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Electronic Sound Issue 29 2017

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THE ELECTRONIC MUSIC MAGAZINE
ISSUE 29
9
772398 139006
29>
E L E CTRO N I C SO U N D
£5.99
NEW ORDER
EXCLUSIVE BERNARD SUMNER INTERVIEW
SAINT ETIENNE
ABBA
JANE WE AVER
MIDGE URE
DJ FOOD
THE ASSOCIATES
WA X T R A X! RECORDS A ND T HE INDUS T RI A L RE VOL U T ION
HOW DOES IT FEEL?
HELLO
WELCOME TO
ELECTRONIC SOUND 29
© Electronic Sound 2017. No part of this magazine may
be used or reproduced in any way without the prior
written consent of the publisher. We may occasionally
use material we believe has been placed in the public
domain. Sometimes it is not possible to identify and
contact the copyright holder. If you claim ownership of
something published by us, we will be happy to make the
correct acknowledgement. All information is believed to
be correct at the time of publication and we cannot accept
responsibility for any errors or inaccuracies there may be in
that information.
ast October we were invited to Düsseldorf, to attend the
second Electri-City conference. You can read all about
it in issue 24, available from our website, although it is
perilously close to selling out, so don’t hang about.
Imagine our delight at finding ourselves walking through the
Carlsplatz Markt – with its many stalls selling delicious food,
where Florian Schneider still likes to sit and drink a coffee from
time to time – chatting with Claudia Schneider-Esleben, sister of
Florian, as she remembered the 1960s, humanising Ralf Hütter and
her brother with anecdotes from the formative days of Kraftwerk.
At the conference itself, we enjoyed talks by Daniel Miller and
John Foxx, who also played live, as did Eric Random, Jimi Tenor,
Rusty Egan, Marshaeux and Cult With No Name. This was all great
stuff, but the experience that had the biggest impact on us was
watching Mark Reeder’s film ‘B-Movie: Lust And Sound In West
Berlin 1979 – 1989’. After the screening, we cornered Mark and
quizzed him further about this extraordinary film. It’s about him,
and the music that was made in that peculiar city, the place where
Bowie had recently made ‘Heroes’, where Blixa Bargeld created
music from urban detritus before starting the Bad Seeds with
Nick Cave, who shared Reeder’s flat. It’s about Gudrun Gut and
her always brilliant music. But it’s also about dissent and violence,
Stasi surveillance, and getting laid and fucked up in a permanent
hedonistic night time of hole-in-the-wall clubs and high-ceilinged
squats with no heating, places that belonged to no one, where
everything and anything, it seemed, was permitted.
Our encounter with Mark Reeder led to an ongoing chat which
came full circle when we spoke to Bernard Sumner about New
Order for our cover feature. Mark and Bernard are old friends,
and Mark had remixed New Order for his forthcoming album. The
resulting Electronic Sound limited edition clear vinyl seven-inch
gives us more pleasure than we can adequately describe. We
know it will sell out quickly, and if you didn’t snag one, do join our
mailing list and be the first to know about our magazine and vinyl
bundles and pre-order to be sure of getting yours in the future.
More delights came our way in the shape of the Wax Trax!
documentary, a label we’ve always had a soft spot for. We
also talk to Saint Etienne, whose new album is nothing short
of a masterpiece, Midge Ure, !!!, DJ Food, Vince Clarke, Phil
Manzanera, Alan Rankine, Jane Weaver, and we’ve even found
room to talk about ABBA.
W W W.EL EC T RONICSOUND.CO.UK
FACEBOOK .COM / EL EC T RONICM AGA ZINE
T W IT TER.COM / EL EC T RONICM AGUK
Electronically yours,
PUSH & MARK
EDITOR
PUSH
@PUSHTWEETING
DEPUTY EDITOR
MARK ROLAND
@MARKROLAND101
ART EDITOR
MARK HALL
@HELLOMARKHALL
COMMISSIONING EDITOR
NEIL MASON
@NEIL_MASON
EDITORIAL ASSISTANT
FINLAY MILLIGAN
@FINMILLIGAN
CONTRIBUTORS
PIERS ALLARDYCE, STEVE APPLETON,
MARK BREND, SEAN COEN, BETHAN COLE,
STEPHEN DALTON, GEORGE FAIRBAIRN,
CARL GRIFFIN, ANDREW HOLMES, VELIMIR ILIC,
JO KENDALL, SOPHIE LITTLE, BEN MILES,
KRIS NEEDS, PETE PAPHIDES, ROBIN RIMBAUD,
CHRIS ROBERTS, WENDY ROBY, FAT ROLAND,
SAM ROSE, MAT SMITH, JOOLS STONE,
DAVID STUBBS, BRIAN SWEENEY, NEIL THOMSON,
ED WALKER, BEN WILLMOTT
ADVERTISING
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PUBLISHED BY
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UNITED KINGDOM
WITH THANKS TO OUR PATRONS:
MARK FORDYCE, GINO OLIVIERI,
DARREN NORTON, MAT KNOX
L
3
CAN
THE BARBICAN, LONDON
8 April 2017
picture:
NEIL THOMSON
Last autumn an email dropped in our inbox,
it was a list of upcoming events among
which it said: “The Can Project, 8 April,
London, Barbican – SOLD OUT”. Sold out!
We hadn’t even blinked. A few frantic phone
calls later and it turns out founding member
Irmin Schmidt would be marking Can’s 50th
anniversary with a special show that would
include the premier of a new orchestral work,
‘Can Dialog’ and an appearance from Can
supergroup, The Can Project.
Too good to miss, right? Roll forward to
8 April, London, Barbican, and Electronic
Sound is in the house.
The night is a proper Can bonanza. Their
writing process involved much improvisation
and hours of editing, more like collage
than composing. ‘Can Dialog’, which forms
the first half of the show, weaves together
“quotations and abstractions” of some
of Can’s best known pieces. Co-written
with Gregor Schwellenbach and performed
by The London Symphony Orchestra
conducted by Schmidt himself, it’s a bit
like ‘Name That Tune’ trying to pick out
what’s what. It’s followed by a second world
premiere, this time of the concert version of
Schmidt’s 2008 ‘La Fermosa, Ballett-Suite’.
But that wasn’t all. Following a screening
of Can’s 1972 performance at Cologne
Sporthalle during the interval (did someone
forget to turn up the volume?), the second
half of the show is The Can Project itself.
A supergroup led by Thurston Moore and
featuring Can’s first singer Malcolm Mooney,
the band features, among others, My Bloody
Valentine’s Deb Googe, Tom Relleen and
Valentina Magaletti, the rhythm section from
London psyche rockers The Oscillation and
Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley. The
double drummer onslaught was undoubtedly
a tribute to the legendary Jaki Liebezeit, who
was due to appear but sadly died in January.
‘Can – The Singles’, a brand new collection
of the band’s singles, is released by Mute
on 16 June. The Can Project, featuring Irmin
Schmidt, will be appearing at this year’s
Glastonbury Festival, 21–25 June
4
THE OPENING SHOT
3Welcome
4
The Opening Shot
THE FRONT
10
DJ Food
11
Sink Ya Teeth
13Anneka
17BardSpec
18
Northern Disco Lights
21
CVX
23
Bernard Sumner
24801
26
Jack Dangers
28
Midge Ure
30
Fat Roland
32
The Associates
34
Synthesiser Dave
FEATURES
38
New Order
48
Saint Etienne
54
Wax Trax!
62
Jane Weaver
66ABBA
70
Coda To Coda
THE BACK
76
Radiophonic Workshop
78
C otton Wolf, L Pierre, Demen,
The Heliocentrics,
79
Vök, Sophie Cooper & Julian Bradley,
Kopf Music, Michael Mayer
80
Maelstrom, Prescott, Ed Banger, Bvdub
81
Moon Duo, Juana Molina, Juveniles,
She Spread Sorrow
82
F orest Swords, The Vacant Lots,
Metamatics
83
!!!
84
Robert Leiner, Martini Ranch
85
Robert Hood, Perfume Genius, Stuff
86
Slowdive, Glass Vaults, Hawke
87
Mono Life, Mark Lanegan Band,
Animat, ToiToiToi, Akatombo,
John Matthias & Jay Auborn
88
S teve Gibbs, Slackk, Looper,
Disco Inferno
89
Ian William Craig, X Marks The Pedwalk,
Kilchhofer/Hainbach, T.Raumschmiere
90
Joni Void, Monkoora, Ikonika,
All The People
91
Pond, Central Processing Unit
92
Vince Clarke, Erasure
93
Penguin Café, Jon Brooks,
Aitor Etxebarria, Art Of Noise
94
Jlin, Goto80, Mt Wolf, Delia Gonzalez
95
Leftfield, Colourbox
9 6Kris Needs
6
CONTENTS
NE W ORDER | PAGE 3 8 | PHOTO: NICK W IL SON
7
8
THE FRONT
WANT
HEX ENDUCTION HOUR
WHIZZY WIRELESS WALL WOOFERS
When it comes to speaker design, the Danish
electronics company Bang & Olufsen are not
mucking about. Their BeoLab 90 Ultimate
speakers, for example, are state of the art
with the emphasis on art. They also cost
£57,295, but hey, in for a penny. Their new
BeoSound Shape speakers, a wall-mounted
wireless modular speaker system, is
somewhat more affordable and customisable.
The hexagons come in three flavours:
speaker, amplifier or acoustic dampener.
When the system hits shops in autumn, you’ll
be to choose your own fabric colour (Parisian
Night Blue, anybody?) and configuration.
Prices start at £3,400. bang-olufsen.com
9
WANT
SIZE MATTERS
NIGHTCLUBBING 2.0
PINT-SIZED OPEN-SOURCE GAMING ON THE GO
THE BRAINCHILD OF DJ FOOD AND PETE WILLIAMS,
THEIR NEW FURTHER NIGHT AIMS TO CREATE FRESH
ENVIRONMENTS TO SOAK UP SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
File this under “retro with a modern twist”. The Arduboy
is an 8-bit, credit card-sized, Game Boy looking device
that can be reprogrammed from a library of games
online. As it’s an open-source machine, you can create
your own games, share them and download ones that
others have created. A PC, a Micro-USB cable and an
internet connection is all you need to get started. Oh, and
knowledge of programming language C++ to make your
games. But don’t worry, there are guides available to get
you started. arduboy.com
READ
A BLINDING READ
THOMAS DOLBY’S BIOG GOES PAPERBACK
The new paperback edition of Thomas Dolby’s memoir,
‘The Speed Of Sound’ has you hooked from the very start,
which finds our hero in a baking phone box at a truck stop
in the middle of the Nevada Desert singing half-cut song
ideas down the line to Michael Jackson. And that’s just
the prologue. A mix of wild tales and a journey through 30
years of mad tech, it’s a total must-read. thomasdolby.com
10
VISIT
words:
NEIL MASON
MARTIN LESANTO-SMITH
picture:
“I only have a vague idea of what Further is and it seems to change
all the time,” says DJ Food as he begins to explain the origins of the
new night. “It’s an attempt to create the kind of space I always
wanted to play in outside of a regular club space, playing music not
tied to a dancefloor and projecting visuals onto every available surface
rather than just the standard rectangle at the back of the room behind
the stage.”
The idea for Further has been a while in the making, with Food half
trying it out with a 360-degree full dome show for planetariums a
couple years ago…
“I’d always wanted to sit in a space and let the music and visuals
consume me from every angle,” he says. “When it worked it was
amazing, but there were too many limitations with that format and
very few venues to do it in effectively.”
So the idea continued to brew until Food bumped into an old friend,
Pete Williams, who he first met back in the late-90s through his work
with Ninja Tune. Pete invited Food to perform an ambient set after
a film show he was putting on at the Portico Gallery in south-east
London and from there the pair began to plot and scheme.
“We realised we wanted to do something different from the
clubbing experience we’d first met in back in the late 90s,” offers
Food, “so the idea was to do an irregular event in different places so
that it can be different every time and our audience never know what
we’ll do with a space until they arrive.”
Influenced by the analogue visuals of clubs like The Fillmore and
The UFO Club, the Arts Lab scene of the 70s, the ambient clubs of the
early 90s and places like Spiritland today, Further developed, erm,
further to include food and drink and even a record stall.
“We ended up securing a studio space at the Portico Gallery
and set about stock-piling all sorts of old projection equipment,
discontinued slide formats and vintage oil wheels to go back to
the analogue side of visual projection, which has an aesthetic we
both love.”
The first dry run was a low-key affair… at The Royal Festival Hall
on London’s Southbank supporting The Orb.
“It was the first time we’d set up a lot of our projection kit in a
public space,” says Food. “The aim was to project both video and
slides onto the 5th floor balcony. We thought that lighting up the
ceiling overlooking the Thames on a Friday night at an Orb gig would
be a fun thing to do.
“It went well, but it wasn’t just us turning up with a laptop and
plugging into a projector, we had five tables of video and slide
projectors pointing at mirrors angled to bounce the images up at 90
degrees. The main problem came when we asked the staff to turn the
lights off inside and on the balcony. The building has an inbuilt ‘night
time’ setting, which doesn’t kick in until 8pm, they’d turn everything
off and 5 minutes later it would be back on again!”
Further’s first outing proper was a sold-out night in early May
at The Portico, the official Further HQ. Complete with record stall
hosted by the Book & Record Bar and a menu provided by Pintadera,
a local Italian café, Food and Pete were ably supported by an
impressive line-up.
THE FRONT
PHOTO: JO MIL L INGTON
“The visual is as important to us as the audio,” says Food, “so
we booked guests based on that side of things as well, hence
getting Ghost Box to do an AV set with Julian House’s visuals and
Howlround to sound track Steven McInerney’s film, ‘A Creak in
Time’ on that first night.”
With more events planned, the pair are approaching museums,
cafés and galleries in a bid to find different spaces to transform
into new places with their light, sound and designs.
“We’re talking to a furniture showroom in Clerkenwell, doing a
mini version in a Nuclear Bunker in Kelvedon in July and, hopefully
something in Liverpool the same week the Justified Ancients of Mu
Mu unveil their latest plans.”
For news about upcoming Further events, keep an eye on djfood.org
INT RODUCING…
SINK YA TEETH
NORWICH DUO’S BASS-FUELLED GNASHERS
WHO THEY?
Sink Ya Teeth is a duo, Maria Uzor and Gemma
Cullingford, who create bass-guitar driven jams of
sparse simplicity, adored with spurts of synthesiser,
wafting samples and droning guitar. Based in Norwich,
they’ve both got previous, Gemma with the indie
darlings KaitO (with Factory Floor’s Nik Colk Void) and
Maria as artful solo provocateur Girl In A Thunderbolt.
WHY SINK YA TEETH?
More like what do they want to sink their teeth into?
“Life!” says Gemma. “Anything and everything you
wanna do. As cheesy as that may sound…”
“The quiet defiance of your flaws and perceived
limitations,” says Maria. “Chin in the air and two
fingers to it all!”
Musically, think ESG and LCD Soundsystem’s
early output, wrangling minimal gear for maximum
groove with lots of space between the simple beats
for breathing and thinking. In places they whip up
a voodoo that’s not a million miles from The Knife’s
irresistibly sinister stylings.
TELL US MORE
There’s a single, ‘If You See Me’, on the 1965 label,
with a dependable woody bassline (which underpins
all of Sink Ya Teeth’s impressive songs) with
Maria Uzor’s vocals intoning that she feels ‘a little
depressed’. It’s been picking up airplay on BBC’s 6
Music and quickly sold out its limited edition vinyl
edition. “We’re talking about releasing a second
single with 1965, and after that who knows?” says
Gemma. “We’ve already written a lot of songs we
want to share so hopefully an album or EP will be on
the cards in the not too distant future, plus we want
to do some more writing.”
MARK ROLAND
‘If You See Me’ is out now on 1965
11
WANT
ON A ROLL
WHEELED SUITCASES?
OLD NEWS, GRANDAD
You know us, there’s always
something on these pages we
find hard to believe exists. This
issue it’s Gita, the intelligent
cargo vehicle. Essentially an
autonomous suitcase, it relieves
you of having to carry anything
on your person. It can follow
you (by tracking you through a
wearable), creating 3D maps of
its surroundings, and can move
independently between places
it’s already been. It also has
the same attention to vehicle
dynamics, safety and braking
that “you would expect of a
high-performance motorcycle”.
No word though on what you
do if you turn round and it’s
not following you anymore.
piaggiofastforward.com
12
THE FRONT
WANT
RADIOPHONIC DIY WORKSHOP
HANDMADE CARD DIORAMAS OF ELECTRONICA ICONS
You know what you need? A handmade card diorama of Delia
Derbyshire, or maybe you’d prefer Daphne Oram. Sean Bright, creator
of these little marvels, we salute you and your madcap brain. The
models measure 12cm x 12cm and require a little assembly when
they arrive, which can only be seen as a bonus. The kits are available
separately or you could snaffle the trilogy by adding the US electronic
maverick Raymond Scott kit, which Sean says is “only slightly less
successful” than the Delia/Daphne sets. “An ideal gift for the sort
of person who would like this sort of thing,” he also says, wisely.
cargocollective.com/SeanBright
INT RODUCING…
ANNEKA
FLOATY COASTAL-TRONICA
WHO SHE?
Brighton-based Anneka is a shimmery songster/
producer whose debut ‘Life Force’ EP has popped up
on the Anti-Ghost Moon Ray label, which the sharper
knives in the Electronic Sound sharp knife drawer will
know lists its proprietor as one Gazelle Twin.
WHY ANNEKA?
WANT
FLASHBACK TO THE FUTURE
ATARI 2600 REVIVED AS A HANDHELD MACHINE
You know the Nintendo Switch? The new portable/home console
hybrid? Forget it. You need the Atari Flashback Portable, the newest
reinvention of 1982’s Atari 2600. With the retro workings of the classic
retro console stuffed into a handheld, you can now enjoy the likes
of ‘Missile Command’ and ‘Centipede’ on the go. It’s got six tactile
buttons, as well as a rounded D-pad, with a 3.2-inch display and an AV
out on top of it, letting you hook it up to the telly. It’s got 60 games preinstalled on it as well. Interested? £49.99 please. coolthings.com
If you’re a friend of Ms G Twin you are very much
a friend of ours. ‘Life Force’ EP doesn’t disappoint.
The soothingly gentle electronic backing track, built
from heavily effected electronics, guitars and field
recordings, underpins the star of the show – Anneka’s
velvety voice. Utilising improvised vocals layered on
top of each other or sampled through effects pedals,
her voice is more often than not used as an instrument
in itself and has adorned records by pals Forest
Swords, Ital Tek and Falty DL.
TELL US MORE
Well, there’s certainly more to Anneka than just those
sleek pipes. The EP comes with a digital booklet
of photographs and artwork in collaboration with
photographer Will Hartley, and Anneka has also
directed and edited videos to accompany three of the
four tracks. Oh, those field recordings? ‘A Strange And
Distant Town’ takes its title from Haruki Murakami’s
novel ‘The Wind Up Bird Chronicle’ and, in a lovely
slice of synchronicity, includes field recordings made
while she was visiting Japan.
SAM ROSE
The ‘Life Force’ EP is out now on Anti-Ghost Moon Ray
13
PLAY
LISTEN
TWO FOR A POUND GET ‘EM WHILE THEY’RE HOT
SAVE OUR SOUNDS
MARKETPLACE FOR KIT FROM THE MAKERS OF DISCOGS
NO7. RARE RECORDING OF RARER INSTRUMENT
If you haven’t yet catalogued your entire record collection on Discogs,
we highly recommend it. Many an evening can evaporate in a haze of
examining run-out grooves to see exactly which pressing of Kraftwerk’s
‘Autobahn’ you own. The good news is that the Discogs spin-off Gearogs,
launched last year, has just become a marketplace, too. “We are on a
mission to be the largest database of audio equipment on the planet,”
they say. “With your help we'll list every turntable, audio recorder,
amplifier, effects pedal, microphone, and every other piece of audio gear
conceived”. There are 12,500 pieces of gear up there at the moment,
from Soviet synths like the 1982 Murom Plant Aelita to apps like Korg’s
Oddyssei. There’s a long way to go, the search function is still a bit
rudimentary, and there’s not much actually for sale yet, but Discogs was
like that once, and look at it now. gearogs.com
LISTEN
I AM THE ONE AND ONLY
PICTURE DISC REVIVIAL STARTS HERE…
You just can’t keep a good format down. Vinyl is well and truly back.
It might not be the mainstream carrier of music it once was (that job
is being handled quite efficiently by streaming), but with vinyl sales
overtaking digital sales for the first time in 2016, and the Rough Trade
shops in London installing new racks to keep up with the demand, you
know that vinyl is back in our lives. Vinyl Art is a company committed
to bringing back that totem of the late 1970s collector, the picture disc.
All you need to do is upload your music and an image, and a few weeks
later your one-off picture disc arrives in the post. It costs £34, and for an
extra £25 it will come in special frame which will eject the disc from the
side, rather like a slot loading CD player, so you can display and play it.
Check out our VCS 3 prototype picture disc, with the audio from an EMS
demo disc: a limited edition of one. vinylart.co
The British Library’s Save Our Sounds project aims to save
the UK’s recorded sounds from extinction… except not all
the sounds originate in the UK, as Curator Of Popular Music
Andy Linehan explains…
Stanley “Spike” Glasser is a London-based, South Africanborn composer and academic perhaps best known as music
director of the South African jazz musical, ‘King Kong’. With
music primarily written by Todd Matshikiza and played by the
likes of Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela and Kippie Moeketsi,
the all-black cast and band first performed the show in South
Africa in 1959 before it moved to London’s West End in 1961.
Many of the cast never returned to South Africa following
the run, and so began an exodus of musicians who became
instrumental in raising international awareness of the
injustices of the apartheid system.
Stanley is also well known for his pioneering contributions to the development of the music department at
London’s Goldsmiths, University of London, where he spent
most of his working life and became Dean of Humanities in
the 1980s. During his time there he was responsible for the
creation of the electronic studios (named after him and in
collaboration with fellow composer, Hugh Davies).
