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


Ikutaro Kakehashi 1930 – 2017

The passing of Roland’s founder marks the end of an era…

Ikutaro Kakehashi was a visionary whose work in the world of electronic music has helped to shape and hone it into a revolution that continues into the modern era.

Born in Osaka in 1930, Kakehashi grew up in Japan’s turbulent pre-war period. His childhood was marked by tragedy when his parents passed away when he was just 2-years-old. In his teenage years, he divided his time studying engineering while also working in Japan’s shipyards. Health issues unfortunately prevented him from enrolling in university and in 1946 he relocated to Japan’s southern-most island Kyushu where he took up employment as a geographical survey assistant.

Kakehashi had a keen interest in music and technology, which he explored as a sideline to his new business venture in watch repair. Working with short-wave radios meant that he could receive foreign broadcasts – and he also helped to repair radio sets as part of his business.

More misfortune struck him when he contracted tuberculosis, which left him spending many years in convalescence. Despite the poor prognosis for his future, Kakehashi was selected for treatment with a new drug which restored him to health and enabled him to return to Osaka.

Keen to expand his accumulated knowledge about electronics, he set up a new business dealing with electrical repair work – a business that later became Ace Electrical Company. Ace provided him with the platform to start exploring musical applications for his skills, particularly the idea of electronic instrumentation.

Although this work initially featured the design of organs and guitar amplifiers, the first real fruits of his labour consisted of the development of the Ace Tone FR1 Rhythm Ace. With 16 preset patterns and the ability to mix those rhythms, this unit laid the foundations for the rhythm units that would be later be part of Roland’s legacy.

Kakehashi was also keen to take his products overseas, which meant having a presence at the NAMM trade show in the US. He also established a business relationship with Hammond Organs, which proved a valuable partnership and helped to establish Kakesahsi’s products for a global market.

In 1972, due to a business issue in which Kakehashi found himself as a minor shareholder in his own company, he decided to strike out on his own with a new venture.

Still focussed on expanding globally, Kakehashi was keen for the new company to have a name that was easy to pronounce for foreign markets. The simple 2- syllable word “Roland” (which was taken from a telephone directory) suited Kakehashi perfectly.

Roland’s legacy in the world of electronic music is a lengthy record that’s not easy to sum up in one article. But it’s a business that’s marked with several significant developments that, in some cases, have had a revolutionary impact on the music industry.

1973 marked the release of Roland’s SH-1000, which was one of Japan’s first synthesisers. Although crude by modern standards, this monophonic analogue synth proved popular with the likes of Vangelis and The Human League.

The mid 1970s also saw the development of Roland’s first modular synths. Although this started out with the classic semi-modular System 100, Roland later introduced the System 700. Looking more like something at home on the set of a science fiction film, this modular unit was a truly professional bit of kit that required a very knowledgeable hand in order to get the best out of it. Producer Martin Rushent had one, as used for The Human League’s Dare album (which also used Roland’s Jupiter-4 and an MC8).

Roland’s ventures into the effects market is also significant. Their work on tape-echo units paved the way for the classic Space Echo series. Meanwhile, Kakehashi formed a subsidiary company, which later became Boss – a name that would later become synonymous with effects units.

Roland also moved into the field of sequencers, with the MC-8 MicroComposer being one of their early products. Technopop outfit Yellow Magic Orchestra were one of the first bands to utilise the MC-8 (which was programmed by “fourth” YMO member Hideki Matsutake). The MC-8 had a whopping 16k of RAM(!) which allowed it store over 5,000 notes. Data could also be saved to cassette. As well as bands such as YMO, synthpop outfit Landscape were also an early adopter of the unit.

YMO also made use of Roland’s VP-330, a vocoder-enhanced synth, which can be heard on the robotic intro to ‘Technopolis’.

In 1978, Roland released the CR-78 CompuRhythm, a programmable drum machine whose range of presets and ability to change sounds brought it into the favour of many bands of the late ’70s and early ’80s, including Blondie, Gary Numan and Ultravox. John Foxx utilised it for his Metamatic album, but the sound of the CR-78 is perhaps best typified by OMD’s classic ‘Enola Gay’.

But perhaps Roland’s most well known product is the TR-808 Rhythm Composer. Released in 1980, this programmable drum machine was a commercial failure on its release (and was actually discontinued in 1983). However, that didn’t stop the 808 achieving cult status.

Originally developed as a competitor to the Linn LM-1 drum machine, the 808 didn’t do a great job at reproducing traditional acoustic percussion sounds (unlike the Linn which actually used samples of real drums). Instead, the 808 was notable for its futuristic, synthetic sounds – particularly the powerful bass.


