time. The song is a very busy composition that’s packed with hooks, a driving percussion and a clean production style that rapidly propelled it to the top of the charts not just in the UK, but worldwide.

The video for the song was also notable for its evocative visual imagery. Shot by Russell Mulcahy (who also did videos for bands such as The Human League and OMD and later went on to direct cult classic film Highlander in 1986) the video also features a young Hans Zimmer on keyboards. But it’s the silver-jumpsuited ‘Spirit Of The Radio’, the band’s metallic lamé suits and Trevor Horn’s ridiculously oversized glasses that made the video so memorable. ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ also had the honour of effectively heralding the advent of MTV when the video for the song became the first to be screened when MTV launched in 1981.

The new version (which carries the subtitle of ‘Dark Star’) opts for a radical deconstructed adaptation of the song in conjunction with the Radio Science Orchestra (a project established by Bruce Wooley). As a result, Polly Scattergood’s laconic vocals in tandem with the orchestral arrangement lend the song an intriguingly evocative sound that still manages to lose none of the original composition’s power.

“Polly is often described as ethereal, dark, intense and experimental” suggests Wooley, “while her musical style has been described as “early 21st century electro-dance-pop of London proper”. We simply couldn’t think of anyone better to breathe fresh life into this classic song.”

“I remember listening to ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ as a teenager” recalls Scattergood, “It was always playing in my school canteen and it was one of those iconic tracks everyone instantly knew and loved, so when Bruce asked me to collaborate with him and the Radio Science Orchestra on this re-working of it, I was naturally very excited. We both share a love of synths, so enjoyed spending time together in the studio experimenting with building a new soundscape for the track, layer by layer”.

The new video for the reworked version also features cameo appearances from synth pioneer Thomas Dolby and The Retronaut’s Wolfgang Wild, as well as animations by renowned Video Artist Louise Bellairs (The Art of Scared Geometry). A Roland CompuRhythm also makes an appearance 😉

It’s odd to think that the song at the time of its original release played around with themes of emerging technology and the advent of video. It’s the era that saw the rise of synthpop and (for the time) a radical approach to creating music that also dealt with themes of new technology. With the rise of the internet, downloading and streaming, music has already gone through yet another gear change which perhaps makes the core message of the song all the more apt.

A remix by Steve Dub (The Chemical Brothers’ engineer in residence) is also currently in the works and that release will follow in March.

Video Killed The Radio Star is released 24th February on Gramophone Records.

Susanne Sundfør, Wrangler & GusGus confirmed for Hull Festival

Hull celebrates being the UK City of Culture for 2017 with a broad range of events and activities taking place over the year. Among these is a four-day music festival celebrating the best in Nordic creativity and influence taking over Hull city centre.

Critically acclaimed singer-songwriter John Grant will curate and perform at a brand new, experimental music festival billed as ‘John Grant’s North Atlantic Flux: Sounds from Smoky Bay’ celebrating Hull’s Nordic and international links.

A host of Nordic and international artists are coming to the city over May Day bank holiday weekend to join John Grant who will play at Hull City Hall on Sunday 30 April. Headliners include Icelandic electronic dance collective GusGus who will play on Friday 28 April, Norwegian multi-instrumentalist, DJ and producer Lindstrøm who will appear on Saturday 29 April and Wrangler, a project that brings together Stephen Mallinder of Cabaret Voltaire fame, Phil Winter from Tunng and John Foxx collaborator Benge, who will also play during the weekend.

The Festival will also see electronic artist Susanne Sundfør return to the UK to perform.

Additional artists in the line-up include:

  • – Fafanu
  • – Sykur
  • – Prins Póló
  • – Mugison
  • – Tonik Ensemble
  • – Sóley; Ragga Gisladottir
  • – Nordic Affect
  • – Nils Bech.
  • – Eyvind Gulbrandsen with musicians from the Royal Northern College of Music
  • – Steve Cobby and Russ Litten
  • – Tom Kay
  • – Simon Desbruslais
  • – Jez Riley French
  • – James Orvis
  • – Adelle Stripe with Halldór Smárason
  • – Kaya with Science of the Lamps

North Atlantic Flux: Sounds From Smoky Bay will feature a variety of electronica, contemporary classical, avant-garde and experimental music, as well as one-off collaborations. Venues around the city hosting the festival include Hull City Hall and Gate Nº5, with other venues to be confirmed. More details about performers and shows and what to expect at this major music event will be announced in due course.

TEC Events Calendar

With 2017 gearing up to be a busy year for electronic music, we’ve added on an events calendar to the TEC website.