His compositional and academic activities were
underpinned by his life-long love and connection with South
African indigenous music. Introduced to Zulu music as a
teenager by the family’s housekeeper, Shikelela, Stanley
spent time as a young man working at the African Music
Society, which resulted in his making a field trip to what is
now Limpopo province in the north of the country, to study
the music of the Pedi people.
Stanley was particularly interested in a kind of
lamellaphone the Pedi played called the dipila, an instrument
that had not been recorded or studied and was little-known
outside the area. The 18 reel-to-reel tapes he recorded on
his first field trip in 1975, with the help of his wife, Elizabeth,
remain some of the only recordings of this instrument in
existence. These recordings along with selected photos
and notes are now part of the World and Traditional Music
collections in the British Library’s Sound Archive.
For more about the Save Our Sounds project,
see bl.uk/save-our-sounds
14
PLAY
MOOG’S MODULAR MARVEL
CLASSIC IIIC GOES BACK INTO PRODUCTION
The III was because this was the third iteration of Dr
Robert Moog’s modular synthesiser, the ‘c’ refered the
walnut “console” cabinet, which it came neatly packed
in, while the machine itself was pre-configured so
those fledgling synth pioneers of the late 1960s could
start making music as quickly as you can say “you
need to patch the oscillator into an amplifier before
you’re going to hear anything, dude…”. The news
here is that Moog are going to put this beast back into
production, each one filled with 36 modules, including ten
901-Series oscillators. All built by hand from the original
documentation, Moog are going to be making just 25
units. Get your order in early, oh and you’ll need a mere
$35,000 to secure one. moogmusic.com
16
THE FRONT
PHOTO: CHRIS TIAN MIS JE
WANT
THE VINYL COUNTDOWN
FIRM MANUFACTURES FIRST NEW PRESSES SINCE THE 60s
With the vinyl revival picking up pace, there is one big problem. Capacity.
You try booking a slot to get your records pressed these days and you’re
looking at least an eight-week wait and that’s being optimistic. What
you need is a pressing plant in the garden shed, right? With demand
sky-high, you try buying one of those these days. Incredibly, pressing
plants worldwide are still relying on 1960’s tech to knock out the wax
so thank goodness for Viryl Technologies, a Toronto company who’ve
built the Warm Tone record press. These almighty machines are the first
new record presses to be built in 30 years and they tell us there’s two
shipping to a new plant in the UK any day. Want one? That’ll be $195,000
thank you very much. viryltech.com
INT RODUCING…
BARDSPEC
CHILL PILL FOR NORWEGIAN METALLER
WHO THEY?
BardSpec is the ambient project from Ivar Bjørnson,
guitarist from extreme metal band Enslaved. Originally
just a solo outfit, BardSpec has morphed into a band,
with guitars and effects no less. That said, their debut
album ‘Hydrogen’ is quite a leap from the sound of the
Enslaved mothership.
WHY BARDSPEC?
READ
BEAT IT
DEFINITIVE DRUM ’N’ BASS BOOK… CROWDFUNDING NOW
‘Renegade Snares’, a new book by Electronic Sound writer Ben Murphy
and Carl Loben, the Editor of DJ Magazine, promises to be the ultimate
story of drum ’n’ bass.
“Drum ’n’ bass doesn’t, yet, have the definitive book,” Ben told us.
“So there was a void was waiting to be filled. A few have told individual
stories or given accounts of the early years, but we felt there was
a much bigger story to tell about this thrilling and original form of
electronic music, bringing it right up to date.”
With the genre topping the charts in its more commercial form with
artists such as DJ Fresh and Sigma and Goldie performing classic tunes
with a full orchestra in concert halls, the book, which charts the genre
from its roots in the underground 25 years ago gaining unique insight
from the scene’s biggest players including, of course, Goldie, looks well
timed.
“We’ve entered a period of reflection and nostalgia about electronic
dance culture in a way that hasn’t really happened before,” adds Ben.
“People into drum ‘n’ bass the first time round might not necessarily go
clubbing anymore but still enjoy the music and are interested in the history of it. There’s a swell of interest in the genre from a new generation,
as well as older fans. The time is right for ‘Renegade Snares’.”
BardSpec are all hallucinatory synths, fuzzy
electronics and echoing guitars, with some field
recordings and other found-sounds thrown in for good
measure. They’re all about “minimising, subtracting
and meditating upon the simplest essence of ‘things’”,
symbolised with song titles like ‘Bone’ and ‘Salt’; these
“single points” and “basic elements” that make up “the
whole”. Well, you did ask.
TELL US MORE
They’re influenced by such electronic masters as
Tangerine Dream, Conrad Schnitzler and Klaus Schulze,
as well as their own native Norwegian ambient
ambassador Biosphere and the more industrial likes
of metal outfits such as Godflesh. A heady brew,
Bjørnson says it’s the “trance-inducing” aspect of
such music that appeals to him; the idea of listening
to music in a semi-lucid state and not being wholly
aware of any deviations of patterns and frequencies
that occur within the music. Trance-inducing or not,
we like what we’re hearing from BardSpec. More of
this, please.
FINLAY MILLIGAN
‘Hydrogen’ is release on 23 June on By Norse
unbound.co.uk
17
WATCH
“When I sat down to research the story it was evident that
Tromsø was where it all started,” says Davis. “Biosphere and
Mental Overdrive were the first Norwegian dance producers to get
international success and they were both from the city. It was the
LIVING IN A NORWEGIAN ARCTIC TOWN IN THE LATE
obvious place to start when we began filming.” Mental Overdrive
80S? NOTHING MUCH TO DO? FORM YOUR OWN MUSIC
(real name Per Martinsen) who features in the film, says the crowd
SCENE! A NEW FILM, ‘NORTHERN DISCO LIGHTS’, TELLS
he grew up with in Tromsø was very curious, wanting to explore
THE TALE OF TROMSØ AND WHAT HAPPENED NEXT
“alternative music in any form”. They’d read about bands in the
British music press, which allowed them to follow what was going
words: FINLAY MILLIGAN
on “beneath the surface” in other countries. A breakthrough came
when Tromsø local radio station Beatservice started playing more
There was once a group teenagers from a remote Norwegian town
internationally recognised artists (from Prince to The Cure), which
called Tromsø. It was the late 1980s, and in their remote Norwegian
led to others setting up their own radio shows that allowed them to
town, there wasn’t an awful lot to do, so things could get rather
knock out Detroit techno at tea time. In turn, their shows allowed the
boring. To escape their boredom, they set about creating their own
youth to discover music that they would previously never have been
fun. They built their own synths, set up pirate radio stations and
able to find. Were there specific international music influences that
threw crazy warehouse parties, kickstarting a scene that would
had an impact on the youth of Tromsø?
change dance music and Norway forever. And all from their small
“It’s hard to pinpoint specific influences,” says Davis. “Musically
Norwegian town of Tromsø. Now a new film, ‘Northern Disco Lights’,
what was going on around that time, which would have been posttells their story.
punk, was lo-fi but it still packed a groove. It came from a very DIY
‘Northern Disco Lights’, which has been two and half years in
culture that I think would have been very inspirational. There was
the making and is directed by Ben Davis, co-founder of dance label
Paper Recordings, begins with a brief overview of Norwegian society. also the industrial scene and krautrock that morphed into early
Understanding it is key to understanding the rise of Norwegian dance techno.”
These new sounds encouraged further developments. Record
music. With its vast tundras, snowy mountainsides, and turquoise
shops were set up, which in turn acted like youth clubs where
lakes that would turn glacial in the freezing winters, Norway has
musicians like Bjørn Torske, Erot and the Röyksopp boys would gather
always had survival at the centre of its culture. The scene that began
for hours chatting and listening to new records and, as you learn in
in Tromsø was a survival mechanism; a way of “trying to escape
the film, drinking insane amounts of Coca Cola. One story in the film
the dull reality of living in Norway”. When asked in the film what
recalls an ‘Animal House’-inspired party that managed to have an
Norwegians played before the surge of dance music, producer DJ
attendance of some 2,000 people while only selling 1,200 tickets, with
Strangefruit replies “mostly shit music”. So why Tromsø? Why was it
people “crawling on the roof and coming in by the ventilators”.
the spark that started the fire?
PEOPLE POWER IN THE DISCO HOUR
18
As a result of all this, teenagers in their bedrooms
became global stars. Norway was now exporting its own
music, with Norwegian dance and disco embraced by other
like-minded countries. I ask Davis if Tromsø itself inspired
any similar music scenes.
“I think it needs to be seen more in the context of what it
kick-started in terms of the whole Norwegian scene that has
gone on to be very influential,” he says. “As a whole I think
they contributed to the re-emergence of disco and gave it
credibility that had maybe been lacking for some people.
They have also made people integrate their own nationalities
and country’s quirks into the naming and concepts behind
records, which in turn has injected a lot of fun into the
process.”
‘Northern Disco Lights’ charts a previously untold story
of sonic exploration and innovation, as well as reminding us
that where there’s a will, there is certainly a way. It features
a wealth of contributions and unseen archive footage, as
well as interviews from the likes of Lindstrøm, Prins Thomas,
Nemone and even Roxy Music’s Bryan Ferry (due to his work
with Norwegian DJ Todd Terje). How did that come about?
“[Norwegian producer] Rune Lindbæk set us up,” says Davis.
“Bryan Ferry’s son Isaac manages him and is a big fan of
Norwegian disco. It took a bit of working the schedules, but
we got there in the end!”
‘Northern Disco Lights’ is available now on iTunes and
Google Play, while the soundtrack is out now on on Paper
Recordings
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20
THE FRONT
PLAY
RED PILL BLUE PILL
ARTURIA SET NEW HIGH-WATER MARK
The Arturia MatrixBrute is one of the most
anticipated synths of recent times. The French
software/hardware company has more than
proved its synthy skills with the MicroBrute and
their myriad software emulations of classics,
but the MatrixBrute ups the ante by placing
a button-push matrix at the heart of a threeoscillator analogue synth that would be special
without the matrix.
It gives the synthesist about as much routing
as its possible to have. It can be monophonic
and paraphonic, with keyboard splitting also an
option. The matrix itself has three modes, for
recalling presets, as a sequencer or modulation
patching. The control panel can sit flat or be
upright, like a Minimoog, and the inputs allow
you to patch another instrument through the
synth’s VCA and effects, and its has 12 CV ins
and outs. We had one in the office for a couple
of weeks and we have only skimmed the surface
of its sonic capacity. This is a beautifully
designed synth with genuinely new sound
creation possibilities. arturia.com
INT RODUCING…
CVX
DANCEY BRAWN + PHILOSOPHER’S BRAIN
WHO HE?
Once the creative force behind the well-regarded
but short-lived experimental post-rock act Sian Alice
Group, London-based CVX’s Rupert Clervaux is one
of those under-the-radar types who’s worked with
the likes of Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor, Beatrice Dillon
and This Heat’s Charles Hayward. Oh and also, he’s
drummed for Jason Spaceman. The CVX moniker
is new though, and his current release ‘Zibaldone’
showcases his searching, percussive, cerebrally
electronic experimentalism to bravura effect.
WHY CVX?
If you like a bit of swirling, out-of-time intellectual
substance to underpin your electronic poison,
then ‘Zibaldone’ will excite a part of your brain that
other releases might struggle to reach. Clervaux
explores the foggy borderland between authorial
re-appropriation and bare-faced plagiarism. Among
other things, he asks – in an easy age of convenience
for digital music composition – some long-overdue
questions about creative originality.
TELL US MORE
Previous release ‘Chthonic 97’ references Clervaux’s
more distant creative past, when in 1997 he and his
then-collaborator K1 self-released a long-player
with the help of the FatCat shop in London’s Covent
Garden, dispersing any remaining copies to passing
DJs playing at Steve Bicknell’s legendary LOST nights,
which the pair attended with devotional fervour. It’s
worth hunting down and, helpfully, it was reissued
last year from the original vinyl and released on
Amsterdam’s Lobby Boy label. You might even get
away with calling the tunes intelligent bangers.
CARL GRIFFIN
‘Zibaldone’ is out now on Laura Lies In
21
WANT
WIRELESS
FOR SOUND
‘PHONES THAT
WOW THE EARS
Those clever
people at AudioTechnica have
recently unveiled
their new wireless
headphones.
Using their own
Pure Digital Drive
technology, it
does away with
the need to have
a digital/analogue
converter which can
degrade the signal.
The headphones
support the new
wireless aptX HD
codec, and AAC
and SBC codecs
up to 24-bit/48kHz
in Bluetooth mode,
and 24-bit/96kHz
over USB. There
are two flavours,
the ATH-DSR9BT,
which boasts four
core voice coil, and
the ATH-DSR7BT
(single core). And if
you’re connected to
your phone, there’s
a microphone on
board, and you
can use the touch
controls to answer
and end calls, as
well as control
volume, playback
and pausing.
Blimey eh?
eu.audio-technica.com
22
WANT
VISIT
LIFE’S A ROLAND COASTER
BERNARD IN IBIZA
KEEP YOUR CUPPA ON CLASSIC MACHINES
NEW ORDER FRONTMAN HEADLINES CONFERENCE BILL
You know what you need? A TB-303 coaster to put you
steaming cup of Yorkshire’s finest on, that’s what. Don’t
fancy the 303? Fret not, there’s also the TR-808 coaster…
the TR-909 coaster. Still not tickling your pickle? A 707
anyone? You can, if you’re being really obscure, rest your
cuppa on a flipping 727 for crying out loud. Search Etsy
for Most Wanted Creations. etsy.com
The International Music Summit, the TED of music conferences,
continues its admirable quest to support electronic music when it
kicks off in its spiritual home later this month. The three-day summit
celebrates its 10th anniversary on the White Isle with a raft of events,
shows, talks, workshops and the like, but the undoubted star turn will be
New Order’s Bernard Sumner giving a keynote speech.
“I hope it’s a question and answer,” he told us when we spoke to him
exclusively for this issue’s cover feature. “I don’t think I’ve ever made a
speech in my life.”
“New Order are one of those bands who pre-date DJ culture and their
music has inspired most artists I know,” said IMS big chief Ben Turner
when we asked why he lined up Sumner. “‘Technique’ is probably the
most influential record to be recorded on the island of Ibiza and the
fact Bernard continually says he can’t remember anything about the
recording process intrigued me, so we plan to play him every track on
the album to see if we can unlock the memories!”
Bernard Sumner will be in good company as previous IMS keynotes
have included Jean-Michel Jarre, Nile Rodgers, George Clinton, Giorgio
Moroder and Pet Shop Boys. IMS Ibiza takes place from 24-26 May, our
cover feature starts on page 38. internationalmusicsummit.com
23
PHIL M ANZ ANER A
24
TIME MACHINE
TIME MACHINE
BACK WHEN THINGS WEREN’T HOW THEY ARE NOW
WE’RE HEADING BACK TO THE SIZZLING SUMMER OF 1976, WHERE ONE-TIME
ROXY MUSIC COLLEAGUES PHIL MANZANERA AND BRIAN ENO ARE HEADING
UP THE INTENSE BUT BRIEF EXPERIMENT THEY CALLED 801
words:
PUSH
The third and final gig was a headlining show at the Queen
In the summer of 1976, as Britain enjoyed the longest stretch of hot
Elizabeth Hall in London on 3 September. The set was recorded and
weather on record and The Clash and The Damned played their first
released by Island as ‘801 Live’ a few weeks later and stands as a
ever live gigs, four men gathered in a cottage in rural Shropshire.
They were all significant figures on the UK music scene and they were fascinating testimony to the intense if brief experiment that was 801.
It’s almost a sort of bridging album,with heavy doses of prog, strong
there at the instigation of Phil Manzanera, guitarist with Roxy Music,
hints of new wave, and plenty of innovative electronic sorcery. The
who were on a break at the time. Brian Eno had played alongside
version of Manzanera’s ‘Diamond Head’ is head-spinningly beautiful
Manzanera in the earliest days of Roxy. Bill MacCormick had been
and proves that there’s so much more to guitars than big riffs and
a member of Quiet Sun, Manzanera’s pre-Roxy band, before joining
long solos, while their take on Eno’s ‘Third Uncle’ is as fierce as
Robert Wyatt in Matching Mole. The fourth man was Bill’s brother
anything you’d hear at a punk club over the next couple of years.
Ian, who had written lyrics for Quiet Sun, but was best known as Ian
Of particular note is ’TNK’, a dramatic version of The Beatles’
MacDonald, assistant editor of the NME.
’Tomorrow Never Knows’ underpinned with glorious synth washes.
Manzanera, Eno and MacCormick had been discussing the idea of
“That was always one of my favourite Beatles tracks and at that
recording together for a while, but during their stay in Shropshire they
point nobody else had covered it,” says Manzanera. “It sort of felt
came up with an idea for a band that put their original plans on the
back-burner. The result was 801, named after a reference in ‘The True like an outrageous thing to do, but I thought it was perfect for that
particular combination of musicians. Eno had a cassette of random
Wheel’ on Eno’s ‘Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)’ album – “We
are the 801 / We are the central shaft” – and an outfit quite unlike any stuff he’d recorded from the radio, which he turned on when we
started playing ’TNK’ and it comes in and out throughout track. So
other, either before or since.
we utilised some of the ideas behind the original ‘Tomorrow Never
“It was a crazy project,” admits Phil Manzanera over four decades
Knows’ in terms of using extraneous sounds, but then we had all this
on. “There were basically two premises for 801. The first was that it
great musicianship too.
would be a band that would only last for six weeks, which was a very
“The Queen Elizabeth Hall gig went very well and people seemed to
Eno type of concept. The second was that the line-up would bring
like it. They seemed to like it a lot. I remember thinking, ‘Oh, that’s it,
together people who were highly technical musicians with others
it’s over, that’s not a very clever career plan, is it?’. But then we all got
who were totally against even the notion of technique. The whole
on with other things, exactly as we’d planned to do. Something I was
thing was designed as an experiment, both in terms of music and
especially pleased about was how much interest there was in Simon
format, with no purpose other than to see what happened.”
Phillips after 801. He was incredible for his age. I mean, ‘801 Live’ is
Keyboardist Francis Monkman from Curved Air and slide guitarist
worth getting for the drums alone. Everybody who saw Simon at that
Lloyd Watson, who had played on Eno’s ‘Here Come The Warm Jets’,
gig thought, ‘Bloody hell, who’s this guy?’ and he got so much work
were hastily recruited and the line-up of 801 was completed by a
as a result, with Mick Jagger, Robert Fripp, Stanley Clarke and many
then unknown 18-year old drummer called Simon Phillips. Manzanera
more. These days, he’s one of the most famous drummers in
booked some rehearsal time at Island Records, where they started
the world.”
reworking tracks from Manzanera and Eno’s solo albums, plus a
That wasn’t quite it for 801, though. There was actually a second
couple of old Quiet Sun songs and a couple of covers. As the sessions
release, a studio album called ‘Listen Now’, which came out in 1977,
got underway, Manzanera arranged for the group to play three gigs
but this was essentially a Manzanera, MacCormick and MacDonald
at the end of the six-week period. The first was a low-key set at
record with a bit of help from guests such as Godley & Creme and
West Runton Pavilion in Norfolk on 26 August, which was followed
Tim Finn from Split Enz. Manzanera admits they just used the name
by an appearance at the 1976 Reading Festival two days later. The
801 to capitalise on the success of the Reading and Queen Elizabeth
Reading gig was billed as “Phil Manzanera”, with Eno and their other
Hall shows.
associates’ names underneath in smaller letters.
“801 was brilliant fun and I’m still in touch with everybody who
“Yes, quite right that everybody else’s names were smaller than
was involved, but there’s no question of a reunion,” notes Manzanera,
mine,” jokes Manzanera. “I suppose the organisers billed it like that
who co-produced David Gilmour’s ‘Rattle That Lock’ album and was a
because Roxy were at their height at the time whereas nobody knew
key member of the Pink Floyd man’s live set-up.
what the hell 801 was, let alone what we might sound like. The gig
“For one thing, there’s no way I’d even suggest something like that to
was very nearly a disaster because Francis Monkman got stuck in a
Eno. It’s not in his nature to do the same thing twice. And although
traffic jam and only just made it. We thought we were going to have
801 did feel more like a band than a project, we really couldn’t have
to play without him right up until five minutes before we went on. The
relief of him turning up meant we actually played quite well. John Peel stayed stayed together any longer than six weeks without killing
each other.”
said some lovely things about us afterwards.”
25
THE SCHOOL OF
E LEC TRONIC MUSIC
IS IT MUSIC? OR JUST A SOUND EFFECT? THE QUESTION
THAT HAS DOGGED ELECTRONIC MUSIC FROM ITS
INCEPTION GETS SHORT SHRIFT FROM OUR IN-HOUSE
WAX OBSESSIVE
words:
JACK DANGERS
I noticed that there was a Tristram Cary release on
Record Store Day this year. It was a luminous vinyl 10inch of the electronic music and sounds which Tristram
Cary produced for the Hammer Horror 1967 film version
of ‘Quatermass And The Pit’. That film really scared
me when I was a kid. They’re doing some construction
work in a tube station and they find this spaceship when
they’re digging. In an early scene there’s a worker in a
donkey jacket drilling away, and the tone of the drill starts
to resonate at this particular frequency, and everything
starts going crazy. He runs out in the street, all the
cobble stones are coming up, it’s terrifying.
Cary’s soundtrack was very noisy tape feedback stuff,
but it was really effective. He knew what he was doing.
If he’d used an orchestra, it wouldn’t have been half as
creepy or scary, so at that point it is music. But when
you’ve made a decision that you don’t want something
organic, you want some thing alien and otherworldly, why
at that point is that not music? Now it’s being brought out
as a record, someone is at last seeing it as music, and
that’s how I’ve always seen it.
