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


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


BLANCMANGE – Unfurnished Rooms

Interior design tips from classic synthpop outfit…

The last few years have seen something of a return to form for Blancmange. Despite their hefty output of late (Unfurnished Rooms is their fourth album in three years, with Semi Detached and Nil By Mouth both released in 2015, and Commuter 23 in 2016), their prolificacy hasn’t yet affected the quality of their music.

Perhaps the reason for this is because these recent albums are more like continuations of each other rather than something completely new. All seem centred around some sort of dark, dystopian parallel universe where distorted, sporadic synthesisers rule the airwaves and the distinctive voice of Neil Arthur is the sound most familiar to those citizens who still remain on good old Planet Earth.

Unfurnished Rooms is no different. Even the mere title of the album conjures up thoughts of emptiness and isolation, whilst the track of the same name unfurls into a progressive stomp immersed in fantastical imagery (“in search of unfinished works/hung well in barrier-reefed frames”). It is arguably the best track on the album too, shining like a particularly polished jewel out of the deliberate solemnity in a similar way to the yellow writing on the cover standing out against the dark, cold blue of the background.

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The rest of the album is also what listeners might expect if they are familiar with any of Blancmange’s recent work. Not a lot of actual singing can be heard, per se; vocals on stand-out tracks like ‘Gratitude’ – an angry reflection on the nature of a difficult relationship – and ‘What’s The Time’- a series of thought-provoking questions spat by Arthur in his sufficiently bitter Northern accent- are more spoken than sung.

That is not to say there is a lack of musicality on the album as a whole, however. What Unfurnished Rooms lacks in vocal melodies is more than made up for in poignant lyric-writing (‘We Are The Chemicals’), edgy synthesisers (‘Anna Dine’) and strangely touching modern commentary (‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’), and yet still manages to retain Blancmange’s typically defiant sound throughout.

Admittedly, it does make for rather a difficult listen at times, as there are frequent spiky moments when it sounds as if Arthur himself is not quite sure of what’s going on. Some songs are, for want of a better phrase, a little cluttered; a few smoother moments or slightly less jolted transitions from one thought to another would not go amiss.

Once the clutter has been sorted through, however, we are left with the group at their simplest, unfurnished best- rawer and more blunt than you might expect.

Unfurnished Rooms is unafraid of the truth and unashamed of telling it, and whilst as an album it isn’t always easy to listen to, it makes for a welcome new chapter in Blancmange’s ongoing story.


Unfurnished Rooms is out now.

http://www.blancmange.co.uk


AUTUMN NEW RELEASES

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

2017 has already shaped up to be a good year for record releases with a combination of classic artists and contemporary bands putting out some sterling new albums. As a revised version of our earlier feature, here’s a rundown of some of the autumn releases that might be of interest for the electronic music enthusiast…


BLANCMANGE – Unfurnished Rooms

The reformation of Blancmange, and the subsequent release of 2011 album Blanc Burn, came as a surprise (particularly to those fans of traditional English desserts). The synthpop outfit had recorded one of the most highly regarded electronic music albums of the 1980s with the release of their debut album Happy Families (That album was subsequently reissued this year as part of the retrospective Blanc Tapes).

Neil Arthur has since continued to both tour and release new material under the Blancmange banner, with the last release being the 2016 album Commuter 23. Unfurnished Rooms, which was written and recorded by Neil Arthur and co-produced by Benge (Wrangler/John Foxx & The Maths), sees an album of songs written by Arthur, while Benge added percussion and layers of synths. One of the new tracks, ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’, also features John Grant (who also contributed to Susanne Sundfør’s latest album) on piano and backing vocals.

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

More info:
http://www.blancmange.co.uk/


HANNAH PEEL – Mary Casio: Journey To Cassiopeia Hannah Peel

‘Mary Casio’ is a side project that composer and musician Hannah Peel has been cultivating for some time. When a brass band commissioned Peel for a new musical project, she felt that her Mary Casio alter ego was the best face to put on it.

Drawing from her influences of electronic pioneers Daphne Oram and Delia Derbyshire, Peel’s back story for Mary Casio is as an elderly stargazing electronic musician. Her lifelong dream is to leave her South Yorkshire home and journey into space. The resulting musical adventures, which combine brass and analogue synths, is surprisingly atmospheric and shows a whole new side of Peel’s talents.

Mary Casio: Journey To Cassiopeia is released 22nd September.

More info:
http://smarturl.it/syjioe
http://www.hannahpeel.com
https://www.facebook.com/pg/HannahPeelMusic


EMPATHY TEST – Losing Touch/Safe From Harm

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

A series of releases, including 2016 double A-side single ‘Demons’/’Seeing Stars’ was followed this year by ‘By My Side’. A third single release, ‘Bare My Soul’, was released in April, followed by a PledgeMusic campaign to fund the release of their long-awaited debut album. But discovering they had a wealth of material, Empathy Test have now opted to release 2 albums, titled Safe From Harm and Losing Touch.

Losing Touch/Safe From Harm are scheduled for release 17th November.

More info:
https://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/empathy-test-album
Soundcloud.com/EmpathyTest
Facebook.com/EmpathyTest
EmpathyTest.com


A-HA – MTV Unplugged – Summer Solstice

Norwegian synthpop outfit a-ha can’t decide whether to retire or not (as 2015’s Cast In Steel album demonstrated). But now they’re releasing an album culled from live acoustic concerts that took place in June.

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

Filmed and recorded in Norway, the album draws from two shows and features not only two new songs in the form of ‘This Is Our Home’ and ‘A Break In The Clouds’, but also an old song taken from the pre-a-ha outfit Bridges. Guests on the album include Alison Moyet, Ian McCulloch and Lissie.

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

MTV Unplugged – Summer Solstice, which will debut as as album, DVD and broadcast, are scheduled for release on 6th October.

More info:
https://lnk.to/aha-unplugged
http://a-ha.com/news/articles/acoustic-evening/


THE SOUND OF ARROWS – Stay Free

The release of their debut album Voyage in 2012 established Swedish electronic duo The Sound Of Arrows as purveyors of smooth dreampop synth.

Their second album Stay Free has been eagerly awaited and was heralded by the unveiling of new song ‘Beautiful Life’ back in March. The song continues the electronic outfit’s talent for cinematic pop, but there’s also a more organic element with big string arrangements prominent in the mix. It suggests that Oskar Gullstrand and Stefan Storm (aka The Sound Of Arrows) haven’t lost their touch for stylish synthpop.

