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


SILICON DREAMS 2017 Review

The electronic musical festival returns with an impressive lineup…

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


An Interview With CAROLINE McLAVY

The emotive electropop of CAROLINE McLAVY will be one of the treats for the forthcoming Silicon Dreams event this July. The Electricity Club sat down with Caroline for a few questions about her life, music and plans for the future….

Tell me a little about your music background in running rehearsal rooms in Leicester. What did that involve?

Still very much involved in providing rehearsal space for bands in Leicester. We have 9 fully equipped hourly rooms. Most of my time is taking up managing the rooms and equipment and dealing with boys in bands!

What bands or artists have had the biggest influence on your tastes in music?

Pet Shop Boys have been a big influence. I was able to attend the NME Awards this year to see them win the God-Like Genius Award. Other influences would be bands like New Order and Faithless. I feel a great reverence to synthpop forefathers like Gary Numan, Human League and Eurythmics; it was first hearing those timeless classic synth sounds on the radio that really embedded into my DNA.

How did the process of writing and recording the songs for Electrostatic get started?

I’d been ‘song writing’ as a teenager, where I would write lyrics and melody simultaneously. I knew at the time that the songs I wanted to produce were synth and electronic based, so I found a cupboard at work (it was literally my arm span in width and depth) and built a little studio. My friend at the time, Mark Spivey, who was a DJ and had produced and engineered various artists in the ’90s, worked with me as an engineer to create the bones of Electrostatic. I then finished the album with Richard Henderson in his studio, where we produced the end project.

At times, there’s a focus on darker, personal topics on some of your songs, but the tracks on Electrostatic, on the whole, have an up-tempo dancepop approach to them. Was this a deliberate contrast of styles and approach?

Yeah, I do have a fondness for an upbeat tune with deeper more complex or darker lyrics. I think it allows the listener to feel the song in their own way. As a surface dance pop song in a club or more meaningfully in headphones. It’s about personal interpretation and I like that in a song.

‘Miss Perfect’ is one of the standout tracks on the album. It’s apparently inspired by housemates in the past. Are there any funny stories you can recall from those days?

Thank you. Yes, it is inspired by people who I have lived with or generally had to deal with in my life. It’s easier to stand back and put a mirror up against someone else’s life than it is your own. The song describes several different ‘Miss Perfects’ and I would often find myself thinking; ‘Man, if I was as pretty as you/had your job/had your opportunities/had your boyfriend, I would handle things in a completely different way.’ But then I suppose they would say the same thing about me if they ever bothered to have that thought process.

What are your thoughts on performing live?

I feel it’s important to me to get out there and play live as much as I can. Often electronic music has a human disconnect by its nature that playing live can put back into the music. It puts blood into the veins of the songs – if that makes any sense.

Are there any contemporary electronic acts that you’ve been impressed by recently?

Recently, I discovered Future Islands, I love their passion and sentiment. Other bands I find myself going back to regularly are Hurts, Owl City, The Killers – I’m a real fan of Brandon Flowers solo albums. I’m so looking forward to playing with Parralox and Future Perfect at Silicon Dreams in July.

What’s next for Caroline McLavy?

I have some more live shows coming up but generally next I’m working on some new material. It’s early days, but I’ve been back in the studio with Rich with some new ideas. I’m still feeling the approach of this next album and it’s very exciting for me to be writing again.



http://www.carolinemclavy.co.uk

Electrostatic is out now and available from Spotify, Deezer, iTunes, GooglePlay and Amazon.

Caroline McLavy will be performing live at Silicon Dreams Festival 8th-9th July 2017.

Silicon Dreams is an electronic music festival taking place at Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall Music Room and will feature performances from Parralox, Avec Sans, Future Perfect, Berlyn Trilogy, Caroline McLavy and Voi Vang. More details: www.silicondreams.org.uk.


CAROLINE McLAVY Electrostatic

Dancepop delights from the grassroots electronic scene…

The domestic electronic music scene has been rapidly evolving in recent years as the next generation of musicians step up with their own approach to synthpop. This can take many forms, often taking influences from a broader range of artists than simply the classic period of the 1980s. Or simply crafting effective electronic music from good melodies and rhythms.

