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


2017 – Albums Of The Year

This year saw a wealth of electronic music talent competing for the attention of the public. There was a good balance between classic acts that were still capable of crafting solid tunes – and also contemporary acts often taking electronic music in unusual and interesting directions.

Here are 15 albums that are not presented in any particular order (aside from our top choice), but as a whole were the standout long-players for The Electricity Club in 2017.


Album(s) Of The Year

EMPATHY TEST – Losing Touch/Safe From Harm

The blossoming of grassroots electronic acts in recent years has brought a lot of bright talent to the fore. London-based duo Empathy Test have attracted critical appraisal and also managed to smash their PledgeMusic goals to fund their debut albums.

The choice to release two albums rather than one was a topic that Empathy Test’s Isaac Howlett addressed in an interview with TEC earlier this year: “We… felt that the new material was too different to the old to be on the same album. We didn’t like the idea of a double album so we decided to create the album we should have put out in 2015 (Losing Touch) and the album we wanted to put out now (Safe From Harm), and release them both at once”.

If there’s one thing that emerges from Empathy Test’s material, its the chemistry between Howlett and Adam Relf that allows them to compose songs that sound so polished and captivating. Here, there’s a sense of mood and melancholy that’s as heartfelt as it is unique. Relf has also done a stunning job in not only crafting a smooth, engaging production for the albums, but the sleeve designs show that he’s got some artistic chops into the bargain.

On Losing Touch and Safe From Harm, Empathy Test have delivered not one, but two of the finest albums of the year. Standing as a testament to the heights that contemporary electropop can ascend to, Empathy Test suggests that the genre is in safe hands for the future.

TEC Review: Losing Touch/Safe From Harm


GARY NUMAN – Savage (Songs From A Broken World)

Without covering historic pastures, it’s fair to say that those who are familiar with Numan’s work in recent years will connect upon first listen. Savage is unmistakably modern-day Numan. Not only that, unsurprisingly, it has Ade Fenton DNA stamped all over it.

It’s a carefully calibrated mix; a formula that’s based on the sure-fire template previously witnessed on the highly acclaimed Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind), delivering 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. In summary, a sub-genre that’s more than suitable.

TEC Review: Savage (Songs From A Broken World)


HANNAH PEEL – Mary Casio : Journey To Cassiopeia

Out of all the electronic music releases in 2017, Hannah Peel’s latest opus has to rank as one of the more intriguing albums to reach the ears of music enthusiasts.

Mary Casio : Journey To Cassiopeia is a concept album of sorts that revolves around Peel’s alter ego of ‘Mary Casio’. 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 mining town home of Barnsley in South Yorkshire and journey into space.

The album presents an aural journey of delights, its unusual approach to combining synths and brass managing to present something both accessible and unique. It’s also 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.

TEC Review: Mary Casio : Journey To Cassiopeia


DEPECHE MODE – Spirit

For the majority of fans and critics choosing not to view Depeche Mode’s latest product through a Vince Clarke/Alan Wilder kaleidoscope, 14th studio album Spirit represented something of a return to form for the veteran synth-rockers. Whilst we weren’t as enthused about Spirit in our original review, there was still plenty to admire about one of the band’s most defining albums of recent years.

First single ‘Where’s The Revolution’ set out the band’s stall, exhibiting some more aggressive – and politically charged – wordplay. Despite its production flaws – ironed out during the Global Spirit shows in the summer – this was a serviceable enough slab of electro-blues. The more ambient ‘The Worst Crime’, meanwhile, spoke of “misinformation” and “misguided leaders” in a less cluttered arrangement. But perhaps the album’s definitive ‘call-to-arms’ statement was represented via the discordant and angry ‘Scum’, featuring some particularly vitriolic swipes from Gore.

Impressive album opener ‘Going Backwards’ had already provided a portent of what was to come, with main songwriter Martin Gore delivering some pretty harrowing lyrical concepts throughout. Gore himself sang the lead on ‘Eternal’, an ephemeral ballad in which the protagonist declares his eternal love in the midst of an apocalyptic horror. Elsewhere, Gahan consolidated his reputation as a more-than-capable songwriter with the Bowie-influenced ‘Cover Me’, while serviceable synth-pop arrived courtesy of ‘No More (This Is The Last Time)’ and ‘So Much Love’.

But, despite its high points, the album suffered from poor production and, disappointingly, featured tracks bordering on filler (see ‘Poison Heart’ and ‘Poorman’).

TEC Review: Spirit


AUSTRA – Future Politics

Many of the releases of 2017 seemed to reflect a troubling period in contemporary culture, particularly with politics providing a turbulent backdrop. Austra were one of those outfits and the release of their album Future Politics offered up some thoughtful insight into troubled times.

Casual Austra fans might be a bit glum that the baroque pop elements that the previous albums held so strong are less evident here. Electronic music enthusiasts will perhaps find Austra adding further colours to the particular musical palette that the Canadian outfit have carefully crafted since 2011’s Feel It Break. Certainly Future Politics offers up a more intimate and personal approach than previous outings, but as an album it still offers up rewards from patient listening.

TEC Review: Future Politics


THE SOUND OF ARROWS – Stay Free

When The Sound Of Arrows appeared to disappear following the release of their 2011 debut album Voyage, it seemed like one of the brighter hopes for electronic music may have gone forever. Stefan Storm and Oskar Gullstrand had brought an optimistic element to their widescreen pop that immediately stood them apart from their contemporaries.

Stay Free is a very different affair to Voyage with a much more grounded sound than the magicpop of old – an evolution in The Sound Of Arrows sound that was hinted at in the earlier Kids Of The Apocalypse output. As Storm suggests: “It’s less conceptual than Voyage and a little more about having two feet on the ground, maybe gazing up at the sky rather than floating up into space this time.”

There’s always been a desire for the outfit to develop and grow rather than repeat themselves and Stay Free offers a solid collection of songs that stands proud against a busy modern music scene.

TEC Review: Stay Free


SUSANNE SUNDFØR – Music For People In Trouble

While the success of her 2015 album Ten Love Songs managed to raise the profile of Norwegian musician Susanne Sundfør, new album Music For People In Trouble took Sundfør back to her singer-songwriter roots. Although the album boasts some fine electronic flourishes, there’s also more nods to jazz and traditional instrumentation.

But the album switches gear for compositions such as ‘The Sound Of War’. Here, it’s the sound of birdsong and rivers that open up a multi-part composition while Sundfør delivers some often grim words (“Leave all that you were/‘Cause you won’t need it where you’re going tonight”). There’s a more mournful quality to ‘No One Believes In Love Anymore’ as the title certainly implies with its thoughts cast on the topic of doomed romance.