Stay Free is due for release on 27th October.

More info:
http://www.thesoundofarrows.com


NULL + VOID – Cryosleep


Depeche Mode and Dave Gahan collaborator, Kurt Uenala, will be releasing a full length album under his Null + Void alias soon called Cryosleep.

The album is said to be inspired by retro sci-fi, electronic innovators, and classic new wave. Lead single ‘Asphalt World’ is apparently “built on Detroit electro’s mechanical bounce and has a sinister glint in its eyes”.

The album will see guest vocals from Dave Gahan as well as guest vocals from Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Big Pink, and Light Asylum.
More info:
http://kurtuenala.com
https://www.facebook.com/nullandvoidmusik/

Cryosleep release date TBC


FREEZEPOP

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

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

More info:
http://www.freezepop.net
http://www.kickstartfreezepop.com/

Album details and release date TBC


U96 – Reboot


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

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

Release date TBC.

More info:
https://www.facebook.com/U96reboot/


DAYBEHAVIOUR – Based On A True Story

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

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

Release date TBC.

More info:
https://www.facebook.com/DayBehavior/
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCx1KaWdnouVOq2TmLEfbaZw
http://www.daybehavior.com/


Outside of the albove, there’s also new releases mooted by TR/ST, Princess Century (aka Austra’s Maya Postepski) and Electric Youth.


BLANCMANGE – The Blanc Tapes

We’ve just been shopping…

Electronic outfit Blancmange emerged during a particularly energetic period in the UK’s classic synthpop scene. Originally formed in 1979 as a 3-piece outfit, Blancmange regrouped with Neil Arthur and Stephen Luscombe continuing as a duo.

Their first release was the Irene & Mavis EP in 1980, but it was Blancmange’s appearance on the iconic Some Bizarre Album in 1981 (alongside the likes of Depeche Mode, Soft Cell and The The) that really focussed attention on them. Signing to London Records soon after, the pair embarked on chart success, particularly on the back of ‘Living On The Ceiling’ which managed to reach No. 7 in the UK charts and became an international hit.

BUY NOW

Happy Families, Blancmange’s 1982 debut album, is perhaps one of those albums that can be considered one of the true classics of the synthpop period. At times quirky and surprising, the album often combines some unusual instrumentation (including tabla and sitar) alongside some evocative pop melodies and a smooth, warm production care of Mike Howlett (who had also worked his magic with the likes of OMD and China Crisis). 

Edsel’s decision to release the (almost) definitive editions of Blancmange’s first 3 albums is a welcome one. Happy Families had previously been reissued by Edsel in 2008, with some other compilation releases appearing in the same period (although there were some critical comments about the quality of some of these releases). Blancmange also issued A ‘reimagining’ of the album, Happy Families Too… in 2013. 

Now with the release of The Blanc Tapes, each album is presented in a wonderfully designed book format that features commentary from Neil Arthur alongside lyrics, photos and credits for each release. But the real magic is that each album is showcased across 3 CDs per release, featuring bonus tracks (including some previously unreleased demos), B-sides, BBC sessions and period live tracks. 


Happy Families

As an album, Happy Families presents a solid collection of synthpop that embraces a warmth and charm with a curiously English flavour. It’s an album that encompasses both bittersweet moments as well as energetic pop. There’s an odd melancholia at work on the wistful tones of ‘I’ve Seen The Word’ and the instrumental ‘Sad Day’. Meanwhile, the powerful ‘Waves’, complete with sweeping strings, still remains one of the album’s finest moments. 

As ever, arranging the bonus tracks can be a tricky thing to pull off. Here, a concise selection of extended mixes and rare tracks seems a good compromise,

For the bonus tracks, things get interesting. There’s alternative versions of the classics, such as ‘Sad Day’ and the original no-strings version of ‘Waves’. But there’s also previously unreleased tracks and demos which is where the keen Blancmange fan is going to mine for gems. To be fair, many of these have been pulled from cassettes rather than master tapes, which might raise quibbles from audiophiles, but the choice between sound quality and being able to listen to these tracks is a good compromise.

As a result, there are intriguing oddities, such as the baroque electronica of ‘Black Bell’, whose rawness lends the instrumental a particular charm. ‘Melodic Piece’ gravitates between a pastoral reverie and a nod to the Germanic school of electronic music.

Elsewhere, ‘Holland’ starts off with spacey synth sounds before a chugging guitar joins in. ‘Your Hills’ (which had originally been part of Happy Families’ track listing) sounds at times like some lost indie pop composition fronted by Ian Curtis.

The BBC Radio 1 session includes the wonderful ‘I Would’, whose empathic rhythms and Arthur’s strident vocal showcase a lost classic. The delicate ice-pop of ‘Running Thin’ (another track jettisoned from Happy Families original concept) also features. 

At times, it may be difficult to imagine any of these raw tracks sitting alongside the rest of Happy Families. Yet the comparisons between the demo versions of tracks such as ‘Waves’ and ‘I’ve Seen The Word’ are a world away from the polished versions that appear on the final album. We’re left to imagine what fully formed versions of some of these ‘lost’ tracks would sound like.

The design of the whole package is exemplary. The wonderful Louis Wain-inspired sleeve art by Michael Brownlow is present and correct, while the book itself shows an eye for retaining the original design esthetic down to the typography for the text.

The press response to Happy Families in 1982 was mixed at times, particularly because Blancmange were shifting from an experimental outfit to a much more pop-orientated affair. NME summed up the album as “…the flaws are minor and the merits are major”.

Interestingly, Julian Cope, who was in the middle of the collapse of The Teardrop Explodes at the time, remained singularly unimpressed with Blancmange – and Happy Families in particular. It probably didn’t help that it had been sold to him as “like Scott Walker”. In Cope’s autobiography Head-On, he comments on his response to Happy Families, which was to set the record on fire and skate around his kitchen on it before nailing it to the kitchen wall. Critics!

Happy Families is available via Amazon.


Mange Tout

Blancmange’s sophomore album Mange Tout arrived in 1984 and was a more or less painless segue from Happy Families through to a bigger and bolder sound.

Most of this is due to the production chops of veteran producer John Luongo. ‘Blind Vision’, for instance, introduces a brass element to Blancmange’s palette of sounds, alongside a more muscular percussion. ‘My Baby’ also delivers another classic Blancmange moment, again augmented by brass additions. 

