Johnny Normal in conversation with GARY NUMAN

Ahead of the forthcoming release of Gary Numan’s new album Savage: Songs From A Broken World, the Johnny Normal Radio Show will be hosting an interview with the synthpop pioneer this Wednesday.

Savage: Songs From A Broken World is the 21st studio album by Gary Numan, funded by a PledgeMusic Campaign and scheduled for release this September. The hard-edged ‘My Name Is Ruin’ was recently unveiled ahead of the album, complete with a video that depicted a bleak wasteland that illustrated some of the ideas and concepts that influenced the new material.

Johnny Normal managed to speak to the veteran musician backstage at the recent Leamington Assembly show to discuss Gary’s career, his family, the new Savage album and the current tour.

Johnny will also be playing some favourite Numan tracks on the show.

Don’t miss this special Johnny Normal Radio Show on Wednesday evening 2nd August 2017 from 8pm-10.30pm GMT (2100hrs CET). Listen at www.radiowarwickshire.com and click on the media player or on mobiles and laptops via TuneIn App at http://tunein.com/radio/Radio-Warwickshire-s202885/


Savage: Songs From A Broken World is due out on September 15th 2017.
Limited formats available from: https://GaryNuman.lnk.to/storeID
Stream, download or order here: https://GaryNuman.lnk.to/SavageID

www.radiowarwickshire.com
http://www.garynuman.co.uk/
http://www.johnnynormal.net/
https://www.abnormalproductions.rocks/


SILICON DREAMS 2017 Review

The electronic musical festival returns with an impressive lineup…

This summer saw the return of SILICON DREAMS, the electronic music festival whose roots were founded in the Vintage Computer Festival back in 2010 (an event which also featured OMD performing live). The festival returned in 2013 with both Heaven 17 and Northern Kind in performance, an event which TEC writer Jer White summed up as “synthpop’s still alive and as vibrant as ever”.

Once again curated by Silicon Dreams’ founder Simon Hewitt, the 2017 event ambitiously took on the task of staging 6 acts who pull from both established artists as well as performers who are just embarking into the world of electronic music.

The venue of choice for this year’s event also stepped up a gear with the Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall Music Room setting the stage for the return of Silicon Dreams.


Caroline McLavy kicked off proceedings with tracks culled from her impressive debut album Electrostatic, giving the event a slick start.

As discussed in TEC’s review of the album, McLavy’s material is “…peppered with synth hooks, emotive melodies and simply good danceable rhythms”. The likes of ‘You Know’ are given much more of an impact on stage, courtesy of McLavy’s confident stage presence and equally strong vocals. Elsewhere, the bassy tones of ‘I’ll Take My Chances’ and bangers such as ‘Miss Perfect’ and ‘Constant Pain’ show a solid collection of songs in her arsenal.

Meanwhile, the tropical rhythms of ‘Where Did I Go Wrong’ take things down a gear. Finishing things up is the deceptively slow intro to ‘Calm Before The Storm’, which erupts into a percussive belter at the halfway point, ending McLavy’s set on a high note.

In The Electricity Club’s interview with Caroline McLavy earlier in the year, she summed up the advantages of taking her songs to the stage: “Often electronic music has a human disconnect by its nature that playing live can put back into the music. It puts blood into the veins of the songs”.

The next act to grace the stage is Voi Vang, a younger artist just establishing herself on the electronic music scene. Initial mic problems aside, she promises a setlist of songs both old and new (including one she’d apparently first conceived when she was just 7!).

On stage, Voi Vang combines tunes that draw equally from both pop and EDM influences, married with an effective choreography. ‘Sleepless Night’ is given a much more punchy dynamic on stage, plus there’s hints of New Order in the insistent Blue Monday-esque beat.

Meanwhile, new track ‘Lipstick’ throws a nod to EDM combined with a more robust electronic base. VV gives a more languid vocal delivery on this one, while still busting moves like there’s no tomorrow.

Keen to add more of a theatrical element to her performance Voi appears to erupt with blood at once point, which scares the bejesus out of the audience stage-front. But it’s fake blood to the relief of all. No performers were hurt during the making of this music festival (John Van Ahlen gets stabbed in the back during the Parralox set, but that’s for later…).

