SHE’S GOT CLAWS – Synthetic Emotion (Rewired)

Artificial love finds a way…

The starkly resonant electronic tunes of She’s Got Claws made a significant impact with the release of new album War Torn earlier this year.

But it wasn’t just The Electricity Club who were acknowledging the talents of this female electronic musician and composer. OMD’s Andy McCluskey had also championed her work previously, commenting on Synthetic Emotion at the time: “The tracks ‘I Die for You’ and ‘Hurt Beat’ are two of the best modern electronic songs you will ever hear”. Meanwhile, iconic electronic musician Chris Payne was equally impressed and signed her to his publishing company.

Back in 2015, She’s Got Claws released the Synthetic Emotion EP. The compositions on this release offered a concept exploring themes of synthetic love, or as She’s Got Claws explains: “a beautiful electronic love story from the robot’s point of view and how she deals with human emotion”.

Fresh from the release of War Torn, the tracks on this early EP have been remastered along with new artwork for a timely reissue. Timely, because the ideas of artificial intelligence and advances in robotic technology are reflected in a culture increasingly fascinated with the concept.

Science fiction has, of course, been the foundation for a lot of these ideas, from the idea of artificial life developing human traits, as with the character of Data in Star Trek The Next Generation, through to erasing the line between the artificial and the human completely – a concept explored in the anime series (and recent western adaptation) Ghost In The Shell.

More recently, the weighty moral issues associated with AI and synthetic lifeforms have been the staple of the TV show Westworld. A visually stylish TV series, it’s an intriguing (and often brutal) window on the possible evolution of artificial intelligence.

Many of these ideas are also being reflected in real life technology. Google is busily conducting research that advances the use of AI in a variety of different fields. Meanwhile, companies such as Boston Dynamics are developing eerily familiar robots that are increasingly more and more like their science fiction counterparts.

Synthetic Emotion riffs on these ideas, while also delivering 4 tracks of shrewdly composed electronica.

‘I Die For You’, which opens the EP, looks at the creation of an artificial human-like robot. As she grows and learns, she sings to her creator. The staccato rhythms on the track combined with the treated vocal effects give this song an oddly evocative feel. The sultry vocal delivery on the chorus offers up curiously effective yearnings of synthetic love (“Hold me close you’re my maker/I would die for you”).

There’s a colder, more mechanical feel to ‘Hurt Beat’. Here, the lyrical elements deal with loss and the burden of emotions (“If this is really love/then why do I feel blue?”). As our artificial human has to contend with the death of her creator, the song adopts engaging electronic melodies that throw a nod to classic electronic outfits such as Kraftwerk.

Inspired by her creator’s work, our robot protagonist explores the idea of creating her own companion. ‘Manchine’ offers an electronic reverie on crafting her creator’s likeness in an artificial form. The machine-like rhythms blend in with some captivating synth stylings, giving a polished sheen to the whole affair.

The closing track ‘Utopia’ posits thoughts on the future of mankind as a race of artificial lifeforms. Here, there’s a robust, buzzy sensibility to the tunes on a busy layered composition. Synthetic melodies zip back and forth on a song that throws a nod to dancepop in its execution.

Synthetic Emotion is a perfect companion piece to War Torn, offering a similar raw quality to the electronic compositions within. As both a concept and a collection of songs it also offers a further demonstration of the talents that She’s Got Claws has to offer.


Synthetic Emotion (Rewired) is out now on iTunes, Amazon and streamed on Spotify and Apple Music.

www.shesgotclaws.co.uk
http://www.facebook.com/shesgotclaws2011
http://www.twitter.com/shesgotclaws


MUSIC FROM THE DARK OUTSIDE

Experimental electronic curios…

Perhaps one of the most compelling mysteries of the current electronic music scene is the resurgence of interest in the humble cassette. For those of a certain age, it likely conjures memories of rewinding cassettes with the aid of a handy pencil – or attempting to retrieve tape that had decided to wrap itself around the heads of your Binatone cassette deck.

