DICEPEOPLE/MOI SAINT – Shallow Under Skin

A collaborative affair delivering sinister delights…

Dicepeople have crafted their own particular take on dark electronic music in recent years, leaning towards a more electropop direction on the back of releases such as ‘Synthetic’. But they’ve still retained an interest in the broodier side of electronica, as evidenced in their new collaborative release with Moi Saint.

The Shallow Under Skin EP also sees a new release on Syndicol Music, a record label set up by Charlie Dawe (Ventenner) in 2017 – and the new home for both Dicepeople and Moi Saint. This collaboration combines the talents of both parties, with Dicepeople providing the muscular electronic elements, while Moi Saint delivers a mesmerising vocal that gravitates between the ethereal and the sinister.

Although Moi Saint counts the usual suspects in her list of influences, including the likes of Numan, Depeche Mode and Coil, she’s still managed to construct her own particular sound and style. With a vocal style that apparently draws from a broad base (everyone from Courtney Love to Trent Reznor), Moi Saint’s 2017 EP The New Moon demonstrated an ability to combine an dreamlike vocal quality with a thumping electronic foundation.

On this new EP, title track ‘Shallow Under Skin’ features a disquieting quality for this gothic composition with Moi Saint’s siren-like delivery revolving around themes of shallowness (“Your words were empty shells/I don’t need any of this shit”).

Meanwhile, ‘Fallen Down’ erupts with a staccato intro and offers a more stripped-down affair. Its stark electronic percussion providing the foundation for Moi Saint’s ghostly vocals.

The EP also features remixes of both tracks, including input from Microchip Junky (who gave a sterling performance at 2017’s Electro Punk Party event). Microchip Junky’s Lack Of Depth mix of ‘Shallow Under Skin’ disassembles the original, placing Moi Saint’s vocals front and centre. It manages to give the track a harsher quality, the industrial sounds that pepper the mix suggesting it’s been given the remix treatment by a team of car manufacturing robots.

Elsewhere, Deflexity gets to grips with a prowling electronic miasma for his take on ‘Fallen Down’. At the same time, there’s a nice use of space slotted in here and there which gives the whole affair a broader canvas to work on.

Shallow Under Skin kicks 2018 off with an accomplished slice of dark electronic delights, but also helps to establish Syndicol’s chops as a electronic music label worth keeping an eye on.


Shallow Under Skin is out 22nd January on Syndicol Music.

www.syndicolmusic.com

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http://twitter.com/dicepeople

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SAVOY – See The Beauty In Your Drab Hometown

Pål Waaktaar’s most adventurous album to date

Savoy were originally conceived as a vehicle for Pål Waaktaar’s songs whilst a-ha were on hiatus in the mid-to-late 1990s. Featuring Waaktaar’s wife Lauren Savoy (on guitar and vocals) and drummer Frode Unneland (an established musician on the Norwegian music scene who’d been in bands such as Pompel & The Pilts and Chocolate Overdose), the band have released six albums to date. See The Beauty In Your Drab Hometown, which takes its title from the lyrics of latest single ‘January Thaw’, is their first release in over a decade. In the somewhat tongue-in-cheek Q&A section of Drabant Music’s press release, Unneland asks Waaktaar to choose between a-ha and Savoy: “I really just look upon it as different paths to release music that I’m passionate about,” Waaktaar replies. “I feel the same about the album I made with Zoe Gnecco. “It’s funny; once you start thinking about making an album, no matter what the band is, that’s when the songs start to appear.”