‘Mirror’ starts out with a plaintive piano melody before transforming into a much more dynamic dancepop number. Here, Voi Vang demonstrates her range, hitting some impressive notes while equally keeping up the pace with her dance moves.

There’s more of a darkpop appeal to ‘Cards’ (a song she introduces by suggesting to the audience “please feel free to dance anytime”). She concludes the set with a brand new track, culled from a debut EP which is still in the works. ‘Specks Of Gold’ has a trance-dancey beat to it and it’s a strong number to finish proceedings on.

The glue that often holds multi-band events likes this together is the DJs, which can often be a bit of a lucky dip. Playing obscure tunes might rack up your expert points, but it’s pretty useless if you can’t connect with an audience.

Luckily, Silicon Dreams had DJs from both AnalogueTrash and Pink Parrot on hand who managed to combine classics with some of the best of contemporary electronic music. This including tracks by Susanne Sundfør, Air, Trust, Grimes, a fine mix version of Heaven 17’s ‘(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang’. Also in the mix are a few wonderful surprises, such as Scarlet Fantastic’s ‘No Memory’.

Back on stage, the arrival of Berlyn Trilogy presents a change of gear with the retro-futurist’s selection of brooding darkpop delights. The trio manage to evoke the style of classic synthpop, but without falling into pastiche, which is often a difficult position for many contemporary electropop acts to arrive at.

Tracks such as ‘Wreckage Of Love’ have a gothic sensibility, while ‘Synthetic Love’ offers up percussive pop. Meanwhile, ‘The Drone’ combines burbling electronics and sharply defined synth notes alongside some darkly intoned lyrics from Simon Rowe: “The house will burn to the ground/As I watch the sparks fly”. Also weaved into the mix is some choral effects which lends the whole affair a widescreen quality.

Berlyn Trilogy also delivered some new songs, played here for the first time, which included the melancholic ‘Rain’. While the band present their own particular flavour of darkpop, there’s also a chemistry on stage that often emerges in witty banter. Plus, they’re a band that are willing to utilise classic instruments when they feel it’s necessary, such as Faye Williams strapping on a bass guitar for some songs.

The rolling moody tones of ‘Departed’ finishes Berlyn Trilogy’s set off, complete with a stark video backdrop.

An established force on the electronic music scene since their impressive 2010 debut Dirty Little Secrets, Future Perfect’s darkpop material has been partly inspired by early OMD and the lyrical darkness of Joy Division and Depeche Mode. Although as FP’s Simon Owen commented in his recent interview with The Electricity Club, there’s also a big musical legacy based on dance and EDM at work in Future Perfect’s songwriting.

Future Perfect can draw from an extensive catalogue of songs curated over three studio albums, here opting for the crunchy pop sensibility of ‘War of Words’ to start things off. The husband and wife team bounce vocals duties between each other in some very pointed lyrics: “Playing out games when the damage is done/Firing slander from a loaded gun”.

‘Hunter’ is one of Future Perfect’s best-known numbers and the live rendition demonstrates that the tune has lost none of its power over the years. Its brooding electronic melodies combine with Rebecca’s powerful vocals to deliver a darkpop dance classic. The duo also bring things up to date with the insistent beats of ‘Fall’, taken from their most recent album After The Fall.

Meanwhile, ‘Victoria’ is one of Future Perfect’s newer tracks and is another fine example of the pair’s knack for crafting fine electronic dance tunes. Its frenetic rhythms find a response from an enthusiastic audience (now warming up to the idea of putting on their dancing shoes).

The duo close out their set with ‘Protect And Survive’, with its use of the ‘80s public service announcements lending a curiously unsettling atmosphere to proceedings. Despite this ominous overture, it’s a tune with blistering electronic melodies and provides a powerful end to Future Perfect’s set.

At times, the work ethic of some electronic outfits can be quite surprising. Take Avec Sans, whose tour schedule for 2017 takes in the UK top to bottom (they’d also driven up from a gig in Bristol the night before).