The calendar offers a select guide to some of the forthcoming performances from bands that the Electricity Club has championed, as well as links to other events which we feel might be of interest to TEC readers. This includes Festival appearances as well as album tours and other notable performances. The calendar will be updated as new events become available, so remember to pop back on a regular basis!

Please note that we are not responsible for any of the listings featured on the site and that concerts, schedules and line-ups can be altered or cancelled at any time.

TECLIST: Dicepeople, Autorotation & Little Sleeps

A selection of electronic goodness care of DICEPEOPLE, AUTOROTATION and LITTLE SLEEPS…

As part of a new feature, The Electricity Club will be sampling a few select artists and bands and presenting them to you with a brief write-up of what they’re all about. We’ll often be mixing it up with dips into many different flavours of electronic music to see what tunes grab your fancy. This week, TEC is casting an eye over everything from dark pop to love affairs with foxes. What more could the discerning listener need?


The darkwave genre has always been a busy scene with a metric ton of bands and artists plying their wares. Dicepeople, an electronic outfit from London, consists of Matt Brock (musician, songwriter and producer), Atashi Tada (vocalist) and Rafael Filomeno (visual artist).

As a combo, Dicepople have been on the scene since 2013. The group have an emphasis on strong visuals as part of their live shows and they draw inspiration from the likes of Depeche Mode, John Carpenter, Siouxsie Sioux, Front 242 and all points inbetween.

‘Synthetic’ is pretty much on-point with its brooding gothic synth melodies against a burbling electronic background. Atashi Tada’s vocal lead is tweaked and distorted and lends the whole affair a cyberpunk aesthetic.

Along with a selection of remixes by the likes of Ventenner and Little Death Machine, ‘Synthetic’ is going to appeal to synthpop enthusiasts who like their tunes to wander into darker territories.


Billing themselves as an “experimental electro-acoustic band”, London-based Autorotation offer up this intriguing little gem of a tune. ‘Swamped’ bats between minamilistic electronic percussion and an evocative vocal care of Robyn Sellman.

Swamped by Autorotation

Released in December, ‘Swamped’ revolves around themes of staying out of the limelight and the idea that as a band under the radar, you’re actually given more opportunities for doing your own thing.

Autorotation began life as duo consisting of Sellman and Igor Olejar, but their lineup has since been expanded with the addition of Laura Tanner on percussion and vocals.

Little Sleeps

Any band getting a thumbs-up from OMD’s Andy McCluskey is worth taking a look at and Liverpool-based Little Sleeps certainly deliver more than a few rewards.

Big Awake was the duo’s first EP release and apparently details a love affair with “foxes, houses, bears, tigers and broken romances”. ‘Fox Spirit’ weaves together a hypnotic vocal with a raw electronic percussive beat, suggesting the likes of Curxes. ‘Bone Shaker’ is a glittering pop moment while ‘ A Kiss’ has a glitchy melodic appeal all its own.

Big Awake by Little Sleeps

This EP arrived back in 2013, so we’re a little late in shining a light on Little Sleeps, who describe themselves as “inspired by the geometrical shapes that plague our minds and fall out of us like nervous tics”. The outfit appear to have gone radio silent recently, which is a shame as the tracks here suggest they’ve much more to offer.

Lost Albums : U96 Replugged

Despite having sold over 15 million records worldwide, U96 are virtually unheard of in the UK.

The Hamburg-based electronic act are best remembered for their huge international hit, ‘Das Boot’, a techno treatment of Klaus Doldinger’s 1981 film theme, which crept into the UK Top 20 in the summer of 1992.

Originally released in 1991, ‘Das Boot’ was number one in Germany (and other European countries) for several weeks. Their follow-up single, ‘I Wanna Be A Kennedy’, which borrowed heavily from Visage’s ‘Fade To Grey’, was another huge European hit.

Named after the U-96 submarine that features prominently in the Das Boot film, the original band featured an ensemble of prolific producers and musicians; namely Alex Christensen (aka AC16), Hayo Lewerentz (aka Harry Castioni) and Ingo Hauss.

U96’s debut album was largely built around the success of ‘Das Boot’, bookended with two versions of the hit track, as well as an attendant third single, ‘Der Kommandant’. The follow-up album, released in 1993, was a far more diverse collection, featuring a wider range of electronic and ambient sounds. Albums by mainstream electronic acts were certainly becoming more commonplace in the early 1990s, with the likes of 808 State, Orbital, The Prodigy and The Orb all utilising the long player as a creative platform to considerable acclaim and success.

