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 – 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.


PARRALOX – Electric Nights

Only a limousine can take you there…

Melbourne-based outfit Parralox need little introduction. Founder-member John von Ahlen’s work ethic alone serves as an inspiration for the heights other artists can reach, but at the same time the electronic outfit continue to produce Pop with a capital ‘P’.

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.

Back in June, John von Ahlen discussed the track ahead of its release in an exclusive interview with The Electricity Club: “The next single for Parralox is ‘Electric Nights’ feat Johanna, and it should have been released at the start of 2017. We have all the remixes ready, all the artwork is done. The only thing holding up the release is the film clip. We shot the film clip last year at the same time we did the photo shoot at Nik Pate’s studio.” After spending some time editing the video, ‘Electric Nights’ was finally ready to be let loose on the world this month.

BUY NOW

The origin of ‘Electric Nights’ 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.

The song has been redefined for 2017 – and there’s also a special bundle version available featuring 3 bonus CDs. As a result, ‘Electric Nights’ comes armed with an arsenal of remixes from a wealth of electropop’s finest talents. This includes the likes of Pete Hammond, who’s worked his magic for artists such as Kylie Minogue, Bananarama and Dead Or Alive (and who worked his magic on ‘Sharper Than A Knife’ previously). Tobias Bernstrup and Will Alonso also feature and The People Theatre’s Cable Remix gives the track a thumping EDM workover.

There’s also a selection of additional tracks which have their own appeal. ‘Artificial’ channels Giorgio Moroder while von Ahlen demonstrates that he’s also got some decent vocal chops on the cyberpunk delights of ’I Hear Voices’, which also has a nice line in vocoder elements.

Among the bonus CDs is a dedicated Will Alonso remix CD. This features some classic Parralox tunes, including ‘Aeronaut’, ‘Crying On The Dancefloor’ and the iconic ‘Sharper Than A Knife’.

Also included is The OXY Mashup which features remixes from OXY (aka Breezesquad) from Japan. The results are some sterling combinations of Parralox alongside some Japanese tunes. One of the standout moments is ‘Moonwalkin’ Disco’, which combines Parralox’s ‘Moonwalking’ with Japanese technopop outfit Perfume’s ‘One Room Disco’.

Dedicated to cult film director John Carpenter, ‘Electric Nights’ arrives during a typically busy period for the Australian electropop gang. Their continuing series of unique cover versions reaches the next chapter with the release of Holiday ’17. Plus, Parralox have their sights set on a new studio album for 2018 titled Genesis.


‘Electric Nights’ is out now on Subterrane Records.

www.parralox.com
https://parralox.bandcamp.com
https://soundcloud.com/parralox
https://www.facebook.com/parralox
https://twitter.com/parralox

http://www.conzoomrecords.com


SYNTHETIC CITY 2017 LONDON

Global electronic acts descend on London for this packed synthpop extravaganza…

Among the many electronic music events of the year, the Synthetic City Electronic Music Festival was certainly one of the more ambitious affairs. Boasting 11 bands and artists from across 8 countries, this all-dayer was determined to craft a memorable event.

Hosted by Johnny Normal, an electronic music artist in his own right and also a well-known radio host, Synthetic City is an outing that managed to combine established artists alongside some newer acts. This style of event, which was also successfully employed by Silicon Dreams earlier in the year, not only showcases bands that are going to draw an audience in, but also introduce people to emerging artists – a vital component for a growing scene.

The first acts to open up the festival were UK musician Paul Humphries and Milan from France. Having just recently released his debut album, this was Humphries’ first live performance which meant some trepidation in stepping on the stage. His material draws from the darker end of the electronic spectrum, but there’s a robust quality to many of his tunes and a confident vocal approach that will appeal to a broader audience.

Conversely, Milan pulls from the European tradition of electronic music. Here, the tunes are more orientated to a dancepop flavour with a delicate vocal that has touches of Pet Shop Boys in the delivery.