Naturally, YMO were one of the first bands to get to try the 808 out. Their track ‘1000 Knives’ (actually a re-recorded version of a track that Ryuichi Sakamoto had recorded for his solo album) was the first studio recording to make use of the 808.

Listening to a lot of YMO’s material at the time, it’s not difficult to isolate the use of the 808 and see the elements that would be adopted by much of the hip-hop and dance outfits of the 1980s.

The 808 was used by the likes of Marvin Gaye (‘Sexual Healing’) and, in particular, Afrika Bambaataa & the Soul Sonic Force for ‘Planet Rock’. ‘Planet Rock’ is considered to be one of the foundations of modern hip-hop as well as popularising the use of the 808 (its use of Kraftwerk’s ‘Trans Europe Express’ also demonstrated the reach that electronic music was having).

Meanwhile, the 808 went on to be used by the likes of Beastie Boys, Run-D.M.C. and Public Enemy. It was also used by the likes of Depeche Mode, Howard Jones, Trevor Horn, Talking Heads, New Order, Blancmange, Jean-Michel Jarre (Rendez-Vous) and Cocteau Twins.

In 1981, Kakehashi proposed the idea of standardising a system by which synthesisers could “talk” to one another. The likes of Oberheim and Sequential Circuits found merit in the idea and the suggestion was then expanded to include all of the major manufacturers at the time, including Korg, Moog, Yamaha and Kawai.

The result was the Musical Instrument Digital Interface, or MIDI. It revolutionised electronic music because it allowed one device to be controlled from another, cutting down the amount of kit that bands required. It also saw a boost in technology to take advantage of this new standard, particularly for home-based musicians. Later commenting on MIDI’s impact, Kakehashi said “It’s already been 30 years since the debut of MIDI protocol in 1983, but it seems to me that those years have passed so quickly. Electronic musical instruments have become very popular all over the world through this time, and it is my great pleasure that MIDI played a significant role in their prevalence”.

But synthesisers were also still part of Roland’s developments, including synths such as the SH-101. Introduced in 1982, this 32-key monophonic synth became very popular among a wide variety of synthpop artists. Because it was portable, it was also possible for artists to perform with it on stage by use of a strap and neck grip. It’s a synth that’s been used by Vince Clarke, OMD (The rolling bass sequence on ‘Locomotion’ is down to the SH-101) and Apollo 440. Even today, contemporary electronic artists such as Boards Of Canada still use it.

One of Roland’s first polyphonic synths was the Jupiter-4. Launched in 1978, this synth went on to be used by Tangerine Dream, Gary Numan, Thomas Dolby, Depeche Mode, The Human League and David Bowie. This series continued in the form of the Jupiter-8, an 8-voice polyphonic synth that arrived in 1981. It was a standard synth for OMD throughout the Junk Culture and Crush eras having first been introduced to the band by Howard Jones. It also saw use from Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Tony Visconti and appears on Roxy Music’s Avalon.


The mid-1980s saw some particularly significant changes in music technology, particularly the arrival of digital synths – heralded by the likes of Yamaha’s ubiquitous DX7 and, later, Korg’s M1.

Stepping into this competitive market, Roland’s D-50 was a 16-voice digital synth which had the advantage over the DX7 as being easier to programme. The D-50 also employed Roland’s Linear Arithmetic Synthesis (better known as LA Synthesis), a method of giving digital sounds a much more authentic feel. Ultimately, Roland lost this particular battle to the Korg M1, but demonstrated that as a company they could evolve and keep pace with the competition.

Takehashi’s philosophy was summed up in a book he penned called I Believe In Music, but he was also known for his wisdom in interviews and other book contributions, such as his comments for the 2005 book The Art Of Digital Music: “There are two types of musical artists. One type – for example, classical musicians – tries to recreate music. They follow the score exactly, as if they wanted to reach a target. But other musicians want to create something new. Electronic musical instruments are perfect for them. One group wants to escape the fixed mind, and the other is chasing ‘What is the best music?’ Both are very pure people [laughs], but different ones.”

In 2001 Kakehashi relinquished the role of chairman with Roland, instead taking a consultancy role to the company. His achievements were honoured by being awarded a Musikmesse International Press Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002. He was also given a Technical Grammy Award (alongside Dave Smith of Sequential Circuits) in 2013.

Without Ikutaro Kakehashi’s vision and his captaincy of Roland, the state of the music industry would have been a very different landscape indeed. His legacy is marked by the countless bands, artists and songs that have employed the gear that Roland developed – and it’s a legacy that’s still very much in effect for modern electronic music today.


www.roland.com