Equally, there’s an energy at work here on stage as the duo of Alice Fox and Jack St James power through a set of euphoric pop numbers. Fox’s delicate vocal delivery appears to float over the densely layered electronic rhythms. Meanwhile, St James has an uncanny knack of appearing to run everything at once, racing his fingers across a trio of launchpads in tandem with electronic percussion and keyboards.

The duo’s bassy cover of Bon Iver’s ‘Perth’ draws a good response from the crowd. Elsewhere, the busy melodic delights of ‘Shiver’ present a whirlwind of pulsing beats.

But the duo’s ability to pull together crunchy, percussive electronics and wistful vocals is perhaps best typified in their live rendition of ‘Heartbreak Hi’, the title track from their 2016 debut album. The lyrics have a bittersweet element to them, touching on the difficulties of letting someone go: “and then through every window I saw you/mistaking strangers for you I saw you”.

There’s a polished quality to the material on offer, that nonetheless retains a pop sensibility. It’s perhaps not surprising that Avec Sans get picked to perform alongside the likes of Ladyhawke, Little Boots and Pet Shop Boys. As a bonus, the pair also come across as possibly the nicest people that Team TEC has met in the electronic music world.

Parralox remain one of electropop’s success stories in recent years. The Australian outfit masterminded by John von Ahlen have produced a staggering output since the outfit’s foundation in 2008. They’re also one of the bands that enjoy a loyal global following, established by Parralox’s willingness to export their brand of electropop outside of their native Melbourne.

Surprisingly, this marks the first time that Parralox have performed in Liverpool. But John von Ahlen and the suavely dressed Johanna Gervin make up for their absence from a city steeped in musical history with a barrage of solid pop songs.

From the outset, Parralox delivers a confident selection of tunes picked from their extensive history. This includes the rhythmic delights of ‘Black Jeans’ and the smooth synthpop of ‘Hotter’.

The duo slip into cover territory for an inspired take on ‘Bring On The Dancing Horses’. Synthpop bands covering Echo & The Bunnymen might seem like a strange fit, but the electronic adaptation lends the original composition an oddly engaging appeal. It’s also a perfect demonstration that von Ahlen’s talents are just as adept on the mic as well as on synths.

The buzzy ‘Wildlife’ comes across with a punch while ‘Crying On The Dancefloor’ (a song originally put forward to Andy Bell for consideration) is pure dancepop perfection.

One of Parralox’s more recent tunes, the subtle pop of ‘Overdrive’ comes with a bit of legacy as the bass guitar featured on the track is by none other than Ian Burden. Parralox have enjoyed a successful series of collaborations with the ex-Human League musician, of which this is possibly one of the best: “Feel the passion/It’s the fashion!”

Later in the set, the duo pull out a surprisingly robust cover of Radiohead classic ‘Creep’ before delivering one of Parralox’s classics in the shape of ‘Sharper Than A Knife’. Here, the live version is delivered in a bass-heavy rendition and Gervin’s powerful vocals gives the song a particularly emotional Impact. With the video playing in the background, Johanna can’t help but quip about John’s face at the video’s end (prompting the pair to do a brief re-enactment of stabbing Parralox’s founder in the back!).

The performance takes a pause while John is puzzled by what appears to be water on the stage. It takes a moment to realise that by wearing his heavy coat to perform (a nod to early Parralox live outings) he’s been sweating like a trooper. It’s time to take the coat off, revealing a Depeche Mode T-shirt – the perfect time for Parralox to launch into their take of ‘Enjoy The Silence’. Originally a charming folk song that utilised 3 recorders (and an ocarina) by the obscure Basildon outfit, here the song is given a particularly muscular outing for a solid slice of electropop goodness.

There’s really only one way to close out the set and that’s with a specially adapted version of ‘Together In Electric Dreams’, which Parralox are keen to get the crowd to sing along with care of lyrics on the screen. The impromptu karaoke version culminates in a chorus, which spells out “Together in Silicon Dreams” – a fine tribute to a fine musical event.

The 2017 incarnation of Silicon Dreams serves not only as an evening of entertainment, but also as an example of the importance of grassroots electronic music events. By showcasing both up-and-coming talents alongside more established acts, it’s an event which demonstrates a legacy in action.