‘The Golden Age’ features stunning immersive synth arpeggios and Sundfør’s mesmerising voice (“I wake from a dream/to be in another dream”). But the album’s crowning achievement is clearly the epic ‘Mountaineers’ which starts with the basso profundo voice of John Grant. Here, Grant’s sonorous delivery echoes from the depths. When Sundfør comes in, the song suggests a coming to the light from a great darkness, a sudden revelation and builds to a choral symphony that takes the breath away.

TEC Review: Music For People In Trouble


MARNIE Strange Words And Weird Wars

The release of the Crystal World album in 2013 demonstrated that Helen Marnie continued to display a talent for good electronic music, even while Ladytron were on an extended hiatus. Strange Words And Weird Wars features material penned over a 2-year period and showed a marked direction for the pop end of the scale.

The pulsing beats of ‘Alphabet Block’ was a good example – a track that Marnie herself described as “shoe-gaze electropop”. Similarly, ‘Bloom’ invites the listener to throw shapes on the dancefloor. “I’m in trouble again/in a no man’s land we’ll bloom” suggests Marnie on a track that boasts strong vocal melodies. Meanwhile, ‘G.I.R.L.S.’ with its cheerleading chants offers up one of the strongest tracks on the album. Equally, ‘Electric Youth’ invites the listener to reflect on nights of teenage abandon on a track that has a bright, airy quality to it.

The album ends on a high note with the rhythmic wonder that’s ‘Heartbreak Kid’, its bass-heavy arpeggios setting the scene for the emotional punch in the vocal delivery. But it’s the melodic flourishes and arrangement that gives this track the polished pop that’s such a central theme to the album as a whole.

TEC Review: Strange Words And Weird Wars


SAILOR & I – The Invention Of Loneliness

Swedish electronic musician Alexander Sjödin caught everyone’s attention in 2017 under the moniker Sailor & I. Debut album The Invention Of Loneliness bounced between icy pop and beats-driven electronica…

‘Chameleon’ has a subtle power to it that can take a few spins to appreciate. There’s a dark piano melody over which Sjödin’s yearning vocal offers hints of change or transformation. Meanwhile, a gradually-building slab of stark electronics gives the track a dark pop appeal. ‘Fire On the Moon’ utilises a lot of elements to arrive at the big, cinematic sound of the final composition. There’s a warmer feel on ‘Supervisions’ with its use of tribal chants and driving bassy synths.

The Invention Of Loneliness is an album that adopts a range of styles that include both the glacial pop of the likes of ‘Chameleon’, as well as more instrumental compositions such as ‘Supervisions’. There’s also a competent sense of production on this release that gives the material a vital humanity next to the icy thematic tunes.

TEC Review: The Invention Of Loneliness


VITALIC – Voyager

There’s a robust quality about the electronic tunes contained on this latest release by Vitalic, which appeared to signal a strong start for electronic music in 2017.

Voyager draws from a wealth of influences, including nods to the likes of Giorgio Moroder and Cerrone. Certainly, standout track ‘Waiting For The Stars’ is an unabashed nod to Arbez’s favourite ’70s and ’80s songs. Featuring vocals from David Shaw, there’s a Moroder-esque beat driving this squelchy and engaging electropop wonder.

But Voyager also features an appreciation for classic synthpop too. Written as a tribute to ‘Warm Leatherette’ by The Normal, ‘Sweet Cigarette’ features similarly deadpan lyrics against machine-like rhythms. There’s also a wealth of hooks and melodies all over ‘Use It Or Lose It’. Elsewhere, ‘Nozomi’ takes its inspiration from the Japanese shinkansen trains. As a result, there’s a constant sense of movement at play driven by the relentless rhythms and the oddly off-kilter synths.

Those that are fans of contemporary electropop will not be disappointed by the contents of Voyager – it’s also a demonstration that decent electronic music can cross many boundaries.

TEC Review: Voyager


PIXX – The Age Of Anxiety

The themes on The Age Of Anxiety, not surprisingly, touch on elements of anxiety – a condition that Hannah Rodgers (aka Pixx) endured from a young age. In particular, she suffered from insomnia caused by persistent nightmares. Songs such as the bassy ‘A Big Cloud To Float Upon’ refer back to her being in primary school age 9 and watching the clock slowly count down. Every ‘tick’ represented one step closer to the dreaded time when she’d have to go to sleep.

Meanwhile, ‘Waterslides’ (which is one of the album’s finest moments) was inspired by an odd nightmare of being trapped in a waterpark surrounded by faceless figures. The song itself is structured around plucked melodies steering the listener to the engaging chorus: “Don’t follow me into my dreams you don’t belong here”. But the album boasts many gems, including the seductive charms of ‘Your Delight’ – an immersive dreampop world which entices the listener to be drawn in by its mesmerising melodies.

The Age Of Anxiety is an album that offers up a combination of smart pop tunes married with thoughtful lyrics, which at the same time presents an evolution of electronic music that suggests there’s still horizons to reach for.

TEC Review: The Age Of Anxiety


A-HA – MTV Unplugged Summer Solstice

It was something of a surprise when a-ha announced plans to release a live acoustic album, having resisted such offers for a number of years. The band had of course performed many of their songs in more pared-down versions during their career, but never on this scale. Further credence was added to the project with its subsequent MTV branding and, in the spirit of the original format, several guest artists were introduced during the shows (notably Ian McCulloch and Alison Moyet). Several locations were touted, but the band settled for Giske, a remote Norwegian island.

The subsequent MTV Unplugged – Summer Solstice album was released in an array of visual and audio formats. The double CD version was a fine document of the two-day event, featuring stripped down versions of classic hits, alongside deep cuts and rarely-played songs. The band also performed two new songs (‘This Is Our Home’ and ‘Break In The Clouds’).

The band was also able to tap into its progressive rock past with a stunning version of ‘Sox Of The Fox’. Aka ‘The Vacant’, the song had originally appeared on the rare album Fakkeltog by Bridges, a Doors-inspired band that included Paul Waaktaar-Savoy and Magne Furuholmen.

Arguably the biggest surprise of the show was the version of ‘Take On Me’, presented in a fresh, ballad-like arrangement. It created a huge online reaction, and the band eventually released a studio version of the track in December.

Whilst some of the arrangements are a little leaden and plodding, it’s a largely crowd-pleasing set, and a fine addition to the band’s impressive catalogue.

TEC Review: MTV Unplugged Summer Solstice


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

Proving that there was life beyond a series of eclectic 7″ singles (neatly compiled on the album The Strange Little Lines That Humans Draw In The Dust), Girl One And The Grease Guns returned with their first proper album earlier this year.

Stating that the material on Night Of The Living Electrical Appliances was aiming to be “pure electro-pop with more experimental, darker sounding tracks”, the outfit have delivered an album that certainly boasts pop elements on tracks such as ‘He’s A Replicant’, ‘She’s A Calculator’ and ‘Emergency (Dial 999)’. But their more experimental side is evident on the likes of ‘Telegraph Street’, ‘Mute Your Gums’ and the eerie album closer ‘(She Sits) In The Freezer’.