But the album also introduces some surprises, such as the acoustic ‘Time Became The Tide’. Here string instruments provide the foundations for Neil Arthur’s front and centre vocal delivery. Arthur appears to cast a nod back to the ocean motif that had informed Happy Families’ ‘Waves’, here referring to “Waves don’t often mean their anger”. 

This simplified approach to song arrangement is taken to its logical conclusion with ‘See The Train’, which is a purely vocal track.

But the album’s finest moment has to be ‘The Day Before You Came’. Here, Abba’s classic song takes on a particular English kitchen sink drama appeal (The trumpet refrain of the theme song from Coronation Street being a particularly apt addition). 

Once again, 12” and extended versions get included into the mix along with the album’s choice B-side tracks. This includes ‘Vishnu’, which takes Blancmange’s Indian inspirations to their logical conclusion on a sparkling immersive composition. ‘Heaven Knows Where Heaven Is’ (B-side to ‘Blind Vision’) meanwhile, is another sumptuous Blancmange number – an instrumental that’s all clean lines and captivating melodic flourishes. 

Also along for the ride is Heaven 17’s Martyn Ware, with a demo version of ‘Blind Vision’. It’s an unusual take with an insistent electronic percussion offset by ghostly electronic effects that wash in and out.

Those curious to hear an electronic version of ‘Time Became The Tide’ can also enjoy the dreamlike tones of the (instrumental) demo included here. Meanwhile, ‘It Never Rains’ is a slow-burning number with its choppy electronic rhythms and synth chords. 

There’s also a version of ‘All Things Are Nice’, which originally appeared on the 12” release of ‘The Day Before You Came’. Here, a spoken series of lyrics present some wry observations on everyday life (and were apparently penned the day after Margaret Thatcher returned to power in 1983). 

The third CD features a 1983 Radio 1 session along with a live recording culled from Blancmange’s 1984 performance at Hammersmith Palais. 

Mange Tout is available via Amazon.


Believe You Me

While Believe You Me is an album that boasts some fine moments, it’s probably safe to conclude that the 1985 album is the weakest outing for Blancmange during their classic era. That it also coincided with a downturn in the public interest in electronic music didn’t do it many favours either.

Single release ’What’s Your Problem?’ is serviceable synthpop, but perhaps lacks the dynamism that earlier Blancmange outings offered. There’s elements that suggest mid-period Heaven 17 here (another outfit that were to suffer from the law of diminishing returns after a bright start). 

At the time, Luscombe and Arthur had embraced the use of MIDI, BBC B Computers and UMI sequencers, which allowed them to take their demos into the studio. In fact, for ‘Lose Your Love’, one segment was so difficult to reproduce on the studio’s Fairlight that it was simply lifted wholesale from the demo. 

‘Lose Your Love’ is certainly one of the more punchy moments on the album. It also launched as a single with an energetic furniture-smashing video that ended up being banned from UK TV for, as Arthur explains, “’inciting violence in the home’. Because we were smashing up things. It was ridiculous”.

The use of cello and flute on ‘Why Don’t They Leave Things Alone?’ lends the finished piece a quiet quality, a track that offers up one of Believe You Me’s finer moments. 

Meanwhile, ‘Lorraine’s My Nurse’ sees the outfit adopting a similar strings and flute arrangement that had worked so well for Mange Tout’s ‘Time Became The Tide’. The result is a wonderfully baroque outing.

The album closes out with 2 instrumental numbers, of which, the piano-led reflective piece ‘John’ is perhaps the best track. 

Among the bonus tracks is ‘I Can See It’, which is essentially an extended version of ‘Why Don’t They Leave Things Alone?’. Also a 10min+ remix titled ‘Mixing On The Ceiling (Megamix)’ featuring several Blancmange moments (including ‘What’s Your Problem’, ‘The Day Before You Came’ and ‘Living On The Ceiling’).

Meanwhile, Demo track ‘A Remedial Course’, offers a brooding slice of synthpop mood music. Elsewhere, ‘River Of Life’ has a squelchy electronic appeal to it. 

There’s a surprise in the form of a simple yet effective cover version of Glen Campbell standard ‘Gentle On My Mind’. Subtle electronic effects tinkle away driving the composition, but it’s Neil Arthur’s confident vocal that carries the moment. This cover suggests an attempt at lightning striking twice after the band’s success with ‘The Day Before You Came’, but it’s got a particular magic all its own. 

The third CD features the requisite Radio 1 session and a BBC In Concert performance from 1986 at Hammersmith Odeon. 

Believe You Me is available via Amazon.


As ever, this collection can’t encompass everything from the period. As a result, some alternative mixes and tracks such as ‘Ecstasy And Electricity’ (which originally featured on a cassette given away with Electronic Soundmaker magazine in 1985) are missing. Meanwhile, the Irene & Mavis EP enjoyed its own reissue in recent times (and arguably sits outside of this particular period of Blancmange history anyway). 

Blancmange continue being an active force, with the release of 2011’s Blanc Burn album. A new album, Unfurnished Rooms, arrives this September.

Amazon issued a limited edition of The Blanc Tapes in a boxed set along with a signed print, although the albums are available in individual editions for discerning Blancmange fans.

In essence, Stephen Malins and Blancmange have done an exemplary job at assembling these reissues and they provide the perfect archive for Blancmange’s often-overlooked musical legacy.


The Blanc Tapes are out now on the Edsel label.

http://www.blancmange.co.uk/
http://facebook.com/BlancmangeMusic
http://www.twitter.com/_blancmange_


2017 NEW RELEASES

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

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


VANGELIS – Delectus

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

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

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

Delectus is released on 3rd February.

More info:
https://www.facebook.com/VangelisOfficial
http://www.superdeluxeedition.com/news/vangelis-delectus-new-13-disc-box-set/


ANDY BELL – Electric Blue

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

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

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

Electric Blue is out on 24th February.

More info:
http://andybell.com/andy-bell-electric-blue-deluxe-3-cd-album-reissue/
http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/andy-bell-electricblue


NEW ORDER – Be Music

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

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

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

Be Music is out on 17th February via Factory.

More info:
http://www.neworder.com/
http://factorybenelux.com/new_order_presents_be_music_fbn60.html


SAILOR & I – The Invention Of Loneliness

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

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

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

More info:
http://sailorandi.se


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

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

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

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

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

More info:
http://www.marcalmond.co.uk/


DEPECHE MODE – Spirit


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

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

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

More info:
http://www.depechemode.com/


A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS – Remixes & Rarities


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

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

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

More info:
https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/remixes-rarities-deluxe-2cd-edition/


GOLDFRAPP – Silver Eye

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

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

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

Silver Eye is released on 31st March via Mute.