Music is an ever-evolving medium – which is as true for electronic music as it is for other genres. Silicon Dreams is a good showcase for witnessing that evolution in progress.


http://silicondreams.org.uk
https://www.facebook.com/silicondreamsgb

http://www.parralox.com/
http://avecsans.com/
http://www.futureperfect.org.uk
http://www.berlyntrilogy.com
http://www.carolinemclavy.co.uk
https://soundcloud.com/voi-vang


OMD – The Punishment Of Luxury

Consumerist culture receives some harsh introspection on OMD’s latest outing…

Following on from previous releases ‘La Mitrailleuse’ and ‘Isotype’, ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ represents the title track culled from OMD’s forthcoming 13th studio album.

Musically, the new song (which had only been glimpsed in snippets previously) has strident electronic rhythms and a powerful percussive foundation. It’s a good indicator that the “crunchy industrial sound” that Andy McCluskey had hinted the album was aiming for is present and correct on this particular outing. There’s also a euphoric element married to a classic electropop melody, which shows OMD wearing their German influences on their sleeve.

As with many OMD songs in the past, ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ also presents an opportunity for the band to make pointed comments – in this case taking aim at consumerism. Lyrics such as “surrounded by your broken toys/you don’t know how to make the pain just go away” and “think you’re right think you’re free/floating in your purgatory” are pretty unambiguous in their message.

As Andy himself put it in a recent interview: “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”.

Meanwhile, the video has a combination of neon colours and rotoscoped animation (which bring to mind the video for English Electric’s ‘Dresden’). The nods to synthwave/vaporwave are very strong, while the visuals also weave in satirical imagery aimed at social network culture. There’s also some elements of political commentary with the barely disguised animations of Donald Trump sporting buzzwords that could have come directly from John Carpenter’s 1988 film They Live (a film which also satirised consumerist culture).

The title for the lead track had originally been inspired by the painting by 19th Century artist Giovanni Segantini. The Punishment Of Luxury was part of a series that Segantini had crafted on a loose theme of ‘bad mothers’. Segantini had a strong belief in the traditional role of women and the works in this series were a commentary on women he believed had failed in that role. In fact the painting’s original title of The Punishment Of Lust suggests a much more contentious approach (and explains why Victorian audiences were subject to a more genteel name change).

It would have been perhaps a more intriguing direction for the song to head in if it had tacked closer to the themes that Segantini had illustrated. Yet at the same time turning them on their head to address the bizarre slide backwards that the modern world has experienced with issues revolving around gender. But there’s perhaps enough commentary on modern culture in both the video and lyrics here to keep things contemporary.

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”.

With ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ it’s clear that OMD have, as Andy has commented, drawn from English Electric’s electropop approach and clean production style. Whether the forthcoming album can eclipse their 2013 release remains to be seen, but there’s still plenty of material for OMD fans to discuss and debate until the new album arrives in September.


‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ will be released as an exclusive 12″ vinyl on 13th October 2017. The 12″ vinyl is limited to 1,000 copies worldwide and includes a 12″ extended mix of the single (remixed by OMD) and an exclusive B-side track entitled ‘Lampe Licht’.

PledgeMusic: https://omd.pmstores.co/
Rough Trade: http://found.ee/TPOL_RoughTrade

The new album 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. Dates as follows:

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
www.omd-messages.co.uk


ELYXR – Godspeed

The second outing from Kasson Crooker’s ELYXR arrives…

Following on from ‘Engine’ the first single from ELYXR (which also received its premiere here on The Electricity Club back in May), a second release in the series in the form of ‘Godspeed’ has been unveiled.

Seattle-based electronic musician/producer Kasson Crooker conceived ELYXR as a collaborative project, introducing different singers for each subsequent release. ‘Engine’ marked the first such outing and featured Elissa LeCoque (Kodacrome) on vocal duties. ‘Engine’ offered up subtle, layered electronic pop elements that, combined with LeCoque’s soulful vocals, lent the whole composition a certain sadness.