As ever, the enigmatic outfit’s love for ’60s girl groups, combined with a ‘garage punk’ aesthetic, delivers an album whose raw energy weaves a particular magic on the listener’s ears.

TEC Review: Night Of The Living Electrical Appliances


KELLY LEE OWENS Kelly Lee Owens

Perhaps the most striking thing about the debut album from Kelly Lee Owens is its fractured nature. At heart an electronic album, the tracks contained within dart between ambient soundscapes and beat-driven compositions. It’s not a million miles away from the the sounds crafted by the likes of Japanese musician Sapphire Slows in its mesmerising electronics.

The gauzy ambience of opening track ‘S.O’ manages to drop the listener into a warm, immersive cocoon. ‘Arthur’ (a tribute to avant-garde composer Arthur Russell) opens with a soundscape of birdsong and nature sounds. Later, it weaves in subliminal beats combined with a breathy, indistinct vocal. Meanwhile, ‘Anxi.’ (featuring Norwegian artist Jenny Hval) is an intriguing dreamlike composition featuring an amalgamation of dreampop, spoken lyrics and glitchy electronica.

Kelly Lee Owens, as an album, drew critical praise from a range of commentators this year. Owens is clearly someone with a voice and with an interest in exploration. Her debut album provides an intriguing foundation, but it’s what comes next that’s going to convince us to continue exploring with her.

Further reading: Kelly Lee Owens


LO FIVE – When It’s Time To Let Go

Wirral-based electronic musician Neil Grant (aka Lo Five) describes debut release When It’s Time To Let Go as “deep landscape electronics” and “an album of wild spaces and intimate rooms”. It’s an apt description for an album of reflective reveries that both challenges and surprises the listener.

Peppered throughout with evocative chimes that suggest some lost ice cream van song, there’s also a plethora of natural sounds weaved into the mix. Compositions such as ’Sabre Contusion’ have a raw electronic component combined with a fractured production. There’s a more reflective element to ‘Machinations of the World’ with its rainfall effects and soothing tones. While ’Leave You Alone’ offers up haunting qualities with a dub-like approach to synth tunes.

Closing track ‘The Emergence Of Something Familiar’ has a suitable downbeat finality to it with its stark piano and nocturnal atmosphere.

Lo Five presents a sound that’s quite tough to easily categorise. When It’s Time To Let Go throws up plenty of challenging compositions, yet at the same time has the comforting allure of the familiar.

Further reading: When It’s Time To Let Go


2017 – Songs Of The Year

Electronic music in 2017…

If 2017 proved anything it was that the field of electronic music is a broad one. A lot of songs grabbed our attention across 12 months of intriguing, captivating and often challenging music. While many classic synthpop acts proved that they could still hold their own, the next generation of electronic artists also demonstrated that they could craft unique tunes that didn’t rely on the past.

Here are 25 songs that are not presented in any particular order, but as whole were the standout tunes for The Electricity Club in 2017.


GARY NUMAN – My Name Is Ruin


The release of Gary Numan’s 21st studio album Savage (Songs From A Broken World) marked the synthpop pioneer’s highest charting album since Telekon back in 1980. This latest body of work transmited a thoughtful concept, centred around the modern-day issues that would seemingly put into question the survival of the planet.

‘My Name Is Ruin’ was the first single to emerge from the album. It gives Numan himself something to be especially proud of, given his daughter, Persia, provides the unique backing vocals on the track. The results – an eclectic mix of the angelic-like choral tapestry set against robust dance-driven beats.

Further reading: Savage (Songs From A Broken World)
http://garynuman.com/


VITALIC (ft. David Shaw and The Beat) – Waiting for the Stars


There’s a robust quality about the electronic tunes contained on this latest release by Vitalic, which appeared to signal a strong start for electronic music in 2017.

Vitalic, aka Pascal Arbez, had been operating since the late 1990s as an underground artist, but achieved a larger profile with the release of his debut album OK Cowboy in 2005. New album Voyager draws from a wealth of influences, including nods to the likes of Giorgio Moroder and Cerrone. Certainly, standout track ‘Waiting For The Stars’ is an unabashed nod to Arbez’s favourite ’70s and ’80s songs, which in places is deliberately out of tune. Featuring vocals from David Shaw, there’s a Moroder-esque beat driving this squelchy and engaging electropop wonder.

Further reading: Voyager
http://www.vitalic.org/


AUSTRA – Utopia


Many of the releases of 2017 seemed to reflect a troubling period in contemporary culture, particularly with politics providing a turbulent backdrop. Austra were one of those outfits and the release of their album Future Politics offered up some thoughtful insight into troubled times.

The familiar bassy synth tones that Austra’s Katie Stelmanis has crafted as part of the classic Austra sound provided the foundations for ‘Utopia’. This rumination on the “collective depression”, that Stelmanis suggests is a result of city living, has strong hooks and melodies as some smart percussive frills keep the song moving along.

Further reading: Future Politics
http://www.austramusic.com/


EMPATHY TEST – Bare My Soul


London-based duo Empathy Test took us by surprise this year with each successive song. On ‘Bare My Soul’, the soaring melodies and heartfelt lyrics have a particular power that manages to undo all those tired old tropes about synthpop being cold and unemotional in one song.

The lyrics offer up brief vignettes, each of which manage to elicit the idea of something being both “tragic and beautiful”. At the same time, there’s a subtle building up of layers of electronic elements that culminates in a powerful delivery that’s both mythical and melodious.

Further reading: Bare My Soul
EmpathyTest.com


TR/ST – Destroyer


One of Canada’s electronic music gems re-emerged earlier this year with a new song and talk of a new album. ‘Bicep’ delivered the trademark sleazy synths and unsettling sounds that made TR/ST (aka Robert Alfons) such a captivating act over the course of 2 previous albums.

‘Destroyer’ shows a departure of sorts here for Alfons, with a much more restrained composition. It’s a more nocturnal affair peppered with reedy intermissions, although Alfons’ grimy vocals are present and correct. The video itself is produced by, and stars, choreographer Ryan Heffington (Sia, Lykke Li, Florence and the Machine, Arcade Fire). It charts a journey through a late night streetscape which is interspersed with oddly unsettling choreography.

Further reading: Destroyer
https://www.facebook.com/dressedforspace


OMD – La Mitrailleuse


Culled from their 2017 album The Punishment Of Luxury, ‘La Mitrailleuse’ takes its inspiration from a painting by the artist CRW Nevinson (regarded as one of the most famous war artists of World War I). Nevinson was deeply affected by what he saw in France during World War I, which had a profound effect on the paintings that he produced at the time. This included the 1915 work La Mitrailleuse, which translates from the French as “the machine gun”.