Opening the new album was ‘War Of The Worlds’, a version of Jeff Wayne’s ‘Eve Of The War’ which had been successfully released as a single (in remixed form by Ben Liebrand), in 1989. With its striking opening German narrative and familiar symphonic melody, it seemed an obvious choice for a single, but was overlooked in favour of ‘Love Sees No Colour’.

Featuring the band’s trademark submarine sonar effects, ‘Love Sees No Colour’ incorporated a synth motif that recalled Anne Clark’s memorable 1984 single, ‘Sleeper In Metropolis’. The first of several hits for U96 to utilise a Eurodance template, it was another huge Top Ten hit in Germany. However, it flopped in the UK, and the act swiftly faded from British attentions. In Europe, however, the next single, ‘Night In Motion’, sustained the momentum and followed its predecessor into the upper reaches of the singles chart.

Other standout tracks included the beautiful ambient title track, electro glam rock stomper ‘You Make Me Wonder’ and ‘Brainkiller’, a frenetic composite of house music styles that included everything but the kitchen synth. While the opus marked the act’s commercial and artistic peak, follow-up albums Club Bizarre and Heaven would house further hits (notably ‘Love Religion’ and ‘Heaven’) and even a sequel to ‘Das Boot’ (‘Boot II’).

Alex Christensen fronted a new line-up of U96, releasing the Out Of Wilhelmsberg album in 2007, before leaving to concentrate on writing and production work under a number of pseudonyms.

It’s now a case of “systems reactivated” as original members Hayo Lewerentz and Ingo Hauss have recently reunited to release brand new U96 material. As well as releasing The Dark Matter EP in 2015, they have also been performing live for the first time. They are currently preparing to release Reboot, a brand new album which is due for release this year – new label Triggertrax have already released a sneak preview of the album via YouTube called ‘Monkeys’. Hayo Lewerentz took some time out from his busy schedule to tell us about U96’s future plans, and to reflect on their Replugged album.

‘Das Boot’, both the single and the album, were massive hits in the early 1990s. How much pressure were you under to follow up this remarkable success?

“It was quite a pressure that we had, because the record company at the time expected even bigger hits, which is hardly possible! Today, though, we don’t feel that pressure anymore.”

Whose idea was it to record a version of Jeff Wayne’s ‘Eve of the War’?

“The record company suggested to record another film score after ‘Das Boot’ and we couldn’t find any suitable score apart from this which we really liked.”

Were there any discussions about releasing this as a single?

“Yes there were, but in the end Polydor wanted to release ‘Love Sees No Colour’ as the first single from that album and it went really, really well too. It sold about 500,000 copies and went into the Top Ten in many countries.”

‘Love Sees No Colour’ takes its lead from Anne Clark’s brilliant mid-80s single ‘Sleeper in Metropolis’. Presumably you were big fans of this song?

“Well it is not the same but it sounds it bit similar. We are all influenced by 80s electronic music and I played that track very often in the club where I was a DJ back then. I love all her work, but our influences came from many other artists too. I think pop music only survives when artists let their influences take a part in their present work.”

What were your key musical influences during this period?

“Well, we listened to a lot of other techno artists but we also loved a lot of 80s and electronic artists such as Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode. The scene in Germany in the beginning of the 90s was not that big but we met other artists at Pokomm in Cologne or in the clubs too. Everyone kept talking about the newest techno tracks and Euro disco was quite a big thing. We worked with other artists too, such as the producers from Snap and Culture Beat, and we did remixes for many other artists like Sting with Eberhard Schoener, Diana Ross, Oliver Cheatham and Herbert Grönemeyer. If you listen to so much music from different genres it doesn’t leave you ‘uninfluenced’.”

What current electronic music artists do you like?

“I love Underworld, The Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy, Röyksopp, Nitzer Ebb, Ladytron and IAMX, but also new artists such as Chvrches and even Knife Party when it comes to EDM. The musical universe is endless and I am always looking for exiting new music. In my DJ sets I try to mix new and older music because I think that some of it mixes very well.”

Replugged is bristling with ideas and showcases an impressive palette of electronic sounds and styles. ‘Theme from Replugged’ and ‘The One Russian’, in particular, display a different, more ambient side that people wouldn’t normally associate with U96. How much creative freedom did you have?

“We had quite a lot of artistic freedom on that album because we had quite a lot of hit singles. That made the record label trust us in that time. It went a bit worse at a later stage when they put us under pressure to go more the pop way. But Ingo and myself always preferred the more leftfield side of U96 and we will do that again in the future. We also still like the artwork of Replugged very much as it is simple, strong and easy to remember.”