For ‘Godspeed’, there’s a significant change of gear. There’s a raw energy at work on a busy composition that also seems to elicit a sense of unease. Despite this, there’s a kinetic quality to the electronic melodies threaded through the piece.

Conceived before Trump’s US victory, ‘Godspeed’ was penned as a reverie on the concerns such a presidency would bring. Lyrics such as “gather up your belongings/’cause he’s coming” pretty much seals the deal.

The vocals on this venture come courtesy of Naoko Takamoto, who’s also part of Princess Problems, the Boston-based rock and R&B outfit. Crooker’s musical relationship with Takamoto stretches back over 10 years when they were creating music for videogames (such as Dance Central and Amplitude).

Takamoto delivers a suitably emotional punch on this piece and it’s another cracking example that ELYXR is proving to be a valuable collaborative endeavour.

The next ELYXR single will be titled ‘Crystalline’ (debuting this coming Thursday on C89.5 Public Radio) and will feature Katrina Kope of the Seattle band Purr Gato.


‘Gospeed’ is out now on the Speed Of Dark label.

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

http://www.symbionproject.com/

http://princessproblemsmusic.com/
https://www.facebook.com/princessproblemsmusic


SAVOY – Mountains Of Time

Savoy reissue their successful third album, introducing its classic songs to a new audience…

Following last year’s re-release of Lackluster Me, Bergen-based Apollon Records have now reissued Savoy’s classic third album Mountains Of Time. Originally released in 1999, the band’s biggest selling album has been remastered on CD, vinyl and digital formats, and now boasts a striking new sleeve design that incorporates both the band’s logo, and a virtual depiction of the album title. At the time of its release, the album represented Paul Waaktaar-Savoy’s best set of songs since 1986’s Scoundrel Days.

Savoy were officially formed when it became evident to chief songwriter Waaktaar that Morten Harket had prioritised a solo career over plans to record a sixth a-ha album; an album that he had already started demoing, largely independently, in 1994. Joining the prolific songwriter was Frode Unneland (from the band Chocolate Overdose) and Waaktaar’s wife, Lauren Savoy. The London Film School graduate had already played a huge part in the a-ha story; not only as a source of support for her creative husband, but also as a director of some of the band’s promotional videos (she had also contributed the line “Night I left the city, I dreamt of a wolf” to ‘Cry Wolf’). As a musician in Waaktaar’s latest three-piece, Lauren Savoy was credited with co-writing all the songs, as well as contributing vocal and guitar parts.

By the time a-ha had reformed for the Nobel Peace Prize concert in Oslo in 1998, Savoy had already released two albums; attaining a respectable level of success – both critically and commercially – in Norway. Despite a-ha’s reformation and intentions to release new material, plans were already in place to release a third Savoy album. Indeed, by the time a-ha had signed with WEA Germany in July 1999, both acts were working concurrently. “To run the two bands alongside each other was of course madness,” Waaktaar later told Jan Omdahl. “To juggle records, recording dates, release plans, tour plans, and promotional plans from two different record companies makes everything spin for me. The place of freedom that Savoy had been, became, in the end, pretty stressful.”

However, it was a confident band that entered the recording studio to cut their third record; undoubtedly buoyed by the enthusiastic response to their previous album, 1997’s Lackluster Me. “The songs kept coming – recording it was easy,” recalled Waaktaar. “Lauren was pregnant. We were giddy and excited!” Like its predecessor, the album was self-produced, with Waaktaar resuming bass-playing duties following the departure of Greg Calvert. Many of the songs were also enriched with string parts, featuring session players who have played on recordings by the likes of Jarvis Cocker, Susanne Sundfør and Morten Harket.

Such was Waaktaar-Savoy’s prolificacy during this period, the band were able to set aside songs for a fourth album. And, inevitably, there were some Savoy songs that would eventually make it on to a-ha’s comeback album, such as ‘Mary Ellen Makes The Moment Count’ and ‘Barely Hanging On’. For the Nobel Peace Prize concert, Waaktaar was presented with the dilemma of which song to play at the show, entrusting the decision to drummer Frode Unneland: “I gave Frode the choice between ‘Summer Moved On’ and ‘Man In The Park’“, he said. “He chose ‘Man In The Park’ and with that, ‘Summer Moved On’ became an a-ha song. Both songs are equally good, and I guarantee you that if a-ha had recorded ‘Man In The Park’, that would have been a hit instead.”

