EXCLUSIVE: ELYXR – Engine

New collaborative project delivers warm, evocative pop…

The arrival of ELYXR offers a new venture via Seattle-based electronic musician/producer Kasson Crooker. Each ELYXR release is designed to be a collaborative project introducing different singers for each subsequent release.

‘Engine’ marks the first of the ELYXR releases and here features Elissa LeCoque from Brooklyn indie-electronic act Kodacrome. We’re happy to announce that The Electricity Club is premiering the track today ahead of its June release.

Engine (feat. Elissa LeCoque of Kodacrome) by ELYXR

‘Engine’ delivers subtle, layered electronic pop elements that, combined with LeCoque’s soulful vocals, lends the whole composition a certain sadness.

Crooker is of course better known as founder-member of synthpop outfit Freezepop and also recently released the Gishiki album via his other side project Symbion Project (see TEC review here). ELYXR marks a different direction from his other ventures with the collaborative element opening up new musical horizons.

“From the very beginning of how I wanted to craft ELYXR into a different kind of musical project, there were some key elements that I was really fixated on” Kasson Crooker told The Electricity Club. “Beyond not making albums and EPs and just releasing a string of singles, the other main element was to have each song be a unique collaboration with some of the amazing singer/songwriters I had the pleasure of knowing through my years of playing in Freezepop and Symbion Project. With my last Symbion Project album Arcadian there were some really unique collaborations with each of the singers helping to craft something unique. So I wanted to go even further with this idea and really reach out to some of my favorite singers to see what we could come up with for some juicy synthpop tracks! The other thing I love about collaborating is knowing that I’ll be pushed beyond some of my normal songwriting habits that can often happen without those outside influences pushing you”.

The collaboration between Crooker and LeCoque came about when Symbion Project opened for Kodacrome at a gig in Brooklyn. “Kodacrome has always captured a real purity with their releases that I’ve been entranced by” comments Crooker. “Nothing flashy or overproduced, with just the right balance of honest synthpop mixed with Elissa’s bewitching vocals. Getting to work with Elissa has been an extreme pleasure and she brings a real soulfulness and honesty to the synthesized compositions and her lyrics have a unique depth not found that often in electropop songs”.

Future ELYXR releases are scheduled for this summer, with the next one loosely scheduled for a late June release. Crooker is keeping details of future collaborations under his hat for now, but hints that there’s some male vocalists that he’s keen to work with.

Meanwhile, ‘Engine’ delivers a good sampling of what this new collaborative concept is all about. Its warm, electronic melodies touch the heart and elicit a certain melancholy – which is what good electronic music is all about.


‘Engine’ is released 2nd June on the Speed Of Dark label.

https://www.facebook.com/ELYXRband/

http://www.symbionproject.com/
http://kodacrome.com/


SYMBION PROJECT – Gishiki

Engaging electronica with a Japanese twist…

The ambient side of electronic music can throw up some intriguing gems that often present rewards from patient listening. Symbion Project’s Gishiki is a case in point with its combination of traditional Japanese music themes and contemporary synthesiser compositions.

Gishiki offers contemplative moods pulled from a series of captivating soundscapes, each of which has been inspired by the virtues of Bushido. A codified system of values adopted by Japan’s samurai caste, Bushido (the way of the warrior), revolved around themes including loyalty, duty and self-sacrifice. Each of the 8 pieces here are equally named after those virtues and attempt to capture the essence of their meaning in music.

Symbion Project is actually the work of Seattle-based musician and composer Kasson Crooker. Keeping himself busy as part of a series of bands over the years (including the likes of Splashdown and Larkspur), Crooker is probably better known under his guise as ‘The Duke’, founder-member of synthpop superstars Freezepop. But Symbion Project offers Crooker a chance to delve into the more electronica side of the musical spectrum.

In fact Gishiki forms the final album in a loose trilogy of work comprising 2007 release Wound Up by God or the Devil and Contrapasso in 2011. Gishiki’s approach was crafted from an exploration of the pentatonic Hirajōshi scale. Crooker created the plucked koto sound via a physical-modeling synthesiser, combined with treated sounds of windchimes and angklung (a traditional Malaysian percussive instrument). Combined with warm analogue synth washes, Gishiki offers up an immersive experience that works its magic in subtle ways.

There’s a loose arc to the composition of the album that fixes the initial focus on a more traditional Japanese sound, before weaving in more electronic elements into later pieces. As a result, opening track ‘Jin (Benevolence)’ has a gentle, reflective tone. ‘Makoto (Integrity)’, meanwhile, has a warmer, hypnotic quality to it.

For those that have a preference for Brian Eno’s ambient catalogue, they’ll find some familiar ground here. There’s a similar use of mood and tone that creates a certain atmosphere without necessarily commanding your complete attention. At the same time, the 8 pieces offer up a variety of approaches that make each of them distinct in their own way without losing the focus as a collective work.

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Take the panoramic soundscape of ‘Chugi (Loyality)’, which at times suggests some lost cinematic soundtrack. It’s gradual build-up of synth beds gives a grander vision, while still retaining the ability to project a contemplative mood.

There’s a much more traditional electronic arrangement at work on ‘Jisei (Self-Control)’ with its buzzy synths and tonal shifts. Elsewhere, ‘Gi (Righteousness)’ clocks in with the album’s longest composition at nearly 10 minutes. It’s a track that makes effective use of space, while also weaving in some of the panoramic style that ‘Chugi’ introduced.

Closing proceedings, the gossamer tones of ‘Yu (Courage)’ makes use of synth arpeggios to give the piece a robust foundation. Meanwhile, warmer tones are gradually introduced into the arrangement to present a textured whole.