My favourite sound effects album is ‘Star Trek: Sound
Effects From The Original TV Soundtrack’. It’s been
re-released on CD, and the original vinyl isn’t especially
rare, but it’s just beautiful. The ambient sound when
they land on a new planet, ‘Alien Planet Surface’, that’s
haunted me all my life. They spent so much time on those
sounds. There’s a few theories on where the sound of the
doors opening on the Enterprise orginated, from paper
sliding out of an envelope followed by a squeaky shoe
to a reversed recording of an underwater harpoon firing.
They knew they wanted to use something organic, but
treat it in a weird way. They took that kind of care with
every sound, and all of them are genius and still stand out
today. They’re much more musical than sound effects in
sci-fi now. The sounds are more functional these days,
more an attempt to be realistic.
There’s a documentary about the sound design in
’Star Wars’, and they’re working on the sound of the
Millennium Falcon – I’m not a ’Stars Wars’ expert, but
that ship’s supposed to be a bit of a crate, right? – and
they recorded the sound of an old prop aeroplane
26
backfiring, and then they used this huge 24-track studio
on LA to prcess it, using all the tracks for that one sound!
John M Peters, who did a lot of the ‘Star Wars’ sounds,
released ‘Science Fiction Sound Effects’ in 1978. It’s
pretty good, actually. ‘Star Wars’ was the point when
effects changed from being electronic sounds to being
more “real”.
There was a debate about whether the sounds Brian
Hodgson made for the TARDIS were music or not. The
prevailing attitude was that it wasn’t music, but it was
created using techniques not a million miles from John
Cage’s prepared piano pieces. It’s a direct link to other
forms of art which were known as music, but it was
completely thrown away because it was the “sound
effects team”. The whole Radiophonic Workshop was
like that. It was never taken as seriously as it should have
been, not until it closed!
Which brings me to the second best sound effects
record – ‘Out Of This World’, the 1976 BBC Radiophonic
Workshop album. It’s more or less all Synthi 100 stuff. I
have the Japanese version, too, which is very hard to find.
I didn’t even know it existed, but there it is.
Folkways released an album called ‘Science Fiction
Sound Effects Record’ by Mel Kaiser in 1958, which was a
pretty early example and wasn’t considered music. Kaiser
was a sound engineer who worked on quite a few albums
of sounds and field recordings, including ‘Documentary
Sounds Volume 1’ in 1962, which includes a track called
‘Group Of Women Gabbing – Tea Party’.
I did a science fiction sound effects album myself in
2004. It was my version of ‘Forbidden Planet’, which I
was doing live at a few avant-grade festivals. I stripped
out the original music and added my own stuff. It was
a double CD, one was the music, the other with sound
effects. I got in touch with Bebe Barron, who recorded
the original soundtrack back in 1956 with her husband
Louis, and we were in touch for a while. The soundtrack
was released in 1976, there was a limited edition of 1,500,
with some of them signed by Louis and Bebe.
THE SCHOOL OF ELECTRONIC MUSIC
27
28
UNDER THE INFLUENCE
UNDER THE INFLUENCE
A MAN WHO NEEDS NO INTRODUCTION… OH GO ON THEN. VISAGE
LINCHPIN, ULTRAVOX FRONTMAN, BAND AID MASTERMIND AND
SOLO ARTISTE, MIDGE URE SHARES A FEW FORMATIVE INFLUENCES
interview :
JOOLS STONE
INSTRUMENTALS
JAPAN
“It’s the music you discover in your younger years, when you didn’t
“In the early 80s when I started touring regularly I became fascinated
quite understand what music is, that stays with you the longest.
with Japan. It was one of the few places I’d been which felt and
Instrumentals always played a big part in my life. And one of my
looked so radically different, in terms of the culture, the language, the
earliest musical memories was hearing this wonderfully atmospheric, look, the technology… everything really. It was just such an inspiring
beautiful instrumental tune on the radio called ‘Sleep Walk’ by Santo
country because of the contrasts in the culture at the time: the
& Johnny, a couple of lap steel guitar players who I think came from
traditional dress juxtaposed with all the incredible technology.
New York.
“The first time Ultravox toured there I remember bringing a koto
“This was in the late 50s, so I must’ve been six or seven when I first back with me on the plane. I’m sure me dragging this six-foot-long
heard it. It has this feeling of immense space and ethereal otherinstrument on board on an economy ticket delighted the airline staff!
worldliness to it. That haunting, atmospheric slide guitar has stuck
I think I used it on a solo track called ‘Edo’ [from 1985’s ‘The Gift’].
with me, it sounds more like some angelic human voice than a guitar.
“When I first visited I was on tour with Thin Lizzy. The entire crew
“This led me towards a wealth of other material from that era, stuff
came back with first-generation Sony Walkmans, and instead, for
like Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Albatross’ and ‘The Supernatural’ by John
some reason, I bought a cookbook and this enormous ghettoblaster,
Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, but ‘Sleep Walk’ is the one that left a
which was bigger than any of the equipment Ultravox owned. I took it
lasting impact. All through my career, I’ve tried to recreate those sort
on tour in America and and can remember blasting it out the windows
of atmospherics. Growing up in the slums on the outskirts of Glasgow, of the tour bus as we drove along the highways.”
tracks like this really had the power to transport me to another place.
Ultravox’s ‘Sleepwalk’ [on the ‘Vienna’ album] has nothing to do
MY PRIMARY SCHOOL TEACHER, MISS GEBBIE
with this one though. Our heavy metal synth workout is an entirely
“The one stand-out person in my formative years was a young primary
different beast.”
school teacher from the north of Scotland. She was the first person
who spent real time with me and thought I was worthy of anything.
I wasn’t very interested in school, but she saw something in me,
AFTERNOON MOVIES ON TV
honed in on my creative bent and encouraged it. She taught me how
“I can remember being ill, off school at home lying on the sofa, and
to draw a simple face when I was about nine or 10 and I ended up
catching this black and white movie on TV. ‘On the Beach’ was an
using that basic template to design the Visage logo.
adaptation of a novel by Nevil Shute. It’s about this group of people
“I got to meet her again a few years ago and had the opportunity to
on a submarine who have survived a nuclear war. They wash up in
tell her about this, which was such a wonderful moment to share with
Australia, which is home to the only other survivors on Earth.
her. She also played a role in my very earliest forays into playing live
“The film explores how these people choose to live out their final
music. When we met she reminded me about stuff I’d long forgotten,
moments, all knowing that the imminent fallout is on the way, which
such as performing in our Scout troop’s annual show, which
is exactly what ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’ was about. That
she helped organise. I think I played Herman’s Hermits’ ‘I’m Into
recurring, apocalyptic theme has permeated an awful lot of my work
Something Good’. Looking back, she played a massively influential
since.
role in getting me started.”
“I think some of that childhood film-watching rubbed off on me
when we came to make videos, especially for ‘Passing Strangers’ and
‘Vienna’. Our record company wanted to just film us playing in a studio, Midge Ure plays Let’s Rock 80s alongside The Human League, ABC
and Nik Kershaw in Bristol (2 June) and Norwich (24 June). For more,
but we said no, we want to shoot on 16mm film and do something
visit letsrock80s.com
more interesting. We found Russell Mulcahy, an emerging filmmaker,
who helped us get the aesthetic right. ‘Vienna’ in particular was all
shadows on the cobbles – all very ‘Third Man’, very film noir and we
cropped the film to make it look like CinemaScope.
“After it came out, Russell was very much in demand. The funny
thing was, being Australian, Russell had a slightly wonky mental
image of Vienna. He wanted canals and gondoliers, so we had to
explain to him that was Venice, not Vienna.”
29
BA NGING ON
DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMTANCES, FEED OUR MILDLY
DANGEROUS COLUMNIST MAGIC MUSHROOMS. HE CAN’T
EVEN TAKE REGULAR ONES WITHOUT GETTING OFF HIS
NUT. PEOPLE, RUN FOR YOUR LIVES, NO ONE IS SAFE…
words:
FAT ROLAND
There’s this bloke called Brian Eno. He’s famous for
making music that sounds like a fridge with a sustain
pedal. He’s a bit like Davros, but instead of trundling
around in a mobility scooter converted from a swing bin
he’s got Casio keyboards for feet.
Listen, I haven’t got time to explain who Brian Eno is,
I’ve got beef stew and dumplings burning in the oven,
and my neighbour’s having one of his loud séances. I’m
stressed enough without you forgetting to Google things
before reading this column. Do you want me to write
you a glossary in my own tears? Is that what you want?
Where were we?
So Brian Eno is this mad genius who looks like
the Twitter egg and invented cards called ‘Oblique
Strategies’. These cards were the original Facebook
image memes, but in the 1970s before they had the
internet or pictures. Imagine ‘Cards Against Humanity’,
but with all the slapstick strangled out of them. ‘Oblique
Strategies’ contain phrases like “do the same again, but
dressed as Penfold from Danger Mouse” or “have you
claimed PPI in the past three years”? They’re designed
to make you think weird, like this column. Well, buffalo,
I don’t mind telling you that I consider myself a pretty
oblique person too.
See how I exchanged the word “reader” for “buffalo”
in that last sentence? Case in point. Therefore, in an
Electronic Sound exclusive, I am proud to announce
the production of my own cards. They are called,
um, ‘Bloblique Blategies’. Yeah, that’ll do. ‘Bloblique
Blategies’ will make your mind do amazing tricks like
a jellyfish on a jetski. Here is a list of “cards” you will
get in the first release of these unique inspirational
prompts. Card number one is a VD clinic loyalty card,
unregistered, edged in ink from a leaking pen. Card
number two is a napkin with Harry Styles’s phone
number on. Probably, I dunno, I wrote it myself. Card
30
number three is a bit of grey fluff I kiss to bed every night
because I have attachment issues. Card number seven is
a Polaroid taken through my neighbour’s back window,
I mean SERIOUSLY who has a drunken séance at seven
in the morning?! Card number 19 is a 250-page poem
written in yeast. Card number 73 is the feeling of chafing
underwear amid a long hike.
Other “cards” include sewing patterns, a goldfish
bowl and the ability to turn into coal. Buy ‘Bloblique
Blategies’ now and receive the limited edition
magnesium set that bursts into blinding white heat
just five seconds after opening. Oh how you’ll laugh as
everything you love burns down.
I’m not saying I’m better than Brian Eno, but I think
my new product has legs. No seriously, cards 101 to 150
actually have legs. I smell your scepticism and indeed,
other people have released unusual products and failed.
Remember ‘Ant & Dec’s Better Sex Guide’? Exactly.
Rihanna’s celebrity doilies? Thought so. Apparently Boris
Johnson’s yoga videos caused a 16 per cent increase in
hernias in the Greater London area.
It’s not easy being a genius, just ask Brian Eno. You
know. Brian Eno. Looks like he’s doing an impression
of his own brain? No? Looks like an Easter Island doll?
Oh never mind, I’ve not got time for this, I’ve got burnt
dumplings to munch.
BANGING ON
31
32
LANDMARKS
LA ND MA RK S
THE ASSOCIATES’ ALAN RANKINE TALKS US THROUGH THE
MAKING OF ‘PARTY FEARS TWO’, ONE OF THE GREATEST POP
SONGS EVER WRITTEN
interview :
picture:
STEPHEN DALTON
SHELIA ROCK
“‘Party Fears Two’ was released in 1982, but the bulk of
it was actually written in 1977. When Billy [Mackenzie]
and I wrote that motif we both just said, ‘This is great!’.
We knew it was good, but we couldn’t use it then and
knew we couldn’t use it in 78, or 79… or 1980. We only
recorded it properly in 1981. We did a rough demo of it
early in 1981 and that’s really what got us signed to a
major record label.
“The reason we hung onto ‘Party Fears Two’ was
because we knew we would waste it, that it would
probably scupper our chances if we released it too soon.
The charts at that time were full of punk, post-punk, goth,
disco, and cringingly bad stuff like Modern Romance or
frigging Dollar or something. God almighty. None of it
fitted with what we were doing. Not by a long way. It was
only when it got to 1981, with the single coming coming
out in March 1982, that’s when it felt right.
“’Party Fears Two’ was originally called ‘I Never Will’,
and with this particular song we came up with the piano
motif first: dum diddle um-dum dum dum dum dum… The
key changes in that are going G major, D major, A minor,
and then it suddenly goes to F major and changes key
before it has even got to the end of the second bar. All
that was done on a piano and by the time we’d got to the
chorus Bill had two or three different things going round
in his head. So it started off as ‘I Never Will’, but he knew
there was something not right about that. He didn’t want
to get the lyric wrong, but he didn’t quite have it down
two years before it came out! I still think he was swaying
either way about what to sing, ha! Billy just did what
came into his head, but it didn’t really matter because
when we did the rough demos – we did ‘Party Fears Two’
and ‘Club Country’ at the same time – it was the energy
that was going to carry these songs.
“The actual recording was really easy. We got a
jangle piano in, that’s a piano where the beater hits little
rectangular bits of metal before the strings. So that was
analogue, but at the same time we had some Synclavier
strings in there too. There’s some fairly frenetic guitar
on there as well. We always experimented in the studio,
we didn’t like to be too prescriptive and have everything
already worked out. Any studio, no matter how high end
or lo-fi, it’s a kind of artificial environment. If you’re going
to use that as another instrument, if you like, you need to
give it some headroom, you’ve got to let it breathe. You
want some kind of open-endedness.
“So we did those demo recordings between 9pm and
9am at Morgan Studios in London one night sometime in
early 1981. Strangely, we put both ‘Party Fears Two’ and
‘Club Country’ down
in the same session and we just knew. We played them to
our publisher the next morning and we could see by the
fact that he wasn’t saying very much that, yes, we’ll be
able to sign to a major with this. And I think within three
weeks we were signed to Beggars Banquet/Warners.
“We still didn’t fit the charts at the time. We weren’t
new romantic, we didn’t obey any rules. We just didn’t fit.
We were a bit barking mad. But when you have hit singles
you just go along for the ride. You do all your TV shows,
your mimes and your playbacks, sometimes singing live,
sometimes completely miming. Once that machines kicks
into play you’ve really just got to go with it.
“You could sense Bill wasn’t comfortable with that
sort of success pretty soon. With ‘Party Fears Two’ and
then ‘Club Country’ it was fine, but by the time we got to
‘18 Carat Love Affair’ it was beginning to get a little bit
weird. And then, with a world tour booked and coming
up, Bill just said, ‘There’s no way I’m fucking doing this, I
can’t’. I don’t hold that against him in any way, he didn’t
feel comfortable. He didn’t even like rehearsing, he
would take the piss out of ‘Party Fears Two’. I think he
just wanted to create, he didn’t want to do what was
seemingly required of you. He just felt that
was stagnation.”
33
SYNTHESISER DAVE’S
WORKSHOP
RESIDENT FIXER OF UNDER THE WEATHER ELECTRONICS
IN FOR REPAIR: KORG X3
LESS THAN A QUARTER OF A CENTURY OLD, THIS X3
ISN’T AN ELDERLY SYNTH, BUT IT NEEDS A LOT OF TLC
Korg’s X3 is a particularly lovely beastie of its type from 1993,
designed to be a replacement for the Korg M1, with lots more of
everything, including 32-note polyphony (instead of a miserly eight),
336 programs, 200 combo programs, a pretty chunky onboard
sequencer for its time, 47 digital effects and a floppy disk drive!
Like the M1 and the various O1 variants, it uses Korg’s own-brand
AI² synthesis, which it’s probably easiest to think of as mostly an
ordinary synth, but with PCM sampled sounds where the oscillators
should be. The sample ROM gives you 340 sounds to mess about with,
as well as a further 163 just to use as drum sounds, and if that isn’t
enough, there’s a socket for ROM cards – if you can still find any.
I actually bought this one very cheaply knowing a fair old bit of
work was required. The plan was to sell it when it was done, but I’ve
grown rather fond of it, so it’s going to replace the M1 in my studio.
So… what’s wrong? Well, the usual suspects. All the push buttons
except two were non-functioning, so time to replace them all. They’re
easy to change, but the the prong (technical term) that sticks out the
top is longer than on standard buttons of that ilk, so make sure you
get the right ones. If, like me, you have hundreds of the shorter ones
lying around, it’s actually quite easy to cut off the ends of the old ones
and stick them on the top of the new ones with superglue.
The data entry slider was also totally dead. It’s a standard 45mm
10k slider pot, you used to get them on everything (the SH-101 is made
of the buggers), but they seem to be almost impossible to find at the
moment. Luckily I have a few secondhand spares about the place, so
one of those will do until I find some new ones. The display backlight
is dead, but there’s not much you can do about that. If you see one for
sale it’ll be out of a scrapped synth, cost a fortune, and will probably
only last a few months. Buy a torch, and curse the blighter who
invented back lighting.
And finally, the floppy disk drive. Is it worth bothering with? Well,
it’ll only save sequencer data and patch settings, both of which
can be saved and loaded over MIDI, and refurbishing one isn’t for
the faint-hearted. It isn’t a standard drive, but has fewer pins on its
connector, a different controller chip, and, wait for it, is belt driven!
Replacement belts are fairly easy to find, but this one has a seized-up
head mechanism, so complete, careful dismantling and lubricating is
required. I’ll get round to it sometime. Luckily I keep a few spares that
I’ve already refurbished so I can just swap them over.
I like these synths, they’re very underrated at the moment – you
can pick them up for £80–£150 even on eBay. The actual keyboard is a
nice Yamaha job (as Korg keyboards were from the M1 onwards), and
as long as they haven’t been gigged around the world for years like
this one they’re remarkably robust. I’m amazed it survived!
34
SYNTHESISER DAVE
A BIT OF R ANDOM BOA RD CORROSION – 2 0 YE A RS OF
SW E AT Y AFROPOP W ILL DO THAT TO A SYNTH
FLOPPY DISKS AND RUBBER BANDS – VANGEL IS BUILT
HIS CA REER ON SUCH THINGS
IF YOU LOOK UNDER THAT W IRE ACROSS THE BIG
BROW N BIT IT SAYS ‘ YA M AHA’. YES, THE Y M ADE THE
KE YBOA RDS (AND THE HORRIBL E DISK DRIVES!)
35
SYNTHESISER DAVE'S WORKSHOP
SPARES & REPAIRS
IT’S ALL GO AT THE WORKSHOP THIS MONTH, AS DAVE
EXPLAINS WHY YOU DON’T NEED AN OPTO-ISOLATOR IN
YOUR SYNTH THESE DAYS… OR DO YOU?
Unless it’s a very early one indeed, your synth probably has a number
of little black chips that do various complicated things, but if it’s
equipped with MIDI, the chances are there’s one lurking near the
sockets that’s a bit different, and that will probably be the snappily
named 6N135.
What does it do? Well, you put MIDI data in one end, and exactly
the same data comes out the other. This is done by passing the data
through an infra-red transmitter (just like the one in a TV remote) with
a receiver right next to it in the same package. Why? Well, when the
MIDI standards were being set all those years ago there was concern
that damage could be caused by sending overly high voltages down
the MIDI data line. The five-pin DIN plug used for MIDI was commonly
used for many other things at the time, including audio and power
connections, so it was written into the specifications that that some
sort of physical decoupling should be included, meaning that even in
a worse-case scenario only one cheap component would be
damaged, and an opto-isolator (aka optocoupler) was the cheapest
and most reliable available.
On very early (or very cheap) equipment this was often a separate
transmitter and receiver covered in black tape or tubing. The
drawback with that was the tendency for your sharp square wave
data to get gradually rounded off at the corners, which led to the
limitation on how many units you could chain together. So when the
all-in-one chip version was developed a bit of basic circuitry was
included to make sure the signal was just as nice and tidy as when it
went in.
It’s becoming fairly common these days for new equipment to miss
out optocoupling, after all, DIN plugs aren’t that common any more,
and it might well have been a solution for a problem that didn’t really
exist. But still, you never know…
36
DAVE’S HISTORY OF SYNTHESIS
IS YOUR OSCILLATOR ANALOGUE OR DIGITAL? DAVE
JOINS THE GREAT SYNTHESISER BAR FIGHT
I can almost feel the world’s collective blood pressure rising at
the very mention of this subject. Is my oscillator analogue or DCO?
Well, it largely depends on how old you are.
The earliest synths had oscillators built out of a handful of
transistors and the like, and were made to change pitch by varying
the voltage to part of the circuit. The keyboard, if you had one,
consisted of a row of switches connected to resistors which let
different amounts of voltage through. Tuning could be very hit
and miss and quite literally dependent on the weather, even after
oscillator designers had discovered the microchip (which can also
be analogue).
So most manufacturers started using a microprocessor to
scan the keyboard to determine which note was being held down,
and pass that information on to a digital-to-analogue converter
to produce an appropriate voltage, and that became the digitally
controlled oscillator, or DCO. Actually, back then most people
just called them oscillators, and continued to do so for years
until the internet forum came along. The most commonly used
voltage control standard of 0–5 volts came about because the only
available digital controls available were TTL (transistor-transistor
logic, don’t ask) driven, which maxed out at five volts.
Since then it’s all got very confusing, seeing as now there are
actual digital oscillators as well. For example, people will argue
vehemently that the SH-101 has a pure analogue oscillator, while
the Juno 6 is DCO (because it says so on the front), despite the fact
that the Juno basically has six SH-101 oscillators. It wasn’t helped
by Casio proudly labelling the phase distortion oscillators in the CZ
range as DCOs, which I suppose they were, but not analogue…
is your head hurting yet?
So, to answer the question, “is my oscillator analogue or
DCO?”. Well, it’s almost certainly both, just remember that the “C”
stands for “Controlled” and you won’t go far wrong.
NEW ORDER
DREAMS
NEVER E
AFTER FOUR DECADES AT THE COALFACE, NEW ORDER REMAIN
ONE OF THE COOLEST AND HOTTEST BANDS ON THE PLANET.