With both a-ha and Savoy running in tandem, both acts’ new albums inevitably ended up featuring some of the same musicians. Drummer Per Lindvall, who became a regular member of a-ha’s recording and performing setup in the noughties, guested on ‘Man In The Park’, while Savoy’s Frode Unneland featured on a-ha’s ‘Minor Earth Major Sky’ and ‘The Company Man’. When quizzed by NRK in August 1999 about the next a-ha album, Lauren Savoy replied: “The thing is, I’m an a-ha fan. I think it’s great – I’m looking forward to the next album… the more music the better!” In the end, she made two major contributions to Minor Earth Major Sky, co-writing ‘The Sun Never Shone That Day’ and adding a distinctive backing vocal to ‘You’ll Never Get Over Me’.

One other notable guest on Mountains Of Time was Magne Furuholmen, who added a gorgeous clavichord part to ‘Bottomless Pit’. Waaktaar was certainly impressed with Furuholmen’s musicianship, telling Jan Omdahl: “Magne can pick up any instrument at all and play it as if he’s been doing it all his life. I’ll never forget when he walked in and laid down a fantastic part on ‘Bottomless Pit’ in the space of two hours… I used to challenge him, and the only time I’ve been surprised was when I asked him to play the saxophone part on ‘The Living Daylights’ live at a concert. Magne bought a sax, went out in front of a packed arena, and totally screwed it up! The shock was that he couldn’t pull it off. It was the only time.”

“Life should be a song/ One of those sixties songs/ With lots of catchy phrases/ That everybody knows/ So you can sing along.” It’s this verse, taken from Lackluster Me’s ‘Foreign Film’, that seems to perfectly encapsulate the spirit of Mountains Of Time. ‘Star (I’m Not Stupid Baby)’, released as the album’s first single in July 1999, certainly provided a portent of what was to come: well-produced songs with a ’60s flavour and catchier pop sheen; an antidote to the previous album’s more sombre inflections. Featuring Lauren on lead vocals, the single was a minor hit and earned the band another Spellemannprisen nomination (the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy award).

‘Grind You Down’, featuring another Lauren Savoy vocal, was released as a promotional single in October 1999. An extremely catchy four-chord pop track, it featured some lovely arpeggiated guitar, and became a firm favourite amongst Savoy fans (it was later re-recorded for 2007’s Songbook compilation). Elsewhere, the more sombre ‘Bottomless Pit’, found itself in similar Beatles-influenced territory, subtly evoking the melodic craft of Rubber Soul. Other highlights included ‘End Of The Line’ (which has shades of Burt Bacharach) and ‘Any Other Way’, which included some effective keyboard work from session player Preben Grieg-Halvorsen, as well as a stunning middle-eight.


Whether by coincidence or by design, the album seemingly takes the listener on something of a seasonal journey. The opening ‘Man In The Park’ evokes images of springtime walks in Washington Square Park, with its tale of the ‘flower shop girl’ and the ‘man that knows’; summer is clearly represented by ‘Grind You Down’ (“You wait all year/ Then the summer comes”), and there’s some lovely wintery imagery in ‘See What Becomes’ (“I’m walking through a snowfall/ I’m just a little kid”). Lauren Savoy’s original 1960s-style sleeve design, featuring individual shots of the band, also seem to embody the album’s many moods, via its array of Warhol-inspired colour filters. As an illustration of Waaktaar’s gift for fusing melody with melancholia, it’s a largely unparalleled collection.

The album was released by EMI in July 1999, with initial copies including a bonus 5-track EP (titled The Bovarnick Twins). Reviews were unanimous in their praise. “John Lennon would have been hailed as a god if this were his solo album” claimed Dagbladet, while VG declared: “If the legendary Phil Spector had heard Savoy’s Mountains Of Time, we would probably have seen tears behind that eccentric’s sunglasses.”