More info:
https://www.goldfrapp.com/
http://mute.com/


ERASURE – World Be Gone

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

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

More info:
http://www.erasureinfo.com/erasure-announce-world-be-gone-album-and-concerts/


MARNIE – Strange Words And Weird Wars


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

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

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

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

More info:
http://www.helenmarnie.com/


FADER – First Light

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

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

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

First Light is released 23rd June.
More info:
https://fader.tmstor.es/


EMPATHY TEST – Safe From Harm

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

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

Safe From Harm is released 23rd June.

More info:
Soundcloud.com/EmpathyTest
Facebook.com/EmpathyTest
EmpathyTest.com


GARY NUMAN – Savage

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

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

Savage is due for release in August via BMG.

More info:
https://garynuman.com/


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

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

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

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

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

More info:
https://www.facebook.com/Girl-One-And-The-Grease-Guns-440754999339179/


SPARKS – Hippopotamus

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

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

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

More info:
Hippopotamus will be released on 8th September.
Pre-order the album via https://sparks.tmstor.es/cart/product.php?id=31873


BLANCMANGE – Unfurnished Rooms

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

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

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

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

More info:
Unfurnished Rooms is due for release on 22nd September, 2017.
http://www.blancmange.co.uk/


ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK – The Punishment Of Luxury

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

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

The Punishment Of Luxury is scheduled for release in September.

More info:
http://www.omd.uk.com/
Read more about the album on our sister site Messages: The Punishment Of Luxury.


A-HA

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

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

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

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

More info:
http://a-ha.com/news/articles/acoustic-evening/


FREEZEPOP

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

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

More info:
http://www.freezepop.net
http://www.kickstartfreezepop.com/

Album details and release date TBC


U96 – Reboot


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

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

Release date TBC.

More info:
https://www.facebook.com/U96reboot/


DAYBEHAVIOUR – Based On A True Story

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

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

Release date TBC.

More info:
https://www.facebook.com/DayBehavior/
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCx1KaWdnouVOq2TmLEfbaZw
http://www.daybehavior.com/


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

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


TASTY FISH : 30 Lost Songs of the CD Era


By no means a comprehensive list, here is a snapshot of electronic music from between 1990 to 1999 featuring 30 near-hits, minor hits, flops and oddities.
Not all of these were released in the UK, with many treasures emanating from other European territories in a period when the guitar returned with a vengeance through Grunge and Britpop.

BEAT CLUB featuring Bernard Sumner Security (1990)

This was the first ever release on Rob’s Records; the ‘Rob’ in question being the late Rob Gretton, famed manager of New Order. The Miami duo, comprising members Ony Rodriguez and Mirey Valls, had originally released the house music staple, ‘Security’, on Atlantic Records in 1988 before signing with Gretton’s fledgling label. Bernard Sumner’s additional remix and production saw an overhaul of the original version, with the addition of his crucial vocal contribution giving it a predictably New Order-esque sheen. Other notable acts signed to Gretton’s label were A Certain Ratio and fellow Mancunians Sub Sub who scored a huge hit with ‘Ain’t No Love (Ain’t No Use)’. Sumner had ties with both bands, and guested on the latter’s more guitar-oriented ‘This Time I Ain’t Wrong’ single… Sub Sub would of course metamorphose as indie act Doves.

Available on the CD single ‘Security’ via Rob’s Records

www.discogs.com/artist/Beat+Club,+The


KON KAN Liberty (1990)

The brainchild of vastly talented Canadian DJ, remixer and musician, Barry Harris, Kon Kan burst onto the scene in 1989 with the award-winning New Order-esque international hit ‘I Beg Your Pardon’. Subsequent singles such as the Pet Shop Boys-influenced ‘Harry Houdini’ failed to dent the UK charts. ‘Liberty’, the lead-off single from their excellent second album Syntonic, also sank without a trace upon its release in the autumn of 1990. By this time, Kon Kan was effectively a solo vehicle for Harris, following lead singer Kevin Wynne’s departure after the Move To Move album. Liberty is a brilliant pop song showcasing both Harris’ deadpan vocal delivery and his strong melodic sensibilities. Background vocals were courtesy of Debbe Cole whose CV includes Malcolm McClaren’s brilliant Stephen Hague-produced hit single ‘Madam Butterfly’ from 1984. Kon Kan released a third and final album Vida! in 1993 but, once again, it was not successful.

Available on the CD album Syntonic via Atlantic Records

www.discogs.com/artist/Kon+Kan


CICERO featuring SYLVIA MASON-JAMES Live For Today (1991)


Whilst there was no single from the Pet Shop Boys in 1992, the spectre of messrs Tennant and Lowe loomed large on ‘Love Is Everywhere’, a top 20 hit for Scottish artist Cicero who had signed to their Spaghetti Records label the previous year (you may recall that the song is essentially Pet Shop Boys with bagpipes!). Cicero’s only album Future Boy, despite heralding a strong contribution from the Pet Shop Boys, unfortunately didn’t emulate this success, despite containing a number of worthy tracks. His final – and arguably greatest – collaboration with Tennant and Lowe was ‘Live For Today’, taken from the soundtrack of the 1992 film, The Crying Game. Backing vocals were provided by Sylvia Mason-James who had sung on Jimmy Nail’s insipid number one hit, ‘Ain’t No Doubt’. Whilst Boy George had earned a hit single from the same film, the same fate wouldn’t befall Cicero and he soon faded from public attentions. He would later reappear in the mid-1990s with some uninspiring dance tracks, including a terrible cover of Soft Cell’s ‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye’.

Available on the CD single ‘Live For Today’ via Spaghetti Records

www.discogs.com/artist/Cicero


THE OTHER TWO Tasty Fish (1991)


Following the career-best Technique album in 1989, New Order’s four members would all work on side projects. Bernard Sumner had formed Electronic with musical journeyman Johnny Marr; Peter Hook had tentatively started his Revenge project, while Gillian Gilbert and Stephen Morris eventually formed the appropriately, but rather lazily named The Other Two With Factory Records teetering on the brink, their one and only single on the label was released in October 1991. Amusingly titled ‘Tasty Fish’ after a Fish and Chip shop near Stockport, this catchy electropop single, boasting a surprisingly assured vocal from Gilbert sounded terrific on the radio. The single disappointingly stalled at no. 41. The collapse of Factory Records meant a lengthy delay for The Other Two’s debut album, which eventually surfaced late 1993, prefaced by the fine single ‘Selfish’. Their second album Super Highways was released in 1999.