In the hands of OMD, ‘La Mitrailleuse’ is composed of a mesmerising droning intro which leads to a rhythm track designed to emulate explosions and, in particular, machine-gun fire. Meanwhile, Andy McCluskey intones “Bend your body to the will of the machine”. It’s the perfect companion to Nevinson’s work which sees the style of the soliders rendered in angular shapes, suggesting a merging of man and machine – a theme carried over in the video, which again features the distinctive style of Henning M. Lederer, who previously worked on videos for OMD’s English Electric album.

Further reading: La Mitrailleuse
http://www.omd.uk.com
www.omd-messages.co.uk


SUSANNE SUNDFØR (feat John Grant) – Mountaineers


While the success of her 2015 album Ten Love Songs managed to raise the profile of Norwegian musician Susanne Sundfør, new album Music For People In Trouble took Sundfør back to her singer-songwriter roots. Although the album boasts some fine electronic flourishes, there’s also more nods to jazz and traditional instrumentation.

The album’s crowning achievement is clearly the epic ‘Mountaineers’ which starts with the basso profundo voice of John Grant. Here, Grant’s sonorous delivery echoes from the depths with its lines about “Jumbo jets spiralling down like vultures of the stars”. It’s suggestive of the type of composition that This Mortal Coil were noted for with the emphasis on the voice to provide an compelling hypnotic effect.

When Sundfør comes in, the song suggests a coming to the light from a great darkness, a sudden revelation (“What it means/Now I know”) and builds to a choral symphony that takes the breath away.

Further reading: Music For People In Trouble
http://susannesundfor.com/


DEPECHE MODE – Cover Me


Released in March this year, Depeche Mode’s 14th studio album Spirit has proven to be one of the most divisive collections of new songs in their 37-year career. A sonically-challenging (and often unsettling) listen, the album has certainly divided fans; many of whom haven’t gotten over the fact that Alan Wilder left the band 22 years ago. By contrast, most music critics were united in their affection for the new album, praising the band for their aggressive and new approach, and also for Martin Gore’s politically-charged wordplay.

Like ‘Broken’ on Depeche Mode’s previous album Delta Machine, singer Dave Gahan once again provided the album’s best track in ‘Cover Me’, a slow-building, other-worldly electro-ballad with a Bowie-inspired lyric: “It’s about a person who travels to another planet only to find that, much to his dismay, it’s exactly the same as earth” Gahan explained to Rolling Stone magazine. Featuring some sinister electronics and a beautiful coda that recalled ‘Clean’ from 1990’s career peak Violator, this was space-aged synth rock at its finest.

Further reading: Spirit
http://www.depechemode.com/


LOLA DUTRONIC – My Name Is Lola


As Lola Dutronic, the Toronto/Düsseldorf electronic duo of Richard Citroen and Stephanie B have carved out an impressive career of engaging pop tunes. They jumped back in earlier in the year with a sequel to one of their best known tunes ‘Everybody Loves You When You’re Dead, but it was their love letter to Berlin later in 2017 that stood out for us.

Continuing the duo’s talents for crafting accessible electronic pop with engaging melodies, ‘My Name Is Lola’ is a track that Richard Citroen describes as “a bit of a departure from our usual ‘Wall Of Sound’ approach, we’ve taken on some of Alle Farben & Robin Schulz’s colours”. It’s a quirky pop tune that’s a lot of fun and includes shout-outs to all of the duo’s favourite Berlin haunts.

Further reading: An Interview With Lola Dutronic
https://www.facebook.com/lola.dutronic


DICEPEOPLE – Synthetic


Dicepeople, an electronic outfit from London, had a very busy year with several live performances and also a muscular cover version of Depeche Mode’s ‘Strangelove’. The group have an emphasis on strong visuals as part of their live shows and they draw inspiration from the likes of Depeche Mode, John Carpenter, Siouxsie Sioux, Front 242 and all points inbetween.

‘Synthetic’ is pretty much on-point with its brooding gothic synth melodies against a burbling electronic background. Atashi Tada’s vocal lead is tweaked and distorted and lends the whole affair a cyberpunk aesthetic.

Further reading: Synthetic
An Interview With Dicepeople
http://dicepeople.com/


LEGPUPPY – #Selfie Stick – Narcissistic Prick


Electro punk outfit LegPuppy have a knack for cultural commentary. Take ‘Selfie Stick’, which the 4-piece outfit released earlier this year. There’s a brooding quality to the song; a prowling tonal mood with cynical synths that provides the foundation for a lyrical dragging on Instagram culture (“Instagram that pic/Snapchat me a vid/I’ll show you my dick”). It’s a timely theme in a world where people are measured on the number of followers they have on Twitter or the belief that 17,000 ‘Likes’ can provide a fig-leaf of sorts for an empty, shallow soul.

Or as LegPuppy themselves put it: “Welcome to the Age of Narcissism where our future leaders are more interested in how many likes their stupid selfie gets on social media. Where their heroes and inspirations are Reality TV stars.”

Further reading: Selfie Stick
http://legpuppy.net/


ELYXR (feat Naoko of Princess Problems) – Godspeed


Seattle-based electronic musician/producer Kasson Crooker put together a new project for 2017 which sought to include his particular take on electronic music with a diverse range of singers.

‘Godspeed’ marked one of these releases, with the vocals coming care of Naoko Takamoto (Princess Problems). There’s a raw energy at work on a busy composition that also seems to elicit a sense of unease. Despite this, there’s a kinetic quality to the electronic melodies threaded through the piece. Conceived before Trump’s US victory, ‘Godspeed’ was penned as a reverie on the concerns such a presidency would bring. Lyrics such as “gather up your belongings/’cause he’s coming” pretty much seals the deal.

Further reading: Godspeed
http://www.symbionproject.com/


CURXES – In Your Neighbourhood


When Curxes first made their presence known several years back, they brought with them a very different approach to electronic music that presented one of the more captivating acts on the scene. Pulling from a variety of influences, the Curxes unique sound of stark pop ran through songs such as ‘The Constructor’ and ’Creatures’.

Describing themselves as “a decorative set of bones, channeling the ghosts of Discothéques past”, Curxes were a perfect fit for the first Electricity Club event staged in 2011. But it was a journey that also saw them later remixing the likes of Chvrches on the Scottish trio’s 2013 Recover EP.

‘In Your Neighbourhood’ (taken from new album Gilded Cage) shows Roberta Fidora opting for a much more languid style of singing combined with a warm, engaging layer of electronics. Meanwhile, the video is a strange amalgamation of a lost children’s puppet show and a TV repair shop.