Hailing from Ireland, the electronic duo of Eden were surprisingly polished in their stage presentation (the spacey jackets were a nice touch) and on-stage banter. Consisting of Mark Power and Ian Henderson, Eden have some polished tunes, much of which is culled from the duo’s 2016 album Outbound To Wonderland. Songs such as ‘Don’t Wanna Lose You’ and ‘If I Was A Pet Shop Boy’ have both a charm and a synthpop sensibility to them and also an Erasure flavour at times. Power’s driving vocal style and his ease at being on stage were a definite plus.

Eden’s last song is introduced as “About religion, but don’t run out!”. ‘New Age’ is a heavier pop outing that weaves in some scathing (and possibly timely) commentary on the issues surrounding organised spiritual matters.

Next up was an act that had flown in from Germany with a distinctly unique style that’s difficult to adequately describe using mere words. Mr Vast straddles the line between musician and performance artist, but also has an element of unpredictability that made tonight’s appearance entertaining or unsettling depending on which way you jump.

Apparently, Mr Vast had been recommended to Johnny Normal by Gary Le Strange, an artist who’s no stranger to the world of eclectic musical performances himself. “If you think I’m strange” quipped Gary “wait until you see Mr Vast…”. The result is quirky tunes such as ‘Ecstatic Caravan’ and ‘Elemental’ (which features the winning line: “The sangria/made me angrier”). While Mr Vast is gearing up for these songs, there’s a lot of on-stage banter and a metric ton of stage props. This includes an entire wardrobe of ‘interesting’ clothes and a copy of The Guardian which becomes part of what appears to be the recreation of a famous Sinead O’Connor moment as he tears through it.

Starting off with one song, Mr Vast abandons it 2 minutes in. “I’m bored with that now”, he offers, before embarking on a new song. Others present similar challenges (“Fuck me, there’s a lot of lyrics in that track…”). When he does stick it out, songs such as ‘Problems With The Light’ (which opens with a combo of owls hooting and a spoken word segment) deliver a funky workout.

Austria’s The Lunchbox Surrender brought things back on track with a set of solidly electronic tunes. Ava takes care of vocals while Bobo focuses on the synths (which includes that sturdy workhorse the ARP Odyssey). The results are a very muscular brand of synthpop that employ some percussive electronic elements and a bass-heavy delivery. Meanwhile, Ava’s vocals have a mesmerising and at times sultry style that offer a contrast to the bassy synth foundations. At times, it calls to mind the dreampop of outfits like Au Revoir Simone while there’s also some more broody moments that suggest the Nordic melancholia of Sailor & I.

The crunchy electropop of ‘Spaces’ is a particularly fine moment as Ava gets into the zone, slipping into a series of stark dance moves. The next track is “a bit more upbeat” suggests Ava as the duo bust out the dynamic tones of ‘Alive’. It’s a song that has a particular sadness in its lyrics: “Find a soulmate in a lonely crowd/Put it down, put it down”.

Apparently, ‘Alive’ is also the tune that caught the ear of Johnny Normal, who played it on his show a year back – a moment that lead in time to this performance.

Closing things out is new song ‘Traumtanz’, which Ava suggests is the German word for ‘dream dance’. There’s a more dubby approach on this number which has a subtle, burning atmosphere.

Next up is the host himself as Johnny Normal takes to the stage with his own brand of electropop. This kicks off with a quite lively cover of Numan classic ‘I Die: You Die’, while later on ‘Time’ opts for a darker electro approach. The engaging synthpop of ‘Miss Razorblade’ also stands out from the set. Meanwhile, new single ‘Let Nothing Take Your Pride’ also gets an airing – a polished slice of synthpop with synthetic brass stabs.

Taking us into the latter part of the evening is possibly the heaviest dark electro outfit of the night in the form of Deviant UK. They waste little time in waking the audience up with some heavy-duty tunes, which at one point prompts Train To Spain’s Helena in getting up for a boogie.

In fact, it’s the Swedish duo who grace the stage next. Regular UK visitors in recent years, Train To Spain have a robust style of electropop that’s immediate and engaging. Here they kick off with the muscular beats of ‘I Follow You’, with its cascading electronic melodies and shimmering rhythms.

Meanwhile, the bassy beats and perky synth melodies of ‘Work Harder’ offers a paean to the workers in the audience. ‘Blipblop’ is “about after work” suggests Jonas, before delivering a poppy side to the duo’s music. Elsewhere, ‘Passion’ gets things “more romantic” with a crunchy driving rhythm. 