Available on the CD album And You via LTM Records

http://theothertwo.co.uk/


REVENGE State Of Shock (1991)


Revenge were formed by Peter Hook in the wake of an enforced hiatus from New Order. This brilliant 6-minute plus track, originally from the Gun World Porn EP, is quite simply one of the best tracks that New Order never recorded! From the deadpan vocals to the distinctive melodic basslines, ‘State Of Shock’ exemplified all that was good about New Order. Sadly, the latter’s next three albums would only contain flashes of the brilliance that made them such a creative and inspirational force in the 1980s. Amongst Revenge’s members was David Potts who would be retained for Hooky’s next side project Monaco.

Available on the CD album One True Passion (v2.0) via LTM Records

www.peterhook.co.uk


WOLFSHEIM The Sparrows & The Nightingales (1991)


A truly classic synthpop single. Named after a character in F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, electronic duo Wolfsheim scored a hit in their native Germany with memorable debut single, ‘The Sparrows and the Nightingales’. Combining a strong synth melody with Peter Heppner’s poetic lyrics, this was one of the standout singles in 1991. Between 1992 and 2003 Wolfsheim would release five studio albums before an acrimonious split saw the Hamburg duo of Heppner and Markus Reinhardt end up in court over the rights to the name. Heppner finally released his debut album, appropriately titled Solo, in 2008. Interestingly, his distinctive vocals would later end up on a recording with compatriot Nena of ’99 Red Balloons’ fame.

Available on the CD album No Happy View via Strange Ways Records

www.wolfsheim.de


NEIL ARTHUR One Day, One Time (1992)


By the time of disappointing third album, Believe You Me, the Blancmange brand had run its (third) course. Whilst there was still a market for synth duos in the mid-1980s (see Pet Shop Boys and Erasure), Neil Arthur and Stephen Luscombe decided to call it a day. Luscombe would eventually release an album with side project West India Company with regular Blancmange collaborator Pandit Dinesh, called Music From New Demons in 1989. Arthur, meanwhile went solo and released the engaging ‘One Day, One Time’ single in 1992. The single is not a radical departure from the Blancmange’s musical template; in fact, the track features David Rhodes, their regular session guitarist. It is also notable in that it features programming from renowned music producer (and former Blow Monkeys keyboardist!) Marius de Vries. The next, rather pedestrian single ‘I Love I Hate’ didn’t trouble the charts. Arthur and Luscombe reunited for the well received Blanc Burn album in 2011.

Available on the CD album Suitcase via Chrysalis Records

www.blancmange.co.uk


RECOIL Faith Healer (1992)


Recoil is the brainchild of Alan Wilder, who left Depeche Mode on his 36th birthday in 1995, following the exhausting Devotional tour. He had released his first Recoil recordings in 1986. ‘Faith Healer’, a cover version of a track by The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, was from Recoil’s second album Bloodline in 1992. The album gave some pointers as to the direction that DM would undertake on their next album, Songs of Faith and Devotion, which would herald a harder-edged and rawer sound than that of its predecessor, Violator. On Bloodline, Wilder was utilising outside vocalists such as Moby and Curve’s Toni Halliday to complement his experimental, electro-industrial productions. ‘Faith Healer’ was no exception in that it featured Mute label mate Douglas McCarthy of Nitzer Ebb. The pair had already been acquainted during the sessions for Nitzer Ebb’s 1991 album Ebbhead which Wilder had produced.

Available on the CD album Selected via Mute Records

www.recoil.co.uk


S.P.O.C.K. Never Trust A Klingon (1992)


With The Next Generation still being broadcast to hoards of devoted Trekkies in the early 1990s, the Star Trek franchise was showing no signs of abating. In 1992, a Star Trek-loving synthpop act named S.P.O.C.K. (Star Pilot On Channel K) scored an unlikely hit in Germany with ‘Never Trust A Klingon’. The quirky Swedish band were originally called Mr Spock but an official approach to Paramount Pictures for the rights to the name resulted in disappointment – in the words of their official biography, the response was a slightly condescending “that’ll be expensive, guys!” Slightly clunky, musically, but lyrically hilarious, ‘Never Trust A Klingon’, still sounds great today. It is also notable for its sampled dialogue of Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek III – The Search For Spock memorably declaring: “Klingon bastard! You killed my son!” Parent album Five Year Mission and subsequent albums such as Alien Worlds haven’t aged as well, with the novelty wearing thin fairly quickly… although there’s plenty for Trekkies to enjoy, with the likes of ‘Mr Spock’s Brain’, ‘Trouble With Tribbles’ and ‘Dr McCoy’ amongst their electro-goth repertoire.

Available on the CD album Five Year Mission via Energy Rekords

www.myspace.com/spockorbit


DE/VISION Dinner Without Grace (1993)


Still relatively unknown in the UK, De/Vision are one of the finest and most prolific electronic bands to have emerged in the last 25 years. Hailing from Darmstadt in Germany, they were formed in 1988 with members Steffen Keth and Thomas Adam the mainstays of the band. While there is some merit to some cruel claims that the band are mere Depeche Mode copycats, particularly when you hear some of the early recordings (collected on 1995’s Antiquity), the band’s sound has evolved over the years, encompassing a variety of electro genres. ‘Dinner Without Grace’ with its infectious tune, fluid bassline, and lyrics that recall latterday Gary Numan, was a fine single typifying the band’s sound from their formative years. Eleven studio albums into their career they still continue to deliver consistently appealing synthpop, something Depeche Mode have, arguably, only managed to do in fits and bursts since their 1990 peak.

Available on the CD album World Without End via Strange Ways Records

www.devision-music.de


ELEGANT MACHINERY Hard to Handle (1993)


Elegant Machinery were part of a burgeoning scene of Swedish synthpop acts to emerge in the 1990s (see also Covenant, S.P.O.C.K. and Page). This single from their second album typified their early 1980s electronic influences, the band citing Depeche Mode, Yazoo and The Human League as their main sources of inspiration. But it’s the former of this triumvirate of Synth Britannia masters that engrain themselves most in the music of Elegant Machinery, with a typically cynical Gore-ish lyric cutting through the Some Great Reward-era electronics. The band originally split after three albums in 1999, before reforming in 2005. They released another album, titled A Soft Exchange in 2008 before breaking up part way into the production of a fifth album. Member Richard Jomshof was elected as a Swedish MP in 2010.