Further reading: In Your Neighbourhood
www.curxes.com
www.robertafidora.com


THE SOUND OF ARROWS – Beautiful Life


‘Beautiful Life’ marked the welcome return of Swedish synthpop outfit The Sound Of Arrows in 2017. It’s a composition that continues the electronic duo’s talent for cinematic pop, but there’s also a more organic element with big string arrangements prominent in the mix. “Turn up the music and bring down the rain” suggests the dreampop lyrics atop subtle synth rhythms. Meanwhile, the track is given plenty of epic sweeps courtesy of the strings section.

The band later released new album Stay Free, presenting a more grounded take on the classic Sound Of Arrows formula.

Further reading: Stay Free
http://www.thesoundofarrows.com/


PIXX – I Bow Down


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

Debut album The Age Of Anxiety, presented a collection of songs that offer up electronic music that’s both accessible, yet also has a sense of quirkiness and charm. ‘I Bow Down’, for instance, starts from simple foundations before building an insistent beat that works its magic. The video, with its strange visuals, also keeps things interesting.

Further reading: The Age Of Anxiety
http://pixxmusic.com


FIFI RONG – The Same Road


The soulful, beguiling style of Fifi Rong has been winning over both the press and the public for many years via releases such as Next Pursuit and Future Never Comes. It’s an impressive catalogue that also suggested that the London-based musician had carved out her niche and was happy with heading in that particular musical direction.

However, her new release ‘The Same Road’ sees Fifi do a left turn with a tune that’s distinctly more electropop-orientated than previous outings. Here, the lush soundscapes are put to one side for a cleaner, sharper approach to song arrangement. Electronic melodies echo through the song, augmented by Fifi’s familiar mesmerising vocals. At the same time, this is a tune crafted in the form of contemporary electronic music, rather than as a pastiche of ‘80s synthpop, which is always a bonus.

By bringing onboard the mixing talents of Max Dingel, who previously worked with the likes of Goldfrapp (as well as White Lies and Muse), the dynamic qualities of ‘The Same Road’ presents an engaging number that’s likely to surprise long-term Fifi Rong enthusiasts.

Further reading: The Same Road
http://www.fifirong.com


WAAKTAR & ZOE – Open Face


With much of the attention this year centred around a-ha’s new acoustic project, Paul Waaktaar-Savoy’s collaborative album with singer Zoe Gnecco, World Of Trouble, passed by almost unnoticed earlier this year. Which was a shame because this was as good as – if not better than – a-ha’s last studio album Cast In Steel. In fact, one such track, ‘Open Face’, almost made it on to a-ha’s 2015 comeback album, but was overlooked in favour of inferior cuts such as ‘Door Ajar’.

Released as a single in April this year ‘Open Face’ is certainly the most electronic track on the New York-based duo’s album, and boasts some fine Kraftwerkian synth work from Kurt Uenela, who has also collaborated with Dave Gahan on some of Depeche Mode’s recent releases (including this year’s Spirit).

Further reading: Lifelines: The Side Projects of a-ha
http://waaktaar.com/


THE RUDE AWAKENING (feat Brooke Calder) – Let Nothing Take Your Pride


When he’s not promoting the likes of the Synth City event electronic music event, Johnny Normal also spends time on writing and composing under his own steam.

Under the banner of The Rude Awakening, which sees Johnny bringing onboard the talents of Brooke Calder (Lolly Pop, A*O*A, POP INC), new release ‘Let Nothing Take Your Pride’ offers a reflection of our times in its themes. There’s a defiant tone to the track which deals with anyone who’s come under fire from life: “Struggling with your conscience I try to make you see/but all around your friends surround taking a piece of me”. Revolving around themes of resilience and fighting your corner, the song could be said to be a rallying call for those that have been beaten down.

The track (which also saw its live premiere at September’s Synth City event) draws from the classic synthpop template with an anthemic pop approach peppered with synthetic brass stabs. With some polished backing vocals by long-time friend and collaborator Brooke Calder, ‘Let Nothing Take Your Pride’ presents an electropop tune with some whack.

Further reading: Let Nothing Take Your Pride
www.abnormalproductions.rocks


PARRALOX – Electric Nights


Johanna Gervin once again demonstrates that she’s one of the finest voices in the world of electropop with her vital vocals on ‘Electric Nights’.

It’s a euphoric floor-stomper crafted in the style that only Parralox can pull off. ‘Electric Nights’ also comes with a suitably dynamic video packed with visual delights. It’s an explosion of primary colours and effects that lends the whole affair a dayglo sheen. The composition actually dates back to 2002, back when Roxy was part of the Parralox line-up (she also co-wrote the song). The tune was submitted to the Australian Independent Music Awards – and apparently won Best Dance song in 2003, but plans to release it seemed to get delayed due to Parralox’s hectic schedule.

Further reading: Electric Nights
www.parralox.com


BRUCE WOOLLEY & POLLY SCATTERGOOD (with The Radio Science Orchestra) – Video Killed the Radio Star


When it comes to pop tunes, there’s a select few that manage to be immediately recognisable regardless of whatever decade they were recorded in. So the iconic opening bars of The Buggles’ ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ have been so impressed on popular culture that it’s difficult to imagine that there’s anyone unfamiliar with the tune anywhere on the planet.

The song was reimagined earlier this year care of one of the tune’s original composers – Bruce Wooley – in collaboration with dark pop chanteuse Polly Scattergood. The new version (which carries the subtitle of ‘Dark Star’) opts for a radical deconstructed adaptation of the song in conjunction with the Radio Science Orchestra (a project established by Bruce Wooley). As a result, Polly Scattergood’s laconic vocals in tandem with the orchestral arrangement lend the song an intriguingly evocative sound that still manages to lose none of the original composition’s power.

Further reading: Video Killed the Radio Star
www.radioscience.com


MARNIE – G.I.R.L.S


The release of 2013’s Crystal World album demonstrated that Helen Marnie continued to display a talent for good electronic music, even while Ladytron were on an extended hiatus.

Drawing comparisons with the likes of Ladyhawke and Goldfrapp, Marnie’s latest album Strange Words And Weird Wars has opted for a much more electronic palette on this release, which also throws a nod or two to synthwave. ‘G.I.R.L.S’, with its cheerleading chants, offers up one of the strongest tracks on the album. It’s Pop with a capital ‘P’.

Further reading: Strange Words And Weird Wars
http://www.helenmarnie.com/


TWIST HELIX – Little Buildings


There’s an energy to Twist Helix that definitely leaves an impression. Hailing from Newcastle, Twist Helix consists of singer and synth player Bea, bassist Michael and drummer James.

New release ‘Little Buildings’ (taken from forthcoming album Ouseburn) has a solid sound to it which is helped by their willingness to embrace a variety of instrumentation, including guitar and live drums. The result is a robust tune which is topped off with Bea’s powerful vocals.

Further reading: Twist Helix
https://www.twisthelix.com/


SIMEN LYNGROTH – The Waves


Simen Lyngroth is a Norwegian singer-songwriter with a distinctively soft and crystalline voice, who is currently enjoying a dual career; as both a member of folk-pop trio Ask and as a solo artist exhibiting more electronic influences.