There was still a certain charm to cassettes, mainly encapsulated in the portability of music (in an era before iPods, this was essential). Plus, the vital art of the mixtape was something that became the secret language between friends – and potential love interests.

With the uplift in the interest in vinyl releases in recent years, it seems almost predictable that cassettes would follow on. This is despite the practical issues associated with cassettes and their use. Aside from the inability to jump to the tunes of your choice, the ability to play cassettes can only be achieved by having a cassette deck to begin with. In an era where CD players are being considered obsolete, this is no small issue.

Chiefly, cassette releases appear to be the reserve of small record labels (although larger outfits are still happy to play with the medium, including electropop pioneers OMD who released The Punishment Of Luxury on cassette in 2017). Many of these labels cultivate these releases so they’re as much artefacts as they are a music format. As with vinyl, it gives cassettes a certain kudos when measured against ephemeral downloads and digital releases.

Scottish label The Dark Outside occupies a more left-field position in this market that seems tailor-made for the unusual. The concept was originally designed as a site-specific 24 hour radio broadcast that performed sounds and music in a place where nobody might hear in the darkest place in Scotland. Or as the TDO team explain it: “On a Saturday in October 2012, 24 hours of music that nobody (or next-to-nobody) had ever heard was broadcast in The Galloway Forest to an audience that consisted mostly of goats, deer, bats, red kites, red squirrels and a handful of brave souls who made the journey into the forest to listen”.

Among the early contributors to this intriguing concept were a few well-established names in the electronic music community, including Martyn Ware, Scanner, TVO, Factory Floor, Blancmange, Imogen Heap and Gazelle Twin.

Although the concept included the idea that the broadcast tracks would be immediately deleted after broadcast, the idea that some of these tracks should be preserved for posterity led to the idea of producing limited edition cassettes (there are no digital releases of any of the tracks available).

The tape releases have blossomed into an ongoing archive that feature a wide variety of electronic music alongside some truly unusual compositions. Volume 3 of Music From The Dark Outside is a case in point. Featuring tracks from Curxes, Near Future and Machines in Heaven among others.

Machines In Heaven’s contribution, ‘Last Days of the Trams part III’, is a minimalist composition whose melancholic drone has an oddly mesmerising effect. By the time the solemn vocal element comes in, the whole piece takes on a hymnal quality that has a curious beauty to it.

Curxes sprang back into life recently with the 2017 release of new album Gilded Cage. Here, Roberta Fidora presents a demo track titled ‘Melt You Down’, a sober composition of brooding synths opening into a collage of clashing electronics and vague vocals.

Near Future is a collaboration between Blancmange’s Neil Arthur and Brighton-based musician Jez Bernholz (also co-founder of Anti Ghost Moon Ray art collective that spawned Gazelle Twin). Their contribution, ‘Dark 6’, offers a fractured slice of electronica with indistinct vocals.

Among the other curiosities featured on this release is the haunting tones of ‘The Archer’, an early Grimes-like tune from Versic. Elsewhere, ‘The Neverending Restaurant’ from Doomed Nudes lays down stark beats beneath an obscure vocal element.

On the more experimental side, the contribution from Me, Claudius ‘Benson and Hedges’ is purely George Benson’s ‘Give Me The Night’ overlaid with jarring drill noises. If you can get to the end of this without developing a migraine, then you’re a star.

Closing things out, Quatroconnection’s ‘Baria II’ is a melancholic reverie that also incorporates elements of birdsong.

The cassette also features worthy efforts from the likes of Alt Twin (cosmic spacey vibes), Yaki_Pony (sepulchral electronica) and Stephanie Merchak’s ‘Temporary Malfunction’ (glitchy electronics).

Wrapping things up, the design aesthetic is modelled on the classic BBC logo (often making them hard to discern from the real thing at first).