‘You Gotta Do It’ is a new song from the duo, taken from Train To Spain’s forthcoming album. It’s a punchy tune over which Helena’s voice floats in and out and with a chorus that’s got a particular force to it. The pair close things out with the warm synthpop of ‘Believe in Love’.

Next up is Birmingham’s synth-rock combo Among The Echoes. Fresh from their Infest appearance, they deliver a set of dark electro tunes, including a muscular cover version of Human League classic ‘Being Boiled’. 

Portugal’s Hot Pink Abuse arrive next with their unique musical stylings, an outfit who opt for a full complement of live drums, bass, synth and vocals. The result is a surprisingly beefy set of tunes that’s picked out by some immediate rock-pop bangers.

Of these, ‘Bridge Of Wonder’ is one of the finest moments. It’s a track with a mesmerising feel to it dominated by swirling synths, with some sultry vocals care of lead singer Rebecca Moradalizadeh.

Keeping the crunchy electronic end up, there’s something powerful and captivating about ‘Sometimes’ with its bass-heavy synth melodies and driving rhythms. “Let’s shake a bit now with ‘Mysterious Souls’” offers Rebecca as they launch into an emphatic number that features a very solid vocal delivery and beefy bass lines. 

Closing things out, ‘Stranger To Others’ has a very punchy dynamic to it with a solid military percussion and a big, wide sound. 

Parralox, of course, need little introduction. The Australian outfit have already been guests at Liverpool’s Silicon Dreams event this year and their Synthetic City appearance marked their final UK performance this year. 

Once again, the combo of Johanna Gervin and John von Ahlen deliver a sterling set of powerful electropop to close out for this year’s celebration of electronic music. 

The powerpop of ‘Black Jeans’ is a suitable track to kick things off, followed up by the equally captivating ‘Hotter’ with its wry commentary on relationships and the search for perfection (“Think twice we’re all the same in different ways/But sometimes it pays to go your separate ways”).

“Hands up who likes The Alan Parsons Project” offers John before taking over vocal duties for Parralox’s take on the prog rock combo’s ‘Eye In The Sky’. The buzzy delights of ‘Wildlife’ also provides John with another opportunity to exercise his vocal chops.

As ever, ‘Sharper Than A Knife’ with its infectious electropop melodies, is received with relish from the crowd. The duo also drop in their surprising cover version of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’. Here, the sparse melancholia of the original is given a much more muscular push in this electronic rendition (Johanna’s dropping in of a segment from The Hollies’ ‘The Air That I Breathe’ is also a witty comment on the original). 

Interspersed between the live sets was a suitable playlist of DJ sets, which included the talents of Rob Harvey (who runs the Synth City radio show). There were some choice tunes played, including possibly the first club appearance of OMD’s ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ alongside classics from Erasure, Visage, John Foxx, Gary Numan and Ultravox.

Synthetic City 2017 slots in smoothly with a calendar this year of electronic music events that have helped to promote interest and growth in the grassroots scene. At the same time, it offered an opportunity for artists to network and discuss opportunities. But perhaps most of all, it delivered an evening of good electronic entertainment – and one in which Johnny Normal and the organising team should take pride in.


http://www.johnnynormal.net/SYNTHETIC-CITY.html

http://www.johnnynormal.net/
http://www.parralox.com/
http://hotpinkabuse.wixsite.com/hotpinkabuse
http://thelunchboxsurrender.wixsite.com/official
http://traintospain.se/
https://www.facebook.com/pg/deviantuk/
http://amongtheechoes.co.uk/
https://www.eden-info.com/
http://www.milanmusic.uk/
https://paulhumphries.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/cackrecords/


WIN Tickets to SYNTHETIC CITY LONDON!

WIN 2 tickets to the SYNTHETIC CITY LONDON event this September!

SYNTHETIC CITY features an all-star lineup of electronic music artists and bands, including PARRALOX, HOT PINK ABUSE, THE LUNCHBOX SURRENDER, TRAIN TO SPAIN, DEVIANT UK, MR VAST, AMONG THE ECHOES, PAUL HUMPHRIES, MILAN, JOHNNY NORMAL and EDEN. The event will also feature DJ setlists between bands.