With the release last year of the career-invigorating MTV Unplugged – Summer Solstice, a-ha’s stock hasn’t been as high since their mid-80s heyday. Guitarist – and main songwriter – Waaktaar was particularly busy in 2017. Aside from contributing a new song – the country-tinged ‘A Break In The Clouds’ – to Summer Solstice, the 56-year old musician also released the impressive album World Of Trouble, a collaboration with New York singer Zoe Gnecco that slipped by virtually unnoticed as attentions switched to a-ha’s acoustic project. He was also the subject of the Norwegian-language book Tårer Fra En Stein (‘Tears From A Stone’) by journalist Ørjan Nilsson that has attracted some very favourable notices. It was also announced that Waaktaar had mixed Poem, the second (unreleased) album by pre-a-ha band Bridges, while a brand new album by Savoy was also pencilled in for September release, but delayed due to the October release of Summer Solstice. With a limited window available before a-ha commence their acoustic tour, Savoy can finally release their long-awaited new opus.

The recent flurry of activity in the Waaktaar household has, in part, been precipitated by the departure of the couple’s son True August (who has recently enrolled at college), but Pål Waaktaar is certainly no stranger to hard work and song prolificacy. In fact, there was one particularly crazy 6-year period in Waaktaar’s music career, with the prolific songwriter releasing six albums between 1999 and 2005 as he alternated between a-ha and Savoy. Whilst Waaktaar would later concede that running the two bands concurrently was “madness”, some brilliant music was recording during this period; including the critically acclaimed albums Lackluster Me and Mountains Of Time, which represented his best set of songs since 1986’s Scoundrel Days. Latest album See The Beauty In Your Drab Hometown is Savoy’s first all-new collection of songs since 2004’s self-titled set, although there was something of a futile attempt to bring their music to a wider audience in 2007 with the release of the Savoy Songbook (a collection of re-recordings and new songs).

Commitments to a-ha and other projects delayed the release of new Savoy material and, bizarrely, such was the length of their hiatus, another Brooklyn-based electronic rock band named Savoy sprang up in their place. “I couldn’t believe it,” Waaktaar told Dagbladet. “We take a little break, and these guys show up!” Though the couple were clearly disappointed, wife Lauren was able to make light of the situation: “We should have arranged a ‘Battle of the Bands’ at a local bar and settled the case there!”

Since the release of Savoy Songbook, Vol. 1, drummer Frode Unneland has busied himself with the Bergen-based ‘supergroup’ Evig Din For Alltid, releasing a number of albums on Apollon Records (the same label that has reissued Savoy’s Lackluster Me and Mountains Of Time albums in recent years). Meanwhile, Lauren Savoy – who has directed several a-ha videos – has resumed her career as a filmmaker, releasing the award-winning 12-minute short Scent Of A Woman in 2013. But it hasn’t been all plain sailing, as she explained to online business strategist, Gry Sinding: “I had my heart kind of broken. With a friend of mine, Halley [Wegryn Gross], we had written a TV pilot for a television series and had applied to Sundance [Film Festival] – they have a very prestigious writer’s lab – and we were a finalist, down from, like, thousands to twenty, and from twenty they picked ten… and we got cut. This took the wind out of my sails, because it would have meant so much in America. And we had gone so far, and we were one of the last to be rejected.” But, despite this setback for the London Film School graduate, who married Pål in December 1991, she has continued to develop ideas for both film and television, including a series centred around controversial radio evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson.

A first glance at the tracklisting for See The Beauty In Your Drab Hometown revealed a brace of tracks that stemmed from the period of uncertainty following a-ha’s retirement-that-never-was in 2010. There were certainly a few false starts as Waaktaar pondered his future when a-ha bowed out ‘on a high note’. ‘Manmade Lake’ had originally been considered for both a-ha’s Foot Of The Mountan album and, later, a solo album. The solo project was abandoned as Waaktaar focused his attentions on a-ha’s comeback album Cast In Steel, but a version of ‘Manmade Lake’, under the Waaktaar moniker, did see the light of day, courtesy of a surprise free download in February 2014. “It’s been a favourite of mine for a while,” he told a-ha.com. “It was written around the overdriven guitar riff in the outro and I’ve been looking for a way to present it. The voice is run through a guitar amp which I thought strengthened the mood and related to the words, particularly in the second verse. Sort of like a ground-to-air type voice.” The original track is certainly charming, with a lo-fi production that recalled acts such as Grandaddy and R.E.M. (circa Monster). But the new Savoy version, described by Waaktaar as more “grown-up”, features drum parts performed by Joe Mardin (who had also played on Waaktaar & Zoe’s World Of Trouble), and it certainly benefits from a more natural – and less distorted – approach.