While the listening process is not always a comfortable one, there’s more than enough winners on the cassette to invite further exploration and other offerings are available from the TDO website. Meanwhile the debate on music formats, from vinyl to cassette and downloads, will no doubt continue for some time yet.


https://www.darkoutside.co.uk


IAN BURDEN – Hey Hey Ho Hum

Ian Burden offers themes of unity, optimism and honesty…

The release of Ian Burden’s debut album Hey Hey Ho Hum was prompted by unusual circumstances.

An accumulation of vintage synthesisers in his attic led to a decision to test them out and see if they could be passed on to other people to make use of. In the process of testing the equipment out, Burden began experimenting with riffs and chords and felt inspired enough to start recording these musical sketches. The end result formed the tracks that appear on Hey Hey Ho Hum.

Ian Burden’s early years seemed predisposed to an electronic music career. Growing up, he had an interest in the German school of music, listening to bands such as Can, Neu!, Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream. Burden was fortunate to indulge this new interest in electronic music in a practical manner when his school acquired a VCS3, which he later learned to program.

After moving to Sheffield to study at university, his musical interests resulted in the formation of his first band Graph. When Graph split, Burden was recruited into the next incarnation of iconic synthpop outfit The Human League. This proved to be fertile ground for Burden for both his skills in performing and also composing. Among the tracks that he helped co-write were classics such as ‘The Sound Of The Crowd’, ‘Love Action (I Believe In Love)’ and ‘Mirror Man’.

After several years of service in The Human League, Burden decided to call it a day. In the post-League period he worked on a select number of collaborative projects, including the 1990 album Loot! which experimented with digital sampling. In more recent times, Burden has lent his bass talents to Australian synthpop outfit Parralox.

Many of the synths that feature on Hey Hey Ho Hum saw service in The Human League, which lends a sense of continuity to the album. Despite this, the album veers more in a prog rock direction than a synthpop one. With lyrical themes of life in the English countryside (where Burden now lives) there’s very much an organic feel to the music, summed up in the lead single for the album ‘Let The Devil Drown’.

While Burden could have employed a singer for the material he composed, it seemed simpler to keep the project in-house. At a press conference for the album, he was quizzed on whether the decision to sing on the album was a natural response. “No because I don’t think of myself as a singer. I had to get the ideas down and then when I listened back, I thought “It’ll do”. No one has come along and said it’s terrible – yet!”

Burden certainly acknowledges the German school of electronic music, yet Hey Hey Ho Hum pulls its style and influences from other sources. Citing Aladdin Sane-era Bowie and pre-Dark Side Of The Moon Pink Floyd as an early window for the young Ian Burden on experimental approaches, it’s clear that the musician and composer holds these influences in high regard.

“The first music that really got a hook into me was David Bowie and particularly Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane” suggests Burden, “And around that time, someone lent me a Pink Floyd album called Meddle. I’d never heard of them, but I listened to it and I was fascinated, because it was a standard rock band line-up of drums, bass, guitar, piano, organ and vocals. But somehow, they were pulling all these extraordinary sounds out of that standard line-up. I think because it’s their music, because it’s such a slow pace, with a lot of space in it, I kind of noticed what was going on, how they were experimenting with it. Then I’d go back and listen to David Bowie, particularly the Aladdin Sane album, I realised there was a huge amount of experimentation in that as well. I’m not sure how things fall into categories, but if Pink Floyd was prog rock, then I would have said that David Bowie was as well”.

The material on Hey Hey Ho Hum certainly throws more than a nod at Pink Floyd in places. There’s a warmth and a confident ear for composition on the tracks on display here, at times recalling the more bucolic outings by the likes of Dave Greenslade.

Burden’s vocals often have a breathy intensity to them which works to good form on lead single ‘Let The Devil Drown’. There’s also some surprising dynamism to tracks such as ‘Hanging Around’, ironic considering its a tune whose themes revolve around indolence.