At this point, it’s probably also worth mentioning that as well as digital download, Gishiki is also available as a special limited edition CD release. Each edition is numbered and autographed and features 3 CDs hand-wrapped in a package using the traditional Japanese Furoshiki method. The cloth is created by artist Fiona Stoltze, dyed using the ancient Japanese Shibori method. Included with the Gishiki CD are the previous albums in the trilogy, Wound Up by God or the Devil and Contrapasso. Also included are prints of 8 original Haiku composed by Natalia L. Rudychev inspired by the songs of Gishiki and the virtues of Bushido.

Gishiki is an album that’s likely to resonate with anyone who’s a fan of the works of Eno, Isao Tomita and Ryuichi Sakamoto. At times, there’s even hints of early Jean-Michel Jarre in the mix. As a contemplative piece of work, Symbion Project have crafted an effective album with Gishiki that’s one of the standout electronica releases of the year.


Gishiki is out now on Speed of Dark Music.

http://www.symbionproject.com/
https://symbionproject.bandcamp.com/album/gishiki
https://www.facebook.com/symbionproject
https://twitter.com/symbionproject


ERASURE – World Be Gone

The classic synthpop outfit return with an album suggesting a more reflective outlook…

It’s surprising perhaps to realise that ‘The Erasure’ have been active for over 30 years. Clocking up such hits as ‘Sometimes’, ‘A Little Respect’, ‘Drama!’ and ‘Blue Savannah’, Vince Clarke and Andy Bell have also powered through 16 studio albums, including their last studio outing on 2014’s The Violet Flame (a retrospective box set, From Moscow To Mars, was also released in 2016). Now their 17th album has just been released in the form of World Be Gone.

As with other notable musicians from the world of synthmopop, Erasure launched their new album project via PledgeMusic, the crowdsourcing outlet that, in recent times, has done wonders for the likes of OMD and Rusty Egan among others.

The album’s lead single ‘Love You To The Sky’ arrived with a thumping percussive beat and Bell’s distinctive vocal style. There’s a more subdued arrangement at work here than Erasure tunes of old, but that perhaps reflects a more mature approach for Team Bell & Clarke who consciously wanted to take a step back from the euphoric electropop for this album.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Erasure’s career is the catalogue of the tunes that the outfit have managed to put out over the years. Vince Clarke recently commented on the decades-long songwriting partnership in a recent interview: “The only thing that has really changed is that back in the day we would almost always complete the song in one go, we would write the melodies and then work on the lyrics. Now we tend to just concentrate on the melodies, and then Andy will go away and work on the lyrics and I’ll work on the musical arrangements”.

It’s clear that the troubling political climate that’s been in vogue for the past year has also had an influence on the themes and ideas behind the new album. It’s a popular well to draw from recently (see also Depeche Mode’s Spirit and Austra’s Future Politics album).

Much of the material on World Be Gone certainly points to a more reflective (and often darker) palette than previous Erasure outings. While there’s elements of classic Erasure at work on the album, of which ‘Love You To The Sky’ is one, the new songs on the whole demonstrate that as a culture we’re currently going through perilous times.

There’s certainly a poignant quality to ‘Be Careful What You Wish For!’ with its restrained electronic moods and an evocative vocal from Bell “Stars they will collide/lovers will abide” .

Meanwhile, the album’s title track has a languid quality to it, or as Bell recently described it: “New horizons, sailing off into another world and trying not to look back with remorse”. Certainly the sobering content of the lyrics, which alludes to “illusions shattered into glass” and “broken shadows on an empty screen” is a long way from the group that gave us the dance-pop of ‘Chorus’.

A charming melody opens up ‘A Bitter Parting’, which delivers a torch song moment for the album. The slow drum refrain gives the track a more robust arrangement and there’s even a Stylophone-esque element thrown in for good measure.

There’s a much more sombre tone to ‘Still It’s Not Over’ with a contemplative mood, apparently inspired by Bell’s experiences witnessing the gay community in 1980s America. “We were fighting for survival” offers Bell reflecting on a period when people were battling not just the devastating threat of AIDS, but also an equally threatening political climate that perhaps has some chilling analogies today.

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Elsewhere, the gentle tones of ‘Take Me Out Of Myself’ present a song that offers up an intimate sketch augmented with an effective use of layered vocals. The organ-like melodies that burble beneath weave in with subtle bass notes, lending the arrangement an atmospheric quality.

‘Oh What A World’ opens up with an ominous electronic drone and as a track it drips with discord and uncertainty. There’s an unsettling quality to the lyrics at times: “It’s a crazy world a million voices go unheard” but at the same time there’s a powerful quality to the message that the song’s delivering.

The album turns again to political commentary on the stark soundscape that comprises ‘Lousy Sum Of Nothing’. There’s a wealth of melancholic electronic melodic elements on a track that suggests we’re living in “a world that’s lost its loving”.

The final track ‘Just a Little Love’, however, offers a beacon of hope in these uncertain times. Its certainly a much more uptempo number than its predecessors with its clarion call suggesting a more positive antidote to this “crazy world”. There’s some charming little arpeggios at work here for a song that’s clearly aiming towards the pop-orientated Erasure of old.

The end result is a much more sober Erasure album that’s born of its time. World Be Gone also demonstrates a more mature approach for a group that’s been writing and recording tunes for over 30 years. Older and perhaps wiser is the phrase that could well apply here.