What was the thinking behind the title Replugged? Was this a reaction to MTV’s Unplugged series in the 1990s?

“Yes! We saw it as a joke as it was not possible for electronic bands to play this show, and it was promoted so heavily.”

There’s a Prodigy-like playfulness on tracks such as ‘Feel Like A Dum Dum’. Presumably you had a lot of fun experimenting on this album?!

“Yes, indeed, we had lots of fun! That album was like a musical playground for us – breakbeats on ‘Feel Like A Dum Dum’, house beats on ‘Je Suis Selected” and even a ballad. It also contained hit singles like ‘Love Sees No Colour’ and ‘Night In Motion’. You will definitely hear some of the Replugged tracks in our new live set.”

I view Replugged as U96’s best album – what do you think of the album when you listen to it now?

“We agree that Replugged is the strongest and most interesting album that we made. We still like it very much and still play some tracks of that album live today.”

What memories do you have of that initial period of success in the early 1990s?

“The success we had was totally unexpected and I remember that many people around us tried to talk us into more commercial stuff and strange TV show appearances. In the end we left of a lot of these to Alex as he was more interested in taking U96 further down the hit street. Today I think it was a big mistake not to make it more a live act and go touring at the time, which we are doing now after all these years but without Alex.”

What can you tell us about Reboot, the forthcoming U96 album?

Reboot is a brand new U96 album with all new songs that we wrote in the past two years. It will be more along the lines of Replugged and we will also take this album on tour for the first time. We did some very interesting collaborations with other artists and we are very excited about it after all these years. One of the collaborators on Reboot is British techno artist Adamski.”

I understand you’ve also collaborated with Wolfgang Flür. How did this collaboration occur, and how much of a thrill was it to work with the Kraftwerk legend?

“Yes, we have recorded a track with him in medieval German language which sounds very strange. I’ve known Wolfgang for quite some time as he was working with a British band, Nitzer Ebb, that I released on my label, Major Records, which I had from 2004 to 2014. It is an honour to work with such a legendary person and apart from that he is a very nice guy.”

Do you have a release date yet?

“There is no definite release date yet as we will sign it with a brand new label that just starts into business this year, but it will definitely be released later this year along with a tour that will hopefully also take us to the UK again.”

Many people will of course associate U96 with Alex Christensen, who was the focal point of the band for many years. Was he invited to join this latest U96 project, or was he simply too busy to participate?

“Yes, that`s true. Alex was the focal point in this project for many years as we left him doing DJ sets under the name of U96 for quite some time. In the studio though it was mainly Ingo and myself that produced and wrote the songs from the very beginning of U96 until now. As a band (Ingo, Alex and me) we only did one public appearance and that was on Top Of The Pops, the biggest UK TV show at the time. Of course, we asked Alex to join the new U96 live set, but he wasn’t interested as he is not a musician and he wants to concentrate on his work as a producer.”

How are you enjoying the live shows?

“We love to do live shows and at the moment we are working on the visual concepts for the next U96 shows which will take place later this year.”

Finally, with a new Das Boot TV series arriving in 2018, are there any plans for you to re-release (or re-record) your most revered single?

“We are actually working on that one right now! Especially because we don’t want to just play a retro show when we go on tour. We’d rather do a show with brand new songs and some of the old classics of course, but in a way that is more ‘now’.”

The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Hayo Lewerentz.


Introducing ADAM TK

Mesmerizing electronic soundscapes from Sweden…

There’s a sweeping, immersive feel to the soundscapes that Swedish electronic musician ADAM TK composes. ‘V1’ which is taken from the forthcoming debut album V1-V10, is a shimmering soundscape underpinned by a steady beat which seems custom-made for shifting your consciousness into a different gear.

With a background as a TV and Hi-Fi repair technician, 27-year-old Adam already has a familiarity with electronics and technology. At 23, he discovered the likes of Tangerine Dream, pre- Autobahn Kraftwerk and Gas and began composing his own music as a result.

Finding an old and defunct Juno 6, Adam set about repairing the synth and, in combination with the free DAW that came with his computer, began composing his first tracks on it.

Adam’s early work was very minimal, mostly consisting of just a bassline, a simple bass drum and the addition of field recordings. Since then, he’s focused on building his own synthesisers to pursue his musical visions.

After departing his native Stockholm last year, Adam travelled to the mountains of Marocco to work on recording material. The musician is inspired by his immediate surroundings as much as music and field recordings continue to play an important part in his work.