‘Another Day’ opts for a more reggae-inspired rhythmic outing while ‘Big Big World’ has some Oldfield-esque guitar work in among its busy layers. There’s also a sense of optimism and hope weaved into the tracks on the album, particularly on the percussive rhythms of ‘Stay In Tune’.

The foundations for financing Hey Hey Ho Hum was crafted, like many albums these days, through PledgeMusic (an outlet that’s served the likes of OMD, Gary Numan, Erasure and Empathy Test well in the past). It’s perhaps a confident sign that both veteran musicians and contemporary artists can find common ground for financing and producing music.

Hey Hey Ho Hum occupies a very distinct field that might present an acquired taste for those coming in from an appreciation for the more synthpop end of the spectrum. But Burden has a flourish for composition and producing interesting sounds from a diverse set of instruments. Inquisitive listeners will find their explorations yielding some satisfying results.


http://www.ianburden.uk
https://www.facebook.com/ian.burden.98
https://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/ian-burden-hey-hey-ho-hum


DICEPEOPLE vs THE BROOKLYN FOUNDATION – Love Parasite/Control

Sensual electronic delights await…

Darkwave electronic outfit Dicepeople seem keen to explore collaborative work in recent times, with their Moi Saint release being a particular highlight.

Their work with Manchester-based collective The Brooklyn Foundation has also produced dividends. As our earlier review noted, the reworking of Dicepeople’s 2011 composition ‘Control’ put the song into a new perspective with its focus on recent political dramas. The reworked version opts for a more punchy dancefloor vibe with some frenetic percussion. A new vocal element from The Brooklyn Foundation lends the new arrangement some pointed lyrical commentary (“inside your golden tower/you stop this world from turning”).

‘Control’ also features on a new dedicated EP release from Dicepeople/The Brooklyn Foundation which includes ‘Love Parasite’. Here, the collaborative effort tackles a cover version of a 1980 song by Fad Gadget.

The stage name for Frank Tovey, Fad Gadget was an experimental electronic musician who was part of Mute’s original stable of artists. Best known for his 1980 single ‘Ricky’s Hand’, Fad Gadget also employed unusual performance art in his live shows, including theatrical outfits and even covering himself in shaving cream.

His experimental approach to electronic music marked him out as a pioneer of the genre – an element that’s reflected in many of the contemporary electronic acts of today. ‘Love Parasite’ originally appeared on his 1982 album Under The Flag (a release that also features the talents of Alison Moyet and John Fryer).

The Brooklyn Foundation’s take on ‘Love Parasite’ offers up a bassy synth workout and serves as a faithful cover of the original. Meanwhile, the EP also boasts a remix by Dicepeople (the Vampire Stripper Re-Vox Remix) which features a more sensual vocal from Dicepeople’s Zmora.

Dicepeople’s approach, which is the version used for the video above, has a mesmerising quality with dreamlike synth sounds pulsing away on a sexually-charged workout. Or as Dicepeole themselves describe it: “a sensual, grinding feast of visceral visuals and sonic seduction”. Meanwhile, the alluring video also features Atashi Tada and Nera Kimera on pole dancing duties.


Dicepeople vs The Brooklyn Foundation Love Parasite/Control is out now on Sonic Serendipity. https://soundcloud.com/dicepeople/sets/love-parasite-control

Dicepeople will be performing alongside Inertia, Android Lust and Global Citizen on 9th June 2018 at Electrowerkz https://www.facebook.com/events/505546683180011/

http://dicepeople.com
http://www.facebook.com/dicepeople
https://www.facebook.com/The-Brooklyn-Foundation-53704923752/


FIAT LUX – It’s You

The return of Fiat Lux

Although the 1980s is widely regarded as the classic era of synthpop acts, it’s also a period in which many post-punk bands explored an eclectic approach to instrumentation and arrangement. Synths were seen as an almost de rigueur part of a band’s instrumentation (even The Smiths, who had been vocally anti-synth, eventually relented on this topic), but there was a more concerted effort to draw more warmth from electronic instrumentation.