World Be Gone is out now on Mute.

http://www.erasureinfo.com

Erasure will be touring the UK and Europe later this year. UK dates as follows:

May
27th May – Glasgow, O2 Academy [SOLD OUT], 28th Manchester, Albert Hall [SOLD OUT], 29th – London, Roundhouse [SOLD OUT].

Erasure will be also be appearing as special guests on Robbie Williams’ 2017 tour with confirmed dates as follows. More details via: http://www.robbiewilliams.com

June
2nd – Manchester Ethiad Stadium, 3rd – Manchester Ethiad Stadium, 6th – Southampton St Mary’s Stadium, 9th – Edinburgh, BT Murrayfield Stadium, 13th – Coventry, Riccoh Stadium, 17th – Dublin, Aviva Stadium, 21st – Cardiff, Principlality Stadium, 23rd – London, The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.


OMD – La Mitrailleuse

OMD revisit familar themes of war on their latest song…

With details of the new OMD studio album The Punishment Of Luxury finally being released, two samples of what the album will sound like have also been unveiled.

The first is a brief snippet of the title track ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’, which was revealed on the OMD Facebook page on the 13th May. A longer segment also aired on BBC 6 Music this week. It suggests that OMD are adopting a much more contemporary dancepop approach with strident electronic rhythms and a powerful percussive foundation.

Meanwhile, the first full length track ‘La Mitrailleuse’, complete with video, has also been aired. The inspiration for the song comes from a painting by the artist CRW Nevinson, regarded as one of the most famous war artists of World War I. Nevinson was deeply affected by what he saw in France during World War I, which had a profound effect on the paintings that he produced at the time. This included the 1915 work La Mitrailleuse, which translates from the French as “the machine gun”.

The song itself is composed of a mesmerising droning intro which leads to a rhythm track designed to emulate gun fire, explosions and in particular machine-gun fire. Meanwhile, Andy McCluskey intones “Bend your body to the will of the machine”. It’s the perfect companion to Nevinson’s work which sees the style of the soliders rendered in angular shapes, suggesting a merging of man and machine – a theme carried over in the video, which again features the distinctive style of Henning M. Lederer, who previously worked on videos for the English Electric album.

OMD’s fascination with military themes is something that Messages has explored before, from ‘Bunker Soldiers’ through to ‘Enola Gay’ (see our sister site Messages article OMD And The Art Of War). In an interview with Andy McCluskey on BBC 6 Music he commented on the inspiration that drove the song, particularly the fact that Nevinson’s powerful work only represents a small part of the many paintings that came out of the First World War period. “Of course just a few years ago it was the 100th anniversary of the starting of the war. It was the first really mechanised war and I was really rather deeply affected by the images I saw in exhibitions that were around the 100th anniversary”.

The Punishment Of Luxury represents the third album in OMD’s post-reformation trilogy, which had been kick-started by 2010’s History Of Modern and followed up by English Electric in 2013. In terms of sound, Andy McCluskey has stated that the band are drawing from the palette established by English Electric. “We have tried to take the EE template and go forward with it. Obviously, we write melodies and I sing so there will always be ‘OMD’ elements. We have adopted a more electronic rather than rock drum sound and some glitch sounds”.

Discussing the album on the BBC 6 broadcast, Andy also remarked: “We have to challenge ourselves, we’re not just doing this to top up our pension or be a sad pastiche of our former lives”.


The Punishment Of Luxury is released 1st September 2017. The album is available to pre-order now.

OMD will also be embarking on a UK and European tour later this year. For the UK and Ireland dates, a limited number of VIP tickets including the best seats in the house, access to soundcheck, an exclusive T-shirt and meet & greet packages are available for each show. For the European shows, VIP s are available which will include access to soundcheck, an exclusive T shirt and meet & greet packages (Customers will have to purchase their own tickets for the evening show).

VIP tickets go on sale at 9am on Wednesday 17th May. Standard tickets available from Friday 19th May.

IRELAND
Oct 23 Dubin Vicar Street, Oct 24 Belfast Mandella Hall.

UK
Oct 29 Liverpool – Empire, Oct 30 Bristol – Colston Hall, Nov 01 Southend – Cliffs Pavillion, Nov 02 Ipswich – Regent, Nov 03 Cambridge – Corn Exchange, Nov 05 Leicester – De Montfort Hall, Nov 06 Nottingham – Royal Concert Hall, Nov 07 Sheffield – City Hall, Nov 09 Reading – Hexagon, Nov 10 Southampton – Guild Hall, Nov 11 Guildford – G Live, Nov 13 London – Roundhouse, Nov 15 Bexhill – De La Warr Pavillion, Nov 17 Manchester – Acacdemy, Nov 18 York – Barbican, Nov 19 Glasgow – Royal Concert Hall, Nov 21 Birmingham – Symphony Hall, Nov 22 Gateshead – Sage.

EUROPE
Nov 25 Erfut – Traum Hits Festival, Nov 26 Hamburg – Grosse Freoheit, Nov 28 Berlin – Huxleys, Nov 29 Leipzig – Haus Auenesse, Nov 30 Munich – Tonhalle, Dec 02 Offenback – Stadhalle, Dec 03 Dusseldorf – Mitsuibishi Electric Hall, Dec 05 Tilburg 013, Dec 06 Antwerp – De Roma, Dec 08 Lausanne – Les Docks.

http://www.omd.uk.com


Teclist: FIRE_SIGN, RADIANT BABY & TOFFE

This weeks tunes feature the lush electronica of FIRE_SIGN, synthpop perfection with RADIANT BABY and the pop hooks of TOFFE.

fire_sign – Sweet Oblivion

The London-based duo that style themselves as fire_sign consists of drummer, pianist and producer Chris Stickland and cellist and vocalist Sarah Glayzer. The pair draw from a suitably diverse range of influences, including Zero 7, Moderat, Dusty Springfield, Massive Attack and Björk. The result of that particular blend is a smart composition titled ‘Sweet Oblivion’.