Emerging from the Leicester music scene, Caroline McLavy has a background in running rehearsal rooms in her home city for a number of years. Although she’s used to working with rock outfits, her heart was always drawn to the more electronic end of the musical spectrum.

Electrostatic came together over a long period of time and features 11 tracks that revolve around traditional themes such as relationships, anxiety issues and frustration. As an album, it’s peppered with synth hooks, emotive melodies and simply good danceable rhythms.

Co-produced with Richard Henderson, Electrostatic’s main direction is simple solid electropop. But at times there’s a much more subtle use of music composition at work. There’s a clever use of counter melodies in places and a sharp ear for the use of additional electronic elements at the right spots.

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The album opens with the effective electronic dance pop of ‘Constant Pain’ which features an insistent synth melody on top of chugging electropop rhythms.

‘I’ll Take my Chances’ opens up with Blue Monday-esque percussion for an engaging slice of synthpop. Meanwhile, there’s more of an emotional punch to ‘This Is Not My Life’, a more reflective track that’s built around synthetic strings and some beefed up percussion.

McLavy dips back into dancepop for ‘Miss Perfect’, which apparently deals with McLavy’s frustrations in living with various housemates over the years. There’s a nice use of vocal melodies at work on this track alongside buzzy synth rhythms.

‘Signals’ addresses the confusion over the conflicting signals people can give off with a track that’s built around throbbing bass beneath a busy electronic collage.

There’s a good combination of classic electronic elements on Electrostatic alongside often alongside lyrics that can embody the mundane aspects of life. At points, it’s reminiscent of ‘lost’ synthpop outfit Macondo who mastered the art of good tunes and wry humour.

This is particularly evident on tracks such as ‘I Lied’, which has a much more classic electronic arrangement with its icy synth melody and busy electronic delivery.

The puzzles of relationships are explored in the bossa-nova beats of ‘Where Did I Go Wrong’, which has a nice subtle melodic appeal to it.

Album closer ‘The Calm Before the Storm’ has a deceptively low-key opening with a 2-note synth tune before opening up with a driving bass synth rhythm. It’s a curious number with its ambiguous lyrics (apparently to do with a visit from the bailiffs!) but also one of the best cuts on the album.

Electrostatic isn’t necessarily breaking new ground, but in a very competitive scene of emerging synthpop artists, McLavy has produced an album of good, serviceable pop tunes that manage to stand on their own.



Electrostatic is out now and available from Spotify, Deezer, iTunes, GooglePlay and Amazon.

http://www.carolinemclavy.co.uk

Caroline McLavy will be performing live at: 1st April: The Silicon Dreams/AnalogueTrash segment of the Threshold Festival in Liverpool, 8th-9th July: Silicon Dreams Festival.

Silicon Dreams is an electronic music festival taking place at Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall Music Room and will feature performances from Parralox, Avec Sans, Future Perfect, Berlyn Trilogy, Caroline McLavy and Voi Vang. More details: www.silicondreams.org.uk.


SILICON DREAMS 2017

July hots up with a barrage of electronic artists for SILICON DREAMS 2017…

2017 marks the return of Silicon Dreams, the electronic music festival whose roots lay in the Vintage Computer Festival back in 2010 (which featured OMD).

The idea of combining vintage computer demonstrations and displays alongside performances by notable electronic bands seems unusual, but in many ways the development of technology is mirrored in both worlds.

TEC was also on hand to cover Silicon Dreams in 2013 when both Heaven 17 and Northern Kind performed and the event also featured a talk by Martyn Ware. TEC writer Jer White penned a review of the event and summed up the day as “synthpop’s still alive and as vibrant as ever”.

For the 2017 event, Silicon Dreams has ambitiously taken on the task of staging 6 acts who pull from both established artists as well as performers who are just embarking into the world of electronic music. The venue of choice for this year’s event has also stepped up a gear with the Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall Music Room setting the stage for 2017’s performances.