Available on the CD album Shattered Grounds via Energy Rekords

www.elegantmachinery.se


ELEKTRIC MUSIC TV (1993)


“In press the key, and watch TV”… you can just picture Messrs Hütter and Schneider from Kraftwerk kicking themselves having not thought of such a simplistic couplet, one which certainly wouldn’t have sounded out of place on an album such as Computer World. Having become disillusioned with the working practices of his former employers, Karl Bartos left Kraftwerk in 1990 and formed Elektric Music with Lothar Manteuffel. The first fruits of this collaboration were via NME’s Ruby Trax compilation and a risible, vocoder-heavy cover version of The Equals’ ‘Baby Come Back’. But it was ‘TV’ that really stood out, with its simple lyrics underpinned by a wonderful melody that proved that Bartos really was the creative equal of his Kling Klang compatriots. Bartos had, of course, already proven himself as a competent vocalist on lacklustre Electric Café’s standout cut, ‘The Telephone Call’. The parent album Esperanto was notable for the two collaborations with OMD’s Andy McCluskey on ‘Showbusiness’ and ‘Kissing The Machine’. The latter was certainly the perfect antidote for those disappointed with that year’s overproduced, and decidedly patchy OMD album, Liberator. Bartos would later collaborate with Electronic on their second album, Raise The Pressure, before committing career suicide dabbling with guitars on follow-up album, Electric Music. He is currently working on the follow-up to 2003’s back-to-form solo album, Communication.

Available on the CD album Esperanto via SPV Records

www.karlbartos.com


ULTRAVOX Systems Of Love (1993)


Following the Ultravox split in 1987, Billy Currie released a brace of solo albums before forming a new version of his former band in 1992 with vocalist Tony Fenelle. Could they repeat the success of his predecessors whilst simultaneously banishing the memory of 1986’s decidedly naff U-Vox opus?! Sadly, the answer was an emphatic NO! A reasonably faithful re-recording of ‘Vienna’ was followed in 1993 by an album of original material. Revelation, despite its bold title, was actually nothing of the sort. Single ‘I Am Alive’ was a good indicator of what was to come; pleasant but uninspiring AOR that was permeating the airwaves at the time like Living In A Box. Indeed, its co-writer and producer, Rod Gammons, currently boasts a CV that includes David Hasselhoff! But the single’s B-side ‘Systems Of Love’ was much more palatable. With its Numan-esque metal rhythms, and a breathtaking 30-second instrumental break 3 minutes in, there were glimpses of the Currie magic. But these moments were few and far between on an album lacking in both inspiration and invention. Fenelle’s tenure was as shortlived and he was replaced by Sam Blue for 1994’s Ingenuity album, which was even worse than its predecessor! Of course, the classic Midge Ure-fronted line-up of Ultravox has since reformed.

Available on the CD album Revelation via Puzzle Records

www.ultravox.org.uk


WILLIAM ORBIT featuring BETH ORTON Water From A Vine Leaf (1993)


William Orbit is perhaps best known for his club hit ‘Barber’s Adagio for Strings’, as well as his creative production work with Madonna and Blur. He is also a highly respected remixer, with Kraftwerk, OMD, Erasure, Depeche Mode, The Human League and Camouflage amongst his considerable list of clients. He was also the driving force behind Bassomatic, who had a top 10 hit with ‘Fascinating Rhythm’ in 1990. ‘Water from a Vine Leaf’ is an electro-ambient single from 1993, featuring Orbit’s trademark production and an understated vocal from a then relatively unknown Beth Orton who went on to have a big hit with her acclaimed second album, Trailer Park.

Available on the CD album The Best of Strange Cargos via IRS Records

www.williamorbit.com


ALPHAVILLE Fools (1994)

Much like A-Ha, Alphaville’s sound had steadily strayed from their synthpop origins, becoming more guitar-oriented in the early to mid-1990s. And continuing with the comparisons with their Europop contemporaries, the vocal from Marian Gold on this single is decidedly Morten Harket-esque in its delivery. Whilst Gold’s plea to “keep on dancing” isn’t quite in keeping with this medium-paced, radio-friendly track, it’s still a fine single. The band are still active and released a new album, Catching Rays On Giant in 2010.

Available on the CD album Prostitute via WEA Records

www.alphaville.info


A CERTAIN RATIO Shack Up – Electronic Remix (1994)


Arguably the cult band’s best known song, A Certain Ratio’s original version of ‘Shack Up’ (actually a cover of an obscure track by Banbarra in the mid-1970s) was originally released in 1980 but has manifested itself in a variety of versions since, notably by Norman Cook in 1990 and with Electronic (aka Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr) in 1994. The latter’s excellent production and remix of this iconic track retains the original track’s trademark funky guitar, but with a faster-paced, more synth-driven gloss. Sumner also provided the highlight of ACR’s MCR album, remixing the excellent ‘Won’t Stop Loving You’.

Available on the CD single Shack Up via MCA Records

http://acrmcr.com/


INTERNATIONAL CHRYSIS Rebel Rebel (1994)


Five studio albums into their career, Dead Or Alive went into semi-retirement in the early 1990s. Long-term members Pete Burns and Steve Coy would eventually resurface as International Chrysis (named after a transsexual performer who had died in 1990). Released on the PWL label, this one-off single was, appropriately, a high-energy version of David Bowie’s gender-bending 1974 single, ‘Rebel Rebel’, with an intro evoking Echo And The Bunnymen’s ‘The Cutter’. Coincidentally (or not), this non-charting single was dedicated to Courtney Love who, of course, had befriended Ian McCulloch whilst living in Liverpool in the early 1980s. Rendering the project completely pointless, ‘Rebel Rebel’ and its B-side, ‘The Right Stuff’, both ended up on the next Dead Or Alive album, Nukleopatra, in 1995.