There’s a broad number of sounds and ideas at work on this tune, that should be pulling in very different directions. Instead, the result is a wonderful set of ingredients offering up a lush, engaging soundscape that suggests everything from electronica through to techno.

At its heart, ‘Sweet Oblivion’ is a wonderfully layered composition weaving in strings and electronics. Glayzer’s vocals, meanwhile, lend a gossamer sheen to proceedings.

A Sweet Oblivion EP is out now as a limited edition 12″ as well as a download. The EP also featured remixes from Digitonal, Greymatter, Leigh Morgan and Mr Bristow.

https://fire-sign.bandcamp.com/album/sweet-oblivion-ep
https://soundcloud.com/fire_sign
http://firesign.co.uk/
https://twitter.com/Fire_Sign__


RADIANT BABY – It’s My Party

There’s a generous use of electronic melodies at work here which suggests classic synthpop, but with a definite 21st Century pop element.

Born and raised in Montreal, Felix Mongeon, aka Radiant Baby, has crafted an engaging slice of electropop perfection on ‘Save Me From Myself’. There’s something of a Sparks feel on the vocal delivery, while the electronic rhythms bring to mind the style of ‘lost’ contemporary outfit Mirrors.

Radiant Baby has performed at POP Montreal twice and opened for the likes of Peaches and Róisín Murphy. On the basis of this tune, we’re looking at a bright pop future for Mr. Mongeon.

‘Save Me From Myself’ is included on new EP release It’s My Party on Lisbon Lux Records.

https://soundcloud.com/radiant-baby
https://www.facebook.com/radiantbaby
https://twitter.com/radiantbaby_fgm


TOFFE – Painting Pictures

We’re not sure what they’re putting in the water in Sweden, but there does seem to be a non-stop supply of talent and tunes in recent years. Here, for instance, is Toffe – a 26-year-old Swedish artist who has just released his first single ‘Painting Pictures’.

Drawing inspiration from the likes of Peter Gabriel, Frank Zappa and Genesis, Toffe nevertheless has a distinctly modern sound to his material. ‘Painting Pictures’ is a breezy, melodic outing that’s packed with pop hooks.

‘Painting Pictures’ is out now via Quiet One Recordings/AWAL

https://soundcloud.com/iamtoffe
https://www.facebook.com/iamtoffe/
https://twitter.com/NOTTOFFE


SYNTH CLUB PRESENTS Feat. BLACK NAIL CABARET & VILE ELECTRODES

A showcase of diverse synthpop acts delivers an evening of captivating tunes…

Earlier this month, Islington’s Electrowerkz venue played host for a showcase of electronic acts curated by Synth Club, a promotion outfit (formerly known as Analogue Nights) who are keen to keep synthpop live performances front and centre.

As line-ups go, this was quite a diverse selection of acts in terms of style and approach, with 5 acts in total on the bill. It was probably pushing the limits of how many bands you can comfortably put on stage in an evening however. None of the featured acts felt like baggage, but there’s certainly a logistics problem in arranging a schedule with such short gaps between each set.

One of the attendees on the night commented that this was “an event for enthusiasts”, as opposed to a your common-or-garden band night at the Dog & Duck. That commentary made a lot of sense and perhaps helped to frame where the synthpop end of the electronic music spectrum was in 2017. Electronic music enthusiasts are a very diverse bunch, but this evening seemed to indicate that it was an open doors policy to all, rather than a club for the elite.

DJ duties were ably handled by DJ She-Ra (Grayskull Massive) and Mark Jones (Electronically Yours) which presented an overture of sorts for the live acts to follow. First up was The Department, a synthpop outfit that features Rob Green (also responsible for organising Synth Club events) on vocals.

Taking on an old school approach to synthpop, The Department ran through a serviceable setlist of tunes that included the coldwave pop of ‘Slow Down’ and the frenetic pop of ‘This Be The Verse’, a nod to Philip Larkin’s classic poem. They closed out with a new song titled ‘About A Boy’, whose staccato rhythms provided a staunch foundation for what appeared to be very personal lyrics.

The brief intermission allowed attendees to catch up in the stylishly decorated covered gallery area of Electrowerkz, complete with tube carriage bar. Ordering a cocktail and adding “…and hold the doors”, you’re safe in the knowledge that the bar staff have only heard this joke 3,456 times.

Meanwhile, taking the stage for the second act of the night, The Frixion comprises Lloyd Price and Gene Serene who have their own particular take on electronic music. There’s a lush, immersive quality to their material giving the duo a slow-burning appeal. ‘If U Ever Wonder’ offered up great use of vocal melody and there was also a touching tribute to Prince via a fetching cover of ‘Under The Cherry Moon’.

Gene Serene’s sultry singing style might seem an unusual fit for an electronic outfit, but the results are a subtle, mesmerising form of electropop with more than a hint of gothic sensibility. Bringing things up to date, the duo also performed new release ‘Heartbroke Disco’, a much more robust number crafted from a more traditional synthpop palette.

If there was any act who could carry away the Pop Star Award for the evening however, it was certainly Knight$. James Knights (who also fronts Scarlet Soho) strikes an impressive figure on stage with his shades and single black glove. With a confidence and swagger (something arguably lacking in synthpop circles), there’s a solid delivery of pure pop in the setlist from Knight$.