PARRALOX

Among the musical guests appearing are Australian band PARRALOX. The Melbourne-based outfit formed by John von Ahlen first came together in 2008 on the back of their debut album Electricity. The album brought the band critical acclaim with Parralox confidently narrowing the gap between synthpop and Pop with a capital ‘P’.

One of the album’s best moments was later given a new lease of life when the Pete Hammond Remix version of ‘Sharper Than A Knife’ was tied together with an amazing lyric video. Von Ahlen’s graphic design skills were let loose on the video which sought to recreate classic record sleeves with a Parralox twist.

Parralox were also recruited to provide support for Erasure on the classic synthpop duo’s Violet Flame world tour – and to lend their remixing talents to 2 Erasure singles. The Australian outfit have also provided support slots for the likes of Little Boots. Parralox have also recently released their latest studio album Subculture which features a variety of guest musicians and singers, including Marcella Detroit and Ian Burden.

http://www.parralox.com/


AVEC SANS

AVEC SANS are a London-based electro-pop group consisting of Alice Fox (vocals, producer) and Jack St. James (electronics, producer). The band formed in 2012 before embarking on live performances in 2013.

Avec Sans quickly gained recognition for their energetic live shows, which involve hacked Novation launchpads (including one performance at which the outfit utilised 16 launchpads at once!).

Avec Sans supported Ladyhawke on her 2016 UK tour and have played alongside acts such as Little Boots, Capital Cities, Bright Light Bright Light and Pet Shop Boys. They’ve also lent their remix talents for a variety of artists on Sony (Epic) and Columbia Records.

The outfit signed to American indie label Beverly Martel and released their debut album Heartbreak Hi in July 2016. Their new single ‘We Are’ was released in April featuring a brand new mix of the track.

http://avecsans.com/


FUTURE PERFECT

Originally formed in 2009, FUTURE PERFECT established themselves as purveyors of a particularly effective dark synthpop that culminated in their 2010 album Dirty Little Secrets.

Consisting of husband and wife team Simon and Rebecca Owen, the electronic outfit are also augmented by Noel Canney. Inspired by a broad range of musical influences including Joy Division, Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys and OMD, Future Perfect have crafted their own particular electropop sound.

Future Perfect signed to the Conzoom label and a second album. Escape, followed in 2012. A new EP After The Fall was released in 2015. They’ve veterans of Silicon Dreams in times past and have their own particularly engaging style performing live.

http://www.futureperfect.org.uk/


BERLYN TRILOGY

BERLYN TRILOGY describe themselves as “retro-futurist romantics with classic electronic structure and a darkly exciting edge”.

Originally formed in 2012, the synthpop oufit consists of James Beswick, Faye Williams and Simon Rowe. Berlyn Trilogy combine brooding synthesisers with rhythmic drum machines and bass guitar which led to the release of their 2014 debut album A Perfect Stranger.

With a healthy interest in live performances, the band manage to combine a dark pop appeal with catchy, danceable tunes.

http://www.berlyntrilogy.com/


CAROLINE McLAVY

CAROLINE McLAVY emerged from the Leicester music scene with the release of her debut album Electrostatic, an 11 track album that revolves around themes such as relationships, anxiety issues, frustration and even a track about battling with bailiffs!

McLavy draws from the darker end of the electropop spectrum combined with a dancepop sensibility.

http://www.carolinemclavy.co.uk/
The Electricity Club’s interview with Caroline McLavy


VOI VANG

Hailing from Sheffield, VOI VANG describes herself as “Aphotic Pop artist with a love for the dark side…” Her knack for melodic electronic tunes is matched by an effective choreography for live performances.

https://soundcloud.com/voi-vang



As well as live performances, the event will feature DJ setlists featuring DJs from the Pink Parrot and AnalogueTrash.

Silicon Dreams takes place on 8th July 2017 at Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall Music Room, Hope Street, Liverpool L1 9BP. Full details, including ticket ordering, are available on the Silicon Dreams website.

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

Details of this and other forthcoming events are available on The Electricity Club Calendar.