Available on the Dead Or Alive CD album Nukleopatra

www.deadoralive.net


THE LISTENING POOL Meant To Be (1994)

Creatively washed up, and drained by their attempts to crack the US market, OMD split at the end of the 1980s. Whilst co-founder and singer Andy McCluskey pondered his next move, his former band colleagues Paul Humphreys, Martin Cooper and Malcolm Holmes resolved to record as a trio. McCluskey bought the rights to the OMD name and released what would become 1991’s Sugar Tax album. Meanwhile, The Listening Pool, for legal reasons, couldn’t release any material until McCluskey’s album was in the shops. In 1993 their charming, but underwhelming debut single, ‘Oil For The Lamps Of China’ promptly bombed. The band’s organic sound was as far removed from OMD’s Kraftwerk-inspired roots and was more akin to latter day China Crisis. Debut album, Still Life was released to mixed reviews in 1994 and followed the same commercial fate as the single. It was a shame because it was a fine album. One of the album’s best tracks, the second single ‘Meant To Be’, retained much of OMD’s melodic charms. The band would soldier on for another couple of years before calling it a day part way into the recording of a second album.

Available on the CD album Still Life via Telegraph Records/Fin Music

http://thelisteningpool.finmusic.co.uk


INTASTELLA The Night (1995)

Perhaps best described as a poor man’s Saint Etienne, Intastella had started life as indie band Laugh before taking a more dance-oriented direction upon their formation in the early 1990s. ‘The Night’ was a highly enjoyable and respectful version of the 1975 hit by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, but it unfairly stiffed at no 60. Fellow Northern Soul enthusiasts Soft Cell would later record a version of ‘The Night’ for their 2002 comeback album, Cruelty Without Beauty. The duo had actually considered recording the song for their 1981 debut album, but opted for the lesser known ‘Tainted Love’ instead – in hindsight, the best decision they ever made! As for Intastella, the Manchester–based combo would release three albums and a string of singles, but they were not successful. Singer Stella Grundy eventually turned to acting, and wrote and starred in a play about the troubled singer Nico. She is currently a drama coach.

Available on the CD album What You Gonna Do via MCA Records

www.myspace.com/intastellaovrdrive


U96 Boot II (1995)


A restyling of Klaus Doldinger’s film theme, Das Boot was a huge number one hit throughout Europe upon its 1991 release. Eventually hitting the top 20 in the summer of 1992, ‘Das Boot’ sounds dated now with its cacophonous stabs of vocoder and muted beats. Whilst the debut album by U96 was largely built around the smash hit single ‘Das Boot’, follow-up album Replugged from 1993 was a far more diverse album, with a range of electronic and ambient sounds. Third album, Club Bizarre was a more dance-flavoured affair. Taken from the latter album, the little-known sequel to Das Boot, cunningly titled Boot II was less immediate than its predecessor, but nonetheless engaging. Boot II employed a characteristically cinematic intro, replete with trademark submarine noises, but was more frenetically paced.. Boot II didn’t emulate the success of their debut techno anthem, but main man Alex Christensen limped on with further U96 material (including further versions of ‘Das Boot’). He has also represented Germany during the 2009 Eurovision contest performing his co-written ‘Miss Kiss Kiss Bang’ track with Oscar Loya. They finished 20th.

Available on the CD album Club Bizarre via Guppy Records

www.myspace.com/alexchristensenu96


DENIM It Fell Off The Back Of A Lorry (1996)


In some respects Felt were the ultimate cult indie band of the 1980s, releasing an impressively prolific ten albums during their existence. The band’s slightly eccentric singer was Lawrence. Not only had he declined to declare his surname, but he’d also allegedly fired the band’s original drummer for having curly hair! Like Sparks, they instilled a sense of humour into their music, delivering great titles such as ‘Let The Snakes Crinkle Their Heads To Death!’ Lawrence’s next project was Denim who released their debut album, Back In Denim in 1992. Amongst Lawrence’s admirers were Pulp who invited Denim to support them during their Different Class tour in 1996. ‘It Fell Off The Back Of A Lorry’ employed a typically satirical lyric, but with the music moving in a more synth-flavoured direction (also check out the hilarious instrumental B-side ‘Snake Bite’). Somehow Denim were bypassed by a generation obsessed with Britpop. Lawrence later formed Go Kart Mozart; their second album bearing the sarcastic title, Tearing Up The Album Chart.

Available on the CD album Denim On Ice via Echo Records

www.myspace.com/denimonice


INAURA Soap Opera (1996)


Also known as the band that EMI swallowed up and promptly spat out, Inaura first came to attention when they supported The Human League in 1995. Originally named Poloroid, they had been signed by EMI who had predicted big things for them; spending heavily on promotional videos and a Steve Osborne-produced album. Unfortunately they were lumped in with the ill-fated Romo scene of the mid-1990s and the signs looked ominous for the band when their ill advised, and rather grandiose, 8-minute Pink Floyd-tinged debut single, ‘This Month’s Epic’ flopped – it was no ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, and garnered little radio play. Follow-up single, the rather more immediate and less pretentious ‘Soap Opera’, sounding like Nine Inch Nails fronting Duran Duran, emulated its predecessor’s fate. An album, One Million Smiles, had been earmarked for release on February 1997 but was cruelly pulled from the schedule after this latest setback. The album was eventually picked up by Org Records in 1998 but by then it was too late.

Available on the CD single Soap Opera via EMI Records

www.discogs.com/artist/Inaura


KOMPUTER Valentina Tereshkova (1996)


Oscar Wilde once declared, “Talent borrows, genius steals” but this is ridiculous! On this EP by Komputer, members Simon Leonard and David Baker have taken plagiarism to new levels. Seemingly plugging a void created by their Kling Klang counterparts (10 years had lapsed since Kraftwerk’s last album of original material, Electric Café), Komputer released an interesting EP in 1996. The best of the 4 tracks is an ode to the Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova who famously became the first woman in space; its simple biographical lyrics underscored by a distinctly “Model”-esque tapestry of sounds. Closing EP track ‘Oh Synthesizer’, meanwhile, is a virtual re-writing of ‘Neon Lights’! Incredibly, Leonard and Baker have been recording together for nearly 30 years under various guises. The duo originally began life as experimental synthpop act I Start Counting and later became the more experimental, dance-oriented act Fortran 5 before returning to their Kraftwerk-inspired roots with Komputer. Some of their best recordings have recently been remastered by Mute Records for this year’s Konnecting compilation.

