DEFSynth Presents: The New Wave of Waveform

Insurrectionary Neo Futurist Adventures…

The live event circuit has been boosted of late by the regular DEFSynth events. Hosted by the larger than life character of Derek Anthony Williams, the DEFSynth nights are launched under the tagline of “The New Wave of Waveform” and make an effort to combine an eclectic combination of bands and artists as a solid foundation for an electronic music evening.

There’s a rawness to the DEFSynth nights that mark them out from many of the other multi-artist events that pepper the electronic music calendar. You’re never quite sure what any night is going to bring, but the selection is always intriguing (and certainly never dull). Tonight the intimate environs of Whitechapel’s Urban Bar are also graced by many figures from the UK’s grassroots electronic music scene. Consequently, the evening offers up a mingling of talents that includes the likes of LegPuppy, Dicepeople, Shelter and Autorotation among others. Tonight they’re taking a break from the stage themselves, but offer up an enthusiastic audience for the DEFSynth acts to follow.

Punkdisco have graced the stage for DEFSynth events in times past, where Leah’s on-stage presence has radiated a nonchalant, laid-back style. Boasting punk-tinged tunes with an attitude, the boy/girl duo offer up the squelchy delights of ‘I Can Dance’ and the frenetic rhythms of ‘All The Things’ as part of their set.


There’s a heavier impact for the tunes that accompany 3D on stage. Consisting of the charismatic Thomas Kelly on vocals and the accomplished synth skills of Dean Clarke (Brutalist Architecture in the Sun, Bluetown Electronica), 3D waste little time in getting the audience in the mood.

Kelly commands the stage through a strident presence and manages to spice up proceedings by ejecting the mic stand across the floor! Stripping off to reveal a hazard-taped body somehow adds to the unpredictable ambience.

Tonight sees the debut of new 3D song (and new single) ‘Alien Expression’. Here, a bass-heavy number is given some contrast with intermittent bright synth riffs. But there’s a percussive strength to much of 3D’s catalogue of tunes, including the menacing tones of ‘I Wanna Riot’. The outcome is that 3D manage to leave an indelible impression on the DEFSynth audience.

Meanwhile, the dancepop delights of Sheffield’s own Voi Vang are framed by her expressive and energetic on-stage choreography. The in-your-face rhythms of ‘Cards’ and ‘Streets Of Gold’ are balanced up with the more wistful tones of ‘Mirror’.

It’s clear that solo star Voi Vang and her self-styled “Experimental Aphotic Pop” have made an impression in recent months (including a legendary live outing at Silicon Dreams last year) and suggests a bright future for this emerging talent.

The evening’s host, Derek Anthony Williams himself, takes to the stage as part of Jan Doyle Band (serving as the in-house band for the DEFSynth events). Unsurprisingly, Williams cuts a striking figure on stage with his punk hair and facepaint, while Michael Stokes fires up the synths. Jan Doyle Band manage to combine a number of distinct influences, from synthpop through to goth and industrial, while Williams recognises no boundary between stage and audience as he cuts shapes to the tunes. The result is as much performance art as it is music performance and, again, the crowd are fully engaged in this electronic theatre.

Joining Jan Doyle Band at the halfway point is the accomplished guitar licks of Valkyrie (who also performs guitar duties for the likes of Lene Lovitch among others). It’s a powerful combination that presents a dynamic set – one that tails out with the unusual (yet effective) cover choice of Toyah’s ‘I Want To Be Free’.

As well as live music, the night is rounded off with some shrewd DJ tunes (including the likes of TR/ST, Lady Gaga, Grimes and Poppy) that keeps things moving – and which also coincides with Voi Vang’s birthday. It provides a suitable ending to a fine Saturday night’s entertainment. At the same time, tonight serves as a demonstration that the DEFSynth events offer up a music calendar fixture that doesn’t disappoint.


DEFSynth return on 4th May with Meganoke (UK debut) along with Cult With No Name, Cyberwaste and Jan Doyle Band. More details: https://www.facebook.com/events/2173549989546143/

https://www.facebook.com/DEFSynth/
https://www.facebook.com/punkdiscoUK/
https://www.facebook.com/voivang13/
https://www.facebook.com/3Dbeats/
https://www.facebook.com/jandoyleband/

All photos by Paul Browne.


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.


Teclist: ODDITY, TWIST HELIX and VOI VANG

This weeks tunes feature the percussive synthpop of ODDITY, the powerful tunes of TWIST HELIX and dancepop goodness of VOI VANG.

ODDITY – Revolution

There’s something magical about the combination between Oddity’s warm synthpop sounds and the visuals of their beguiling video for new outing ‘Revolution’.

Describing themselves as “open, sincere, emotional and moderately ironic music”, the Russian 3-piece outfit consists of Kolya, Andrew and Serg. As a band, their influences and inspirations point in the right direction with an electronic take on Joy Division’s classic ‘Transmission’. Their 2016 EP American Beauty also featured some percussive synth tunes, including the title track – which at times sounds like a collision between Parralox and Electric Youth.

Meanwhile, ‘Revolution’ shows Oddity revealing a much more polished stab at synthpop. The bass-heavy repetitive rhythms which drive the song forward are matched by the mesmerising icy vocals. It’s a perfect storm of stylish synthpop that will hook you from start to finish.

https://www.oddity-music.com/
https://odditymusic.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/musicoddity/


TWIST HELIX – Little Buildings

3-piece synthpop outfit Twist Helix boast dramatic tunes and big, euphoric vocal melodies. Arriving in 2016 on the back of debut single ‘Decade’. they’ve since built up a healthy profile on the festival circuit.

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 (something that TEC favourites Hot Pink Abuse also use to their advantage). The result is a robust tune which is topped off with Bea’s powerful vocals.

There’s an energy to Twist Helix that definitely leaves an impression and they’ve got the chops to make their presence known to a much broader audience on the strength of tunes such as ‘Little Buildings’.

https://www.twisthelix.com/
https://www.facebook.com/twisthelix
https://twisthelix.bandcamp.com/


VOI VANG – Mirror

Mirror by Voi Vang
Voi Vang has been making waves with a number of appearances at electronic events across the UK, including an impressive performance at last summer’s Silicon Dreams event.

‘Mirror’ continues to demonstrate her knack for dance pop 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.

https://voivang.bandcamp.com/releases
https://www.facebook.com/voivang13/


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


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.