Awash with snowcapped melancholia, debut solo album Take All The Land is strongly influenced by Radiohead and features a number of fine jazz-infused electro-ballads. Arguably, one of the album’s most immediate and commercial cuts was ‘The Waves’, and it was duly released as a single in October. Deviating from the formula slightly with its use of programmed electronics, this was a standout track from one of this year’s most exciting new releases.

Further reading: Take All The Land
http://www.simenlyngroth.com/


SAILOR & I – Chameleon


Swedish electronic musician Alexander Sjödin caught everyone’s attention in 2017 under the moniker Sailor & I. Debut album The Invention Of Loneliness bounced between icy pop and beats-driven electronica…

Nestling among the tracks on the album, ‘Chameleon’ has a subtle power to it that can take a few spins to appreciate. There’s a dark piano melody over which Sjödin’s yearning vocal offers hints of change or transformation. Meanwhile, a gradually-building slab of stark electronics gives the track a dark pop appeal.

Further reading: The Invention Of Loneliness
http://sailorandi.se/


VOI VANG – Mirror

As one of the artists performing at last summer’s Silicon Dreams event, Voi Vang made an impression as someone to watch.

‘Mirror’ demonstrates her knack for dancepop with an electronic flavour. The track starts out with a plaintive piano melody before transforming into a much more dynamic outing. Bouncing between pop and EDM elements, there’s a captivating use of rhythms and melodies to produce a powerful dance floor filler. It’s also a track that reveals Voi Vang’s impressive vocal range, which has a punchy, direct power that sits in tandem with the driving electronic beats.

Further reading: Voi Vang
https://voivang.bandcamp.com/releases


Text by Paul Browne and Barry Page.


DEPECHE MODE – Stadium Spirit

The Mighty Mode deliver a powerful London performance…

London Stadium, Saturday 3rd June 2017

It’s a mild Saturday afternoon and I’m following a vast throng of Depeche Mode fans into the former Olympic Stadium; the setting for triumphant UK athletes such as Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis (who both enjoyed Gold Medal success in 2012). These days, the newly-named London Stadium’s current tenants are West Ham United (which, bizarrely, anagrams as ‘the new stadium’) and the impressive arena serves as the venue for Depeche Mode’s biggest ever UK show, with over 80,000 excited 40-somethings in attendance. It’s the thirteenth stop on the Global Spirit tour, which kicked off in Stockholm on the 5th May. “It will be the first time we’ve played a proper stadium here for a long time” Martin Gore tells The Guardian.

It’s my first Depeche Mode in concert since the Touring The Angel shows in 2005, and it’s only by the chance of a competition win that I find myself perched just over the halfway line, with a large merchandise stand either side of me (I sensibly pass on the chance to buy an over-priced £30 t-shirt). Support is provided by Southend-on-Sea’s resident shoegazers, The Horrors, who have released four albums to date. With no new album to promote (2014’s Luminous is their most recent), their support slot seemingly functions as a showcase for their not-wholly-original repertoire of Gothic space rock. It’s an enjoyable enough set though, albeit a little too bassy to these ears.

Anticipation builds to the Basildon rocker’s entrance. Cavalcades of beer drinkers politely edge their way past and cigarettes are seemingly sucked down to their filters before the opening bars of The Beatles’ ‘Revolution’ cascade through the stadium’s PA. It’s 8:15 and the band take to the stage, against a black backdrop that reveals a diminutive pair of marching feet that gradually increase in size. The band launch into ‘Going Backwards’, the opening track on this year’s well-received Spirit album (see TEC’s review here). Singer Dave Gahan, resplendent in black waistcoat and a red jacket, sets the tone with a series of powerful lyrical couplets: “We’re going backwards, armed with new technology,” he sings. “Going backwards, to a caveman mentality.” It’s a perfect start to the show, and the momentum is sustained with the tight, two-chord electro thrust of ‘So Much Love’; its repetitive chorus prompting the first of many singalongs amongst the enthusiastic multinational crowd.

By the time of third number ‘Barrel Of A Gun’, Gahan has shed his jacket, while Gore has strapped on his custom-built star-shaped guitar, duly grinding out the song’s dirty licks. Somewhat disappointingly, Gahan’s vocals are off-key and not even a snatch of Grandmaster Flash’s landmark hit ‘The Message’ in the coda can rescue it. Thankfully normal service is resumed on ‘A Pain That I’m Used To’. Utilising the template of the excellent ‘Jacques Lu Cont’ remix, resident multi-instrumentalist Peter Gordeno switches to bass, giving the track a fluidity missing from the album version, while Gahan visibly loosens up and cavorts the stage with a chicken-like strut.

The pace slows once more to ‘Corrupt’, a largely forgettable plodder from 2009’s Sounds Of The Universe, before a powerful version of the brooding, bona fide classic ‘In Your Room’ – in its superior album version – puts the show back on track with its spine-tingling chord changes. Gahan orchestrates the crowd to sing its key line “Will I always be here”. The crowd are firmly on side… and Gahan knows it. On ‘World In My Eyes’, an increasingly confident Gahan partakes in a series of struts, bum wiggles and crotch grabs (seriously, Dave?), before taking a somewhat undignified splat towards the back of stage. There’s a quick ear monitor adjustment off-stage and Gahan finishes the song, before exchanging smiles with a rather bemused Gore.

The Bowie-influenced ‘Cover Me’ affords Gahan the opportunity to display the more soulful side of his baritone as he ponders life on other planets (“I dreamt of us in another life/ One we’ve never reached”). The undoubted highlight of Spirit, the suitably chilling Anton Corbijn visuals provide the perfect backdrop. Gahan milks the applause as he takes a rare walk down the stage catwalk during the stunning ‘Clean’-esque climax, emitting a huge smile as the otherworldly song ends.

It’s Gore’s chance to shine next on Black Celebration’s beautiful ballad ‘A Question Of Lust’. The fragility and vulnerability in Gore’s rich and tremulous vocal (enriched by a stark piano arrangement from Gordeno), endear the crowd to the master songwriter. And, on a rare full-band version of ‘Home’, the crowd are on fine form as Gore and the rest of the band orchestrate some lovely harmonies at the end. “You are the best!” says a returning Gahan.

Spirit is further represented with a brace of tracks. Gore has hailed ‘Poison Heart’ as Gahan’s best song but, in truth, it’s a rather pedestrian effort that falls rather flat tonight. ‘Where’s The Revolution?’, fares better, with its rallying cry of “Come on people, you’re letting me down.” It’s the band’s newest anthem, perfectly pitched in today’s political climate. Whilst its studio counterpart suffers from a shambolic production, in concert it’s far more effective, and there’s thankfully a smoother transition from verse to chorus. ‘Wrong’, meanwhile, sees the band revert to a more conventional synthpop format, with its mid-tempo electro-glam fizz perfectly complementing Gore’s smart wordplay.