HOW DO YOU PULL OFF A TRICK LIKE THAT? IN AN EXCLUSIVE
INTERVIEW, WE TALK TO FRONTMAN BERNARD SUMNER ABOUT
THE GROUP’S INCREDIBLE STAYING POWER AND THEIR TIRELESS
PUSH FOR PERPETUAL FORWARD MOTION
words:
STEPHEN DALTON
KEVIN CUMMINS
pictures:
38
ND
t’s a scorching afternoon in Palm Springs, southern
California, where New Order are about to play two shows
at the gigantic Coachella Festival, America’s answer to
Glastonbury. It seems a fitting setting to talk about how the evergreen
Mancunian electro-rock legends are, against all odds, basking in the
blazing Indian summer of a stormy four-decade career. A sweltering
Bernard Sumner excuses himself for a moment so he can take his
shirt off as he chats.
Despite being dormant for much of the preceding 10 years, New
Order’s 2015 comeback album, ‘Music Complete’, their debut for Mute
Records, was a critical and commercial triumph. A full-blooded return
to the band’s synth-saturated 1980s sound, it featured a glittering
gallery of guests, including Iggy Pop, Stuart Price and Chemical
Brother Tom Rowlands. The New Order live show is rolling again too,
the majestic audio-visual spectacle earning rave reviews and filling
arenas around the globe for the last 18 months.
Salford’s answer to Kraftwerk are back – rewired and rebooted.
I
fter a bumpy few years of health scares and legal wrangles,
there is a little more joy and a little less division in the New
Order camp nowadays. At 61, Bernard Sumner certainly
seems more mellow and more professional than he was during the
band’s notoriously chaotic and hedonistic first decade as the star
signings on Manchester’s fabled Factory label. He’s busier than
ever too, with a new New Order live album to promote and a run of
prestige hometown shows to rehearse.
But before that, at the end of May, he is a special guest speaker at
the International Music Summit in Ibiza, the Davos of the electronic
music world. His IMS appearance sees him following in the footsteps
of the likes of Yello, Carl Craig and the Pet Shop Boys, but he’s a bit
wary of his public speaking obligations.
“I hope it’s a question and answer thing… I don’t think I’ve ever
made a speech in my life,” Sumner frowns. “I assume they are going
to want to talk about electronic music. And since some of New
Order’s past involved a spell in Ibiza, I guess they will want to talk
about that as well. That period was just when acid house was about
to happen. We were right on the cusp, with the Balearic beats that
supposedly influenced Ibizan club music knocking around.”
Indeed, New Order’s ecstasy-fuelled Ibizan adventures have
passed into musical folklore. The band began recording their sundrenched electropop masterpiece ‘Technique’ on the island in the
spring of 1988, as Ibiza-endorsed house music was about to explode
across the mainstream.
“The studio wasn’t very good at all, but it had a swimming pool
and a 24-hour bar, so we decided to go,” Sumner laughs. “We spent
three months there. I remember distinctly we started in April and
the weather was OK, it wasn’t too hot. Then it got hotter and hotter,
and we started going out more and more. In the end, we were hiding
from the sun, not doing any music, going to nightclubs all the time and
getting into all sorts of scrapes. Amnesia was the club we used to go
to. In those days it was open air, but I believe they’ve covered it since.
It was a bit steep for a drink, but the price of alcohol meant… well,
let’s just say we found other options.”
During the group’s extended stay on Ibiza, Sumner invited Factory
labelmate and Happy Mondays party monster Bez to visit, unwisely
lending him his driving licence. Numerous white-knuckle road
trips and multiple car crashes followed. New Order roadie Terry
Mason also somehow got Sumner to agree to a busload of 18-30
holidaymakers visiting the studio, where they proceeded to drink the
band’s entire stock of booze and throw up everywhere.
“We were like, ‘Hey, that’s our job to do that!’,” Sumner recalls with
mock exasperation.
A
40
NEW ORDER
“It would have killed me,” he laughs. “Those three months in 1988
nearly killed me. Can you imagine the state I was in when we came
back? But I’m going to have a couple of days out there before I do IMS.
I’ll need to find a quiet bit because I can’t do Party Central these days.
You’ve got to remember that my life has been Party Central since I
was 21, since we were in Joy Division.”
B
In a break between the recording sessions, Sumner arranged a
sailing trip from Ibiza to the nearby island of Formentera with another
guest, Heaven promoter Kevin Millins, who was heavily hungover
and “rolling around like a sausage on a barbecue”. On the choppy
nocturnal voyage back to Ibiza Town, the boat got lost.
“Then Kevin died, unfortunately,” Sumner says with a straight face.
“We threw his body overboard. This is the first time I’ve told anybody
about it.”
This is Manc humour, of course, deadpan and dry as dust. A quick
check confirms that Kevin Millins is still very much alive. Sumner
isn’t joking when he says New Order left Ibiza with ‘Technique’ only
“about 20 per cent” complete, though.
“The studio mysteriously burned down to the ground after we left,”
he smirks. “I’m not saying it was an insurance job. I’m not saying that
at all.”
The New Order frontman adds that he avoided Ibiza for more than
two decades after making ‘Technique’, only returning when the band
played the Ibiza Rocks festival in 2012.
ernard Sumner’s appetite for booze and drugs was certainly
prodigious during New Order’s 1980s heyday. Nowadays,
he claims he limits himself to two or three glasses of wine
a night.
“Well, I stop counting after two glasses, anyway,” he grins. “I have
to pace myself, because the hangovers get worse and worse as you
get older. Even in Joy Division, I had terrible hangovers. I’ve had them
since I was 17 or 18. Alcohol doesn’t agree with me, believe it or not.
What I’m trying to say is I’ve finally learned my lesson.”
This healthier lifestyle, Sumner claims, is one factor behind New
Order’s resurgent appetite for hard work, particularly in the form of
live performances. Ahead of their two sets at Coachella, they have
already played Dubai and Radio City Music Hall in New York this year.
Famously, Sumner used to loathe touring, but now the goalposts have
been moved.
“Yeah, I didn’t like it for a number of reasons,” he explains. “One
was the hedonism that went with it. I used to make myself incredibly
ill, but that was my own fault, no one else’s. And the other was… how
can I say this tactfully? The vibe in the band wasn’t so good. But now
the vibe is healthier, much less oppressive.”
This is a not-so-veiled reference to New Order’s former bassist
Peter Hook, who Sumner will no longer even mention by name. Hook
quit the band acrimoniously in 2007, unilaterally declaring the death of
New Order. Facing a potential legal challenge over continuing to use
the group’s name, Sumner and guitarist Phil Cunningham regrouped
as Bad Lieutenant, recruiting Tom Chapman on bass and with Joy
Division and New Order drummer Stephen Morris helping out on Bad
Lieutenant’s one and only album. In 2011, however, Sumner, Morris
and fellow original member Gillian Gilbert, who returned to the fold
after a break of around 10 years, reactivated the New Order name by
setting up a company to replace Vitalturn, the company they shared
with Hook.
Peter Hook was not best pleased and the lawyers on both sides
have been kept pretty busy during the six years since then. The last
time I interviewed Sumner, around 18 months ago, he talked openly
about what he called “the atomic structure of the problem”. This time,
with a court case finally looming, he offers no comment on his former
Salford Grammar School classmate and long-time musical sparring
partner.
Not that Sumner is devoid of competitive ego himself. He admits
that he published his 2014 autobiography, ‘Chapter And Verse’, partly
to counterbalance Hook’s own memoirs about Joy Division and New
Order. As it happens, Sumner’s book was moving and revealing for
other reasons, especially on the subject of his traumatic upbringing
in working class Salford as the only child of a mother with cerebral
palsy who would bully and beat him. Remarkably, he seems to bear no
ill.
“It didn’t make me angry or bitter, but it made me a little hardhearted,” he says. “I was a soft kid, you know? Salford people would
say an experience like that toughens you up, but I didn’t really want
to be toughened up. That’s the only way you can handle it, though,
otherwise you are going to have a breakdown. Maybe the book was
therapy, but it had no cathartic effect on me, no healing effect. The
most difficult part was talking about my childhood. I’ve not got issues
about it, but I didn’t really want to drag it up again. I thought talking
about it would help… and it didn’t.”
41
ew Order have never been known as a political band, but
over the past 18 months they have made increasingly bolder
statements about a world in turmoil. In November 2015,
at the Brixton Academy show in London which forms the basis of
their new live album, ‘NOMC15’, the band arrived onstage beneath
a giant video graphic of a fluttering French flag. This was a gesture
of solidarity with the 130 people murdered in the French capital by
Islamist gunmen just three days before, including 89 rock fans at an
Eagles Of Death Metal show in the Bataclan concert hall.
“We’d played in Paris the week before, so having just been there it
was even more of a shock,” Sumner recalls. “In fact, the time before
that, we had played at the Bataclan. I remember that vividly. The
attack was an affront to freedom, so we wanted to show our respect
for the people of France and to honour everyone affected by the
events in Paris.”
Last summer, shortly after the Brexit vote, New Order played at
the Glastonbury Festival beneath another flag, this time the blazing
blue and yellow colours of the European Union.A few months later,
Sumner penned a long piece for the ‘New European’ newspaper
about the acrimonious fall-out from the referendum. The article
N
42
was essentially a love letter to the dream of a united Europe. “As
a musician,” he wrote, “I’ve always been massively influenced by
Europe and its people, from the earliest days of Joy Division to our
current touring commitments with New Order”. Six months later, he is
still seething about the Leave vote.
“Brexit feels xenophoboic to me… and I’m not xenophobic,” he
explains. “I embrace other cultures, especially European cultures
because I am European. I don’t want to go back to the 1950s or the
1960s, that idea stinks. I personally think there should have been an
age limit on voters, because it’s the young people who are going to
have to live with this decision. Even now, a year after voting, they still
haven’t got a fucking clue what’s going to happen.”
Ironically, the post-Brexit slump in the value of the pound has
proved to be unexpectedly lucrative for New Order.
“We benefit greatly from it because of the exchange rate,” Sumner
notes. “We do most of our work abroad and we benefit because the
pound is so weakened. So I’m not criticising Brexit from a selfish
point of view, and I don’t think the EU is perfect, but the thing they
should have done was strive harder than they did to try to change it. I
think it was just too complicated a question to ask people.”
NEW ORDER
Sumner’s first European jaunt as a fully signed up member of a
band was with Joy Division 37 years ago. The tour culminated in a
legendary gig at the Kant Kino cinema in snowy West Berlin.
“I don’t remember much about it, but it was very cold and not many
people turned up,” he says. “It was really early for us, so we were
just getting used to touring and to being abroad. Going to Europe in
those days was really exotic.”
Joy Division’s one and only Berlin show was organised by
Manchester exile Mark Reeder, a key figure on Berlin’s arty-party
underground scene and in electronic music generally. Even today,
Reeder remains a good friend of New Order and has remixed several
tracks from the ‘Music Complete’ album. The band also used a
montage from Reeder’s retrospective Berlin documentary, ‘B-Movie:
Lust And Sound’, as the video for their ‘Singularity’ single.
“Mark’s a dear friend and a good person,” Sumner says. “He’s
incredibly funny and quite eccentric too, but he’s Mancunian so he’s
in the club. I think we’re like-minded people. I saw him a few months
ago when he came over to Manchester. He’s not just friends with
me, he’s friends with the whole band. If we play in Berlin, he usually
gives a little speech before we go onstage.”
“WE THREW HIS
BODY OVERBOARD.
THIS IS THE FIRST
TIME I’VE TOLD
ANYBODY ABOUT IT”
“DON’T LOOK BACK,
I T ’ S A LWAYS
BEEN ABOUT THE
FUTURE”
NEW ORDER
anchester remains a key element of New Order’s DNA. All
the band members still live in and around the city, and their
hometown continues to celebrate their legacy. In June and
July, as part of the Manchester International Festival, the group will
play five bespoke shows with a 12-piece synthesiser orchestra in the
old ‘Coronation Street’ sound stage at Granada TV studios.
Former Factory Records sleeve designer Peter Saville, who serves
as artistic advisor to the festival, gave New Order the brief for the
performances: “modern and original”. Having played two rapturously
received nights at the Sydney Opera House last year with the
Sydney Chamber Orchestra, the band proposed something similar for
Manchester, but with an all-electronic ensemble. The location of the
Granada shows, where the late Factory label co-founder Tony Wilson
worked as a TV presenter, also resonated with New Order.
M
“The main title of the shows is a mathematical formula, but it is
subtitled ‘So It Goes’, which was Tony Wilson’s TV programme in
the late 70s,” Sumner explains. “Joy Division didn’t play on that, but
we did play on Granada courtesy of Tony. I think it was on ‘Granada
Reports’, on the end of the local news. It was the first time we did
anything on television in our lives and it did us a lot of good. We’ve
got fond memories of Granada and our association with Tony, so
it’s a nice venue for us to come back to.”
The Manchester performances will bring together New Order, a
dozen synthesiser players, and conductor Joe Duddell, plus stage
designs by New York-based British conceptual artist Liam Gillick.
After just two rehearsals so far, Sumner admits he feels a little
overwhelmed at the “massive technical hurdles” of working with
18 people on the same stage.
“It’s been a trip down memory lane as far as synthesiser sounds
go,” he says. “Some of the synth sounds we had in Joy Division,
like on ‘Heart And Soul’, moody background stuff, you just can’t do
unless you get that original synth. Well, you can, but it sounds like
a facsimile. You’ve got to get the original synth and sample it up,
and that’s been a horrendous amount of work. Also the technical
aspect of working it all up. All the players are going to be sight
readers, so we have to have laptops with the music score on them.”
The set list for the Granada shows will not feature ‘Blue
Monday’, but will give an outing to some vintage tracks that New
Order rarely play live. Even so, this seems an unusually nostalgic
move for a band who have always been great future-facing
modernists, resisting the urge to curate and repackage their back
catalogue like most veteran bands. After all, they waited almost 20
years after the death of Ian Curtis before they started dropping Joy
Division songs into their live sets.
“Absolutely right, I’m not nostalgic whatsoever,” Sumner agrees.
“Don’t look back, it’s always been about the future. Without that
attitude, I wouldn’t be here today, and we wouldn’t have come up
with tunes like ‘Blue Monday’ or ‘Temptation’ or ‘Everything’s Gone
Green’ or ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ in the first place. Right from the
early days of Joy Division, I always had a nagging thought in the
back of my head: wouldn’t it be fabulous if you could discover a
new kind of music?”
At the same time, Sumner concedes, New Order are also a
band of contradictions. Iconoclasts who became icons, living
legends who outlasted their own myth, working class local heroes
who transformed themselves into global superstars, fragile human
beings making indestructible music. They may not be playing
‘Blue Monday’ in Manchester, but there will be plenty of other old
New Order classics. Are the ultimate pop futurists making peace
with their past and resting on their laurels at last?
“Yes, but now’s the time in life when we can afford to do that,”
Sumner laughs softly. “We’ve earned it.”
New Order’s ‘NOMC15’ live album is released by Mute on 25 May.
Bernard Sumner is a keynote speaker at the International Music
Summit in Ibizia from 24 to 26 May, for more details see
www.internationalmusicsummit.com, and New Order will play
the Manchester International Festival from 29 June to 15 July,
for more see www.mif.co.uk
45
REED ALL ABOUT IT
MARK REEDER, THE MAN BEHIND ELECTRONIC SOUND’S
LATEST EXCLUSIVE SEVEN-INCH SINGLE, IS ONE OF THE
MANY INTRIGUING CHARACTERS TO HAVE EMERGED
FROM THE OUTRAGEOUSLY FERTILE MANCHESTER
MUSIC SCENE OF THE LATE 1970S. HERE HE TALKS ABOUT
NEW ORDER, HIS LIFE IN BERLIN, THE ART OF THE REMIX
words:
MARK ROLAND
ark Reeder began his music career with a brief stint in The
Frantic Elevators alongside Mick Hucknall, before leaving
Manchester in 1978 and hitchhiking to Berlin, where he
remains to this day. He became Factory Records’ de facto Berlin
outpost and booked Joy Division’s first gig there, a few months before
Ian Curtis’ death.
Reeder managed German bands such as Malaria! and Die Toten
Hosen, while his own electronic outfit, Die Unbekannten (The
Unknown), released a couple of singles, renamed themselves Shark
Vegas, and put out electro classic ‘You Hurt Me’ on Factory, a record
produced by Bernard Sumner at Conny Plank’s studio in Cologne.
As the reunification of Germany got under way, Mark Reeder
established MFS Records, the hugely respected trance label, and
launched the career of superstar DJ Paul Van Dyk. He has also
produced and remixed the likes of New Order, Depeche Mode, the
Pet Shop Boys and Westbam, among many others. His next album,
‘Mauerstadt’, is due for release this summer.
M
Can you tell us a little about the title track of your new album?
“I initially recorded a version of it for a scene in my film, ‘B-Movie:
Lust And Sound In West Berlin’, which is about my experiences in
1980s West Berlin. I wanted to give the track a simple, dystopian,
DAF-ish kind of feeling by using just a modular synth arpeggiator, a
growling bass guitar, and thrashing drums. There’s also a ‘Happy
Birthday’ sample from Knut Hoffmeister’s super 8 film about the
Berlin Wall’s 25th birthday party, where everyone is so obviously
totally out of it and it sounds really funny.”
Our German is shocking, but what does ‘Mauerstadt’ mean? Is it a
kind of defensive wall?
“Did you use Google Translate for that!? It means ‘walled city’. It’s
the only lyric of the track, that one word, with different intonations,
and it’s repeated over and over so it becomes more like an
instrument. The idea was to describe what Berlin was like in a
single word and it’s what we used to call the city during the 80s.”
What was Berlin like while the Wall was still in place?
“Most people can’t imagine what it’s like to live in a place
surrounded by a bloody big wall. It was the most overt statement
of division. For those on the other side, it was supposedly to
46
protect them from their so-called enemy, from the evils of
capitalism and fascism. The communist East Germans called it the
anti-fascist protection wall. Of course, the theme of division has
recently become fashionable again and I wanted to draw attention
to the word with this song, so that’s why I’ve called the album
‘Mauerstadt’. It’s not just about the Berlin Wall, it is about the walls
in people’s heads and the futility of building barriers to try to keep
your adversaries in or out.”
Why did you head for Berlin when you left Manchester in 1978?
“I was working in a little record shop and I experienced the start
of the punk rock explosion first hand, but it was over very quickly.
It soon became a parody of itself, with over-commercial rubbish
like Plastic Bertrand. Besides, I was into synthesiser music and
Germany had loads of it. Bowie had finished ‘Low’ and made
‘Heroes’ in Berlin, so I thought I’d go there, buy a few krautrock
records, and see what the city was all about. I never left.”
How did you land the job of running Factory’s German office?
“Well, firstly there was no office, it was all done from my shabby
little flat in Kreuzberg! Once I’d moved to Berlin, Rob Gretton
asked me if I could try to promote Joy Division’s ‘An Ideal For
Living’ 12-inch out here. I thought Joy Division were brilliant and
believed they would be welcomed with open arms in Berlin, as
their music fitted perfectly with this derelict city. In actual fact, no
one was remotely interested. Then Tony Wilson started Factory
and I automatically became Factory’s ‘representative’ in Germany.
Tony wanted me to start up Factory Deutschland, but typically
wasn’t prepared to invest any money into it, so it never happened.
Years later, he told me he thought it looked really good on paper:
Factory Records – Manchester, Brussels, New York, Berlin.”
Can you remember the first time you saw New Order?
“I’ve known them since Joy Division, but the first time I saw New
Order as a band was when they played at the SO36 club in Berlin
in May 1981.”
Bernard Sumner produced your band Shark Vegas, didn’t he? How
was he to work with?
“He produced ‘You Hurt Me’, a single that Alistair Gray and I
originally wrote when we were still known as Die Unbekannten.
We didn’t perform it live until our European tour with New Order
MARK REEDER
in 1984, which is also when we changed our name to Shark Vegas.
Tony, Rob and Bernard all really liked our demo, so we took the
16-track tape with us on tour so Bernard could mix it properly at
Conny Plank’s legendary studio in Cologne during a few days off.
The session didn’t go quite as planned, though. Conny Plank played
ping-pong with his kids outside and Dave the studio engineer had
to lie in front of the mixing desk on a specially constructed bed
because he was suffering from a slipped disc. He shouted his
instructions to Bernard in between screams of agony. The end
result was nothing like any of us really wanted!”
And now the tables have turned and you have remixed several tracks
from New Order’s ‘Music Complete’ album. Have you remixed the
band before?
“No, the mixes I did from ‘Music Complete’ are the first time I have
worked with them in this way. We’d actually never thought about
it before. I remixed Bad Lieutenant, though, which was basically
New Order with Jake Evans.”
Is it a bit of a nervous wait once you’ve delivered a remix?
“I have to admit it is rather nerve-racking. I certainly don’t mind if
an artist has a constructive comment to make, but then again it is
my interpretation of their song and I have made it in such a way as
to fit my musical idea. If people take the trouble to contact me, they
usually say quite nice things. The negative comments are usually
found on uploads like YouTube, where people can pour out their
vicious loathing behind a mask of anonymity. One person said my
remix of Bad Lieutenant’s ‘Sink Or Swim’ sounded like I’d recorded
it with GarageBand. He said that he could do better and wondered
why the band hadn’t asked him! As for my New Order remixes, the
band loved them. Phil Cunningham told me my remix of ‘Academic’
was exactly how he had imagined it to be originally.”
Which side of the Electronic Sound single should people listen to
first? Your New Order remix or your own track?
“I imagine they will play the New Order side first, out of curiosity.”