A punchy live rendition of ‘What’s Your Poison?’ and an energetic ‘What We Leave Behind’ lends a definite pop power to the evening. But Knight$ can also dial it down a bit, such as the deconstructed charms of ‘Uncivilised’. Such was the response from the crowd following Knight$ set, that the band were duty-bound to return for an encore. In this case a cover of Pet Shop Boys ‘Heart’, a flawless rendition that also managed to give the classic tune a distinctly contemporary vibe.

The focus of the evening was a launch party for Black Nail Cabaret’s new album Dichromat. The elegant Emese Arvai-Illes took to the stage in a figure-hugging black outfit and a face mask, lending a subtle mystique to proceedings.

For their opening numbers, Black Nail Cabaret present a polished set of tunes, although there seemed to be a certain spark missing in the delivery. It’s only around the halfway point that the energy in the set picks up, particularly through the brooding ‘Satisfaction’. Meanwhile, the machine rhythms of ‘Veronica’ lead Black Nail Cabaret into more familiar synthpop territory.

The final band of the evening saw Vile Electrodes take to the stage. Now effectively veterans of the UK electronic music scene, although some pre-gig nerves from the duo of Jane Caley and Martin Swan might suggest otherwise.

The ominous tones of ”Like Satellites’ opens proceedings, its mesmeric drones appeared to seep into the very walls of Electrowerkz itself. A barrage of lights and frenetic percussion announces ‘The Red Bead’. “The deep cut is painless/when the blade is sharpest”, intones Jane Caley while the dancepop rhythms throb in the background.

Meanwhile, ‘Empire Of Wolves’ is a tune that particularly benefits from a live outing. It also gives Martin Swan an opportunity to step back from the keyboards and give the electronic percussion a good workout.

A Moroder-esque disco beat accompanies the intro to ‘As We Turn To Rust’, another number culled from the Viles’ last album In The Shadow Of Monuments (see review here). The shimmering rhythm beds of ‘Last Of The Lovers’, meanwhile, offers up an evocative electropop moment.

The announcement that the gothic electropop of ‘Proximity’ is up next gets a huge cheer for one of the duo’s most popular numbers. There’s certainly a dynamic quality to the live rendition whose bassy rhythms cause the glasses of drink and assorted cans on the stage to move across the stage in time to the beats.

The last song of the evening, Incision’ gives us an insistent beat that changes gear for some deep bassy chords, delivered by Swan on the aptly named DeepMind synth. It’s a classy end to a classy set and Vile Electrodes continue to demonstrate why they’re one of the best domestic electronic acts on the scene today (as well as being thoroughly nice people off stage as well).

Synth Club managed to deliver an entertaining evening, showcasing some of the diverse talents at large in the synthpop scene. It’s going to be intriguing to see what they come up with next.


https://www.facebook.com/synthwave1/

https://soundcloud.com/the-department

http://thefrixion.bandcamp.com/

http://knights101.com/

http://www.blacknailcabaret.com/

http://www.vileelectrodes.com


An Interview With SAILOR & I

The brooding, glacial pop of Swedish artist Alexander Sjödin, aka Sailor & I, had originally captured the attention of the electronic music scene via the glacial pop perfection of tracks such as ‘Black Swan’ and ‘Chameleon’.

Sjödin describes Sailor & I’s signature sound as “orchestras, analog synths, drums and vocals”, which is a nice summing up of the content of his debut album The Invention Of Loneliness (which we reviewed earlier this year).

Now with the release of the latest single from the album, in the shape of the moody rhythms and smooth synth melodies of ‘Rivers’ (which has also been remixed by Paul Woolford) and new live dates on the way, Alexander Sjödin took time out to chat to The Electricity Club about his music.

This included some conversation about favourite albums, which for the Swedish musician includes Spirit Of Eden by Talk Talk, Blood On The Tracks by Bob Dylan and Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys. Those choices of music perhaps illustrate what a broad canvas Sjödin draws from for his own compositions.

“I think it’s nice to have this diversity. A good album is always been well worked. Not like polished, but really engineered in an emotional way – and that’s tricky because sometimes you’re working with a gang of people who doesn’t see things the same way. So for me to record everything myself, most of the stuff is quite easy because I only have myself to like fight: ‘is this good? Is this talking to me?’”

On that basis, TEC delved into Sailor & I’s past, present and possible future…


Your childhood musical interests, which included the likes of Beastie Boys and Kiss, are quite diverse. Was there any particular band or artist that you feel had a direct bearing on the sound you’ve crafted as Sailor And I?

I had a lot of artists that were influencing me. Everything from Led Zeppelin to The Beatles. I listened a lot to The Beatles from when I was 10-years-old. I had periods where I only listened to music from the ’60s. I listened a lot to Jimi Hendrix. Especially guitarists because I started as a guitarist. I listened a lot to hard rock, like I was really into Iron Maiden, AC/DC. I had a few years when I would only listen to jazz music. I began listening quite intensely to Chet Baker because I love his melodies. He played such as simple way of bebop, almost minimalistic. His songs were so melodic. So I started to repeat his solos, but on guitar. That was a great way for me to understand how to keep things simple, melody-wise. Even if the chord changes – a bit crazy, like in jazz – you can always keep the melody going.