And there were celebrations-a-plenty in the Waaktaar-Savoy household throughout August and September 1999, with the couple announcing the birth of their child True August, and the album hitting number one in the Norwegian charts. The celebrations continued in February 2000 when Savoy were awarded a Spellemannprisen award for ‘Best Pop Group’. “This album was so much fun to make, and we enjoyed it so much,” Lauren Savoy said during her brief award acceptance speech. “It’s so nice when you guys like it as well!”

a-ha’s comeback album Minor Earth Major Sky would attract similar plaudits, and it was no surprise when Waaktaar later described this period as one of the highlights of his career. “We got two-page reviews in all the Norwegian newspapers,” he later reflected. “That’s never happened with a-ha. The summer we had Augie and released Mountains Of Time almost at the same time was totally special. It was magical. It’s never been better.”


Mountains Of Time is available to order via www.savoyaha.bandcamp.com/album/mountains-of-time.

Thanks to a-ha.com, a-ha-live.com, Jan Omdahl and Sara Page.

www.facebook.com/savoyband/
www.facebook.com/bergenapollonrecords/
www.apollonrecords.no/

www.a-ha.com
www.facebook.com/officialaha/


PIXX – The Age Of Anxiety

Electronic pop gets introspective on the debut album from Pixx…

Taking her name from a nickname associated with her grandmother, Hannah Rodgers embarked on her musical career as Pixx in 2015. A former Brit School student (where the likes of Adele and Amy Winehouse had their roots), Rodgers signed to the 4AD label at the impossibly young age of 19.

Her first release was the Fall In EP, a deeply personal collection of songs that drew critical praise and led, in turn, to stints at festivals such as Glastonbury. Since then, she’s performed with the likes of Lush and Austra and established a reputation for particularly energetic live performances.

Now with the release of her debut album The Age Of Anxiety, Pixx has collated a clutch of new songs under a title culled from a WH Auden poem (in fact the title was taken from a notebook that Pixx was given by her brother).

Anxiety is an element that Rodgers endured from a young age, particularly suffering from insomnia caused by persistent nightmares. Songs such as the bassy ‘A Big Cloud To Float Upon’ refer back to her being in primary school age 9 and watching the clock slowly count down. Every ‘tick’ represented one step closer to the dreaded time when she’d have to go to sleep.

Occupying a landscape that appears equidistant between Grimes and Austra, The Age Of Anxiety as a whole presents a collection of songs that offer up electronic music that’s both accessible, yet also has a sense of quirkiness and charm. ‘I Bow Down’ for instance has an insistent beat that jumps out, while ‘Grip’ gives up a busy rhythmic soup that coalesces into a perfect pop moment.

Elsewhere, ‘Telescreen’ opens up with some Siouxsie-style goth guitar work before delivering a shimmering number whose gossamer depths manage to offer space enough to swim in.

‘Everything Is Weird In America’ is, as the title suggests, inspired by her first visit to New York. It also acts as a suitable showcase for Rodger’s soulful lyrical delivery: “There’s lot of land and there’s lots to see/you’ll have no idea where you’re supposed to be”.

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But perhaps one of the album’s finest moments is ‘Waterslides’. Its plucked melodies steering the listener to the engaging chorus: “Don’t follow me into my dreams you don’t belong here”. As with much of the material on the album, ‘Waterslides’ was inspired by a odd nightmare of being trapped in a waterpark surrounded by faceless figures.

The seductive charms of ‘Your Delight’ is another immersive dreampop world which entices the listener to be drawn in by its mesmerising melodies. Meanwhile, there’s a timely theme to ‘The Girls’ in which Pixx pointedly sings about girls “running to their fate” by turning to boys “who are no good treat them like toys”.

While the themes of anxiety run through the album like a constant beacon, there’s hope in the last track ‘Mood Ring Eyes’ whose dream-like rhythms conjure up images of early mornings and brighter dawns.

The Age Of Anxiety is an album that offers up a combination of smart pop tunes married with thoughtful lyrics, which at the same time presents an evolution of electronic music that suggests there’s still horizons to reach for. In a recent interview, Rodgers herself appeared to address the issue of nostalgia and retro acts with a philosophical quote: “There are a lot of people who are just trying to recreate things that have already been done, because they’re almost scared of the way modern music sounds, but we do have technology now that allows us to make quite insane-sounding music. And… we are in 2017”. Quite!