“The mountains of Marocco is a very special place” Adam reflects, “Epic and desolated it gives me just as much melancholy as beauty and that’s exactly what I wanted to bring into the V1-V10 tracks”.

Inspired by the psychoactive qualities of peyote, Adam set up camp in a cave. With a nearby stream adding to the mesmerising sound effects, it’s here that the musician crafted the composition ‘V1’ that would form the first part of his collected works.

There’s a timeless element to ‘VI’ with its soporific washes of sound augmented by delicate electronic noises that flutter in and out. While other musicians might feel the urge to clutter up this broad space with more of a dynamic approach in terms of beats and rhythms, ‘V1’ succeeds on its minimalist foundations.

V1-V10 is released 17th February via Quiet Records.


Electropop duo Empathy Test craft warm, evocative tunes…

Originally formed in 2013, Empathy Test is a collaboration between Isaac Howlett and Adam Relf who have stepped into the world of electronic music with a view to crafting synthpop with a warm and wistful element. They subsequently released a 4-track EP Losing Touch in 2014, whose title track had a dark pop appeal, and was followed by a further EP Throwing Stones the same year.

Now with new release ‘By My Side’, Empathy Test are again demonstrating a talent for a particularly atmospheric type of synthpop that’s a refreshing and original change from many of their contemporaries. ‘By My Side’ is a smooth slice of warm synthpop with a polished production that offers up a cinematic panorama of electronic goodness.

Meanwhile, ‘Vampire Town’ comes across like a lost Sound Of Arrows track with its wistful rhythms and lyrics that tell of regret and lost moments.

There’s a fragility at the heart of Empathy Test’s material here, which also employs a subtle and understated production that offers up songs that speak of sorrow and longing. For fans of the likes of Purity Ring and Hurts, there’s something similar here in the way Empathy Test craft warm, evocative tunes that have a sense of melancholy about them.

It’s a particular approach that the band have honed since their early EP releases and which they’ve further developed in the interim period. Tracks such as 2016’s ‘Demons’ and ‘Throwing Stones’ tracked a path of immersive melodic charm and ‘By My Side’ continues the trend here.

The outfit have also demonstrated that they’re capable of adapting this sound to a live setting. In 2015 they performed to a 1,000+ audience at the Wave-Gotik-Treffen Festival in Germany. They’ve also performed alongside the likes of Mesh and VNV Nation for live performances where Empathy Test’s lineup is augmented by additional musicians.

All of this is paving the way for Empathy Test’s debut album, which is planned to be funded by a PledgeMusic campaign. A further single release ‘Bare My Soul’ is mooted for April with a final single ‘Safe From Harm’ arriving once the album is released.

‘By My Side’ is out now.


A look at some of the year’s forthcoming electronic music releases…

2017 is already shaping up to be a good year for record releases with a combination of classic artists and contemporary bands putting out new albums, reissues and compilations. Although not a comprehensive list (and we’ll add on titles as release schedules are updated), here’s a rundown of some of the releases that might be of interest for the electronic music enthusiast…

VANGELIS – Delectus

Collecting together the combined output of all of Vangelis’ Polydor and Vertigo albums, this colossal 12 CD box set will keep your ears busy for a whole week.

The material here has all been newly remastered and covers many of the master’s classics, including Earth, L’Apocalypse Des Animaux, China, See You Later, Antarctica, Mask, Opera Sauvage, Chariots of Fire, Soil Festivities and Invisible Connections. It also features his collaborative outings with Jon Anderson: Short Stories, The Friends of Mister Cairo and Private Collection.

The box set includes bonus tracks (including one previously unreleased composition) as well as a 64-page career retrospective with rare photos and essays.

Delectus is released on 3rd February.

More info:

ANDY BELL – Electric Blue

Better known as being part of jazz/funk combo The Erasure, Andy Bell has taken to the crowdfunding route to promote a remastered reissue of his 2005 album Electric Blue.

Originally released in October 2005, Electric Blue includes the hit single ‘Crazy’ and follow up ‘I’ll Never Fall In Love’, as well as duets with Jake Shears (Scissor Sisters) and Claudia Brücken (Propaganda/Act).

The reissue, which is being run via PledgeMusic, will be an expanded 3 CD edition in a hardback book package featuring extended versions, remixes and rarities. The release also features lyrics, previously unseen images and brand new sleeve notes.

Electric Blue is out on 24th February.