Another track recorded during this period was ‘Weathervane’, which Waaktaar had been commissioned to write for Morten Tyldum’s 2011 movie Hodejegerne (‘Headhunters’), a huge box office hit in Norway. The track featured Jimmy Gnecco – the father of Zoe Gnecco – who had previously guested on ‘The Breakers’ on Savoy’s self-titled fifth album. Featuring a synth-pop backing that almost seemed purpose-built for a-ha, the melancholic track relayed a scenario in which Waaktaar had been left at home for a week while Lauren Savoy holidayed in London (“So you’re going for a week to sort out your head/ So you left me here to keep things going”). The new Savoy version employs a slower tempo and strips away the piano that characterized the original track, while the new lead vocal by Waaktaar is imbued with distortion. “We’re using an old microphone that used to be a telephone on the song, so it sounds like it’s recorded a hundred years ago,” explained Waaktaar during a recent video interview. “Frode is doing his best sort of band harmonies on the pre-chorus, where he’s being [The Band’s] Richard Manuel and Rick Danko at the same time!”

The ephemeral ‘Bump’ was originally written by Lauren Savoy for inclusion in the film Scent Of A Woman, which was shortlisted for several awards, winning ‘Best Short’ at the Broad Humor Film Festival in 2013. Described as ‘a short film about love, sex and lactose intolerance’, it featured Ryan Eggold (a current regular in crime thriller series The Blacklist) amongst its small cast. The album’s lightest – and most throwaway – number, it features some catchy Beach Boys-esque harmonies.

Stretching back even further is the gorgeous ‘Falls Park’. On both Cast In Steel and World Of Trouble, Waaktaar unearthed some real gems from a-ha’s earliest days (notably ‘She’s Humming A Tune’ and ‘They To Me And I To Them’), and Savoy’s latest album features a song that actually predates both a-ha and Bridges, written when Waaktaar was just 16 years old. “It’s still fresh,” Waaktaar said recently. “I hear it on the album with new songs right next to it [and] it doesn’t feel any different.” With some lovely vignettes (“I watch from afar/ Lunch bag and tea in a jar/ Whistling leaves and distant cars/ Falls Park/ I watch from afar”) set against a simple bossa nova backing to accentuate its vintage, it’s certainly one of the highlights of the new album.

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Whilst the surprise inclusion of whimsical songs such as ‘Falls Park’ are a welcome addition to Savoy’s impressive back catalogue of songs, perhaps the biggest surprise on this album – given the somewhat piecemeal recording process – is just how fresh and contemporary it sounds. The strong use of modular synths mark this out as a Savoy album unlike any other, and certainly one that’s more in tune with the synth-pop stylings of a-ha. Sure, Waaktaar has experimented with synths before on previous Savoy albums (see ‘Foreign Film’ and ‘Fearlist’), whilst tracks such as ‘Laundromat’ and ‘Open Face’ (from last year’s World Of Trouble) provided portents of a more electronic direction… but not to this extent. Album opener – and first single – ‘Night Watch’ (featuring a-ha’s regular drummer Karl Oluf Wennerberg), certainly sets the tone. The lyrics, which feature a simple “just let it go” refrain, are conventional enough, and there’s a euphonious blend of U2-like guitar work and keyboards… but listeners are taken on a somewhat bonkers detour with its playful mid-section of squelchy synths.