The arrival of ‘Everything Counts’ in the set is met with a downpour, but it doesn’t last; and nothing can dampen the crowd’s spirit as the band launch into a brilliant extended version of the politically-infused 1983 classic. Gore bashes out the song’s memorable synth motif, and the crowd respond with an enthusiastic singalong. Gore remains on keyboard duties during a faithful version of ‘Stripped’, before the band bring out the big guns once again with a supreme version of the Violator classic ‘Enjoy The Silence’. Gore effortlessly picks out the melodic riff on his Gretsch guitar, and there’s a harmonious blend of electronics and funky guitars as the track builds to its climax. The band are on fire, and their good form is consolidated with a euphoric, arm-waving finale of ‘Never Let Me Down Again’.

In the encore, Gore and Gordeno reunite once more for an emotional ‘Somebody’, before they’re joined by the rest of the band for a fine run-through of set staple ‘Walking In My Shoes’. The surprise of the night arrives courtesy of a cover of David Bowie’s ubiquitous hit “Heroes”, backdropped by a huge black flag. The band aren’t renowned for covering songs but, in terms of the history of the band, it makes total sense (fans will know that Vince Clarke invited Gahan to join the band in 1980 after seeing him perform the song during a jam session).

The two-hour plus show ends with a blistering double-header of synth rock. An extended ‘I Feel You’, replete with some bombastic drumming from Christian Eigner, is paired with the riff-heavy tour-de-force that is ‘Personal Jesus’, crowning the evening with style.

There’s a sad postscript as the rapturous fans begin to filter out of the auditorium; word soon gets round of the latest terror atrocities occurring just miles away, but it doesn’t detract from what’s been a superb show. The material from Spirit hasn’t dominated the set as I’d feared, and there was a good balance of crowd-pleasers and newer material. The visuals are interesting (if a little distracting at times – see ‘In Your Room’), and the sound is good, with plenty of clarity in the vocal mix. It’s not perfect by any means, but they’ve certainly reaffirmed my love for this great band.


Set list: Going Backwards / So Much Love / Barrel Of A Gun / A Pain That I’m Used To / Corrupt / In Your Room / World In My Eyes / Cover Me / A Question Of Lust / Home / Poison Heart / Where’s The Revolution? / Wrong / Everything Counts / Stripped / Enjoy The Silence / Never Let Me Down Again / Somebody / Walking In My Shoes / “Heroes” / I Feel You / Personal Jesus

Depeche Mode resume their UK tour in November:

November 15 – Dublin, Ireland – 3Arena
November 17 – Manchester, UK – Manchester Arena
November 19 – Birmingham, UK – Barclaycard Arena
November 22 – London, UK – O2 Arena

www.depechemode.com
https://www.facebook.com/depechemode/
https://twitter.com/depechemode

Thanks to Sara Page. Photos used with the kind permission of Orac and Electronically Yours


The Music of GHOST IN THE SHELL

The anime adaptation goes electronic…

The business of scoring a film soundtrack has, in recent times, resulted in the soundtrack often having as much cultural impact as the film itself. The 2011 crime thriller Drive for instance cribbed from synthwave and had a carefully curated soundtrack that boasted the likes of Electric Youth and Kavinsky.

Equally, Tron: Legacy relied on the classic electronic sound of Daft Punk to capture the essence of the virtual reality world. Meanwhile, Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson scored the critically-acclaimed Arrival (and is also scoring the forthcoming Blade Runner 2049).

Meanwhile, the forthcoming adaptation of classic anime Ghost In The Shell appears to be leaning heavily towards an electronic-influenced soundtrack, while also chucking in a few surprises along the way.

Originally a manga series, Ghost In The Shell is perhaps best known for the 1995 anime adaptation which has since become one of the most iconic classics of the anime genre. Set in the near future, Ghost In The Shell focuses on the character of Major Motoko Kusanagi, a special operative for the counter-terrorism outfit known as Section 9. The themes that the film (and later anime series) explored revolved around political intrigue, corruption and terrorism, but also looked at the concept of identity and the influence and evolution of artificial intelligence. The Major has a completely cybernetic body in which her “ghost” resides, enabling her to have superhuman abilities as well as the skill of hacking computer systems.

For the live action adaptation, Scarlett Johansson takes on the role of The Major for an adaptation that has attempted to be a largely faithful recreation of the anime. It’s a film that hasn’t been without its controversies (particularly surrounding the casting of Johansson) and the ‘cyberpunk’ aesthetic has been a tough thing to capture successfully on film in the past, but the visual design and approach employed by the film makers looks promising.

The soundtrack for Ghost In The Shell is being scored by Clint Mansell. The former Pop Will Eat Itself frontman, Mansell has carved out an impressive resume in film soundtrack work that includes Requiem For A Dream, Black Swan and the JG Ballard adaptation High-Rise. Mansell has also championed the dystopia duo of Jupiter-C, adding a remix to their recent release.

Meanwhile, attentive electronic music fans would have noticed the familiar tones of Depeche Mode’s ‘Enjoy The Silence’ in some of the trailers. The version used for Ghost In The Shell is a cover by Ki:Theory, aka US musician and producer Joel Burleson. Batting between the worlds of rock and electronic music, Burleson has previously done remixes for the likes of Ladytron, Daft Punk, UNKLE and Hans Zimmer.

Gary Numan has also contributed to the soundtrack, in the form of the brooding soundscape of ‘Bed Of Thorns’. The track had emerged in demo form from Numan’s production of forthcoming album Savage. The new album has been the focus of a Pledgemusic campaign – with ‘Bed Of Thorns’ one of the tracks that had originally been aired for people pledging to the campaign.

The film also features contributions from DJ Shadow, Above & Beyond and producer and composer Johnny Jewel (Glass Candy, Chromatics). Jewel had also previously contributed to the successful soundtrack for the aforementioned Drive. Trip hop figure Tricky also appears on the soundtrack with the oddly muscular track ‘Escape’.

There was some debate over Steve Aoki’s contribution however. The EDM producer and musician’s radical take on Kenji Kawai’s original theme music for the 1995 anime was largely derided by fans (However, Kawai’s original version of the theme is apparently also present and correct in the film).