I remember when I began listening to Joni Mitchell, it was really like a big moment for me because Joni Mitchell, she had the melodies and she had her stories, like her divorce, the things she went through over 30 years. But especially the records from the ’70s are my favourite, Hejira, Court And Spark – she made a lot of great records. There were so focused on her vocals and melodies, but still the music was quiet complex. I think many people would find it quite hard to try and learn her songs because it’s quite complex. She’d detune the guitar in a certain way and made her own style. Even if you’re just listening in the background, it could sound like any singer/songwriter, but it’s so complex. So I’ve always been in love with the mix of this complexity of the musicality and the simpleness of telling a story with a melody.

It’s certainly a broad base of influences with very different sounds. So it’s less that you’re listening to these artists for the songs directly, more that you’re picking up how they arrange them and how they’re produced?

Yeah, but I think when I began composing my own music, I was very focused on melodies and lyrics and I never saw myself as a future producer. I’d heard so much, like: “You’re only a guitarist” or “you’re only the guy that writes the lyrics”. Because I came from a classical school context where everyone was the first instrument they learned in school! And then I just thought “OK, I’m not a producer, I’m a songwriter and I play guitar”.

Then back in 2006, I think, we began playing our songs together with friends. We formed a band, mostly to be able to try out our songs in a band context and we ended up just playing my songs and we didn’t have singers. I began to sing the songs and everyone was like “No, you can’t sing – we need to find a singer”. We never found a singer, so we just kept going with me singing and we never could find a producer who was willing to do it for the kind of budget we had It’s quite difficult when you’re starting out. Even if you have a few great songs, because we had quite good songs at the time, like ‘Turn Around’ and ‘Tough Love’ – they were all written a few years before that. ‘Turn Around’ was written 2002 and released 2014, exactly the same melody and lyrics. It was just a different kind of costume in terms of production.

So I began playing around with laptops and synths and tried to dress up the songs in a way that felt this is how I like the music to sound and, after a few years, it just felt like I’d found my own way of dressing songs. I just had to learn how to produce it.

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“I wanted to develop all the time and when people began to remix my songs I started to learn electronic music”

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Your sound has changed quite radically from the more orchestral arrangements on early tracks, such as ‘Tough Love’. Can you describe how the more recent sound of Sailor & I has changed over the years?

One reason was I kind of got tired of the orchestra sound. I wanted to develop all the time and when people began to remix my songs I started to learn electronic music. Because I was never interested in electronic music. All my friends were and I was always like, ‘No, it’s just boring beats, it’s the same thing every time. There’s no melodies, there’s no stories, it’s just for people who are high or drunk’. That’s because I never experienced good electronic music, in terms of the qualities I was looking for.

So when the remixes of my songs began to be played, I was getting bookings suddenly to techno festivals. So I showed up like the first time, it was actually in Istanbul, then I realised, like “Oh my God, I don’t know how to perform these songs in this context!”. There’s a DJ before me and after me and I’m going in here with strings and a completely different tempo than everything else. So I began playing around with how I could present my songs in a different way. And when I did it, I also began to be influenced by electronic music because I was surrounded by electronic music all the time when I played the show – or people I began to work with. Because quite early on I got the DJ guys who had released my music begin to ask me if could produce for them, record synths. At first I was like “Oh I can’t play synths” and I realised, of course I could play synths because I know theory and I’ve played all instruments all my life – and the DJ guys don’t even know what an instrument is! They don’t even know how the strings are working together! So then I got the confidence to say “OK, I can do this”. It’s just about… do what I really like. Listening to what I think is good. Just don’t care about what anyone else thinks. It’s not important.

A lot of your compositions bring in a wide range of sounds and also genres. ‘Flickering Lights’, for instance, was an attempt to bring together classical, house and electronica. Where does the songwriting process for you typically start?

A few years ago I was always starting out with a guitar and a melody and I wouldn’t want to start recording anything before the melody and lyrics were perfect in my mind. But then when I began playing around with synthesisers and beats and loops, things I created, then I found that the easy part for me was melodies and lyrics. So once I had an interesting vibe in a track I could just put that on and – Bang. So most of the time I do the vocals last. I focus on getting a nice vibe and then have the melodic structure and then I can just write and record the topline and then arrange it and then the song’s done.

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“Once I had an interesting vibe in a track I could just put that on and – Bang”

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So ‘Flickering Lights’ It’s basically just two parts, it’s two different chord changes. One that goes down and one that goes up. It took me very little time to produce the track because I had a piano I recorded and then I just added a few extra layers, like the arpeggios. Then I wanted to build it like crazy so I just had an old Prophet 1 synth, which I played around with the filters to make these strange sounds. So I just recorded it two times straight through and cut up the different parts that I liked and arranged it.

But some of the other songs, like ‘Black Swan’, I knew instantly that this is strong material, because I felt something when I recorded it. That topline took me maybe 5 minutes. Because I think Keith Richards said something like “All the songs are already written, you just have to pick them down, write them on paper” and I think that’s very true because the things we create… it’s something we already know, but we’re maybe haven’t been putting them into words before. But they’re already there in your mind somewhere.

So another question should be when do you decide a song is finished?

One way a song is finished as soon as you have a chord change and melody that creates a vibe, not matter how you produce it. Then it’s a song, people will recognise it. But the problem is, when is a production finished? And then it would be when it’s mastered, because then you can’t do so many changes. Because you don’t get the master on multitracks, you can’t cut into it. Then it’s more about arrangement. But I think a song is never finished, in some ways because a song can have many different lives, it can appear in different ways and that’s what I love about music, it’s never finished.

The tracks on The Invention Of Loneliness have this diversity of sound, so it makes for an interesting listening experience.