Tracks such as ‘A Month Of Sundays’ see the band exhibiting a more goth-tronic sound (described by Lauren Savoy as “dark dance”), not dissimilar to Birmingham band Editors (see their third album In This Light And On This Evening). Elsewhere, the wonderfully titled ‘Shy Teens Suffering Silently’ combines cold synth sounds – à la Gary Numan – with mid-period Beatles pop sensibilities.

In his book The 10 Rules Of Rock And Roll, former Go-Betweens frontman Robert Forster claims in rule 2 that “the second-last song on every album is the weakest”. This doesn’t apply to Savoy’s ‘Sunlit Byways’, which is arguably the catchiest track on the album (“It puts me in a good mood when I listen to that song,” Lauren Savoy said recently). Whilst Waaktaar recently stated that “you can never get enough distortion”, the vocals do let the track down slightly, but it’s a lovely pop song that resonates with both warmth and optimism (“When we walk/ Through sunlit byways/ Grab my hand/ When things go sideways/ As they sometimes will”).

Overall this is a confident – and surprisingly seamless – collection; playful, adventurous, and boasting a production that benefits from retaining its rough edges. In fact, it’s the perfect companion piece to last year’s World Of Trouble. Hopefully we won’t have to wait another ten years for the next one…


See The Beauty In Your Drab Hometown is released by Drabant Music on 12th January.

Savoy, featuring Linn Frøkedal (from Misty Coast) on keyboards and Chris Holm on bass, will be performing at Parkteatret in Oslo on 11th January, with special guest Zoe Gnecco.

Many thanks to Matea Grøvik at Drabant Music.

Photographs by Jason Brandenberg.

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2017 – The Year In Review

2017 has been an eventful year in the world of electronic music, particularly here in the UK which saw some of the classic acts back in action. But it also saw the emergence of some talented contemporary electronic acts as well. Here’s TEC’s review of the year along with our contributor’s lists of songs and albums that they rated in 2017…


2017 started off in a strange place for The Electricity Club as it found itself in a position to discard the accumulated baggage of many years and give the site a ‘soft reboot’. With an agenda that was focussed purely on music, it was a foundation that provided a sturdy structure for the months ahead.

January saw Austra make a triumphant return with their third studio album Future Politics. Along with lead single ‘Utopia’, the album was a reflection of our times as we entered into a turbulent period in global politics. TEC’s review summed up the album as “…a more intimate and personal approach than previous outings”.

TEC favourites Lola Dutronic also made a welcome return, first with a sequel to their classic ‘Everybody Loves You When You’re Dead’ (now updated to reflect some of the losses music suffered in 2016 such as Lemmy, David Bowie and Prince). We interviewed Lola Dutronic to get some gain some insight into how the globally distant pair produce their music. The duo also managed to bookend the year with a further release when they released the wonderful ‘My Name Is Lola’.

Vitalic came back with the stunning Voyager album. Pascal Arbez’s crunchy flavour of muscular beats and hook-laden melodies was present and correct on his new outing. Tracks such as ‘Waiting For The Stars’ suggested an unabashed nod to Arbez’s favourite ’70s and ’80s songs with a Moroder-esque beat driving this squelchy and engaging electropop wonder. Meanwhile, ‘Sweet Cigarette’ offered up a homage to The Normal’s ‘Warm Leatherette’.

TEC’s Lost Album series delivered some eclectic choices from the vaults for consideration. This included U96’s Replugged, Kon Kan’s Syntonic and Gary Numan’s 1994 album Sacrifice, a release which Barry Page suggested held the keys to the future: “Whilst the album often suffers from its use of some rather unimaginative and repetitive drum loops, the album put Numan firmly back on track.”

Sweden’s Sailor And I, meanwhile, offered up brooding, glacial pop on debut album The Invention Of Loneliness. TEC also spoke to musician Alexander Sjödin, the brains behind the outfit, who summed up his methods thus: “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”.

In March, Goldfrapp returned to the fold with new album Silver Eye. While it was a serviceable outing of the glam synth workings that the duo had traded on previously, it was also bereft of many surprises or challenges. A return to Felt Mountain glories seems overdue.