To find out how you can own our extremely limited edition clear
vinyl seven-inch featuring New Order’s ‘Academic (Mark Reeder’s
Akademixxx)’ and Mark Reeder’s ‘Mauerstadt (RIAS Mix)’, email
info@ electronicsound.co.uk
47
THEIR NEW ALBUM, ‘HOME COUNTIES’, NOT ONLY CELEBRATES THE
LEAFY COMMUTER BELT BURBS OF THEIR FORMATIVE YEARS, IT
ALSO SEES SAINT ETIENNE GETTING BACK INTO THE ELECTRONIC
GROOVE OF THEIR PRIME
words:
48
PETE PAPHIDES
SAINT ETIENNE
OHM IS WHERE THE HEART IS
he British Library is thick with students who have come here to finish dissertations
and revise for exams – more of them, in fact, than desk space will allow. As a
consequence, the overspill is making the most of the spring sunshine. Textbooks and
laptops are spread across the tables that surround the forecourt cafe.
Among them, the members of Saint Etienne look slightly incongruous. Save for a sparse
scattering of wiry grey-haired academics, they’re the oldest people in view. Bob Stanley
stirs half a sachet of sugar into his latte and places his change on the table, a shiny £2 coin.
Sporting full beard these days, Pete Wiggs picks up the money and reveals that, for no good
reason, he once found himself reading the Wikipedia entry for the £2 coin.
“Guess how long these have been around?” he asks. “Ooh, good question,” says Bob. “It’s bound to be longer than I think it is, because it always
is. I’m going to say 12 years. Is it 2005? Whaaat?! 1998?! NO WAY!”
It’s at this point that the third member of Saint Etienne arrives. Sarah Cracknell is holding
a cup of mixed berry tea, or as she calls it, “hot squash”. She reminds Bob and Pete about a
game they used to play on tour in the early days of the band: £1 Newsagent, where they had to
go to a random newsagent and find the best combination of items they could buy with £1.
“If we played it now, I think it would have to be £2 Newsagent,” she suggests.
T
t’s not inappropriate to be meeting Saint Etienne next to a building which houses
countless national treasures. After all, that’s exactly what they’ve become in the 26
years since their debut album, ‘Foxbase Alpha’, catapulted them into the post-grunge,
post-baggy bombsite of early 90s British chart pop.
If they had kindred spirits back then, they were few and far between. Possibly the Pet Shop
Boys for the way they co-opted their influences into a sound that never wished itself back to
a bygone era. Other spiritual fellow travellers included Pulp, World Of Twist and Denim. Like
Saint Etienne, these groups were part pop stars, part outsider artists working to a rigid list
of dos and don’ts, spending almost as much time getting their sleeve art right as their music.
And like Saint Etienne, these artists understood that a non-musician who talks a good record
will always make better art than a musician who equates virtuosity with honest-to-goodness
authenticity.
Saint Etienne’s early roll call of hits bears extraordinary testament to that very approach:
their lugubrious dancefloor dub reconfiguration of ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’; ‘Avenue’,
which recast their love of French baroque pop amid the unearthly magic hour stillness more
commonly found on records by dream pop contemporaries AR Kane and Disco Inferno;
‘Like A Motorway’, an old folk melody delivered with statuesque sadness by Sarah over an
irresistible disco-concrete instrumental; and, of course, ‘He’s On The Phone’, their biggest hit,
and still a flawless slice of surging yet melancholy Europop. I
49
Ironically, they’re still here today because, at any given time, they always held something
back. Each Saint Etienne record sounds like a bridge to the next one, rather than the
culmination of the previous ones, be it 2000’s ‘Sound Of Water’ (which saw them go to Berlin
and work with electronic post-rock trio To Rococo Rot) or 2011’s ‘Words And Music’, an album
about how music soundtracks your life and, in doing so, explains your life to you.
The opening song of ‘Words And Music’, ‘Over The Border’, talked about the obsessive
behaviour that the love of records can drive you to: “I didn't go to church / I didn’t need to /
Green and yellow Harvests / Pink Pyes, silver Bells / And the strange and important sound of
the synthesiser”. Its poignant air of finality led many people to suppose that this would be the
final Saint Etienne record…
“I think we wondered that ourselves,” notes Bob, who became a father for the first time
last year. “In a way, a band is a funny thing to keep going beyond your early 20s, because it
happens at a time in your life when you’re no longer living at home, but you’ve yet to settle
down and start a family. It sort of fills that vacuum. And during that time, Pete and I were
actually living together.”
“Those were your ‘Men Behaving Badly’ years!” says Sarah, clearly amused by the idea. “Except we didn’t behave very badly, did we?” says Pete, parrying the question to Bob.
“We had a party once, didn’t we?” replies Bob. “And Mark Hollis from Talk Talk turned
up. This was in the mid-90s, when no one had seen him for years, and there were all sorts of
rumours going around about what sort of state he was in. One of the guests brought him along,
I had no idea she knew him, and I involuntarily exclaimed, ‘You’re Mark Hollis!’. And he left
almost immediately. I really blew it there, didn’t I?”
ack in those early years, Saint Etienne was an expression of an interior world Bob
and Pete shared long before they lived in the same house and long before they asked
Sarah to join the group following her vocal turn for 1991’s ‘Nothing Can Stop Us’.
They were best friends from infant school in Reigate. Bob read ‘The Dandy’, while Pete
favoured its racier southern rival ‘Whoopee!’. Pete would go to Bob’s every Thursday to
watch ‘Top Of The Pops’. One of their fondest memories concerns the night in 1982 that
Culture Club first appeared on the show.
“My dad came in and saw Boy George looking the way he did and asked if that was a boy
or a girl. Obviously, Pete and I found this hilarious, which merely served to rattle him further.
At which point he said, ‘Well, you wouldn’t be laughing if I came in looking like that, would
you?’. We almost exploded!” The following year, 1983, was when Bob began to plan his pop dream in earnest. Aged 17,
he was “blown away” by OMD’s ‘Dazzle Ships’ album and saved up to buy a Korg MS-10.
“Years later, I read that Juan Atkins had also bought a Korg MS-10 round about the
same time,” he says. “He was out shopping with his mum, saw it in the store window, and
persuaded her to buy it for him. He went on to invent techno, whereas all I used it for was to
make wind noises.”
Not much seems to have changed in the intervening years. Even now, Bob’s preferred
songwriting method is to hum tunes into his phone or bring a record into the studio and enlist
the help of the producer to replicate a particular sound. For the longest time, this was also the
method favoured by Pete, but after composing the BFI-commissioned soundtrack for ‘How We
Used To Live’ – the 2013 visual love letter to post-war London that the band made with longtime collaborator Paul Kelly – he enrolled on a composition and orchestration degree course.
“It’s amazing how you can get by on so little sleep,” he says when asked how it’s going.
He does most of his composition work before dawn, in his Brighton kitchen, often as early as
4am, before his son and daughter wake up. “I rather like it, actually. You feel virtuous when
you’re working alone and it’s still dark outside. I get to pretend I’m the man on the sleeve of
Donald Fagen’s ‘The Nightfly’.”
B
50
SAINT ETIENNE
51
SAINT ETIENNE
he new Saint Etienne album is ‘Home Counties’, their most uniformly satisfying set since 1993’s
‘So Tough’. Like that record, ‘Home Counties’ is an immersive experience in which industrially
adhesive pop songs – ‘Out Of My Mind’, ‘Heather’, ‘Take It All In’ – are linked by evocativelytitled mood pieces such as ‘Church Pew Furniture Restorer’, ‘Sports Report’ and ‘Popmaster’. The latter
sees a guesting Ken Bruce hosting a special version of his ‘PopMaster’ Radio 2 quiz slot, in which the
contestant is asked to name three Top 10 hits by Hatfield And The North (there aren’t any, by the way).
“That was the most exciting day of the sessions, wasn’t it?” says Sarah.
Bob’s expression, however, is somewhat pained.
“I love Ken Bruce, but we committed a slight faux pas,” he explains. “He recorded his bit really
quickly, like the pro he is, and then he sort of said something which sounded like he was suggesting we
might all go to the pub together. But I wasn’t quite sure that’s what he meant… and then he hesitated
and backtracked. I’d love to have gone for a drink with Ken Bruce. I listen to ‘PopMaster’ every day.”
As befits an album inspired by the commuter belt conurbations orbiting London, Saint Etienne
approached ‘Home Counties’ on a strictly nine-to-five basis, completing all the songs over a six-week
period at the end of last year. They had no idea what the album would be about when they commenced
the sessions. On a songwriting roll after finishing her feted 2015 solo album ‘Red Kite’, Sarah presented
Bob and Pete with two of the album’s standout tracks right at the beginning of the process: the
hammock-swinging languor of ‘Take It All In’ and the Casiotone Latin hustle of ‘Dive’.
“For some reason, both songs got me thinking of the Metro-land world you see speeding by when
you’re on a train heading out of London,” says Bob.
In turn, that prompted Bob to come up with another of the album’s highlights, written partly in tribute
to the late Nick Sanderson from Earl Brutus, who finally realised his childhood dream of becoming a
train driver once the group had disbanded.
“He used to go through Whyteleafe,” says Bob. “I told him you could see Whyteleafe’s football
ground from the line and he said, ‘I can’t look, Bob. I can’t take my eyes off the track. I’m just petrified
the whole time’. He’d heard stories of people dropping things from bridges and throwing themselves
on the track. It wasn’t anything like the one-hand-on-the-wheel, admiring-the-view idyll that he had
hoped.”
T
he tidal push and pull between London and the commuter belt has always been an object of
fascination for Saint Etienne. You’ll remember the ‘Billy Liar’ sample at the beginning of ‘You’re
In A Bad Way’, in which our daydreaming hero is warned by his boss Mr Shadrack that “a man
could lose himself in London”. In a way, it’s perhaps surprising that it’s taken until now for them to
devote an entire album to the “sweet municipal dream” of leafy conurbations such as Breakneck Hill
and Woodhatch. From its exquisite harpsichord intro, ‘Whyteleafe’ billows softly out into a pensive
rumination, loosely based on one of Bob’s old school friends who never ventured beyond the square
mile where he grew up.
The penultimate song on the record, ‘Sweet Arcadia’, is the breathtaking culmination of everything
preceding it. An eight-minute rolling-stock elegy to the myriad versions of England that act as coordinates on the mainline routes to the satellite towns of London. You suspect that, in time, it might
serve as the basis of a future Saint Etienne film, a home counties counterweight to ‘How We Used To
Live’.
“I can imagine that,” concurs Bob. “I think we all enjoy hearing ideas from people about what would
constitute a Saint Etienne project.”
T
aint Etienne is no longer the full-time occupation that it used to be, though. Sarah has already
started work on her next solo album and then there’s the business of being a mum to two young
QPR fans. When he’s not walking his son Leonard around north London in the BabyBjorn, Bob
is hard at work on the follow-up to ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah’, his acclaimed 700-page history of pop. And Pete,
of course, the Brighton Nightfly, has symphonies in his sights.
Yet for all of that, Saint Etienne is still their default, the thing that most feels like home. On the table
next to us, Pete’s children have been fixed on their iPads, waiting for their dad to finish here before
paying a visit to the Tate Modern. Bob is heading into the British Library to continue work on his book,
while Sarah is off home to pack for a holiday.
Before parting ways, there’s just enough time for a quick round of £2 Newsagent. Bob’s having the
latest ‘Non-League Paper’ and his chocolate of choice, a Twirl. Pete’s given up sugar, so it’ll have to be
a bag of cashews for him. Sarah goes for her favourite sweet treat, condensed milk – “preferably a tube,
so I can stick it straight in my gob,” she says. “Sometimes I even keep one in my handbag!”
“There you go,” says Bob. “That’s a proper pop star for you. Condensed milk in her handbag. They
don’t make them like that any more.”
They really don’t. How wonderful to have them back.
S
‘Home Counties’ is released by Heavenly on 2 June
53
IN THE BEGINNING THERE WAS INDUSTRIAL…
INDUSTRIAL MUSIC. THE GENRE THAT SWEPT
AROUND THE WORLD FROM HULL (THROBBING
GRISTLE) AND DÜSSELDORF (DAF) TO CHICAGO
(WAX TRAX!) AND BRUSSELS (PLAY IT AGAIN
SAM), AND THEN SPAN OUT INTO EBM AND
NEW BEAT AND A WHOLE LOT MORE BESIDES.
WE PICK OUT THE MAIN PROTAGONISTS FOR
YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE…
words:
DAVID STUBBS
hen electronic music first began to inveigle pop
and rock in the 1970s, via the likes of Kraftwerk
and Tangerine Dream, it did not feel bodily or
dirty. It signified cosmic remoteness, the futurist faraway.
In the case of Hütter and Co, it was clean, pallid, robotic,
fey, barely sexual, the polar opposite of the bump ‘n’ grind
and boogie of traditional rock ’n’ roll. With the dawning of punk, however, the connotations
around electronic music began to change. By the 1980s,
there was a significant, electro (anti-) pop strain of the
genre that was coated in sleaze – defiled and defiling,
warped and perverse, transgressively sexual, the
regularity of its beats intended as tyrannical and carrying
strong undertones of S&M. Which is not to say that it
was not also cerebral. This was thought-through, socially
critical music in which the brain raged as hard as any
other organ.
W
THROBBING GRIS TL E | PHOTO: INDUS T RIAL RECORDS
54
DA F
The Chicago-based Wax Trax! label, founded by Jim
Nash and Dannie Flesher in the late 1970s, and whose
first official release was Strike Under’s ‘Immediate
Action’ EP in 1980, were responsible for disseminating
what became codified as “industrial” throughout the
remainder of the 20th century. The label is the subject of
an upcoming documentary, ‘Industrial Accident’, which
traces its rise and fall, the sad demise of its founders,
and its recent revival. In conjunction with Play It Again
Sam, Wax Trax! established a Euro-American alliance
of rigorous, aggressively minimal, body/machine music,
with a peculiar emphasis on Belgium, which thrived
resolutely below ground on planet pop. Before Wax Trax!, however, there was Throbbing
Gristle, who in tandem with their more adrenaline,
geopolitical-fixated Sheffield counterparts Cabaret
Voltaire, created an electronic music that was mired in
the toxic decay and moral depravity of 1970s Britain. TG
were described as “wreckers of civilisation” by Tory
MP Nicholas Fairbairn in 1976, but there was the irony
– Fairbairn himself was a deeply controversial figure,
guilty of sexual infidelities, a man of grotesquely sexist
views and a virulent homophobe, the sort of Tory pillar of
society who would eventually come to discredit the party
in the 1990s.
Despite the apparent unhealthy satisfactions
exhibited on ‘Zyklon B Zombie’ and ‘Hamburger Lady’, TG
were full of high purpose. ‘Discipline’ isn’t just a parody
of authoritarianism or an S&M reference to match its
whiplash riff. It’s a genuine call for people to show moral
rigour and self-examination, to use the Burroughsinspired cut-up and mutant art of TG and the like to
“decondition” themselves and query social norms. Theirs
was not a protest against morality, but a protest against
immorality.
INDUSTRIALISATION
MINIS T RY
While TG's work continued through their offshoots,
including Chris & Cosey and Coil, Deutsch Amerikanische
Freundschaft (DAF) emerged on Mute in 1980 and scored
a cult hit with ‘Der Mussolini’ the following year. DAF
operated in the paradoxical realms of minimalist musical
muscularity, faux-authoritarianism and libertarian
hedonism. Hair ruthlessly clipped, they made homoerotic
specimens of themselves on their record covers, their
big, off-kilter beats flirting with all kinds of dubious
imperatives, notably ‘Verschwende Deine Jugend’
(‘Waste Your Youth’) and ‘Absolute Body Control’.
Ultimately, they were not decadents, but they were very
serious about the business of sexuality, pleasure, identity
and defiance, deployed with the same mordant irony as
their contemporaries Swans on works like ‘Raping A
Slave’. They were later emulated in a British context by
the similarly physical Nitzer Ebb.
And then there was Wax Trax! Records. One of
the label’s earliest releases was Ministry’s ‘Cold
Life’, featuring Al Jourgensen. A cowboy-hatted
extremist known for openly offering drugs in interviews,
Jourgensen was more rock ’n’ roll than the rock ’n’ rollers,
putting to shame the plethora of timid, tapered, poodlehaired, conservative guitar bands of the day. Another
project of his was Revolting Cocks, also featuring Luc
Van Acker and Chris Connelly, whose gigs boasted
gyrating, bikini’d women, as captured on the live album
‘You Goddamned Son Of A Bitch’.
Revco seemed to wallow in lurid decadence and raise
a smelly finger to political correctness, but like a lot of the
electronic body music of the 80s, they were a response
of sorts to the far more iniquitous and hypocritical
Reaganomic era, beyond the dominant, WASP-ish pale of
the right wing mix of piety and greed that characterised
the decade. One of their key songs was ‘Union Carbide’,
a reference to the deadly industrial disaster in Bhopal,
India, which saw thousands perish thanks to gross
corporate negligence. “Blood was running like water,”
laments the track’s central sample. Other artists whose
electronics had built-in critiques of North American
culture were Bible Belt bashers Front Line Assembly
and My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, as well as anti-
vivisectionists Skinny Puppy, whose mutant, vicious
electronica mirrored the violence they were protesting
against.
“James Brown could never have come from Belgium,”
Henry Rollins once spat, as if to suggest the country
was constitutionally incapable of producing musical
excitement. Yet it was a fulcrum in the 1980s, in part
from the new beat scene, with the likes of Jade 4U and
Lords Of Acid fronting powerful basement productions
destined never to be heard in daylight. Heavier still were
à;GRUMH, typographical beat terrorists calculated to
strike fear into the hearts of homophobes, and Front
242, whose 1988 hit ‘Headhunter’ was a huge seller for
Play It Again Sam. Front 242’s irresistible, pulverising
electronics flirted provocatively with the authoritarian
tendencies which lurked at the heart of the pop spectacle
on numbers like ‘Masterhit’ and ‘Tyranny For You’, as well
as geopolitics on ‘Funkhadafi’.
From elsewhere, both before and after, came Clock
DVA and Monte Cazazza and Test Dept and SPK and Die
Krupps and Whitehouse and lots more. Even Switzerland
got in on the act, producing The Young Gods, whose
devastating assemblages of rock samples were delivered
with a sensual, lascivious growl by frontman Franz
Treichler, but who represented a sort of holy, elemental
purity, as reflected in titles like ‘L’Eau Rouge’.
Wax Trax! and the industrial genre persisted into the
90s, but in many ways it belonged to, and was a response
to, 1980s pop and its broader culture. Eventually, the
genre became codified and slightly cliched. It's only now
that we can look back on its greatest achievements and
recognise it as a magnificent eruption of electric sleaze,
the like of which could probably not occur today.
FRONT 24 2
55
THE WAX THAT MATTERS…
À;GRUMH
REVOLTING COCKS
‘Too Many Cocks Spoil The Breath’
(Play It Again Sam, 1987)
‘Beers, Steers And Queers’
(Wax Trax!, 1990)
The 1987 album from the Belgian meta-hiNRG combo was a fistful of fun, and boasted
the finest pun in the industrial genre since
Throbbing Gristle's ‘Something Came Over
Me’. It's amazing that these extremists lasted
as long as they did – from 1981 to 1991. The
perfect, radical sub-specimen of the decade.
Years ahead of ‘Brokeback Mountain’,
Revolting Cocks caught the homoerotic
subtext of the Wild West with this yeehawing, hardcore minimal anthem to hard
drinking, hard riding and hard fucking. It
was a ramrod provocation to scandalise the
censorious and squeamish of all political
persuasions.
DAVID STUBBS PUTS ON HIS EAR
PROTECTORS AND PICKS OUT
10 CRUCIAL RELEASES THAT NO
INDUSTRIAL MUSIC COLLECTION
CAN BE COMPLETE WITHOUT
KMFDM
56
PIG
‘More & Faster’
(Wax Trax!, 1989)
‘Scumsberg’
(Wax Trax!, 1988)
This classic Wax Trax! release captured
the industrial-sexual kinetic/ethic of the
Hamburg-based KMFDM, an outfit led by
multi-instrumentalist Sascha Konietzko.
An accelerationist anthem, ‘More &
Faster’ throws everything into the mix,
from rotorblades to what sounds like a
mechanised glitter-beat.
Londoner Raymond Watts' Wax Trax! project
is one of the more under-regarded ventures
of the industrial age. With its gothic arches,
‘Scumsberg’ is from the ‘A Poke In The Eye…
With A Big Stick’ album and exploits the
vertical gulf between the sacred and the
profane, its high columns coated with oily
guitar sleaze.
10 CRUCIAL INDUSTRIAL RELEASES
DAF
SKINNY PUPPY
THE YOUNG GODS
‘Sex Unter Wasser’
(Virgin, 1981)
‘Mind The Perpetual Intercourse’
(Nettwerk, 1986)
‘Jimmy’
(Organik/Wax Trax!, 1987)
Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft, aka
DAF, were brutalist satirists of Eurovision,
the Berlin Wall and Germany's Nazi heritage,
but there was always a strong dose of
unorthodox sexuality lubricating their metal
rhythm broadsides, not least on this sinuous,
thrusting offering.
Although Skinny Puppy's core message to
humanity was anti-vivisection, their music
could also be heard as a crushing, hypersexual meld of flesh and metal, as evidenced
on their 1986 debut, a complex masterpiece
of electro-goth and Cabaret Voltaire-type
neo-funk robo-beats.
From their debut album, the rock 'n' roll
legend is rebirthed in the kiln of modern
technology. The Young Gods sampled
classic rock, burning away its hoariness and
preserving its essential juices, and no more
so than here, on this reanimation of the spirit
of Led Zeppelin.
FRONT 242
MY LIFE WITH THE THRILL KILL KULT
THROBBING GRISTLE
‘Body To Body’
(New Dance, 1981)
‘Sexplosion!’
(Wax Trax!, 1991)
‘Persuasion’
(Industrial, 1979)
The epitome of electronic body music, with
sex as an almost martial, insurrectionary
act, to be carried out with the utmost rigour.
There are nods to DAF in the roving backbeat
of this 1981 single and there's also a hint
of JG Ballard about the car crash skid with
which the track opens.
“Sex is perverted and sick,” intones the
opening sample from My Life With The Thrill
Kill Kult's 1991 underground hit, a grinding,
shadowy, funk-soiled, noir-ish tour through
the city's demi-monde that seems to posit
sexual freedom as a liberating act in uptight
America.