I was actually a bit nervous that the tracks were too different, like in the sounds I was using. Because I have never released or produced an album before. Once it was done and I listened through it as an album and not just as songs, it really made sense to me.

Much of your material can use what appears to be complex arrangements. Was it difficult to adapt this for live performances?

No, it’s very easy. Because most of the time when I play live I have like 8 tracks, I use Ableton, then I have 8 different tracks, like mixing tracks, where I make loops of different stems from the songs. Then I can live mix how the song would develop in terms of build up or build out or different parts of the songs that could come in and come out. It’s actually quite a good way to learn a song because once you’ve played around with it, that way you really know the strength, how you would feel it, in a certain way when you put certain things up in the mix. To make it euphoric, for example, I can just take these parts out and then put them in at once.

Your cover version of Joy Division’s ‘Disorder’ was quite radical. Why did you decide to cover that track in particular?

I had seen the documentary. That was when I really understood Joy Division, his songwriting and what he was going through. Before it was like, Joy Division was just a brand, like a brand for craziness, this dysfunctional person. Just like a brand, like Coca-Cola or something. But then I really understood Ian Curtis’ aura, at least I got a relation to it so I could connect to it – and then I really loved that song and melody and the lyrics. But I heard it differently because it was so up-tempo.

So I just began to sing it and play piano. It was so obvious, this is a beautiful melody. I hadn’t heard a cover that goes like that, so I just wanted to make it really icy and cold, like the Manchester winter – like in the film. So I thought it was a great song. It deserved to be recorded.

You titled your album The Invention Of Loneliness, what does that title say to you?

It’s complex to explain, because in one way it’s about me being like forced into making music to find myself and it’s quite a lonely process because I can only find the core of what I’m seeking by turning off everything around me. So that journey is quite lonely and it’s like every time I do it, I invent myself again to be able to find myself. Because it could be quite scary to be that open that I am exploring the deep emotional sides of my inner life. So I use music as a kind of meditation. I get into this mood where I turn everything else off and just run as far as I can every time.

I think you’ve mentioned in previous interviews that you often use your music as a form of escapism. Do you think that’s changed in you over the years?

Yeah. It has. Because at first I was very insecure. Like “Can I do this? Is this right? Is this wrong?” and it’s quite far from how I work when I’m not a musician, because I’ve always been open-minded. I was left by my biological mother when I was 6-months-old at an orphanage. I was adopted when I was 1-year-old and then, when I was 7, my adopted parents divorced. So my life has been constantly changing, my playground’s been changing all the time.
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“I use music as a kind of meditation. I get into this mood where I turn everything else off and just run as far as I can every time”

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So I’ve been really learning to be flexible in that way. But as a musician, when I was studying music, I kept the teachers away from me. I just took the pieces I liked from what I could learn, what they could teach me. Like different chords and understanding harmonies or stuff like that that I knew that I could use in a fun way. But then you get to a point where you need to take everything you’ve learned and mature. I guess that’s something that really helped me to feel secure.

And of course its still a process because making music is… you’re trying to solve a puzzle of many different things that comes to your mind, trying to understand what made you feel a certain way, where does this come from? Is this something that scares me? Then you need to turn toward yourself and be honest.

What’s next for Sailor & I?

I have a lot of things planned. I was actually going to release another album, but then I decided – together with the label – at the last minute that, let’s do this album first. Because I didn’t have an electronic album when we signed the contract with Skint. But then suddenly I have an electronic album. So I said “Can’t we just start putting out the electronic album? Because that’s where I am right now” and people would expect me to release ‘Tough Love’ and ‘Turnaround’ and those songs and I would rather not release them on the debut album because I’d already released them. It’s not where I am right now. And I had made the other album, almost 60% ready, so it was just a matter of completing, choosing the tracks because I have a lot of songs ready to be released. It’s like my obstacle is more about choosing what to release [and] when. To make my mind up, where I am at right now musically.

So right now I feel the next album would be a mix of this electronic thing I have with more acoustic drums and guitar. Less club-orientated, but still very electronic. It would work in a club, but not as much as this album. Then I would like to make the album I already started as the third album. Then the 4th album would be more… less elements, just a few instruments.

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So you’re really planning quite far ahead then.

Yeah, I hope to have 4 albums released within 3 years. But it depends. It needs to make sense to release an album. You don’t put it out just to be the guy putting out the most albums in the shortest time. I’ve been waiting so long for releasing albums, so I think it’s more about letting the people who are now beginning to explore me as an artist, to also let them be part of the journey. I don’t want to put out 4 albums otherwise. But the plan is to release the next album, maybe this fall or next year. But there will be an album out very soon.

What are your thoughts on the current electronic music scene and are there any contemporary bands or artists that you like?

I really like James Blake, especially as a live performer. I think he’s really great. I like the more experimental guys like Jon Hopkins and Max Richter and things like that.

But there is a lot of great music, a lot of guys who make interesting music. It’s funny because in the electronic scene, I find they’re not so mature as musicians, so sometimes they do really great things, but they didn’t really understand what they were doing. It’s quite hard for those guys to develop because they’re so focused on playing, so they don’t really have the time to develop as producers. So for me I would like to keep focusing on making music and take that into performing, not the opposite. And that’s tricky nowadays because you make money on performing, that’s like the main way to pay your bills – and that’s something you need to do every month! [laughs]

I might be naive but I think if you do something that’s different enough from what other people do, even if it’s not the trend at the moment, you make music, you tell a story and it connects with people, there’ll always be a market for that. And now we have the world as a market. It’s enough to be smaller, but you need to travel more of course to make everyone satisfied because eventually people want to hear you play.