Throughout the year, we were won over by a whole host of emerging electronic acts that caught our attention. This included the “ruptured melodies” of Jupiter-C (a duo championed by the likes of Clint Mansell). The “multi-utility music” of Liverpool’s Lo Five drew our focus to the wonders of the Patterned Air label. Elsewhere, the electro-acoustic sounds of Autorotation provided their own charm while the crunchy qualities of Cotton Wolf also suggested an act worth keeping an eye on.

With the 8th March traditionally being International Women’s Day, we thought it was time to add a twist to it by suggesting an International Women In Electronic Music Day. While the commentary of the likes of Lauren Mayberry (Chvrches) and Claire Boucher (Grimes) had blazed the trail for a level playing field for women, it was still depressing to see tone-deaf blog articles that were essentially ‘Birds With Synths’ being offered up as support.

One of our choices for that esteemed list, Hannah Peel, managed to deliver two albums of note in 2017. The personal journey of Awake But Always Dreaming (inspired by her family’s encounter with dementia) and also the magical world of Mary Casio: Journey To Cassiopeia – an album which our review summed up as “a testament to Hannah Peel’s seemingly endless abilities to craft new and intriguing ideas out of the ether. It’s a cosmic journey that delivers.”

Hopes were high that Basildon’s finest could deliver a solid return to form with their 14th studio album Spirit. But the album divided critics and fans alike on a release which TEC’s review summed up succinctly: “…as impressive as it is lyrically, it’s an often challenging and unsettling listen that doesn’t quite meet up to its billing as “the most energized Depeche Mode album in years.””

Despite the controversy, Depeche Mode still managed to put on their biggest ever UK show, with over 80,000 attendees at London Stadium in June this year.

Elsewhere, another of the old guard was also facing a productive year. Marc Almond released new compilation album Hits And Pieces, which spanned his extensive career from Soft Cell through to his more recent solo work. Although not as comprehensive as 2016’s Trials Of Eyeliner, TEC’s review suggested “…the new compilation offers a more concise selection of music that still manages to cover Almond’s extensive musical career in fine style”.

April saw TEC looking at the dark wave delights of Dicepeople, whose ‘Synthetic’ offered up “brooding gothic synth melodies against a burbling electronic background”. But their cover of Depeche Mode’s ‘Strangelove’ showed the outfit could also deliver muscular electropop that still retained their own unique style. Speaking to Dicepeople’s Matt Brock in an exclusive interview, TEC discovered the band’s strong cinematic touchstone. “Cronenberg’s Videodrome is another huge influence for us with its exploration of very dark themes involving control, voyeurism and the nature of reality as shown via layers of screens (a recurring theme in Dicepeople).”

Marnie released her follow-up to 2013’s Crystal World in the form of Strange Words And Weird Wars. The album demonstrated the Ladytron member’s knack for tunes, which our review summed up as “…a solid album of contemporary electropop that listeners will find intelligent, engaging and yet also fun. Strange Words And Weird Wars is a continuing demonstration on why Marnie is one of electronic music’s most precious assets”.

The emerging generation of electronic artists kept producing new acts of interest throughout 2017. Pixx (who cropped up on our radar after supporting Austra) released The Age Of Anxiety, which our review described as “an album that offers up a combination of smart pop tunes married with thoughtful lyrics”. Hannah Rodgers, the talent behind Pixx, also addressed the surge 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”.

Kelly Lee Owens was another emerging artist who released her eponymous debut this year. The TEC review summed it up: “At heart an electronic album, the tracks contained within dart between ambient soundscapes and beat-driven compositions”.

AIVIS, a new act that had come to TEC’s attention via The Pansentient League’s Jer White, delivered their debut album Constellate. As with acts such as Lola Dutronic, AIVIS consists of a duo located in separate countries – in this case Aidan from Scotland and Travis based in Ohio. Their use of harmonies and warm synths led us to conclude that “Constellate is a smooth collection of subtle electropop”.