The Age Of Anxiety is out now on 4AD.

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U96 – Das Boot 2017

Electronic dance outfit U96 orders periscope raised for a return to their submarine adventures…

U96 have just released a brand new version of their debut hit single, ‘Das Boot’, the first single to be taken from their forthcoming – and appropriately titled – Reboot album. The much-delayed 12-track album, which also features contributions from Wolfgang Flür (ex-Kraftwerk) and Adamski (best known for the number one hit ‘Killer’), will be released towards the end of the year. “It is a problem these days to release an album right away,” Hayo Lewerentz recently explained to The Electricity Club. “Because every single needs promotion through the clubs in electronic dance music, and DJs always want the newest releases. This is why we decided to release some singles before we release the entire album… We are planning a release of a brand new track every month until the album is released later this year (probably in November).”

The band’s name was taken from the Unterseeboot 96 submarine that featured in the Wolfgang Petersen-directed Das Boot, an epic war film that became an international success (both critically and commercially) upon its release in 1981. Originally released at the end of 1991, ‘Das Boot’ was a huge European hit; hitting the top of the charts in Germany for several weeks, before creeping into the UK Top 20 in the summer of 1992 (as featured in our Tasty Fish : 30 Lost Songs Of The CD Era article).


Alex Christensen (aka AC16) originally fronted the Hamburg-based electronic outfit; with Hayo Lewerentz, Ingo Hauss and Helmut Hoinkis at its creative hub. Throughout the 1990s U96 released four studio albums, registering several hit singles (including ‘I Wanna Be A Kennedy’, ‘Love Sees No Colour’, ‘Love Religion’ and ‘Heaven’), and even a sequel to their biggest hit (‘Boot II’) which adhered to its predecessor’s template, but in a more frenetic style. The project concluded with a ‘Best Of’ in 2000, although Christensen returned as U96 in 2007 with the unsuccessful Out Of Wilhelmsberg album, before leaving to work on other projects. “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,” Lewerentz explained to us earlier this year. “In the studio though it was mainly Ingo and myself that produced and wrote the songs from the very beginning of U96 until now.”

The current incarnation of U96 includes original members Lewerentz and Hauss, who released The Dark Matter EP in 2015. They released a sneak preview of their new album via YouTube in 2016, a Kraftwerkian slice of gently pulsating electro-pop titled ‘Monkeys’. “It will be released on our new label imprint called UNLTD, which is a part of Triggertrax but only dedicated to dance music.” Lewerentz told us. “We will also release music from other artists on that label in the future.”

It is the departed Christensen who is credited with the innovative idea of giving Klaus Doldinger’s film theme a Techno-style treatment in 1991. Over twenty-five years on, it still sounds great, though it’s very much a product of its time; partly due to its use of synthesized speech (courtesy of the Atari ST home computer, released in the mid-1980s). This was addressed on the last official remake of the track (‘Das Boot 2001’), when it was given a full Eurodance revamp, with Lia Lane on vocals.

The latest version of ‘Das Boot’ is respectful to the classic techno track (retaining both the original melody and occasional use of vocoder), but brought fully up to date in a dynamic EDM makeover that should appeal to fans old and new. I asked Lewerentz why the band had decided to record a new version: “We were asked by lots of fans many times to record a new fresh version of the track,” he replies. “So we decided to record it again and release it as a taster for the [new album]. Also, we needed an up-to-date live version of the track for our upcoming [live] shows. It was great fun to re-record the track with a kind of new approach. ”

Next year also sees the release of a brand new Das Boot TV series, starring Lizzy Caplan, Rick Okon and August Wittgenstein. Picking up from where Wolfgang Petersen’s original film left off, Germany’s most famous submarine looks set to be firmly embedded in the public’s consciousness for some time to come…


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Hayo Lewerentz.

The ‘Club’ and ‘Radio’ versions of ‘Das Boot 2017’ are available now.

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