From ‘20 Jazz Funk Greats’, this has Genesis
P-Orridge playing the role of a cold-blooded
sexual coercive and shows once more that
there was something ultimately didactic,
not simply amoral, about the industrial
preoccupation with sex. As the clock ticks
and the bass drips like a pipe in a dungeon,
we're exposed to a dark truth…
57
CRUSHED BY THE WHEELS OF INDUSTRY
‘INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENT: THE STORY OF
WAX TRAX! RECORDS’ IS A FORTHCOMING
DOCUMENTARY ABOUT… WAIT FOR IT…
WAX TRAX! RECORDS. IT’S THE STORY OF ONE
OF THE MOST EXCITING LABELS EVER, AN
IMPRINT THAT LODGED ITS IDIOSYNCRATIC
BRAND OF DARK ‘N’ DIRTY ELECTRONIC MUSIC
DEEP INTO THE AMERICAN HEARTLAND
words:
MARK ROLAND
f ever there was a record label that deserved its
story telling, it’s Wax Trax!, the Chicago home
of industrial music of the 1980s. Founded by Jim
Nash and Dannie Flesher, and starting out as a record
shop in Denver, Colorado, in 1975, Wax Trax! gave the
world Ministry, Revolting Cocks, Pailhead, My Life With
The Thrill Kill Kult, and a slew of other sample heavy
electronic punk outfits that defined the underground of
the era. In doing so, it built the pockmarked runway for
the likes of Nine Inch Nails, as well as Gary Numan’s
industrial synth reinvention.
When Trent Reznor was making his name with
Nine Inch Nails and delivering his own bon mots for
the British music press, he described NIN as synth
faggots, which makes for a pretty good description of
much of Wax Trax!’s output – outside the mainstream,
sexually ambiguous, electronic at heart, and avowedly
confrontational. The label was ‘Brokeback Mountain’
gay, drunk cowboy, fetish-hetero gay. From the off, it
was transgressive, erratic and drug-fuelled, and when
it became a label as well as a record shop in the early
1980s, it employed the insane business model favoured
by many other independent imprints of the day, with no
written contracts (not even verbal agreements) and very
little budget control.
I
WA X T R A X! S TORE
RE VOLTING COCKS
58
M Y L IFE W ITH THE THRIL L KIL L K ULT
WAX TRAX!
Jim announced to his wife that he was gay and he was
going to leave (“Because you don’t have a dick,” one
commentator claims he said). It’s testament to his charm
and essential decency that his ex-wife, the mother of
Julia and Aaron, talks fondly about him in the film, but it’s
clear he could be unhinged at times. Julia recounts a tale
from her childhood when her dad and Dannie drove her
and her brother through Chicago’s red light district in a
van at night. At one point, Jim demanded that Dannie stop,
and when a prostitute came over to start negotiating,
the kids were told to throw open the door of the van and
introduce themselves. Even for the 1970s, that was a
pretty outré gag.
JIM NASH AND DANNIE FL ESHER
t’s two decades since Wax Trax! ceased
operations, but a fascinating documentary about
the label is heading to a screen near you shortly.
‘Industrial Accident: The Story Of Wax Trax! Records’
is produced by Jim Nash’s children Julia and Aaron,
leaning on their own testimony and that of various former
staff members of both the shop and the label, as well
as assorted band members. There’s lots from the Wax
Trax! archives too, some of which the film shows being
rescued from a barn in Arkansas, where Dannie Flesher
had dumped it when he abandoned the music business in
the late 1990s. He headed back to his home state when
he knew he was dying from AIDS, the same condition that
took Jim in 1995.
The newly unearthed grungy VHS footage catches
the two label bosses hanging out with their artists,
smoking spliffs, attacking one another, and generally
having a great time, all long before the company ran into
difficulties and Jim’s health started to fail. It’s a poignant
eulogy to young lives lived fast.
It’s the two founders who make the Wax Trax! story so
compelling. Lovers as well as business partners, Jim was
a mercurial and wired character, capable of monumental
acts of madness, while Dannie was sweet-natured and
steady. The pair met in 1972 – “We went to a David
Bowie concert,” says Dannie in the film – and forged a
friendship from their mutual admiration of leftfield British
music like Bowie and Roxy Music. When they fell in
love, it caused something of a problem because Jim was
married with two children.
he Wax Trax! label was built on the foundation
of the record shop, which relocated from Denver
to Chicago at the end of 1978. The store stocked
material from the growing catalogues of Rough Trade,
Factory and other European indie imprints. It was one of
the few places in the USA where you could score a copy
of the Kleenex EP in 1978 or later pick up the early Joy
Division and Bauhaus releases. Through its growing mail
order operation, Wax Trax! provided a lifeline to young
people stranded in one-horse towns all over the country.
It was a pop culture sanctuary for the people considered
freaks and weirdos in Ronald Reagan’s America. They
brought cool bands to Chicago too, including the
Ramones, who announced Wax Trax! to be best record
store they had ever visited.
T
I
A A RON AND JUL IA NASH
59
WA X T R A X! S TORE
One of the shop’s regulars was Big Black frontman
Steve Albini, who remembers the first Wax Trax! release
proper in 1981, a 12-inch EP by Chicago punk band Strike
Under. He talks about how the record “owned up to the
fact that in Chicago, punks would go to dance clubs and
dance”. And there perhaps is the key to the Wax Trax!
sound, a collision of fuck-you punk attitude and the love
of the dancefloor. The Strike Under EP was followed
by the debut single from Divine, the already infamous
counterculture cross-dressing performance artist, firmly
establishing the label’s subversive streak and its love
of outsiders. By the end of the 1980s, helped in part by
licensing deals with various European imprints, they had
nearly 300 releases under their belt. Ministry, Front 242,
Minimal Compact, Revolting Cocks, Coil, The Young Gods,
Laibach, Meat Beat Manifesto, KMFDM and Front Line
Assembly all called Wax Trax! home.
A highlight of ‘Industrial Accident’ is Patrick Codenys
and Richard 23 of Belgium’s Front 242 revealing their
astonishment at getting signed by Wax Trax! after
discovering they’d shifted tens of thousands of albums on
licence. Selling leather-clad European electronic music
to American audiences in the 1980s even now looks like a
task unlikely to succeed, but succeed they did. And then
went one step further by encouraging and enabling the
creation of Revolting Cocks, an industrial supergroup
featuring Richard 23, Luc Van Acker and Ministry’s
Al Jourgensen, later augmented by Chris Connelly of
Finitribe, which set a precedent for the label cooking up
bands to unleash on the world. But it was Al Jourgensen,
whose other side projects included 1000 Homo DJs, PTP,
Acid Horse (with Cabaret Voltaire) and Pailhead (with
Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye), who kept the label busy for years,
even as Ministry themselves signed to Sire Records. It
was Sire, it turns out, who paid for the Fairlight sampler
that powered many of the Wax Trax! releases.
60
Also talking candidly on camera in the documentary
is the delightful Groovie Mann (Frankie Nardiello) of
My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, a band put together
specifically for Wax Trax! and for a while the biggest
selling act on the label. Thrill Kill Kult’s brand of B-movie
kitsch and stripper chic set to a punishing digital beat
embodied the label’s trashy aesthetic, and Mann’s
smiling and camp recollections of the Wax Trax! days
are among the film’s best moments. He talks about how
the band attracted numerous Satanists, loons from
America’s badlands who would turn up at gigs having
eagerly digested his scrawled album artwork, which
featured all manner of half-baked nonsense lifted from
1960s horror movies. “I didn’t take any of it seriously,”
says Mann. “I didn’t even… care!”
AL JOURGENSEN
WAX TRAX!
im Nash and Dannie Flesher’s grip on Wax
Trax! weakened in the 1990s. The formalising of
their relationships with labels like Play It Again
Sam meant they were obliged to put out whatever PIAS
released, which committed them to spending money on
music they weren’t necessarily invested in emotionally.
Core bands like Front 242 and Thrill Kill Kult were tempted
away by major record deals and Wax Trax! started to lose
money, eventually being taken over by TVT in 1992. When
Jim died in 1995, Dannie walked away from the music
business and moved back to his home state of Arkansas,
where he remained until his death in 2010.
A year or so after Dannie died, Julia Nash organised
a three-day festival of Wax Trax! music at The Metro
in Chicago, and was overwhelmed by the reaction. The
three dates sold out and the warmth of the audiences,
whose lives had been shaped her father and Dannie’s
work, convinced her that she needed to secure their
legacy. She revived the Wax Trax! label, which has put
out a handful of releases over the last half a dozen years,
and focussed her energies on the production of the
‘Industrial Accident’ documentary.
There’s another story here, about how Wax Trax!
introduced a new kind of queer culture to America by
stealth, how a record company run by a gay couple
secured a safe space for a generation of freaks and
outsiders suffering in the small towns of America,
with releases and tours that had an irresistible sense
of reckless danger about them. Wax Trax! brought
an avowedly hillbilly grittiness to the business of
underground music, stripped it of intellectual justification,
and was content to revel in its own fabulousness and
outrage, funding artists who would otherwise have sunk
without a trace. It helped define a sound and a set of
values that still abide to this day.
J
RICHA RD 2 3
Look out for ‘Industrial Accident: The Story Of Wax Trax!
Records’ on the European and American film festival
circuits later this year
WA X T R A X! S TICKES
61
INSIDE THE JANE BRAIN
HAVING DABBLED WITH ELECTRONICS PREVIOUSLY,
JANE WEAVER HAS GONE THE WHOLE HOG ON HER NEW
ALBUM AND FULLY EMBRACED THE SYNTHY GOODNESS.
WE DISCOVER THE THINKING BEHIND HER NEW
WINNING FORMULA…
words:
BEN MURPHY
Over the course of her seven solo albums, this prolific artist has
f you can’t be free as a musician, when can you be free?”
made indie pop, electronic-tinged folk and, on her last record, the
says Cheshire-via-Manchester psyche-synth seer Jane
deservedly hyped ‘Silver Globe’, a unique take on krautrock. Hypnotic
Weaver, talking about the musical departure of her new
sounds and celestial moods have long been an obsession, and have
record. “You should be able to do what you want. That’s why I like to
manifested themselves on tracks such as the swirling, enrapturing
change now and again, expand what I’m doing, even if it makes me
‘Mission Desire’ (from ‘Silver Globe’) or on her collaborations with
feel uncomfortable.”
electronic music pioneer Suzanne Ciani. ‘Modern Kosmology’, though,
Jane’s latest record, the follow-up to 2014’s ‘Silver Globe’, is
represents a complete embrace of the synth sounds that until now
another reinvention. ‘Modern Kosmology’, her seventh solo offering,
had only been an irregular feature of her songs.
is a dream-like mix of burbling analogue synths, chugging guitars and
“I’d use a Mini Moog when I’d go in the studio,” Jane says. “But
highly memorable songs. She’s fed a love for 1970s kosmische and
now I’ve bought a Juno 6 and I was using that, a Korg Poly Ensemble,
1980s new age electronics through a hooky pop filter, and it’s superb:
a Roland guitar synth, and a Roland string synth. Those are key
the latest work from an artist who insists on challenging herself and
instruments now.”
following her artistic muse.
It’s the fact that these synths have a life and history of their own,
Chatting on the phone, she is down-to-earth and happy to tell
and that their sound is subtly altered each time they’re switched on
us about the background of the new record. Her lyrics, music and
philosophies, though, betray a mind fascinated by astral atmospheres, that intrigues her.
“I do like the fact that when you go into the studio, somebody else
and states of being beyond the typical. From the way she writes her
has been previously using it, and then you plug it in and it’s got a
songs, which appear to her as fully formed pieces, to her interest
different sound from when you first used it. It’s like this chain letter of
in psychic channelling through art, Jane’s brain is at least partly
sound, and it’s a historical thing as well. In this studio I use, the guitar
attuned to the cosmos.
synth was once owned by Status Quo!”
“Songs are thrown into your head,” she says. “It’s weird,
like, ‘What’s this?’, I have no idea why it happens and I’m always
he opening track on the new album, ‘H>A>K’, is a frenetic
interested in how other people create, and whether they get their
T thrum of motorik beats and vibrating analogue squelch
ideas in that way, or how they remember ideas. It’s really interesting.
merged with Jane’s crystalline voice, while ‘Did You See
Maybe I’ve just done too much acid, I don’t know!
Butterflies?’ is a haunting earworm of distorted guitar riffs and
“It’s like a storyboard sometimes, like I’m building a little film in my
electronic oscillation, a pop song wrapped in psychedelic textures.
head as to what those songs are, and then parts of the chorus have
Similarly, single ‘Slow Motion’ is a space lullaby, an ode to escape
certain visuals about them. I’ve always been a daydreamer, so maybe
with a phalanx of spiraling synths surrounding Jane’s vocals. It’s the
it’s part of that. I’ve got quite a visual imagination.”
most beautiful song she’s made, and a perfect illustration of her meld
of pop accessibility and sounds you wouldn’t necessarily associate
In her teenage years Jane got her break playing guitar music
with a pop song.
on the pub circuit. At 19, she signed a record deal with her
I
“I’m not massively avant-garde and experimental,” she explains.
band Kill Laura, releasing several singles and EPs of indie
“I like pop music as well, so my stuff is more song-based. I was
jangle (championed by John Peel) and Britpop hooks on labels Klee
doing more guitar-based stuff, and then I got bored with that. I was
and Manchester Records. In 2001, she released the first of several
just looking for other ways to create, and using more synths and
records with Misty Dixon, a folk and electronica influenced group,
electronic sounds. I’ve always been a fan of new age music and the
through her own Bird Records (an offshoot of Twisted Nerve).
amazing synth sounds of the 70s and 80s. They are just so powerful,
they give you a certain feeling.”
“I
62
JANE WEAVER
The influence of 1970s music is evident on ‘Modern Kosmology’
in other ways too. ‘Loops In The Secret Society’ and ‘H>A>K’ are
distinguished by their endless propulsive rhythm, a beat that doesn’t
deviate and hypnotises with its repetition. The motorik rhythms of
German space rock and the infinite drums of Neu! or Harmonia are,
Jane says, a definite source of inspiration.
“It’s like a heartbeat,” she agrees. “I always liked the first track of
albums to be something quite strong. With this album that heartbeat
sound: pulsating, heavy, is from the Mini Moog,
“If you pull a song out of something that maintains the same rhythm,
the same chords, the same keys, and has only certain nuances in it, I
think it’s a challenging thing. We can all do chord changes, we can
all do middle eights, we can all do certain things to change a song
to take it to a different place, but sometimes it’s nice to have this
pulsating thing all the way through.”
nother profound connection to the great German musical
innovators of the 1970s is in ‘Dust’, a collaboration with
Can mystic Malcolm Mooney, the American vocalist who
appeared on their first albums ‘Monster Movie’ and ‘Delay 1968’, and
the later records ‘Soundtracks’ and ‘Unlimited Edition’. A meditative
piece with Malcolm telling us, “We’re on our way / to dust”, it
unspools into a valley of guitars, violins and trippy atmospherics.
A long-time friend, Jane persuaded Malcolm to lend his vocals to the
track when he was over in the UK for a festival appearance.
“Malcolm is a friend we’ve known for years through my husband
Andy Votel [the producer and label owner behind the Finders Keepers
and Twisted Nerve labels]. I was doing something and I couldn’t
put my finger on what it reminded me of. Maybe it was an early Can
soundtrack, which was a bit weird. Then I thought it would be nice
to do something with Malcolm. He came over to the UK last year for
Festival No.6 and I managed to get him for a couple of hours and go
through everything, so it worked out fine.”
The musical inspirations of ‘Modern Kosmology’ are not only of the
retro variety. In Jane’s vocal delivery and in the effortless merging of
sounds, there’s a hint of Stereolab, something she’s only too happy to
admit to.
A
“Laetitia Sadier is a friend,” she says. “Stereolab are definitely an
influence, Broadcast too. It’s stuff I’ve always listened to, they’re
part of my record collection. That’s good stuff! Why wouldn’t you
take inspiration from that?”
ane’s love of art is a less apparent influence upon the new
album. A voracious consumer of art books, she recently
discovered the little-known-but-very-ahead-of-her-time
artist Hilma af Klint, whose methods of creating were drawn from the
supernatural realm.
“She was Swedish and one of the first abstract artists,” Jane
says. “People think Kandinsky and Mondrian were the first, but she
preceded them. She had her own secret society in the early 1900s.
She was a trained painter and she went off-road, decided to do all
these weird, abstract geometric print paintings. And she channeled
energy through séances and did automatic painting, painting for
days exhaustively. It’s an amazing story, but people don’t really know
about her because she stipulated she didn’t want people to see her
work until 20 years after she died.”
The idea of Hilma’s spiritual channelling appealed to Jane, who
sees a parallel in the way her songs arrive in her own brain, fully
formed.
“The influence is séance and obviously automatic drawing, free
association and the interest in where our ideas come from, and how
other people get their ideas. I was influenced by her lyrically, and also
trying to imagine where I was receiving my ideas from.”
Having explored various other genres in her work, it’s seems that
the interplay between live instruments and synths heard on her most
recent albums that suit her the most, just don’t try to guess what her
next musical metamorphosis will be…
“There aren’t many areas in life when you’ve not got boundaries,”
she concludes. “You’ve got to be more free.”
J
‘Modern Kosmology’ is out now on Fire Records
65
THANK YOU FOR THE MUSIC
ABBA MAY WELL BE BEST KNOWN AS SWEDEN’S
WORST-DRESSED BUT BEST-SELLING EXPORTERS OF
THE 1970S, BUT BENNY ANDERSSON WAS ALSO A BONA
FIDE SYNTH PIONEER. DON’T BELIEVE US? READ ON…
words:
NEIL MASON
ention ABBA and what springs to mind? Dancing at
weddings? The ‘Mamma Mia!’ musical? The 70s? The
Eurovision Song Contest? Synth pioneers? Hold it right
there… Synth pioneers?
In the revised and expanded new edition of ‘ABBA The Complete
Recording Sessions’, Carl Magnus Palm, the world’s leading ABBA
historian, reveals that while keyboard player Benny Andersson
didn’t seem especially fussed about electric or grand pianos, playing
whatever was available for recording session work, he was really
interested in latest tech, and from very early on in the band’s career
he began to assemble a personal synth stockpile that would go on to
shape the distinctive ABBA sound.
The first instruments he bought were bagged on the same
shopping trip to London in 1973. While it’s unclear when the spending
spree actually was, Benny snapped up a Mellotron M400 and a
Minimoog. Which is quite the haul, right? The M400 appears on the
band’s debut album, ‘Ring Ring’, featuring on the the title track and
‘Another Town, Another Train’, which was no mean feat considering
the record was released in March 1973. It was plain he was itching
to use his new acquisition, although it is strange that he was also
packing a Minimoog and yet there’s no sign of that on recordings until
the following year.
While the M400 went on to appear on ‘Hasta Mañana’, ‘Dance
(While The Music Still Goes On)’, and ‘Gonna Sing You My Lovesong’
M
66
from the band’s second album, ‘Waterloo’, released in March 1974,
would be the final outing for the machine, with Andersson going
on to describe its sound as “shrill” and “ugly”. Still, if it was good
enough for The Beatles, who used the Mellotron for the intro to
‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, it certainly did a job, albeit a short-lived
one, for ABBA.
The Minimoog faired much better. Inspired like many others to
buy one after hearing Hot Butter’s ‘Popcorn’, it is the most frequently
used synth on ABBA recordings from its debut on the ‘Waterloo’
album right up to the end of their wildly successful career in 1982.
According to Benny it was “the best synthesiser, because it’s got
its very own sound, soft and musical”. It’s much in evidence on that
first outing. From the thumping intro to the title track, the solo on
‘Honey Honey’, following the bassline on ‘What About Livingstone’
and helping beef up the soon to be redundant Mellotron on ‘Gonna
Sing You My Lovesong’, the Minimoog was all over ‘Waterloo’ and it
was apparent Benny had found a new weapon of choice.
“I actually don’t know so much about the technical side of it,” he
explained in 1979. “In the beginning I would simply sit and turn the
knobs until I got a sound I liked. Now I’m starting to learn roughly
how to get different sounds, and as long as I know what I want I
can produce them pretty quickly. But during the first years I think
Michael [Tretow, their long-time sound engineer/producer] and Björn
suffered quite a lot while I was fooling around with the knobs.”
It’s quite remarkable that it was only in 1979, some six years
after he bought the Minimoog, that he felt he was beginning to learn
how it worked! It was around this time that he acquired the “dream
machine”, the prog rock big gun, the Yamaha GX-1. Weight 600lbs,
the triple keyboarded beastie came ready mounted on its own
platform complete with stool. Keith Emerson owned two, of course,
until one was run over by a runaway tractor… but we digress. Benny
first clocked the GX-1 in the hands of Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones
in September 1978 while recording ‘In Through The Out Door’ in
Stockholm. ”I thought, ‘What the hell is that?” he recalls. The GX-1
was made in very limited numbers between 1973 and 1977, but
Benny would lay his hands on one with the help of Yamaha’s
European office, using it for the first time in March 1979. “I created
my first sound as soon as I got it,” he says, “the bass synthesiser you
hear at the start of ‘Does Your Mother Know’. Then I thought, ‘Worth
every penny!’”
ABBA
WE CAUGHT UP WITH AUTHOR CARL MAGNUS PALM TO
SEE IF HE COULD SHED ANY FURTHER LIGHT ON BENNY’S
SYNTH OBSESSION.
The new edition of ‘ABBA The Complete Recording Sessions’
has been completely rewritten and contains a mountain of new
information, what are the main new discoveries?