Irish outfit Tiny Magnetic Pets had a good year in which they released a new album and went on to support OMD. The 3-piece unit had made their UK and European live debut back in 2015 championed by Johnny Normal. Now in 2017 they brought new release Deluxe/Debris to bear. TEC’s review gave the album an honest appraisal: “They’ve got the chops to push the envelope, but there are times on this album where, arguably, the band appear happier playing from a safe position. When they introduce their more experimental side, or opt for a more dynamic approach, Tiny Magnetic Pets shine brightest”.

Voi Vang’s powerful voice and dancepop sensibilities made her one of the star turns of 2017. Meanwhile, Twist Helix woke us up with their “dramatic tunes and big, euphoric vocal melodies”. Our Teclist reviews also had good things to say about Elektrisk Gønner, OSHH and Russian outfit Oddity.

Elsewhere, the classic synthpop acts still had a strong showing this year. Erasure released the downbeat World Be Gone, a more reflective album that was heavily influenced by the troubling political climate (a persistent theme for many other releases this year). OMD returned with the follow-up to 2013’s English Electric with The Punishment Of Luxury. The album wore its Kraftwerk influences on its sleeve for a lot of the tracks, while the title number offered a commentary on commercial culture.

German pioneers Kraftwerk brought their 3D experience back to the UK and TEC’s Rob Rumbell offered his thoughts on their Nottingham concert: “…sensory overload… which left you awe-inspired and breathless”.

Blancmange presented a superb compilation of their first three albums titled The Blanc Tapes which we summed up as “the perfect archive for Blancmange’s often-overlooked musical legacy.” Neil Arthur also delivered new studio album Unfurnished Rooms, which prompted an honest critique from TEC’s Imogen Bebb: “whilst as an album it isn’t always easy to listen to, it makes for a welcome new chapter in Blancmange’s ongoing story”.

Howard Jones also went down the compilation route with the comprehensive Best 1983-2017 which the TEC review suggested: “this 3-CD set will have a special appeal not only to loyal Howard Jones fans, but also perhaps a new audience keen to experience the appeal of this pioneering electronic musician”.

While there were bright moments in the year, the music scene also saw tragedy in 2017 with the loss of Can’s Holger Czukay, trance DJ Robert Miles and Roland founder Ikutaro Kakehashi.

Barry Page provided some long-form features which took the focus to Norway’s a-ha, particularly the side projects that the likes of Morten Harket and Paul Waaktaar-Savoy have embarked on.

Speaking of a-ha, although the idea of an acoustic album by an electronic act seemed absurd, it was a concept that the Norwegian outfit embraced for Summer Solstice. The breath-taking arrangements for classics such as ‘Take On Me’ and ‘The Sun Always Shines On TV’ proved that a-ha still had the chops to surprise people.

Meanwhile, Midge Ure’s own orchestral-inspired approach for Ultravox and his solo numbers resulted in the release of Orchestrated later in the year. TEC’s Jus Forrest summed things up: “As an album, Orchestrated is diverse enough to pique interest. It’s contemporary enough to be relevant, and there’s enough classic tracks to reach out to fans”.

The soulful tones of Fifi Rong returned, this time with a bolder electronic sound on ‘The Same Road’. TEC’s review concluded that the new song “…demonstrates that Fifi Rong is capable of adding plenty more colours to her musical palette”.

Kasson Crooker, formerly of Freezepop, also provided some gems throughout 2017. There was the Gishiki album released under his Symbion Project banner – a release that we summed up as “one of the standout electronica releases of the year.” Meanwhile, he launched new outing ELYXR which was designed to be a collaborative project introducing different singers for each subsequent release. This included the warmth of ‘Engine’ as well as the punchier (and lyrically timely!) ‘Godspeed’.