The Electricity Club extends its thanks to Alexander Sjödin.

‘Rivers’ is available now to download/stream.

The album The Invention Of Loneliness is out now on Skint.

Sailor & I performs at The Great Escape 19th May (Tickets: http://www.ticketweb.co.uk/feature/thegreatescape/) and Leeds Town Hall 28th May (Tickets: http://www.seetickets.com/event/world-island/leeds-town-hall/1079165?src=c72e31dec18b0af2329b992ede88583c).

http://sailorandi.se/
facebook.com/sailorandi
twitter.com/sailorandi
https://soundcloud.com/sailorandi


FIFI RONG goes electropop with The Same Road

The hypnotic Fifi Rong returns with a distinctly electronic approach for her new release…

The soulful, beguiling style of Fifi Rong has been winning over both the press and the public for many years via releases such as a Next Pursuit and Future Never Comes. It’s an impressive catalogue that also suggested that the London-based musician had carved out her niche and was happy with heading in that particular musical direction.

However, her new release ‘The Same Road’ sees Fifi do a left turn with a tune that’s distinctly more electropop-orientated than previous outings. Here, the lush soundscapes are put to one side for a cleaner, sharper approach to song arrangement.

Electronic melodies echo through the song, augmented by Fifi’s familiar mesmerising vocals. At the same time, this is a tune crafted in the form of contemporary electronic music, rather than as a pastiche of ‘80s synthpop, which is always a bonus.

By bringing onboard the mixing talents of Max Dingel, who previously worked with the likes of Goldfrapp (as well as White Lies and Muse), the dynamic qualities of ‘The Same Road’ presents an engaging number that’s likely to surprise long-term Fifi Rong enthusiasts.

“There is a world inside my solitude, which has been a blessing and a curse” comments Fifi on the new song, ‘The Same Road’ falls into one of my recurring themes of such inherent paradox and emotional cocktail of vulnerability and strengths. There is a stark contrast between musically driven, upbeat energy and heavier lyrical content, reflecting my inner resistance of moving 3 steps forward and 2 steps back, and the determination to break through negative cycles.”

Fifi’s musical adventures have seen her recently performing at SXSW as well as being a staunch advocate for the rewards the crowdfunding outlet PledgeMusic have brought her.

‘The Same Road’ demonstrates that Fifi Rong is capable of adding plenty more colours to her musical palette. With a bold new electronic sound, it seems fairly likely that she’s going to win over a whole new fanbase.


‘The Same Road’ will be released on 16th June 2017 via AWAL and will be available in all major online stores and streaming platforms.

Fifi Rong will be staging a single launch show at The Waiting Room, Stoke Newington on 13th June 2017.

Fifi is also schedule to perform at the following shows:

19.05.17 : The Great Escape – The Arch
05.07.17 : Wilderness Festival – Love Hotel Stage

http://www.fifirong.com
https://twitter.com/fifirong
https://facebook.com/fifirongmusic
https://www.instagram.com/fifirong


Teclist: OOBERFUSE, PATTERN LANGUAGE and TEGEL

This weeks tunes feature the ethereal tones of OOBERFUSE, the synthwave of PATTERN LANGUAGE and the minimalist techno of TEGEL.

OOBERFUSE – On My Knees

Consisting of songwriting duo Hal St John and Cherrie Anderson, Ooberfuse offer up an ethereal slice of electropop via ‘On My Knees’ (taken from forthcoming album The Odd Ones) that engages the heart as well as the mind (stick with the video as it has an unexpected ending – and a powerful message).

The London-based Ooberfuse describe their music as “audio footprints left behind by people impelled towards invisible things”. There’s certainly an icy pop appeal to ‘On My Knees’ that’s subtle, yet also boasts some wonderful melodies and arrangement.

Ooberfuse are also appearing at The Great Escape Festival later this month.

The Odd Ones is released 9th June.

www.ooberfuse.com
www.facebook.com/ooberfuse
www.soundcloud.com/ooberfuse


PATTERN LANGUAGE – By The Time We Get There

The work of electronic musician Chris Frain, Pattern Language engages a particular approach to songwriting that brings to mind the German school of electronic music, including Kraftwerk, Cluster and La Düsseldorf. There’s also a bit of a nod to synthwave on ‘By The Time We Get There’, helped along by the hypnotic qualities of the video which was apparently created using obsolete corporate video equipment.

Based in the US, Frain was previously part of indie-pop band The Giranimals and bassist for the power-prog rock trio Tanuki. But in 2013, Frain decided to pursue a solo electronic music career after a chance viewing of the BBC4 documentary Synth Britannia, which made him fall back in love with the sound of the synthesizer. The result is the mini-album Total Squaresville which features a selection of engaging electronica that’s going to appeal to a broad selection of electronic music enthusiasts.

Total Squaresville is due out this June on Happy Robot Records.

http://happyrobotsrecords.bandcamp.com/album/total-squaresville
http://soundcloud.com/happy-robots/pattern-language-by-the-time-we-get-there


TEGEL – Science

For those that like their electronic music to weave in minimalism and techno, then Swedish outfit Tegel will likely win over a few fans.

With a new album release titled Science out now, Tegel is an act who describe their sound as having a “focus on experimental sonic experiences”. There’s a dark quality to the brooding beats on the material here, particularly the haunting tones of ‘Infinity’. Also up on the album is a remix of the track ‘Radio’ by renowned Austrian artist Electric Indigo, which delivers a crunchy fractured soundscape.

Science out now on Stereoklang.

stereoklang.se/shop/
tegel.bandcamp.com/