A fantastically inspiring grassroots electronic music event you simply can’t miss.

Synthetic City takes place between 2pm and 1am on 9th September 2017 at The Water Rats, 328 Gray’s Inn Road, King’s Cross, London WC1X 8BZ

To be in with a chance to win 2 tickets, visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/clubelectricity/ for all the details (Terms & Conditions apply).

Winner will be drawn at random at 12pm (GMT) on Friday 1st September 2017 (Terms & Conditions: http://www.electricity-club.co.uk/competition-rules/ )


http://www.johnnynormal.net/SYNTHETIC-CITY.html
https://www.facebook.com/pg/SyntheticCityLondon/events/
https://www.abnormalproductions.rocks/synthetic-city-london-2017


SILICON DREAMS 2017 Review

The electronic musical festival returns with an impressive lineup…

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


An Interview With PARRALOX

Parralox’s John von Ahlen provides some insight into the electronic outfit’s extensive career…

Based in Melbourne, Australian electropop outfit Parralox came to life in 2008. Their debut album Electricity achieved critical acclaim and paved the way for an impressive catalogue of energetic electronic pop releases, which has led to their 10th studio album Subculture.

Collaborations with the likes of Ian Burden, Ade Fenton and Marcella Detroit have all been part of the Parralox story. Meanwhile, the striking visual style and branding of the outfit is masterminded by Parralox founder John von Ahlen, giving Parralox one of the most distinctive looks of any electronic band.

Parralox are due to perform at the Silicon Dreams event this July, an electronic music festival which will pull together 6 different acts for a stunning showcase of electronic music talent.

John von Ahlen kindly set aside time from his punishing work schedule to field some questions from The Electricity Club…


Parralox have been one of the most prolific electronic music acts of recent years. Overseeing the sleeve design and videos for all the releases, remix projects, plus your stint as a radio host, how do manage to fit it all in?

Good question, I sometimes wonder the same myself! To be honest, this last year has been very challenging in terms of time management. I’ve decided to take a break from Neon Nights (my radio show) in the next grid, which means a break from August to December this year, and I’ll come back to the show in January 2018. The radio show is a large time commitment, due to the insane amount of work I put into it, such as the graphic design work that goes into the show. I approach it the same way I approach Parralox, insofar as that everything needs to be branded and planned to within an inch of its life haha!! So if you look at the web page for Neon Nights you’ll see that each show has a unique theme and cover art to go along with it.

So all of this happens in addition to my regular work in Subterrane Studio, which is focused on Parralox, but also with remixing and producing other artists. I kind of feel like I’m reaching the same point a decade ago, before I started Parralox, when I was operating Subterrane Recording Studio as my sole source of income. I was just working on so many other projects, that they took focus from what I really loved doing – my own electronic music!

To give you an example, the next single for Parralox is ‘Electric Nights’ feat Johanna, and it should have been released at the start of 2017. We have all the remixes ready, all the artwork is done. The only thing holding up the release is the film clip. We shot the film clip last year at the same time we did the photo shoot at Nik Pate’s studio, but I haven’t had the time to finish editing it. I spent the first three months of this year renovating a few of my investment properties, so that took a large chunk out of my production schedule. It’s going to take at least another month to finish the ‘Electric Nights’ film clip, and then Parralox will be back on track!

The real secret to how I work is this… when you love what you do, it’s never work! I pretty much work on Parralox 7 days a week. Even on the weekends (when I should be taking time off!!) I’ll be answering emails or updating the website and social media. But I’m not a robot, I do go on holidays sometimes!

How would you describe Parralox’s evolution of sound since your formation back in 2008?

I guess it’s a little like a tumbleweed that bounces across the countryside, and passes through many different towns along the way. We don’t stay with any one specific style for too long, but there is a common thread throughout all our music. The only way I know how to describe our sound is “electronic music”, “synthpop” or “electropop”. While we don’t have exactly the same sound as we did when we started in 2008, I guess maybe the sound has matured a little.