2017 also delivered a diverse selection of electronic music events that showcased a multi-line-up of diverse acts. May saw Synth Club Presents, which included the ever-excellent Vile Electrodes as well as the sultry delights of The Frixion and the energetic pop of Knight$.

Culled from their 2016 album Ath.Lon, in June Greek duo Marsheaux unveiled a new video for ‘Now You Are Mine’.

Meanwhile, July delivered one of the bigger events of the year with Liverpool’s Silicon Dreams. Combining established artists with newer acts, this year’s event pulled together an all-star schedule featuring Parralox, Avec Sans, Future Perfect, Berlyn Trilogy, Caroline McLavy and Voi Vang. As TEC’s review stated: “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”.

August presented the Electro Punk Party which offered up some of the more alternative acts on the scene. This included Dicepeople, Microchip Junky, Hot Gothic, the dark surf guitar of Pink Diamond Revue and the anarchistic LegPuppy. In fact, LegPuppy demonstrated an impressive schedule of live performances throughout the year as well as releasing songs such as the wry observations of ‘Selfie Stick’ and dance-orientated ‘Running Through A Field Of Wheat’.

The regular Synthetic City event returned, this time at Water Rats in King’s Cross. The evening brought with it some superb performances from the likes of Hot Pink Abuse, Eden, The Lunchbox Surrender, Train To Spain and Parralox (marking their second UK live show this year). The weird and wonderful Mr Vast topped things off and the whole affair was superbly organised by Johnny Normal.

Susanne Sundfør, who released the superb Ten Love Songs album back in 2015, brought a much more challenging release in the form of Music For People In Trouble. The album weaved in acoustic touches, spoken word segments and often unsettling soundscapes. But the epic ‘Mountaineers’, featuring the distinctive voice of John Grant, had an almost physical presence with its hypnotic tones.

The mighty Sparks returned with new album Hippopotamus and delivered a superb live performance in London back in October. The same month, the 22rpm electronic music festival took place. Showcased by record label Bit Phalanx, the event featured the likes of Scanner, Derek Piotr, Digitonal, Coppe and a truly stunning performance from Valgeir Sigurðsson.

The Sound Of Arrows brought out their newest album since 2011’s Voyage. Stay Free offered a much more grounded approach to electropop than the dreamy moods of their previous release, but still managed to deliver some cinematic pop moments. Their pop-up shop to promote the album was also a nice touch!

PledgeMusic has proved to be a vital lifeline for many artists in recent years. It’s a funding option which delivered for everyone from Ultravox to OMD. Gary Numan used the platform to fund his 21st studio album Savage (Songs From A Broken World) which provoked critical praise and which Jus Forrest suggested delivered “a flawless production of intrigue; a soundtrack that brings together the atmospheric, the lonely, the eerie and, in places, the added drama of colourful crescendo”.

Empathy Test, an electronic duo from London, also chose the PledgeMusic route and achieved such success that they decided to release not just one, but two albums together. The stunning Losing Touch and Safe From Harm revealed a band that could combine mood and melancholy in an impressive collection of songs. TEC’s conclusion that compositions such as ‘Bare My Soul’ demonstrated a band capable of delivery that was both “mythical and melodious”, also showed the heights that contemporary electropop can ascend to.

As the year drew to its conclusion, there were still some gems to pop up on the radar. Canadian sleazy synth specialist TR/ST teased us with ‘Destroyer’, a nocturnal affair that (along with the year’s earlier release ‘Bicep’) paved the way for a new album due in 2018.

Scanner, who had delivered a stunning performance at the 22rpm event, also unleashed The Great Crater, an album of mood and often brooding unease. Our review’s final conclusion was that “The end result is less listening to a body of work and more being immersed into a physical experience”.

Curxes brought us the hypnotic delights of ‘In Your Neighbourhood’, which paved the way for new album Gilded Cage.