More info:

NEW ORDER – Be Music

After recording ‘Blue Monday’ (the only song they ever did), one hit wonders New Order had plenty of spare time on their hands during the 1980s. As a result, they took on production duties for a variety of artists. Using the tag of ‘Be Music’, this covered production work by all 4 members of the band and took in the likes of Quando Quango, 52nd Street, Marcel King, Paul Haig and Surprize.

This 3 CD set also includes tracks by Marnie, Section 25, A Certain Ratio, Factory Floor and the underrated Royal Family & the Poor.

Among the bonus tracks is ‘Knew Noise’ by Section 25 – produced by Ian Curtis and Rob Gretton back in 1979, as well as the complete 22 minute version of ‘Video 586’ recorded by New Order in 1982.

Be Music is out on 17th February via Factory.

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SAILOR & I – The Invention Of Loneliness

The glacial broodiness of Swedish electronic musician Alexander Sjödin , under the moniker Sailor & I, was a pleasant surprise which was heralded by the subtle power of new release ‘Chameleon’.

Forthcoming album The Invention Of Loneliness will feature ‘Chameleon’ as well as earlier release ‘Black Swan’. Sailor & I’s sound has developed into a lush production style with Sjödin’s vocals taking on a whispery, hypnotic presence.

The Invention Of Loneliness
is released 24th February on Skint.

More info:

MARC ALMOND – Hits and Pieces: The Best of Marc Almond and Soft Cell

This compilation brings together some of the best Soft Cell tunes alongside choice cuts from Marc Almond’s solo outings and collaborations.

As a result, this release (which comes in both single and double CD versions) features such classics as ‘Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go’, ‘Bedsitter’ and ‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye’ from the Soft Cell years. Meanwhile, ‘Tears Run Rings’, ‘Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart’ (with Gene Pitney), ‘Jacky’ and ‘The Days Of Pearly Spencer’ cover the later years. Also included is new song ‘A Kind Of Love’.

While not a truly comprehensive compilation (and rumours continue over a possibly extensive Soft Cell collection), it’s a serviceable collection of Almond’s best work.

Hits and Pieces: The Best of Marc Almond and Soft Cell will be released on 10th March.

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Depeche Mode release their 14th studio album Spirit on the 17th March. With cover art by long-time collaborator Anton Corbijn, it is preceded by the single, ‘Where’s the Revolution.’

The follow-up to 2013’s Delta Machine, the 12-track album was produced by James Ford (whose former clients include Klaxons and Little Boots). According to Dave Gahan, “He’s not just a great producer, he’s a great musician. So he was able to guide us. Martin had written some great songs and demoed them and I had too, so he was able to take those songs and take them to another level.”

The first song from the album ‘Where’s The Revolution?’ has also been unveiled.

More info:

A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS – Remixes & Rarities

Not just a witty line from Pulp Fiction, as part of a continuing series from Cherry Red, this new release will collate a variety of rare remixes and edits from Liverpool synthpop outfit A Flock Of Seagulls.

Among the tracks featured on this 2 CD release are the US 7″ cut of ‘I Ran (So Far Away)’, an instrumental version of ‘Who’s That Girl (She’s Got It)’, live versions of ‘Space Age Love Song’ and ‘The Traveller’ as well as 12″ versions of ‘Never Again (The Dancer)’, ‘Nightmares’ and no less than 4 versions of their signature tune ‘Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You).

Remixes & Rarities is released on 24th March via Cherry Red.

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GOLDFRAPP – Silver Eye

The collaborative duo of Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory have charted an intriguing career arc following on from debut release Felt Mountain in 2000. It included dips into ‘folktronica’ evidenced on 2008’s Seventh Tree and the synth optimism of Head First in 2010. Meanwhile, 2013’s Tales of Us was considered by some outlets as a return to form (as the phrase goes).

Silver Eye has been in development for some time with an initial announcement in 2015 that the pair had been working on new songs. But it wasn’t until January this year that the title of the album was confirmed.

“We’ve never liked repeating ourselves” Alison Goldfrapp has said of Silver Eye, “Often we react to things we’ve just done. We like the spontaneity of not knowing. It’s only through the process that we start to figure out what it is”.

Silver Eye is released on 31st March via Mute.

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ERASURE – World Be Gone

Erasure’s 17th studio album will be entitled World Be Gone and features ten new tracks written, performed and produced by Erasure and was mixed by Matty Green. The album will be available on CD, Vinyl (with download code), Limited Edition Orange Vinyl (with download code), Cassette (with download code) and via Digital Download.

World Be Gone will be released via Mute on 19th May.