The first album Electricity was definitely a catharsis for me, a distillation of all my music ideas and inspirations. The latest album Subculture has a more stylised approach, in that I took a dual approach of Italodisco and then ’90s pop. I borrowed from The Human League and designated half the tracks as Red, and the other half as Blue. So you can see the first half of the album has a commercial ’90s sound and feel, while the second half is straight up Italodisco / Synthpop.

I never really think about what the “Parralox Sound” is. The reality is that our sound will always be driven by what is influencing me at that time. Meaning it’s a mix of my musical heroes from the ’80s and also the latest club sounds I’m hearing. That’s really the key to the Parralox sound, having one foot firmly stuck in the ’80s, while the other is always listening to the latest sounds and club tracks. I have zero interest in commercial pop music, and don’t listen to the radio or watch TV.

Is there one Parralox track over your impressive catalogue which you feel stands as the outfit’s signature song?

Well, I have my own opinions on what is the definitive song for Parralox, but I have to go by the feedback I receive from the public, most of which seem to think that ‘Sharper Than A Knife’ is our signature track. I guess that’s what really exposed us to a larger audience, thanks to the press we got from Perez Hilton (thanks Perez!!).

Parralox has led you to working with an impressive range of collaborators. Are there any singers or musicians that you’re keen to work with in the future?

OMG, don’t ask me those sorts of questions haha! I have a VERY long list of people I’d like to work with. I’ve already approached a few to record on the next Parralox album, and so pending time commitments (and a dash of luck) the next album is going to be mind-blowing.

What is Parralox’s typical live gear setup?

The entire sequence runs from my laptop, which runs Cubase and a shitload of VSTi’s. So what you hear on stage is exactly the same as what you’d hear if we were in the studio. Of course you need to take a few parts out to allow for some live playing. I try and mix it up and change the mix and create a new arrangement for the song, so people get to hear a new interpretation. But some songs I’m very careful to leave as close as possible to the original version, based on the feedback I get from our fans.

I usually have at least 2 or 3 synths on stage with me, plus or minus a drum machine. I always get Johanna (or whoever is performing with Parralox at the time) to play a few keyboard parts as well while I’m singing. I also spend a lot of time on the visuals and so the fans will always be treated to a lovely video projection at the same time. Parralox doesn’t have a massive live budget, so we do what we can to make the show look impressive for the audience.

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Do you think music festivals such as Silicon Dreams are an important component for the electronic music scene?

Absolutely. It’s an amazing showcase of the varying styles of electronic music that are out there. Most other genres all have their own festivals and legions of fans, and those events are generally run quite professionally and give great exposure to the acts involved. I think it’s really important for events such as these to be happening, because people need to have the opportunity to experience what real electronic music and synthpop is all about.

There’s plenty of manufactured and soulless music in the Top 40, and that’s fine for the masses. But events such as this really highlight how unique electronic music really is. Parralox has performed at many Electronic Music Festivals over the years, and every single one of them has been a real privilege to be part of, both as a performing band and then as an audience member when we get to see the other bands play!

It’s also important for the continuation of this genre of music. I’m so grateful that we have promoters out there who genuinely care for the music (and the bands) and selflessly work to further the exposure of electronic music.

What does the future hold for Parralox?

I can say that it’s a shame that I only have one lifetime, because there are so many things to do, and I know I’ll never get everything done! In the short term, we will be releasing ‘Electric Nights’ feat Johanna Gervin in the next month or so, and then the follow up single to that will be ‘Paradise’ feat Marcella Detroit! Then there will be a third single taken from Subculture, most likely at the end of the year or start of the next. As always we have our annual Holiday EP/Album coming up. The next one is Holiday ’17 and I’ve already recorded a few tracks for that.

I have a huge backlog of remixes I’m slowly working my way through. I’m also producing 2 local Australian artists, one of them is Peter Wilson, and the other is an emerging new talent – Venus Virgin Tomarz. I also dabble in a bit of video production work (apart from directing all the Parralox film clips) and have done promo videos for Julia Fordham and Basia Trzetrzelewska’s album reissues, and the new trailer for Damage Control’s album.