As the winter months drew to a close, we took a look at Parralox’s latest release ‘Electric Nights’, which proved to be a euphoric floor-stomper. Meanwhile, Norway served up Take All The Land, the debut solo album by Simen Lyngroth which TEC’s review summed up as a “beautifully well-crafted and intimate album”.

Perhaps one theme that 2017 demonstrated time and time again is that electronic music continues to evolve and thrive, particularly at the grassroots level where emerging acts are less focused on being a pastiche of the bands of 40 years ago. Instead, there’s a fresh and dynamic scene which has seen a genre looking to the future rather than the past.

This doesn’t scribble over the achievements of decades of previous electronic acts. That history and legacy continues to exist, but perhaps the idea that acts don’t need to be beholden to the classic acts is a concept that younger artists are more willing to entertain.


CONTRIBUTOR’S LISTS

IMOGEN BEBB

Top 5 Songs Of 2017

OMD – The Punishment of Luxury
Gary Numan – My Name Is Ruin
Sparks – What The Hell Is It This Time?
Alphaville – Heartbreak City
Tiny Magnetic Pets – Never Alone

Top 5 Albums Of 2017

OMD – The Punishment of Luxury
Tiny Magnetic Pets – Deluxe/Debris
Blancmange – Unfurnished Rooms
Superdivorce – Action Figures
Brian Eno – Reflection

Favourite Event of 2017

OMD at Liverpool Empire in October.

Most Promising New Act

Superdivorce


JUS FORREST

Top 5 Songs Of 2017

Among the Echoes – Breathe
Tiny Magnetic Pets – Control Me
John Foxx and the Maths – Orphan Waltz
Gary Numan – My Name is Ruin
Gary Numan – Bed of Thorns

Top 5 Albums Of 2017

Jori Hulkkonen – Don’t Believe in Happiness
Gary Numan – Savage (Songs from a Broken World)
Tiny Magnetic Pets – Deluxe/Debris
Hannah Peel – Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia
Richard Barbieri – Planets + Persona

Most Promising New Act

Spaceprodigi


BARRY PAGE

Top 5 Songs Of 2017

OMD – Ghost Star
Waaktaar and Zoe – Mammoth
Depeche Mode – Cover Me
Simen Lyngroth – The Waves
Alexis Georgopoulos and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – The Marble Sky

Top 5 Albums Of 2017

Waaktaar and Zoe – World Of Trouble
Simen Lyngroth – Take All The Land
a-ha – MTV Unplugged Summer Solstice
Empathy Test – Losing Touch
Sparks – Hippopotamus

Favourite Event of 2017

Depeche Mode at London Stadium, June 2017

Most Promising New Act

Simen Lyngroth

Best reissue

China Crisis – Working With Fire and Steel


JER WHITE

Top 5 Songs Of 2017

Tiny Magnetic Pets – Semaphore
2raumwohnung – Lucky Lobster (Night Version)
Sylvan Esso – Die Young
Pixx – I Bow Down
Vitalic (ft. David Shaw and The Beat) – Waiting for the Stars

Top 5 Albums Of 2017

2raumwohnung – Nacht und Tag
The Moonlandingz – Interplanetary Class Classics
AIVIS – Constellate
Jupe Jupe – Lonely Creatures
Vitalic – Voyager

Favourite Event of 2017

Kraftwerk in 3D at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh.

Most Promising New Act

AIVIS


PAUL BROWNE

Top 5 Songs Of 2017

Susanne Sundfør – Mountaineers
Empathy Test – Bare My Soul
Austra – Utopia
TR/ST – Bicep
Curxes – In Your Neighbourhood

Top 5 Albums Of 2017

Empathy Test – Safe From Harm/Losing Touch
Hannah Peel – Mary Casio: Journey To Cassiopeia
Austra – Future Politics
Susanne Sundfør – Music For People In Trouble
Sailor & I – The Invention Of Loneliness

Favourite Event of 2017

Synthetic City 2017

Most Promising New Act

Empathy Test