This was a period in which bands such as The Lotus Eaters and Care crafted their own particular blend of intelligent pop that embraced electronic music, yet were never beholden to it. Equally, acts such as Fiction Factory presented a more commercial approach that helped create a sound that was post-synth, yet still very much connected to electronic roots.

One of the bands to emerge in this fervent period, Fiat Lux, seemed to have captured the best elements of this warm, engaging pop through singles such as the layered melancholia of ‘Feels Like Winter Again’ and the wistful sophistication of ‘Secrets’. As with their peers, there’s a timeless quality to much of Fiat Lux’s material, allowing their songs to still sound fresh today.

Fiat Lux had originally formed in 1982 with Steve Wright (vocals) and David P Crickmore (guitars, bass, keyboards). Along the way, Wright managed to meet former Be-Bop Deluxe guitarist Bill Nelson, an artist who had had enjoyed his own very active music career – which also included outings as a solo artist (including the 1980 single ‘Do You Dream In Colour?’) and had established his own Cocteau Records label. Nelson agreed to take on production duties for Fiat Lux, which resulted in the 1982 release of ‘Feels Like Winter Again’ on the Cocteau label. Nelson’s link with Fiat Lux also led to his brother Ian Nelson later joining the band, expanding the line-up.

As a band, Fiat Lux enjoyed a succession of fairly successful single releases, including ‘Secrets’ and ‘Blue Emotion’, and also embarked on an extensive schedule of live outings (which included support slots for the likes of Howard Jones, Blancmange, John Cale, Thomas Dolby and Nik Kershaw). A mini-album in the shape of Hired History was released in 1984, but a full-length studio album never quite managed to see the light of day.

As with many bands of their era, Fiat Lux disbanded during the mid-1980s with the members moving on to separate musical ventures. However, in 2017, Wright and Crickmore revived the band, beginning with a reworked version of their earlier single ‘Secrets’. The release was dedicated to the memory of Ian Nelson who, sadly, had passed away in 2006.

But Fiat Lux endures with a new release in the form of ‘It’s You’. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Fiat Lux’s new outing is the almost seamless join between their 80s output and the new song. There’s a prominent bass guitar threaded through a composition that boasts a breezy synth sound and a strong vocal delivery. There’s also a warm sax element in the mix, lending the whole affair a summery vibe. As a result, ‘It’s You’ offers a delightful honeyed slice of pop.

Fiat Lux’s return slots in quite neatly with the revival of many of their 1980s peers, yet while Wright and Crickmore appear to be keen to throw a nod to that past, they’re also keeping their eyes firmly on the future.


It’s You is released on 4th May 2018 on Splid Records.

http://www.fiat-lux.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/Fiatluxofficial/


DEFSynth Presents MEGANOKE, CULT WITH NO NAME, CYBERWASTE & JAN DOYLE BAND

Eclectic electronic delights await…

The DEFSynth team continue to present electronic music events with an eclectic and engaging line-up (as TEC have previously reported). Launched under the tagline of “The New Wave of Waveform”, you’re never quite sure what a DEFSynth night is going to bring, but the selection will always be intriguing (and certainly never dull).

This Friday sees London playing host to another DEFSynth night at Whitechapel’s Urban Bar that offers up a selection of enthralling live acts – including the UK debut of US artists Meganoke, bringing her sultry trip-hop-inspired sounds to London audiences for the first time.


MEGANOKE


Electronic artist Meganoke has an ability to craft mesmerising rhythms married with soulful vocals. The multi-talented Texan delivers genre-crossing tunes that are both unique and dynamic.

Working with some of the most talented underground musicians in Austin, Texas, Meganoke has created tunes that have seen her work summed up as “an invitation to feel, think, live, change  & wonder” and “a life song, a death song; a celebration, a mourning;  beauty, fierceness & rage”. Produced by the accomplished LA Underground legend Riddlore (Project Blowed, CVE), Meganoke delivers polished electronic goodness.