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MARNIE – Strange Words And Weird Wars

With the reveal of new song ‘Alphabet Block’, Helen Marnie announced details of a follow-up to debut release Crystal World.

Marnie had, of course, crafted her music as part of the mighty Ladytron in her formative years. But her subsequent solo career have demonstrated that she’s more than capable of producing good tunes outside of the iconic 4-some.

The album is a collaborative effort with producer Jonny Scott (whom Marnie worked with on 2014’s standalone release ‘Wolves’). The album itself is apparently more of a step into pop territory with a bit of shoegaze thrown in for good measure. The official stance on the album is “soul crushing synths are wonderfully accented by hook-laden choruses as Marnie boldly explores up-tempo electro dream-pop”.

Strange Words And Weird Wars is out on 2nd June.

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FADER – First Light

Fader is a new collaborative project hatched between Neil Arthur (Blancmange) and Benge (John Foxx And The Maths/Wrangler). The title track of debut album First Light was unveiled online in March 2017.

Benge co-wrote and produced the critically acclaimed Interplay album with John Foxx, released in 2011 under the name John Foxx & The Maths. Benge also performed with the outfit for live performances and on further album releases. More recently, Benge has started new project Wrangler featuring Stephen Mallinder and Phil Winter.

First Light was recorded and mixed at Benge’s MemeTune Studios while Neil Arthur recorded his own vocals in his home studio. The resulting album is full of twisted electronic pop songs and haunting atmospherics with lyrics from Arthur that explore internalised, dead-of-night fears to stream-of-conscious visions of city life and evocative descriptions of lost and lonely figures who find themselves out of time and out of place.

First Light is released 23rd June.
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EMPATHY TEST – Safe From Harm

The atmospheric synthpop produced by combo Empathy Test offers a refreshing and original change from many of their contemporaries. Latest release ‘By My Side’ showed a smooth slice of warm synthpop with a polished production that offered up a cinematic panorama of electronic goodness (as our review explained).

‘By My Side’ follows on from the 2016 double A-side single ‘Demons’/’Seeing Stars’. A third single release, ‘Bare My Soul’, was released on 21st April, followed by a PledgeMusic campaign to fund the release of their long-awaited debut album. Titled Safe From Harm, the album will also be accompanied by a new single taking the title of the album.

Safe From Harm is released 23rd June.

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Electropop pioneer Gary Numan returns with new studio album Savage. The new album draws from Gary’s ideas that he’s been developing for some time for a potential novel. “My long neglected Science Fantasy epic that will probably never see the light of day but, much as the short stories I was writing around Replicas time did for that album, so this permanently unfinished book is giving me a huge amount of material to write new songs about”.

Savage, which will be released via the BMG label, sees Gary working once again with Ade Fenton as producer. The album has been supported by a PledgeMusic campaign which gives pledgers unique, inside access to progress at every level, via text updates, audio updates and video updates and the chance to hear new music from early demos, through early production and guide vocals to the fully produced but pre-mixed versions prior to the mastered versions that will be on the finished album.

Savage is due for release in August via BMG.

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GIRL ONE AND THE GREASE GUNS – Night Of The Living Electrical Appliances

While The Strange Little Lines That Humans Draw In The Dust effectively gathered together Girl One’s previous output, the band had announced plans for a standalone album in the works.

Night Of The Living Electrical Appliances will be an 11 track album released on Next Phase : Normal Records (which is Girl One And The Grease Guns’ own label). It will be a vinyl release (and download too). All tracks were recorded at The Glass Factory in 2016. Among the tracks featured on the new album, we have intriguing titles such as ‘The Voices In The Walls’, ‘Deaden The Glare’, ‘He’s A Replicant’ and ‘She Sits In The Freezer’.

While further details on Night Of The Living Electrical Appliances are still to be unveiled, it’s likely that the outfit will continue to deliver on their manifesto of “causing confusion with a mixture of pure synth pop and more experimental electronic sounds”. So nothing like Mumford & Sons then.

Night Of The Living Electrical Appliances – release date scheduled for summer.

More info:

SPARKS – Hippopotamus

Having formed long before synthesizers had actually been invented, classic duo ‘The Sparks’ still managed to craft some unusual, innovative tunes during their formative years.

Now still active in the 21st Century, brothers Ron and Russell Mael will released their 22nd studio album Hippopotamus in September.

Sparks’ music has always been innovative and instantly identifiable. Recorded in Los Angeles, Hippopotamus sees them take the pop form, shake it up, and create an album that is adventurous, fresh and idiosyncratically ‘Sparks’.