Available on the CD EP Komputer via Mute Records

http://mute.com/artists/komputer



OUTTA CONTROL Sinful Wishes (1996)


After virtually retiring the Kon Kan name in 1993, veritable musical chameleon Barry Harris began to explore new outlets for his considerable talents. Following the Hi-Energy House album under the pseudonym Top Kat in 1994, he formed Outta Control with keyboardist Rachid Wehbi and vocalist Kimberley Wetmore. Utilising a Eurodance template that was synonymous with Haddaway, Snap! and Culture beat, the trio released a string of little-known singles and one self-titled album. One of these singles was ‘Sinful Wishes’, a song that Harris had originally recorded with Kon Kan in 1993 but one that hadn’t quite met its full potential. The new version, employing a full Eurodance makeover, provided quite a contrast with Kimberley Wetmore belting out Harris’ sexually-charged lyrics in style. The parent album also afforded Harris a chance to indulge in some of his disco influences with Giorgio Moroder and Donna Summer’s 1979 collaboration ‘Our Love’ faithfully covered with Wetmore on vocals. Meanwhile Harris sang the lead on an interesting cover of ‘Together in Electric Dreams’, which was also a single. Harris later formed a highly successful partnership with DJ Chris Cox as Thunderpuss, producing a plethora of highly rated dance remixes for the likes of Madonna, Christina Aguilera and Whitney Houston.

Available on the CD album Outta Control via Interhit Records, currently unavailable

www.discogs.com/artist/Outta+Control


PEACH On My Own (1996)


Electropop trio Peach (or Peach Union in the US) comprised jazz singer Lisa Lamb, Paul Statham (a former member of B-Movie) and writer/producer Pascal Gabriel. Originally released in 1996, their immaculately-produced debut single, ‘On My Own’ was reminiscent of Saint Etienne, but with a definite Belinda Carlisle-esque lilt. Its use in the Gwyneth Paltrow film, Sliding Doors, led to the single being re-released and subsequently hitting the top 40 of the US Billboard chart. Unfortunately, the transatlantic success wasn’t replicated in the UK, with the single stalling at no. 69 in 1998. The trio recorded one album, Audiopeach, before disbanding. Statham has since become a prolific writer and producer, and has worked with the likes of Sophie Ellis-Baxtor, Kylie Minogue, Sarah Nixey and Chew Lips. Gabriel continues his career as a successful producer.

Available on the CD album Audiopeach via Mute Records

www.inspiracy.com/peach


SEXUS The Official End Of It All (1996)


Mancunian duo Sexus were also part of the short lived so-called Romo movement. Signed by ZTT, vocalist David Savage and instrumentalist Paul Southern released their second single, ‘The Official End Of It All’ in 1996. Best described as ABC-meets-Pet Shop Boys, this fine single (like so many from the ill-fated scene) failed to chart, despite lavish praise from both Melody Maker and Smash Hits, and extensive radio play. The duo would soon fall out with ZTT who had, apparently, remixed their next single, ‘How Do You Kiss?’ behind their backs. Both this single and parent Trevor Horn-produced album, The Boyfriend Olympics, were subsequently shelved and SEXUS disappeared. They re-emerged as Psychodelicates and released an album, Go Adventuring, in 2002. Paul Southern later became a novelist.

Available on the CD single The Official End Of It All via ZTT Records

www.discogs.com/artist/Sexus


YAMO Stereomatic (1997)


Once amusingly described by OMD’s Andy McCluskey as the “Julio Iglesias of electronic music”, Wolfgang Flür had left Kraftwerk in 1987. According to his insightful autobiography, I Was A Robot published in 2000, he had received an offer to join his fellow Kling Klang compatriot, Karl Bartos, in Elektric Music, but decided to begin his own music journey. This culminated in the release of the debut Yamo single ‘Stereomatic’ in 1997, described as “a homage to the invention of the stereotone”. Displaying a wealth of musical invention that had been missing from his former employers’ recent material (see The Mix), parent album Time Pie was a bold and diverse album, containing a wealth of electronics, samples and ambient textures; its undoubted highlight being the superb 7-minute epic ‘Guiding Ray’ with its enchanting melody, simplistic phrasing, and driving, NEU!-esque beat.

Available on the CD album Time Pie via EMI Electrola

www.yamomusic.de


THE ALL SEEING I (featuring Phil Oakey) 1st Man in Space (1999)


In between the release of The Human League albums Octopus and Secrets, Phil Oakey released this rather quirky collaboration with fellow Sheffield electronic act The All Seeing I in 1999. The trio had already secured a top ten hit with ‘Walk Like A Panther’ (featuring crooner Tony Christie) and ‘1st Man In Space’ was a minor top 30 hit in September. With Oakey having recently penned the lyric “Keep your cornflakes in your freezers” (see ‘Night People’) you could easily be forgiven for thinking that he had also provided the lyrics for ‘1st Man in Space’, but it was in fact Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker (again the Sheffield connection is prevalent here), bemoaning the lack of Golden Nuggets and whingeing about milk carton packaging!

Available on the CD single 1st Man In Space on FFRR Records

www.discogs.com/artist/All+Seeing+I,+The


LES RYTHMES DIGITALES featuring NIK KERSHAW Sometimes (1999)


It had been ten years since Nik Kershaw had last recorded an album (The Works), the diminutive singer and guitarist having spent a decade writing and producing songs for the likes of Let Loose and of course, Chesney Hawkes who had enjoyed a huge number one hit with ‘The One and Only’ in 1991. All this was about to change with the imminent release of his excellent album, 15 Minutes, in the spring of 1999. Meanwhile, a certain Jacques Lu Cont was about to release a second album under the name of Les Rythmes Digitales. Lu Cont was of course Stuart Price who is these days more renowned for his writing and production work for the likes of Madonna, Kylie Minogue, The Killers and Take That. Price’s impressive collaboration with Nik Kershaw, the catchy, effervescent ‘Sometimes’, had been heavily influenced by The Human League’s ‘Love Action (I Believe In Love)’. During press interviews at the time, Price insisted that Kershaw had always been his singer of choice for the project, with Phil Oakey too obvious an option. Price (or should I say Lu Cont?!) has recently brought the Les Rythmes Digitales brand out of retirement.

Available on the CD album Darkdancer via Wall Of Sound

www.myspace.com/lesrythmesdigitales0


VNV NATION Standing (1999)


This truly stunning, electro-industrial single is typical of the VNV (Victory Not Vengeance) sound, categorised as “futurepop” by their singer Ronan Harris and employs a trance-like quality that hypnotically captivates the listener. The award-winning single was number one in Germany’s DAC (alternative) chart for an impressive 8 weeks. Currently based in Germany, the duo hail from Dublin and the UK, and have released 8 studio albums since 1995. Like Muse they weave classical music influences into their electronic soundscapes, while much of their music is complemented by intelligent and profound lyrics.

Available on the CD album Burning Empires via Dependent Records

www.vnvnation.com


Text by Barry Page
3rd May 2012