CMP: There are plenty of new discoveries, as I’ve been able to
listen to much more unreleased material than I was able to back
in the 1990s for the first edition. It’s been especially interesting
hearing every surviving alternate mix in the archives, because
it allows you to study how a song would evolve and how they
would add overdub after overdub – usually in the shape of Benny’s
synths! In the book he explains how they would overdub a lot
using the Minimoog – tiny snippets, phrases and riffs that they
would interweave into songs. He’d also use it to “amplify” other
instruments by playing the same part again on the Minimoog. He
said by doing that it gives you a much fatter sound!
Benny didn’t seem overly fussed about his pianos, but he clearly
loved the Mellotron and Minimoog didn’t he?
CMP: He did. He said in an interview as early as 1974 that
“electronic sounds are the future, even in pop music made for
a wide audience”. He would have said that around the time of
‘Waterloo’.
What do you think he liked about synths in particular? CMP: I think he was attracted by the possibility of the almost
endless variations, enabling him to create sounds that didn’t exist.
With the Mellotron, I think he liked that it would enable him to be
an “orchestra” himself. It is sometimes referred to as an early
version of the sampler, it stored authentic recordings of flutes,
strings and other instruments and since it was possible to play
chords on the Mellotron it enabled a keyboard player to emulate,
for example, a string section. Although because of its somewhat
wobbly tone it rather tended to create a sound unique to the
Mellotron itself!
Would you say that it was these kinds of instruments that shaped the
ABBA sound more than anything else?
CMP: If we’re talking about the instrumental side only, forgetting
Agnetha and Frida’s vocals for a minute, Benny’s keyboards
were definitely the basis of the ABBA sound: piano as well as
synthesisers and other electronic keyboards.
Besides the Mellotron and Minimoog, what else did he have up his
sleeve? CMP: He was always keen to keep up with the latest synths, and it
seems he was a very early adopter of the Polymoog, for instance.
Even he doesn’t quite recall which synths he used, but there is
evidence he used the Prophet-10 and the Yamaha GS-1 on some
of the final ABBA recordings in 1982. His greatest love affair,
however, was with the Yamaha GX-1, which he acquired in March
1979 and first used for the bass synth intro on ‘Does Your Mother
Know’. He had acquired cartridges with Led Zeppelin’s John Paul
Jones’ string programme for the GX-1, and he preferred that sound
to live strings, so from 1980 onwards, and with ‘The Winner Takes
It All’ as the only exception, ABBA never used live strings on their
recordings again. The last gadget he bought was the Synclavier
back in the 1980s – after that, he says, he just couldn’t be bothered
reading any more manuals.
He was a pretty early adopter wasn’t he? Do you think he gets the
credit he deserves as a synth pioneer?
CMP: I don’t think he does. I know there are connoisseurs out
there who appreciate what he’s done, but because of the poppy
nature of ABBA’s records I don’t think people notice the synths so
much. Also, Benny’s use of the synths was often more AOR than
the futuristic style we associate with the likes of Giorgio Moroder
or Kraftwerk, so perhaps that’s another reason he isn’t held up as
a pioneer.
What do you consider the best examples of the Minimoog on ABBA
records? CMP: The intro to ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After
Midnight)’, famously sampled by Madonna in ‘Hung Up’, for
example. I also like the staccato riffing on ‘Lay All Your Love On
Me’, which was played completely manually. Also some more
obscure early tracks, particularly on the ‘Waterloo’ album, where
there’s a lot of that early super-electronic synth sound, less
polished than what would follow. So there’s the very brief synth
solo on ‘Honey, Honey’; the squealy sounds on ‘Watch Out’, which
is a song Benny and Björn both loathe, and the whiny tones
on ‘Gonna Sing You My Lovesong’. I love hearing Benny in this
experimental mode.
I notice in the very back page of the book there's a quote from
Michael Tretow – "I've had enough of the Moog now". Would you care
to elaborate?
CMP: The original quote, “Nu har jag fått noog av Moog” is a play
on words, as the Swedish word for “enough” rhymes with “Moog”.
But there was some truth behind the joke, as Michael would be
pulling his hair out in frustration at Benny’s interminable synth
overdubs. They only had 24 tracks back then and those tracks
would be filled up quickly, meaning that Michael had to mix several
tracks down to one track to free up more tracks for Benny’s synths.
Benny would never give up, there was always a new idea he
wanted to try out.
‘ABBA: The Complete Recording Sessions’ by Carl Magnus Palm is
out now, published by CMP Text
69
ADVENTURES IN MODERN RECORDING
SOUND SPECIALISTS WHO CREATE SUBTLE AURAL
WORLDS THAT YOU MIGHT NOT NOTICE IF YOU WEREN’T
LISTENING FOR THEM, THE WORK OF THE LONDONBASED CODA TO CODA ADORNS TV SHOWS, FEATURE
FILMS, DOCUMENTARIES AND EXHIBITIONS, INCLUDING
THEIR INVENTIVE SOUNDSCAPE FOR THE SCIENCE
MUSEUMS’ ‘ROBOTS’ SHOW
words:
70
NEIL MASON
CODA TO CODA
et’s jump back a little, back to our robot special
(Issue 27) and to the opening of the Robots
exhibition at The Science Museum. We were
there for a sneak preview of the show and to have a chat
with lead curator Ben Russell. “Electronic Sound,” he
says as we’re introduced. “Do you know we’re stood in a
musical robot?” We didn’t.
“We wanted a nice, fruity exhibition that’s got all the
robots and the objects in it,” explains Ben, “but you need
to support the exhibits, so you need some film, you need
lighting and you need sound. We worked with a company
who designed the sound as a whole series of tiny clips of
music that are pieced together with an algorithm so they
constantly change and reinvent themselves.”
Our head almost explodes at the very thought that
exhibitions even have soundtracks, let alone robotpowered ones. Once our interview is over, we wander
round the exhibition spaces again, just listening. The
polyrhythms of clocks, all ticks and tocks and chimes,
the sounds of the industrial revolution, the automated
looms that hammer out an almost techno-like rhythm,
the early sci-fi thrums and rumbles, it’s all so… musical.
The Science Museum have gone as far as releasing the
soundtrack on CD because, well, it stands up as an album
in its own right.
The ‘Robots’ soundtrack was made by Coda To Coda,
whose east London studio Ben rather vividly describes as
“a bunker with no windows”. Best we go see for ourselves
we thought. While it may be subterranean, Coda To
Coda’s home is not remotely bunker-like. It houses four
recording studios that fan out from a central kitchen area
and it’s all rather cosy. While lights flicker on machines
L
and hi-tech mixing desks dominate studios, an old
wooden kitchen table is centre stage in the kitchen area
around which, steaming cuppas on go, sit composers
and sound designers Sam Britton and Will Worsley and
producer Tanya Auclair, who along with sound recordist
Aaron May, created the Robots soundscape.
Coda To Coda set up shop almost a decade ago.
It began when Sam and Will, who cut their teeth working
in recording studios working their way up from tea boys
to engineers, met through a mutual friend who’d set up
a production company and needed a soundtrack to a
series of documentaries featuring the renowned British
architect Will Alsop. The company went on to land a
gig producing an animation series for BBC’s CBeebies
channel and again they called on Coda To Coda for all
things sound. The 52-part ‘Messy Goes To Okido’ was
something of an eye opener for Sam and Will.
“With animation you’re not dealing with sound that
comes from a shoot,” says Sam. “You’re not taking your
source from the real world and adding music, it’s about
telling a story using sound as much as with the pictures.
So with a lot of those films it’s the sound that lends it that
realism, which we found really interesting.”
It’s that pressing of the interesting button that seems
to sustain and drive their work today.
“Releasing the ‘Robots’ CD wasn’t intentional,” says
Will. “It was something that came very late on in the
process.”
“If our role was just a case of making some muzak that
just bubbles along there is no way we could have created
an album from of it,” adds Tanya.
71
What you are about to discover puts their work on
‘Robots’ a loooong way from muzak.
“When we got asked to pitch for the soundscape,”
says Sam, “we thought it would be amazing to try and
create a musical robot and evoke the spirit of the exhibition in sound form.”
A musical robot? Indeed. It is, according to the
sleevenotes, “a series of complementary musical machines, each of which generates its own unique soundscape according to certain parameters”. While the album
is a selection of excerpts that move seamlessly through
the 500-year quest to create humanoid robots, the real
deal is mind boggling.
“There’s one central computer that creates a
64-channel soundscape, feeding each channel to a
separate speaker in the gallery,” says Will. “What you
hear is being generated within the computer, so it’s all
being played live. All the samples are also being triggered
according to the different parameters we’ve set and so
they change over time.”
Which means that as you walk around the exhibition
what you’re hearing is a soundtrack unique to your visit.
It will never sound the same twice. What’s more it could
just go on regenerating forever. Head not leaking quite
enough? The real kicker is that while you’re there, unless
someone points all this out to you, the sound is just part
of the experience.
“It’s really nice that it isn’t obtrusive,” says Tanya.
“On one level you are totally clocking it, but not in a kind
of ‘Whoah, what’s that sound?’ kind of way. I remember
when we were installing it and I was stood in the ‘Marvel’
section, looking at all the clocks and they’re static,
they’re not working, but because of the sound everything
felt like it was coming to life.”
“We went to The Science Museum early one morning
to meet The Master Of Clocks who let us stick contact
microphones on all kinds of different devices,” adds Will.
“So the soundtrack you hear in ‘Marvel’ is just a lot of
clocks running at slightly different speeds,” explains Sam.
“The core element is six clock mechanisms that create
polyrhythms and within those we could then create any
number of different settings, pick out certain types of
clock by making them run slower or faster and create
patterns.”
But it takes on a whole new level when you realise the
entire exhibition has a pulse, a heartbeat.
72
CODA TO CODA
“The exhibition has a master tempo of 120bpm ,” says
Will, matter of factly. “Everything, the videos, lights
and the sound are all triggered from that. The idea was
there would be certain things that would synchronise
at certain points. It’s quite uncanny when you catch the
screens out of the corner of your eye and all the cuts are
changing at the same time.
This master tempo also helps as you move from one
area to the next. While sounds might wash from one
speaker to the next, the idea is that your trip round the
exhibition feels like a continuous journey rather than
moving from one era to another, because the whole thing
is ebbing and flowing in time.
“It doesn’t feel as jarring as it otherwise would
because everything is in time, which is quite nice,” smiles
Sam. “The entire exhibition itself is quite subtle, it’s very
nuanced.”
The whole thing feels so well thought out and is so
beautifully executed that its making must have been
a pleasure itself. We wonder if there’s anything they
particularly enjoyed recording?
“There’s a sequence called ‘Recreation’ where we
had to imagine the sounds of a park in the future,” says
Sam. “So we created six or seven different robot birds
that almost sound like real birds. When you walk around
you think, ‘That’s birdsong’, but actually they’re made on
a modular synth. Then there’s a section called ‘Dream’,
which uses the original talking clock. It’s actually in The
Science Museum collection and it’s the most fascinating
object. The voice was recorded, etched on to glass plates,
they had six or seven of them, and each plate just moves
a little with each announcement of the time.”
While the work is undoubtedly a soundscape, do they,
we wonder, see what they do as music? If it had lived in
the exhibition space alone and didn’t find its way onto
CD where it is intended to be listened to in the same way
you would the latest New Order live album or whatever,
would we even be asking ‘Is this music?’. But maybe we
should. On its own ‘Robots: The Exhibition Soundtrack’ to
give it its official title, stands up to anything we review in
our pages.
“I think as a company, on a day-to-day level, we
fight the battle all the time about how people listen to
things,” says Sam. “A lot of it is how it’s presented and
contextualised, but I guess that’s also an expectation of
what music is. Is our expectation of popular music just a
song that tells a story?”
From the start, the ‘Robots’ exhibition itself plays
with those expectations, so it’s no surprise that the
soundtrack does too. What you expect is to see a load of
robots, but you don’t see the robots until the end.
“The first thing you see is a robot baby,” says Sam
of the specially commissioned humanoid welcome you
receive on entering the show. “And then you’re standing
in a room full of clocks. If someone said they were going
to do an exhibition about robots and there was going to
be a load of clocks at the beginning you’d be like, ‘Nah’,
but it’s brilliant.”
It really is. You can see why The Science Museum
wanted the bright minds of Coda To Coda on board.
If you’ve not seen the exhibition yet, let alone heard it,
we would thoroughly recommend doing so. Chop chop.
It’s on until September. What are you waiting for?
‘Robots: The Exhibition Soundtrack’ is available from
codatocoda.bandcamp.com. ‘Robots’ is at The Science
Museum until 3 September. For more details visit
sciencemuseum.org.uk
73
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NEW ORDER
IN G A U T O
M AT IC
17/02/2017
18:55
EARTHLY
DELIGHTS
76
THE BACK
RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP
Burials In Several Earths
Room 13
Something very strange happened back in 1958. The BBC opened
its Radiophonic Workshop, an experimental sound unit designed
to create special effects and music exclusively for its radio and
TV programmes. This part of Maida Vale Studios, with its array of
then-cutting edge noise generating tools, became a laboratory for
electronic sound at a time when the majority of people had no idea
machine-generated music existed.
The most famous musician/engineer/visionary installed there
was Delia Derbyshire, the celebrated co-creator (with Ron Grainer)
of the fabulously creepy and prophetic ‘Doctor Who’ theme, as
well as lesser-known works such as ‘Pot Au Feu’ and ‘Sea’, and
diversions into avant-rock as White Noise. Radiophonic Workshop,
though, consisted of a large group of musicians. By the early 1970s,
sound wizards including Dick Mills, Peter Howell, Roger Limb, Paddy
Kingsland and Brian Hodgson were tucked away in an artistic enclave
and given relative creative freedom, and the run of the most high
tech musical equipment imaginable. Their great act of sedition was
sneaking the avant-garde into mainstream national consciousness.
Musique concrète and leftfield compositions became commonplace
on TV.
These musicians wrestled with state-of-the-art synths such
as the EMS VCS 3 and made otherworldly scores and nightmarish
reverberations especially well-suited to science fiction series, from
‘Blake’s 7’ to ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’. These freaky
emissions were broadcast directly into the living rooms of a new
generation open to new sound possibilities, through the innocuous
medium of BBC television. The electronic artists of the near future,
from Coldcut to The Human League, were taking notes.
Dismantled in 1998 (the death knell sounded by cheaper electronic
music equipment becoming commonplace), Radiophonic Workshop
has risen again. Where once they were considered weird, the
Workshop’s outlandish creations are now recognised as prescient
masterpieces. Analogue synths are fetishised for their authenticity
in 2017, and there’s a strong appetite for new music from the original
creators. In this spirit, Mills, Kingsland, Limb and Howell have
returned, aided by newer member Mark Ayres (who composed
‘Doctor Who’ music in the 1980s). They’re now a band, and have
already been touring to perform their “hits”, but a band normally
needs fresh material to play.
Their new record ‘Burials In Several Earths’ is alarmingly good. It’s
a double CD compendium of five long works, which are immersive,
original and not retro in the least. Instead, the five musicians behind
this new incarnation of the Workshop have focused their energies
on creating in the same adventurous style, making use of synths
old (the Jupiter-8 and Korg MS-20) and sparkling new (the Arturia
MatrixBrute, which bears a few similarities to the EMS VCS 3 they
originally used).
Edited down into cohesive pieces by Mark Ayres, after long
improvisations with Martyn Ware (The Human League, Heaven 17)
and Steve ‘Dub’ Jones (mix engineer for The Chemical Brothers, New
Order and many more), ‘Burials In Several Earths’ moves from dark,
disturbing and compelling, full of burbling tendrils of lashing synth
noise and menacing drones, as on ‘Some Hope Of Land’, to beautiful,
looping neo-classical piano and deep atmospheres, as on ‘Things
Buried In Water’. The latter descends into some of the darkest, most
compelling sound this writer has ever heard. These don’t sound like
synths, more like something dredged up from the deepest uncharted
cavern, ‘Quatermass And The Pit’ style.
The album title comes from ‘New Atlantis’, a story by Sir Francis
Bacon, the 16th century writer and renaissance man, which many
consider to be a very early work of speculative or science fiction.
When the Radiophonic Workshop first opened for business, Daphne
Oram, one of the most prominent musicians associated with the
laboratories, hung a quote from ‘New Atlantis’ on the wall of the
Maida Vale facilities’ Room 13. The quote’s prophetic nature is
spooky when you consider when it was written, and the extent to
which it mirrors the mission of the Workshop musicians: “We have
also sound-houses, where we practise and demonstrate all sounds,
and their generation… Diverse instruments of music likewise to
you unknown, some sweeter than any you have”. In that same story,
the people of the ‘New Atlantis’ talk of experiments and “burials in
several earths”.
It seems fitting that these strange futuristic sounds, so far ahead
of their time, have been exhumed by their authors, and put back into
use during an era more accepting of them. It’s also gratifying that
these musicians can now be appreciated for their music alone, and
not just their contributions to TV and radio soundtracks. The best
part? ‘Burials In Several Earths’ is some of the finest music they’ve
ever made.
BEN MURPHY
77
COT TON WOL F
COTTON WOLF
L PIERRE
THE HELIOCENTRICS
DEMEN
This debut album from esteemed
Welsh producer Llion Robertson
and classically-trained composer
Seb Goldfinch is nicely balanced
between pop and experimental
sensibilities. There are plenty
of echoes of classic Britronica
(‘Vessels’ could be early Mike
Paradinas and ‘While Night
Grows’ has more than a touch
of Orbital about it), but there’s
also older electropop influences
and a great vocal track (‘Lilwau’)
sung entirely in Welsh, bringing
one of Björk’s livelier and more
joyously simple moments to mind.
Aiden Moffat’s final offering as
L Pierre is a vinyl-only release
(literally, there’s no sleeve)
that samples the ‘Mendelssohn
Violin Concerto’ performed by
the New York Philharmonic with
Nathan Milstein. Released in
1948 by Columbia Records, it was
the very first 12-inch LP, which
Moffat samples for use here
from YouTube. The hauntingly
beautiful eight tracks (no titles,
no sleeve to write them on)
‘1948-’ question the value of
music, its new platforms and the
nostalgia we have for vinyl. It
even comes with a locked groove
so it only ends when you decide.
Marvellous stuff. SR
From their East London vintage
analogue-equipped sound lab,
these David Axelrod-approved,
sometime associates of DJ
Shadow fashion swirling clouds
of dubby, Eastern-scented
psychedelic jazz. Floating
in boundless space at its
high points, such as with the
exotically captivating title track,
it’s an imagined soundtrack to
an out-of-time opium dream.
Though the band’s insistence on
improv at all costs does work
against them at times, trading
off as it does the anchoring
familiarity of traditional song
structure. CG
Signed on the strength of an
anonymous demo, the first
release by this Stockholmer
(real name Irma Orm) is a work
of filigree and shadow. And
if you relish that reference
you’ll rejoice in her due paid
to This Mortal Coil. Played
alone, recorded alone, there’s a
distant, dreaded emptiness to
Orm’s impassioned, wordless
expositions on songs such as
‘Noirum’, her dark atmospherics
peaking early with the nineminute gothic suite of ‘Morgon’
and on the deliciously dubby
gamelan of ‘Ambur’. JK
Life In Analogue
Bubblewrap Collective
BW
78
1948Melodic
A World Of Masks
Soundway
Nektyr
Kranky
THE BACK
VÖK
VÖK
Figure
Nettwerk
Having made their mark in their
home country after winning
talent contest Músíktilraunir
months after forming, Icelandic
four-piece Vök’s debut LP ‘Figure’
is here to show the world their
take on 80s synthpop. Dreamy,
distorted electronics ripple
against almost-whispered vocals,
with the album channelling
sci-fi soundtracks in parts. Head
straight for ‘Polar’, its alien
wibble quivering alongside
crashing percussion. Mark my
words; there are big things in
store for this lot. FM
SOPHIE COOPER
& JULIAN BRADLEY
The Blow Vol. 3
Front & Follow
The third volume of Front &
Follow’s consistently superb
Blow series pitches sound and
vocal artist Sophie Cooper with
Vibracathedral Orchestra’s
Julian Bradley for an epic and
arresting album. Distortion,
drones, faltering synth melodies,
unsettling found sounds, folksy
guitars, surreal vocals and
intense patterns of gloriously
all-enveloping noise make this
an uncompromising prospect,
only revealing the intricacies
of its construction on moments
like the ‘Chill Out’-esque wonky
Americana of ‘Nowhere From
The Water To Go’. MS
VARIOUS ARTISTS
MICHAEL MAYER
To celebrate its Lucid Dreams Of
Dr Sardonicus event reaching
Germany with Damo Suzuki
headlining, the marvellously
idiosyncratic Fruits De Mer
label has assembled catalogue
highlights of a krautrock hue
over this three-CD set, initially
for sale at its events. After an
introduction from Grobshnitt’s
Eroc, the collection takes off
through often audacious cover
versions of Can, NEU!, Tangerine
Dream, Popol Vuh, Faust and
Brainticket classics, along
with some epics they inspired.
Suitably insane and massive
fun. KN
Cologne’s Mayer is often unfairly
daubed with the “minimal” tag,
so given the chance to show his
eclecticism here he really goes
to town. The 16-track selection
sees him combining everything
from Alter Ego and Jon Hopkins
to Throbbing Gristle and Death
In Vegas. Taking his time to build
gently from mellow coasting to
hypnotic momentum, Mayer uses
all manner of sonic colours, from
African percussion and soothing
flutes to murmured spoken voice,
that are usually off limits to the
harder end of electronica. Good
work. BW
Kopf Music
Fruits De Mer
DJ Kicks
DJ-Kicks
79
M AEL S T ROM
MAELSTROM
PRESCOTT
VARIOUS ARTISTS
BVDUB
“Label co-founder hypnotises self
to write novel with sound” is not
an Onion headline: this really is a
soundtrack to an unwritten civil
war story, recorded using trance
techniques. Lawks. This unusual
inspiration gives Maelstrom’s
debut nov… er… album an
energetic force at its most
terrifying on the piston stomp of
‘Escaping From Malaga’. “RAAR
Records chief plunders 1990s
ambient techno” might be a truer
tale of the album’s less-thansubliminal Autechre-isms. FR
It’s hard to beat their own
description of a “sonic cocktail
party gone horribly wrong”,
but that’s these London
instrumentalists’ second LP in
a nut(case)shell. Pooling their
Stump/Scritti Politti/Pere Ubu
lineage, the quartet generate
the politest abstract rumpus of
sharply syncopated avant-fusion
with titles such as ‘Angry Diners’
and ‘Gone Jewish’. ‘Rubberised’
is very much the delightfully
bonkers stand-out though, with
its Duane Eddy meets Max Wall
funk, completed by squawks and
screeches from glitch mistress
Iris Garrelfs. JK
“It was too hard to choose which
artist will do the 100th release
of the label so we’ve asked
everybody to make a track for
this record,” says Ed Banger
label founder Pedro Winter.