More info:
Hippopotamus will be released on 8th September.
Pre-order the album via

BLANCMANGE – Unfurnished Rooms

The reformation of Blancmange, and the subsequent release of 2011 album Blanc Burn, came as a surprise (particularly to those fans of traditional English desserts).

The synthpop outfit had recorded one of the most highly regarded electronic music albums of the 1980s with the release of their debut album Happy Families in 1982.

Neil Arthur has since continued to both tour and release new material under the Blancmange banner, with the last release being the 2016 album Commuter 23.

Details on the latest Blancmange album Unfurnished Rooms is scarce at present, although dates for a UK tour have been announced for the autumn.

More info:
Unfurnished Rooms is due for release on 22nd September, 2017.


OMD’s 2013 album English Electric was critically acclaimed and demonstrated that the classic synthpop outfit were still very capable of producing intelligent electronic music in the 21st Century.

OMD’s 13th studio album The Punishment Of Luxury was inspired by a painting by 19th Century artist Giovanni Segantini. Describing the themes of the album, Andy McCluskey remarked: “First world problems. All of the shit we have to deal with is only a problem that’s created for you by some suggestion that came from a marketing man or a PR job that’s been done on you. Everything you think you know was placed there by a marketing man… Everything you think you want, you don’t”. That said, we’ll got out on a limb and suggest that it’s probably highly likely that OMD fans will want this album.

The Punishment Of Luxury is scheduled for release in September.

More info:
Read more about the album on our sister site Messages: The Punishment Of Luxury.


Norwegian EDM and dubstep specialists a-ha can’t decide whether to retire or not (as 2015’s Cast In Steel album demonstrated). But now plans are underway for a special live acoustic album and concert film from a series of intimate performances to take place between 26th June – 30th June this year.

According to Morten Harket, “The band is finally coming together for live acoustic recordings of a wide selection of our songs! As we speak, there is palpable growing excitement about this in the group. We had wonderful moments with the fans during our last tour, and as a fourth member of the band you certainly have had an influence on our commitment to this. I really look forward to it all!”

In early 2018, a-ha will take this special acoustic set on the road. Magne, Morten and Paul will be joined by a handpicked ensemble of musicians to embellish and reinvent the classics, as well as present new material in acoustic arrangements.

The album, DVD and broadcast are scheduled for release in November 2017.

More info:


US synthpop outfit Freezepop have embarked on the crowdfunding route to launch their 5th studio album. Raising over $88,000 via Kickstarter, the Boston-based group have also added on goodies such as bonus albums, vinyl releases, cover version requests, comic strip and even a sandwich (overseas customers will unfortunately have to make do with a picture of a sandwich…).

The new album follows on from 2007’s Future Future Future Perfect, which featured the crunchy dynamics of ‘Less Talk More Rokk’ and the wistful ‘Thought Balloon’. Details of the new release have yet to be confirmed, although on the topic of the potential songs, the band suggests they’re “deeply awesome”.

More info:

Album details and release date TBC

U96 – Reboot

German electronic act U96 are best remembered for ‘Das Boot’ (a techno styling of Klaus Doldinger’s 1981 film theme) and Eurodance hits such as ‘Love Sees No Colour’ and ‘Love Religion.’

U96 will shortly release their seventh album, Reboot, the follow-up to 2015’s The Dark Matter EP. Tracks include the excellent ‘Monkeys’, which was previewed last year, and a collaboration with former Kraftwerk percussionist Wolfgang Flür.

Release date TBC.

More info:

DAYBEHAVIOUR – Based On A True Story

3-piece synthpop outfit Daybehaviour caught our attention with the 2003 release ‘The Sweetness of My Pain’ and TEC also reviewed their third album release Follow That Car! in 2012. Their talent for melody and classy, sophisticated dreampop was front and centre on the tracks featured on that album.

The Stockholm-based outfit have been working on their fourth album titled Based On A True Story for a while. The first song to be taken from the album was the stylish pop appeal of ‘Change’, which appeared in 2015. The group have provided updates on the album’s development recently and they appear to be getting close to a release date.

Release date TBC.

More info:

Outside of the albove, there’s also new releases mooted by TR/ST, The Sound Of Arrows and Princess Century (aka Austra’s Maya Postepski) and possibly a new studio album from Electric Youth (following on from their work with Nicolas Winding Refn for a curated album connected with the film The Neon Demon).

Thanks to Stuart Kirkham at Hall or Nothing and Darren at Next Phase : Normal Records.
Also Barry Page and Soopy for additional input.