These tracks will also feature on the forthcoming album Music Inspired By The Motion Picture Ghost In The Shell whose tracklisting is as follows:

01. Kenji Kawai ‘Utai IV Reawakening’ (Steve Aoki Remix)
02. Johnny Jewel ‘The Hacker’
03. Boys Noize ‘Cathryn’s Peak’
04. DJ Shadow ‘Scars’ (feat. Nils Frahm)
05. Above & Beyond ‘Surge’
06. IO Echo ‘Aokigahara Forest’
07. Tricky ‘Escape’
08. Ki:Theory ‘Enjoy The Silence’
09. Johnny Jewel ‘Free Fall’
10. Gary Numan ‘Bed of Thorns’
11. Johnny Jewel ‘The Key’
12. Kenji Kawai ‘Utai IV Reawakening’

Whether or not Ghost In The Shell manages to win audiences over remains to be seen, but the continued use of electronic music in film soundtracks is certainly a trend that deserves to continue.


Ghost In The Shell is released 31st March.

Music Inspired By The Motion Picture Ghost In The Shell is released 31st March. Pre-order via: https://ghostintheshell.lnk.to/album

http://ghostintheshell.tumblr.com/


DEPECHE MODE Spirit

Basildon’s finest pull the trigger on politics for their latest studio release…

“People, what are we thinking? / It’s shameful, our standards are sinking / We’re barely hanging on / Our spirit has gone”.

These couplets could easily apply to the downward trajectory that the band have been on, creatively, since Playing The Angel, but they actually belong to the final track on Depeche Mode’s disappointing 14th studio album Spirit, a collection of politically-imbued and socially-aware synth rock songs for the masses, housed once again in an uninspiring Anton Corbijn sleeve .

By the band’s standards, the album was recorded very quickly with former Simian Mobile Disco member James Ford, who has helmed albums by the likes of Mumford and Sons, Foals and Florence and the Machine (he has also recorded two albums with indie super group, The Last Shadow Puppets). Lead singer Dave Gahan observed: “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.” Reportedly, Ford also acted as a mediator, diffusing some initial tensions between Gahan and main songwriter Martin Gore.

Released just a few weeks after President Trump’s inauguration, ‘Where’s The Revolution’ arrived via a fanfare of flags and fake beards. Spirit’s opening statement revealed a more sonically-challenging direction and set the tone for much of the new opus, showcasing some more aggressive and politicised wordplay: “They manipulate and threaten / With terror as a weapon / Scare you till you’re stupefied / Wear you down until you’re on their side”. As perfectly pitched as it is within today’s political climate, the production is shambolic. Despite featuring some nice slide guitar, the transition from the verses to the chorus’s snarling, rallying cries is clumsily executed, while the meandering “train is coming-engine is humming” middle-eight equally grates. Mercifully, the single version is a minute shorter.

By contrast, ‘Going Backwards’ is a pretty impressive album opener. It starts with some big piano chords and understated guitar. Slowly building via some urgent-sounding synth work to heighten the drama, Gore produces some suitably bleak and vivid imagery, which Gahan sonorously delivers: “We can track it all in satellites / See it all in plain sight / Watch men die in real time / But we have nothing inside / We feel nothing inside.”

Following the cacophonous rhythms of ‘Where’s The Revolution’, the pace slows with ‘The Worst Crime’, a more ambient and less cluttered production, with Ford allowing some much-needed space. Though not bursting with melody, Gore once again delivers some impressively harrowing lyrics: “There’s a lynching in the square / You will have to join us / Everyone’s going to be there / We’re setting up the truss”. Gahan was sufficiently impressed when discussing the track with Rolling Stone magazine: “We can all talk about whatever is going on until we’re blue in the face but you have to take real action, and sometimes we don’t know what that looks like. Individually, I believe people are inherently good, but we’re really distorted by the information we get and we act out on that information out of fear.”


‘Scum’ is the album’s most discordant and angry offering, featuring some more vitriolic swipes from Gore: “You wouldn’t even offer up your crumbs / To the dying, and the crying / You’re dead inside, you’re numb / You’re hollow, and shallow / Your empty life is done”. It’s the album’s definitive ‘call-to-arms’ statement, with Gahan enunciating the line “pull the trigger” in almost comical fashion. However, the polyphonic production is chaotic and distorted, and symptomatic of much of Ford’s seemingly cut-and-paste methods.

‘You Move’, a rare Gahan/Gore co-write, takes the listener on a more hedonistic detour from the previously bleak soundscapes, with Gahan declaring “I like the way you move / I like the way you move for me tonight” against a backdrop of electronics that recall Computer World-era Kraftwerk.

Since making his songwriting debut on Playing The Angel with the excellent ‘Suffer Well’, Dave Gahan has steadily consolidated his reputation as a more-than-capable lyricist. His work on the last Soulsavers album attests to this, while ‘Broken’ was arguably the best track on Delta Machine. The other-worldly ‘Cover Me’ is probably the best track on Spirit, described by Gahan thus: “It’s about a person who travels to another planet only to find that, much to his dismay, it’s exactly the same as earth. It’s a different planet but the same. He really can’t get away from himself. If he wants things to change, he’s going to have to implement it.” Musically, it follows a similar krautrock path as the previous track, replete with some suitably sinister synth sounds.

‘Eternal’ marks Gore’s lead vocal debut on Spirit, an inoffensive ephemeral ballad in which the protagonist declares his eternal love in the midst of an apocalyptic horror: “I will be there for you, always / And when the black cloud rises / And the radiation pours / I will look you in the eye / And kiss you.”

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Described by its writer as an internal monologue, Gore declared ‘Poison Heart’ to be Dave Gahan’s best song to date. Employing a more stripped-down production, with some characteristically tremulous backing vocal work from Gore, this is something of a medium-paced filler.

The pulse is raised on the somewhat repetitive ‘So Much Love’, which almost descends into self-parody with lines such as “There’s a fire in my veins / The desire causes pain”. But, with it it’s Neu!-like percussive drive and creepy synths, this perfectly serviceable synthpop number just about wins through.

“Corporations get the breaks/ And keep everything they make” sings Gahan on ‘Poorman’, another distortion-heavy filler that, lyrically, echoes ‘Everything Counts’. Disappointingly, the melody is nowhere near as memorable.

Things improve with Gahan’s ‘No More (This Is The Last Time)’. Working within a more conventional synthpop framework, the album’s most memorable chorus finally arrives: “This is the last time / I say goodbye / The last time / Then we won’t have to lie.”

Final song ‘Fail’, featuring another Gore vocal and some impressive industrial experimentation, serves as something of an album recap and, true to form, ends on a general note of hopelessness; its writer coming to the conclusion that “we’re fucked” and “we’ve failed”.

Between 1986 and 1993 Depeche Mode released a quartet of peerless albums. Outside of these Alan Wilder-less parameters, each subsequent new release has been – and will continue to be – compared with this body of work. To their credit, the band aren’t interested in becoming a heritage act such as The Human League and have continued to evolve and experiment, both via their regular-as-clockwork album releases and their attendant solo projects. The fanbase they’ve amassed since Ultra will of course be delighted with Spirit. But, 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.”


Spirit is released 17th March 2017 on Columbia Records.

http://www.depechemode.com


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.