Then of course there’s the next Parralox album that I’ve already begun writing. We are also looking at releasing some sort of 10 year Box Set for Parralox, in conjunction with conzoom Records, Ingo and I have been floating ideas for exactly what to include in it. So yeah… there’s so much to do. I’m always bursting with ideas for Parralox, it’s a wonderful feeling.


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to John von Ahlen.

Parralox are performing in the UK at the following events: Silicon Dreams on 8th July 2017 at Liverpool Philharmonic Music Room (tickets via http://silicondreams.org.uk/). Synthetic City London 9th September 2017 (Tickets via www.johnnynormal.net).

www.parralox.com
http://silicondreams.org.uk

https://parralox.bandcamp.com
https://soundcloud.com/parralox

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

http://www.conzoomrecords.com


SILICON DREAMS 2017

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

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

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

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

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


PARRALOX

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

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

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

http://www.parralox.com/


AVEC SANS

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

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

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

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

http://avecsans.com/


FUTURE PERFECT

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

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

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

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


BERLYN TRILOGY

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

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

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

http://www.berlyntrilogy.com/


CAROLINE McLAVY

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

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

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


VOI VANG

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

https://soundcloud.com/voi-vang



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

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

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

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


KRAFTWERK Live in 3D at Die Alte Kongresshalle, Munich

Europa Endlos – The Electricity Club Go To Bavaria

For their international assignment, The Electricity Club’s Nix Lowrey and Mike Cooper got together with Parralox’s John von Ahlen and headed to Germany, the spiritual home of modern electronic music, for the premiere of the Klingklang quartet’s new 3D extravaganza. Although three dimensional elements were present at their Manchester Velodrome gig in 2009, this was the first time that a full show of 3D visuals could be experienced to supreme synthesizer classics such as ‘Neon Lights’, ‘Showroom Dummies’ and ‘Tour De France’. With their glasses at the ready, this was what the Anglo-Oz threesome witnessed…

It seems fitting, given that we are reviewing Kraftwerk’s 3D performance, to first consider some numbers: total distance travelled to see Kraftwerk = 11427 miles approximately (10,000 miles of which can be attributed solely to John von Ahlen). Total number of prior Kraftwerk shows seen: 2 (both of which were myself and both of which were post-millennium). Percentage of reviewers who were already ardent Kraftwerk fans: 100%. Percentage of reviewers dissatisfied and requesting a refund: definitely 0.0. Sincerity of review – a vehement 120%.

Neither John nor Mike have ever seen Kraftwerk before, and my experience is limited to one tour, so this review will not comprehensively detail the differences between this and their show at the Velodrome, the Olympia Stadium or any other legendary show of the past. What it will do is confirm for you beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if Kraftwerk bring this show to the UK, you should sell your car, your synth… or even your gran to get a ticket.

We enter the hall at the very last minute, having spent far too long finding the venue, as strangers who have just stepped off a plane into a new city are wont to do. Aghast, as we are caught unawares by the strains of ‘The Robots’ (and then remember that, being Kraftwerk, being German, we should have expected punctuality), we run into the hall to find it completely full… sold out full. We slink into the back row, which mercifully is on a raised step, and are able to see perfectly – which is criminally lucky compared to those who no doubt camped on the doorstep for the perfect viewing point. This is in part due to the curious realisation that Die Alte Kongresshalle is not entirely capacious: in fact, as you will discover, it feels quite intimate. We can’t quite reach out and touch Kraftwerk, but due to their 3D show, they can seemingly reach out and touch us, the robots extending their mechanical arms toward the audience in a surprisingly effective 3D visual show.

3D as a cinematic tool is certainly still in its infancy, in terms of its effectiveness it can be quite hit and miss. Due to a canny decision to use simple graphics, mimicking their visual iconography in covers and clips for each song, the 3D for this show is very well executed.

Mike Cooper’s thoughts: “The visuals are simple, not ridiculously complex, but the quality of images they are projecting is excellent: no pixilation, no judder. They have obviously spent huge money on the sound and picture quality, they’ve thought deeply about the whole experience.”