Meganoke also sees the opportunity for live shows to cultivate each performance as a unique experience. The modern day renaissance woman, Meganoke is a creative tour de force. She wields words, movement, sound & image with expert ability, evoking the ever-present sensual YES with each touch, step and whisper, inviting the audience on a midnight ride into the dark & wild unknown.

https://www.meganoke.com
https://meganoke.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/meganokemeganoke/


CULT WITH NO NAME


‘Post-punk electronic balladeers’ Cult With No Name, comprise the East London duo of Erik Stein and Jon Boux. Their first two studio albums Paper Wraps Rock and Careful What You Wish For were met with critical acclaim.

In 2014, inspired by their track ‘As Below’, German film-maker Peter Braatz commissioned the band to produce a soundtrack for his documentary Blue Velvet Revisited. 2017 saw Cult With No Name return to songwriting with the magnificent Heir Of The Dog. Featuring the supporting cast of Tuxedomoon members and the talents of Kelli Ali, it saw the band explore touches of Americana, from disco to gospel to blues. The album includes ‘No News’, one of their most remarkable piano ballads to date, as featured over the closing credits of Blue Velvet Revisited.

In addition to their studio albums, the band have appeared on several compilations and have frequently collaborated with minimal techno artist Doudou Malicious. Erik Stein has also acted in several short films made by electronic music pioneer John Foxx as well as the 2011 short film Sonus, produced by Ridley Scott Associates. The band collaborated with Kelli Ali, co-writing and performing on two songs for her 2013 solo album, Band Of Angels.

http://cultwithnoname.com/


CYBERWASTE

Drawing from a wide range of influences, including Aphex Twin, Nine Inch Nails, Massive Attack and Moby, Cyberwaste pull together electronic music across hip-hop, industrial, dance and all points in-between.

The female-fronted electronic act have found their home on the Syndicol label (home of Dicepeople and Moi Saint) and have cultivated a talent for immersive soundscapes and bass-heavy beats compositions.

From the glitch beats of ‘Atom Place’ to the subtle rhythms of ‘Metamorphosis’ and the spacey beats of ‘Client’, Cyberwaste manage to draw a stylish aesthetic on their future music compositions.

For live outings, Cyberwaste employ visually-striking projections, offering an hypnotic stage performance against their engaging electronica.

https://soundcloud.com/cyberwastemusic
https://www.cyberwastemusic.com


JAN DOYLE BAND

Nitrate Visions by Jan Doyle Band
Acting as the in-house band for DEFSynth events, Jan Doyle Band style themselves as self-proclaimed Insurrectionary Neo Futurists. Fronted by the flamboyant Derek Anthony Williams and backed by Michael Stokes on synths, Jan Doyle Band combine performance art with engaging electronic music.

Zipping through influences that include synthpop, industrial and goth, the electronic outfit offer up glamour and glitz in equal measure. Every live performance is guaranteed to be unique and unpredictable, or as Jan Doyle Band themselves put it: “We acknowledge that fundamentally the concept of flamboyant performance is a ridiculous one and utterly embrace many of the most ludicrous elements of it, but then at the same time we are dedicated to producing a memorable, engaging, exciting live show”.

“Having Williams as your frontman helps. Looking like a wasted teenager who barely gets out in the daylight, possibly on account of reading way too many 2000AD comics in a dingy and grim bedroom.” – Rob Dyer of http://dsoaudio.com

http://jandoyleband.bandcamp.com/


DEFSynth presents Meganoke takes place on Friday 4th May 2018 at The Urban Bar, W176 Whitechapel Road, E1 1BJ London. 8pm to 2pm.

Also featuring DJ sets from Derek Anthony Williams (DEFSynth, Jan Doyle Band) and PaulB (The Electricity Club).

https://www.facebook.com/events/2173549989546143/
http://defsynth.com/