John von Ahlen: “It’s not just seeing a band perform, but the 3D visuals elevate it far above that. When you go to a gig, you normally look at the band but the majority of a live experience is about the audio. But for this gig, the audio is only part of the experience: not only are there visuals but they are 3D visuals! And the simplicity of the graphics makes it starker and more effective.”

The sound is also impressive – no more impressive than you’d expect from Kraftwerk – but reaching their standard is pushing far above average gig sound quality:

JvA: “Musicians struggle for purity of sound, Kraftwerk nail it in delivering quality music and strong powerful, audio quality.”

Mike Cooper: “This is absolutely one of the best sounding gigs I’ve ever experienced: particularly the clarity. Deep bass with no distortion, loud but at same time perfectly listenable. I know being Kraftwerk you’d maybe expect it to be indistinguishable from the record but you can tell it’s live, just with top quality sound.”

Having said that, the quips about the four almost inert man machines being busy updating their Facebook statuses on their impressively framed laptops flow thick and fast all evening, and much speculation about what in fact is being played live and what is Fletch-style mime takes place. Some of the video of the night floating around YouTube supports our perception that Ralf is singing and playing at least some of the melodies live… this is particularly evident when he forgets one of the lines in ‘The Model’, which is not only a little surprising (they’re more man than machine), but in a way refreshing in that it gives our concert something unique, even if it’s what Ralf doesn’t do, rather than what he does.

A spot poll amongst our team gives the following highlights:

Mike Cooper: “’Numbers’ – particularly because of the way it has been remixed and the 3D on this is one of the best videos all night. ‘Spacelab’ – again, a great remix, true to the spirit of the original but reworked in a techno style. ‘Autobahn’ – the ‘megamix’, particularly the album cover art used as 3D imagery, the VW and BMW driving us down the autobahn in almost a 2D 3D – phenomenal. ‘Aero Dynamik’ – a track I haven’t listened to often… you listen to it and can hear clearly how Kraftwerk were writing the sounds that influenced electro and techno long before anyone else did it.”

JvA: “’Trans Europe Express’ – It was the first Kraftwerk song I ever heard and has a special place in my heart. ‘Radioactivity’ – it might just be my favourite Kraftwerk song, and it’s certainly my favourite song on Minimum Maximum. So to see them live with 3D graphics, it’s just a chilling experience.”

For myself, it was ‘Home Computer’ – being a lover of electro and techno, this song really pre-empts the groove and funk of electro which was again revived in the early 2000s by people like The Hacker and Anthony Rother. Live it is completely evergreen – time stops, it really is Musique Non Stop. ‘Aero Dynamik’ – Kraftwerk’s 21st century response to the sounds of their legacy, this track always kicks Teutonic rear, but live, with the powerful sound, it is magnificent. ‘The Man Machine’ – icily contemplative, with a massive sound stage. So robotically otherworldly, I could swear I’m growing a cyborg arm in response.

So some final words from the boys…

Mike Cooper: “Being in Germany, and hearing them sing in German – knowing they don’t do that outside their home country, and being a non-German hearing it in their original language – we feel special and more privileged. Especially in a relatively small and intimate venue – there were no more than 1000 people there per show.”

JvA: “It’s certainly one of the most memorable live shows I’ve ever been to, and I’ve seen everyone from Michael Jackson to Yazoo. I missed their performance in Melbourne and regretted it ever since, until now. You don’t get to see Kraftwerk every day and it has met all of my expectations both visually and sonically. I would highly encourage anybody who has the opportunity to see Kraftwerk to do so – especially with the 3D show, it’s a once in a lifetime experience. The first Kraftwerk song I ever heard was ‘Trans Europe Express’ in 1977 when it was released, and at the time I’d never heard anything like it. My feelings from hearing Kraftwerk were the same as I got from listening to The Human League’s Love and Dancing; literally unlike anything I had heard before and after that, I knew that my future would be in making music. Kraftwerk are the epitome of electronic music: they are the ultimate in minimal electronics: the combination of composition and performance that all artists should aspire to.”


Special thanks to Mike Cooper and John von Ahlen.

Kraftwerk’s Minimum Maximum live album is released by EMI Records and available as a double CD and DVD in both English and German language versions.

www.Kraftwerk.com