For the first compilation since
2013, ‘Ed Rec 100’ recruits
the likes of Mr Oizo, Cassius
and Breakbot for 17 tracks
of slick, groove-laden house.
There’s also a lovely Boys Noize
remix of Justice’s ‘Randy’. A
stonking collection; perfect
for celebrating the 100 release
milestone. FM
Brock Van Wey, aka BVdub, is
back in San Francisco after
10 years living in China, and
there’s more than a hint of that
city’s sun-drenched, laid-back
vibe in evidence on this ultra
ambient affair. The likes of ‘Your
Painted Armor Aches To Crack’
and ‘Clouds Besiege What You
Remain’ are swaddled in soft
pad sounds and layers of slowly
soaring, ethereal strings, like
the sonic equivalent of watching
vapour trails slowly form in a
sunlit sky. BW
Her Empty Eyes
RAAR
80
Thing Or Two
Thoofa
Ed Rec 100
Ed Banger
Epilogues For The End Of The Sky
Glacial Movements
THE BACK
MOON DUO | PHOTO: EL EONOR A COL L IN
JUANA MOL INA
JU VENIL ES | PHOTO: RICHA RD DUM AS
SHE SPRE AD SORROW
MOON DUO
JUANA MOLINA
JUVENILES
SHE SPREAD SORROW
The second volume of Moon
Duo’s ‘Occult Architecture’ opus
that focusses on light and dark
energies through Chinese theory.
Thematically, whereas ‘Vol 1’
focussed on the Yin (darkness,
earth), ‘Vol 2’ concerns itself
with the lighter Yang elements,
and is all glittering synths and
space-age krautrock. The
psychedelic twang of ‘Mirror’s
Edge’ is hard to resist, while
the 10-minute epic ‘The
Crystal World’ is a thrumming,
funky journey through an
undocumented planet. Trippy
stuff. FM
A one-time famous actress in her
native Argentina, at the height
of her fame Molina quit acting
to pursue a career in music. The
rich, sophisticated ‘Halo’, her
seventh long-player, suggests
she made the right career choice.
Recorded between her home
studio in Buenos Aires and Texas,
the rolling ‘In The Lassa’ sets the
tone, soaked through with a kind
of mellow Tom Tom Club vibe,
which is the feeling throughout.
Very high quality gear. SR
Following on from their 2013
self-titled debut, Juveniles have
enlisted the help of some pals for
the follow-up ‘Without Warning’.
Featuring contributions from the
likes of Christopher Berry (Hot
Chip, Yeasayer) Ben Campbell
(Big Data) and Yuksek, ‘Without
Warning’ is full of upbeat
melodies and dreamy synths.
It bumps shoulders with 80s
synthpop, and while the vocals
can get a little too indie in places,
the catchy disco grooves are
enough to keep you more than
satisfied, see the groovy thrum
of ‘Solipsism’ for further details.
Perfect for dancing. FM
The sophomore outing from
Italian artist Alice Kundalini
is a dark and sinister as we’ve
come to expect from Cold Spring.
‘Mine’ is pretty flipping terrifying
actually, just reading about it
puts the shits up us. “Where
whispers and obscene thoughts
mingle, the inner voices are
fleeing to the rules of harmony
to awaken a darker sound’. The
grinding strings and threatening
whisper of ‘Crushed On The
Pillow’, the insistent menacing
pulse of ‘Lust’… not one to be
listened to with the lights out. SR
Occult Architecture Vol 2
Sacred Bones
Halo
Crammed Discs
Without Warning
Universal
Mine
Cold Spring
81
FORES T SWORDS
FOREST SWORDS
THE VACANT LOTS
METAMATICS
At last, something new from Merseysider
Matthew Barnes, aka Forest Swords. And
by hell, it’s good; as complex, captivating
and heavy as his 2013’s fawned-over debut
‘Engravings’.
Barnes obviously thinks before he
composes, making sure there’s veracity
and logic underpinning the idea frames that
inform his singular, otherworldly art. It’s why
the sweepingly ambitious global musical
elements that you hear feel absolutely right,
and of these times.
So the east is conjured up more than
once; sampled, looped and layered in all its
complexity as Himalayan shrine vibes sit next
to the dark choral forebode of the old eastern
bloc. “I fear something’s wrong/The panic is
on” exclaims the distorted voice on ‘Panic’,
which shifts imperceptibly from escapist
fantasy to claustrophobic nightmare with
assured verve. But rightly so. Barnes has a
lot to say about these times, and he knows
that he must choose his notes carefully lest
no one listens. Stunning. CG
The irrepressible spirit of their mentor
Alan Vega lives on in the second album
from Vermont/NYC/Burlington-based The
Vacant Lots. After giving the nearly finished
set his blessing before he died last July
(it’s dedicated to his memory), his vocals,
drawn posthumously from his archive, rear
spine-chillingly on ‘Suicide Note’, whooping
and cajoling from beyond the grave over its
malevolent grind.
By that closing track, Jared Artaud and
Brian MacFadyen have already made their
own colossal mark with their scintillatingly
abrasive mating of primal garage rock and
dark pop on scathing noisescapes such
as the brutal Velvet Underground riffs
of ‘Dividing Light’ and the disturbing and
desolate spoken word drama of ominous
sound poem ‘Empty Space’.
Vega may be gone, but with such
uncompromising marauders as The Vacant
Lots carrying his torch, those decades of
frontline struggle were not in vain. This is
one where you really have to find out for
yourselves. KN
This slab of sought-after late-90s delicate
electronica is a welcome re-release, not
least for the clear vinyl and the Chinese
people’s ballet imagery which adorns its
suitably minimal artwork.
Metamatics, aka Lee Norris, was part
of the 1990s British electronic movement,
much in evidence on the sussed Clear and
Hydrogen Dukebox labels, which stripped out
the clutter and noise and pursued a minimal
sound that focussed on a carefully crafted
blend of subtlety and intricacy.
High points are ‘Escher’s Escalator’ and
‘Hamberg Trick’, probably the most strident
tracks here, and the slippery ‘2nd Floor
Flat’, where the beat pulls its own rug from
under itself to quite disconcerting effect, a
trick pulled off again on the lovely ‘Beautiful
Mutations’. Delicate top lines are weaved
in and out of the gossamer beats creating a
woozy downtempo mood which, if you were
doing late nights in the late 1990s in London,
Tokyo or New York, will rush you back there
if you close your eyes for more than a few
seconds. MR
Compassion
Ninja Tune
82
Endless Night
Metropolis
NEOOUIJA
Hydrogen Dukebox
THE BACK
BRIEF
ENCOUN
TERS
!!!
Shake The Shudder
Warp
NEW YORK’S DANCEFLOOR INSURRECTIONISTS
STILL GO-GO-ING STRONG ON SEVENTH LP
NIC OFFER, !!! FRONTMAN, ASSUMES THE POSITION AS WE
STOCK UP OUR QUICK-FIRE QUESTION MACHINE…
Vital new albums from The Vacant Lots, White Hills
and godfather Martin Rev show that, despite corporate
takeovers and shocking political upheavals, New York
is currently in fabulous musical shape. !!! (commonly
pronounced Chk Chk Chk) have long been at the forefront
of the city’s latest musical revolution and, with their loud,
proud seventh album, crystallise their smorgasbord of
wild idiosyncracies, dancefloor dreams and New York
fantasies into their hardest-hitting work yet.
After forming in 1995 from various Californian punk
bands, 2000’s self-titled debut album, ‘!!!’ got serious
in its mission to fuse the Gang Of Four and Contortions
with the JB’s. By 2004’s politically-charged ‘Louden Up
Now’, they had signed to Warp, relocated to New York
and released nine-minute sonic breakthrough ‘Me And
Giuliani Down by the School Yard (A True Story)’. Further
albums, most recently 2015’s ‘As If’, displayed an everevolving honing of a sound now defiantly all New York in
the hedonistic mutant disco grooves, Defunkt horns and
incisive vocals.
For this album, frontman Nic Offer, Mario Andreoni
(guitar), Dan Gorman (horns, keyboards), former LCD
and Cake collaborator Tyler Pope (bass, electronics) and
Allan Wilson (horns, percussion, keys), built up tracks
inspired by jamming in Barcelona and loops created on
old synths. Produced at their home studio by long-time
conspirator Patrick Ford, the resultant grooves are
crisp and thudding, guitars JBs funky and the vocals
veer between sexy chorales and Offer’s salacious cross
between George Clinton, Marc Bolan and Prince.
The towering ‘Dancing Is The Best Revenge’ ignites
early 80s mirrorballs with omnipresent heavy funk bass,
igniting a vivid procession of all that was anarchically
great about New York’s early ‘80s dancefloors, peaking
with classic NY house-flavoured ‘Our Love (U Can
Get)’ and the dark urban rumble of ‘Things Get Hard’
underpinned by bass growling like a wrecking ball
attacking an Alphabet City ruin.
Like a time capsule from a lost time of hedonism and
protest defiance, !!! use an often-forgotten past to boil
a sound spot-on for today; a modern New York state of
mind.
The new album ‘Shake The Shudder’ marks your 20th anniversary as a
band. What’s the secret to staying together?
It could’ve as easily fallen apart the first month, it could just as easily
fall apart next month. From the start, everyone who was invited to the
first practice were people we knew were basically cool and would be
fun to sit next to for hours in the van.
What was the soundtrack to the making of the new album?
Oh, there’s always so many. Bowie, Prince, Cohen and George
Michael’s deaths loomed large, they were the proper songwriters
who all influenced this record, but we were listening to a lot of club
music like Moodymann, old house like that Dance Mania compilation
that came out a while back, Drake, Kanye, Kendrick, Future, Migos…
Do you listen to music other than your own when you’re recording?
Oh always. I know some artists try to avoid listening to other artists,
but there’s more examples of bands finding unique ideas by being
inspired by other music. The 60s were partly such a great time for
music because there was so much cross pollination, The Beatles, The
Stones, Dylan, Hendrix, they were all listening and often covering
each other.
You claim “there’s no such thing as a bad synth”. That’s as maybe, but
there’s some real stinkers, right?
We currently don’t think so. I hated the first keyboard we began
jamming with for this album, loathed it, but by the end of the week I
loved it. The ones that are bad force you to try things you wouldn’t
normally do and you end up finding more interesting stuff.
Are there any synths that are so bad they’re good?
Yeah man, of course. That’s our whole point. The limits are in the
keyboard players’ imaginations.
Right, enough of all that. Let’s talk Stereolab. Any plans for you to
support yourself with your Stereolad covers side project again?
We wanted it to be a learning experience so I think if we did it again
we would probably try another band, although there is talk of us
backing up Laetitia if she opens for us at our London show…
That press shot of Stereolad. Where did the dress come from?
Found it at The Salvation Army. We all tried it on and I looked best in
it so I wore it.
How did you first come across Stereolab?
I had a layover in Cincinatti on a Greyhound bus trip across America
and happened upon a record shop that was playing their new album
at the time, ‘Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements’. I
was instantly taken by it and asked the record clerk what it was.
Always wondered, but in ‘One Girl/One Boy’, what is the song you hear?
Oh geez, I don’t know if I should give this away. I will say this though,
there were several songs that reminded me of this girl and three titles
are encoded in the lyrics. She would maybe be the only one that could
guess them, but they are very clearly stated.
KRIS NEEDS
‘Shake The Shudder’ is out now on Warp
83
BURIED
TREASURE
MARTINI
RANCH
UNEARTHING ELECTRONIC GOLD
ROBERT LEINER
HOLY COW
Futurismo
‘Visions Of The Past’
Apollo (1994)
BILL “I SAY WE GREASE THIS RAT-FUCK SON OF
A BITCH RIGHT NOW” PAXTON BAND AHOY!
It was quite remarkable. It still is. In a period of less than 18 months
beginning in the spring of 1993, Robert Leiner released three albums –
three double albums at that – and each and every one of them was an
absolute corker. Not a single duff track between them. No techno record
collection is complete without, well, for my money, any of them.
But what happened next was perhaps even more remarkable. Because
Leiner followed the last of those three amazing double albums by
disappearing off the face of the earth. I reckon it must have been aliens.
If you’ve never heard of Robert Leiner, you’re sadly probably not alone.
He grew up in Gothenburg, southern Sweden, and started DJing at the
age of 15. He wasn’t much older than that when he pieced together his
own rudimentary recording studio, but it was when he moved to Belgium
and began working as an engineer for R&S in the early 1990s that his
career shifted up a couple of gears. By the time his ’Organized Noise’
album came out under the name The Source in May 1993, he was the R&S
studio manager.
‘Organized Noise’, the cover image of Leiner and his long ginger hair
looking like an advert for Timotei, sparkled and thumped in all the right
places. ‘Different Journeys’, released the following year as The Source
Experience after the UK dance act The Source threatened legal action,
was even better, particularly the opening ‘Unknown Territory’, a one-man
electronic jam of jaw-dropping proportions, all 12 minutes of it. But it was
the third album, ‘Visions Of The Past’, simply credited to Robert Leiner,
that turned out to be the trump card.
Issued on Apollo, the R&S offshoot imprint that Aphex Twin and
Biosphere also called home, ’Visions Of The Past’ still turns my spine
to jelly whenever I listen to it. It’s a wormhole of a record, moving both
forwards and backwards through space and time, mixing futuristic sounds
with noises that seem positively primeval. The title track is slow and heavy
and not a little terrifying, ‘Aqua Viva’ morphs from an ambient soundscape
into a squelchy frug, and ’To Places You’ve Never Been’ is truly gorgeous,
a trip that really is like no other. To quote the sample that opens the album,
which was taken from the introduction to the 1950s American sci-fi radio
drama series ‘X Minus One’, “These are stories of the future, adventures
in which you’ll live in a million could-be years on a thousand may-be
worlds”. Oh, hang on, there’s my spine going wibble wobble again.
That bit I said about Leiner disappearing off the face of the earth wasn’t
strictly true, but in the years following ‘Visions Of The Past’ his output
consisted of just a couple of singles and the odd compilation track. He
continued to work behind the scenes, though, engineering and producing,
and he occasionally popped up as a DJ. And then, in 2015, more than two
decades down the line and pretty much out of nowhere, a new Robert
Leiner album, ‘Melomania’, appeared on the Swedish Höga Nord label. It
wasn’t half bad either. OK, it wasn’t a patch on ‘Visions Of The Past’, but
very few records are.
Imagine the scene. It’s the 1980s, the post-Madonna,
pre-Sub Pop 1980s. In other words, it’s 1986. The
certainties of the pop landscape are all American: MTV
videos buffed up to glossy eye watering collision of
imagery and BIG sound. It’s all gated snare smashes and
bouncing synth basses, BPMs up in the frenetic 160s.
This is the sound of cardiovascular workout Los Angeles,
a nose-up co-opting of Prince’s mainstream friendly pop
funk grooves, of Madonna’s New York disco mutations,
of Michael Jackson’s force-fed 80s R&B, and all in a
cap-sleeved T-shirt.
It is also the era of big Hollywood movies like ‘Aliens’.
Bill Paxton played Private Hudson in that film, the
hilarious voice of doom who has all the film’s best lines,
until he gets scoffed by an alien. What next for the
upcoming star of the Hollywood blockbuster? You revive
your band Martini Ranch, recruit members of Devo and
the B-52s and release an album so on-the-button 1980s
that it almost has its own high school movie.
Getting a Futurismo re-release here in the wake of
Bill Paxton’s death earlier this year, you can hear Devo’s
mid-80s aesthetic all over it, with echoes of their 1984
tanker ‘Shout’ throughout, and 1982’s more successful
synth pop outing ‘Oh No! It’s Devo’. It’s all digital Fairlight
samples, choppy, jerky funk dance beats, hyper-polished
and loaded with irony and intentionally out of sync
references, like the fake Indian digi-sitar on ‘New Deal’,
which also comes on like Thomas Dolby’s ‘Hyperactive’.
Paxton’s character voices are given free reign, on
‘Reach’, for example, cowboy references – gunshots and
good ol’ boys heehawing – abound, reminding America
that for all its super-modernity, it’s a nation populated
by rednecks, and at the time had a pretend cowboy,
Ronald Reagan, as president. There were a couple of
singles, ‘World Without Walls’ features Cindy Wilson of
The B-52s and probably sounded like a hit at the time (it
wasn’t), while ‘How Can The Labouring Man Find Time
For Self-Culture?’ goes some way to describe the sheer
perversity of this album, an exhausting satire of the
contemporary American pop culture aesthetic, wrapped
entirely in that same aesthetic.
Paxton would, surely, have been delighted with
this decent re-release of one of his more bonkers
contributions to pop culture.
MARK ROLAND
PUSH
84
THE BACK
ROBER T HOOD
ROBERT HOOD
PERFUME GENIUS
STUFF
The 50th release from Amsterdam party label
Dekmantel should be a blast, right? They’ve
done well recently with blistering work from
Matrixxman and Fatima Yamaha, but it’s
Robert Hood who drops this landmark record.
He’s a bona fide beat legend who had
turned away from his renowned minimalism,
instead exploring a more soulful rhythm as
Floorplan, but all that has changed. Hood’s
first cut under his own name for five years
strips away the samples and returns the
Detroit pioneer to his minimalistic roots.
If the Floorplan albums were rafterraising gospel celebrations with dancing
in the aisles, ‘Paradygm Shift’ rips out the
pews and only leaves the bare skeleton
of the church. The ideas are sparse and
melodic resonance provides most of the
entertainment. It’s testament to his genius,
then, that this hits as hard as ever: bars of
microfunk coiled to breaking point; bass
drums a mile wide. Welcome to the 50th
birthday party – now sit down, shut up and
listen. FR
Perfume Genius is Seattle-born singersongwriter Mike Hadreas. His performance
of the magnificent ‘Queen’ on Letterman
in 2014 resulted in the kind of reaction we
thought had been put to bed when Bowie
messed with America’s collective head in the
1970s. A man in lipstick and a white suit still
warrants a tidal wave of abuse, it seems.
Portishead’s Adrian Utley was on board
for 2014’s ’Too Bright’, and the result was
a spiky album of unexpected noises and
extravagance. ‘No Shape’ takes another
turn for the strange, with game-upping
orchestrations (‘Just Like Love’) while barely
functioning elsewhere, as on ‘Go Ahead’
with its unresolved weirdness. It all relies
on Hadreas’ voice, his vulnerability and the
strange, evocative frameworks of sound and
texture that he calls songs.
The album threatens to collapse under the
weight of its own melancholy here and there
(‘Braid’, ‘Run Me Through’), but when the
world is turning hostile – gay people being
placed in concentration camps in Chechnya,
for fuck’s sake – we need artists like Hadreas
more than ever. MR
The eponymous debut album from Belgian
electronic jazz fusionists Stuff was
something of a minor masterpiece, slotting
in alongside the likes of Troyka and forebears
such as Red Snapper or Return To Forever
in that indeterminate territory that you find
when you force seemingly incompatible
genres and instruments together.
New album ‘Old Dreams New Planets’
finds the five-piece suppressing some of
the elements that stalwart jazz heads might
recognise as part of the genre’s firmament
and subjecting the whole thing to an almost
fully electronic dominance. The result is
something that feels instantly lighter, less
self-consciously like it’s trying to fit into
some sort of accepted tradition; quirkier,
more skewed, more fun somehow than its
predecessor, and vaguely reminiscent of
phonk-free Jake Slazenger. Irrepressibly
manic melodic synth handshakes and the
feeling of a band having a impromptu musical
conversation among themselves are perhaps
the only nods to where they came from. MS
Paradygm Shift
Dekmantel
No Shape
Matador
Old Dreams New Planets
Sdban Ultra
85
SLOW DIVE
SLOWDIVE
GLASS VAULTS
HAWKE
When My Bloody Valentine were grimly
spunking Creation’s cash reserves on
the making of ‘Loveless’, it was Slowdive
who really committed themselves to the
cathedrals of sound, and worked with Eno.
By 1995, Creation had found Oasis, so what
use Slowdive and their atmospheric voids?
They were dropped and duly split up.
Their first album for 22 years doesn’t
update the old formula, nor does it exactly
pick up where they left off. Bass chords
and the reverbed plangent voice of Rachel
Goswell are still here, but single ‘Sugar
For The Pill’ is ploddingly adult, a piece of
serviceable contemporary grown-up serious
pop in the inspirational Sigur Rós mould. It’s
at its most agreeable with the likes of opener
‘Slomo’, which borders on shoegaze pastiche,
and fades just as it’s getting into its narcotic
stride (after nearly seven minutes – that’s
the ticket!) and the livelier ’Star Roving’.
At least they’ve had the decency to hold it
together and deliver an album, unlike Lush,
who reformed to great excitement, and then
tediously split up again within 12 months. MR
New Zealand’s psychedelic pop crew
Glass Vaults apparently used the scientific
principles of Autonomous Sensory Meridian
Response when recording their second
album in their Wellington studio, aiming to
inspire goosebumps, shivers and general
euphoria – or ‘The New Happy’ as they call it.
While we’re not sure exactly how much of
it is down to precision acoustic engineering,
we can definitely confirm there are hazy,
lazy, smiley vibes oozing out all over the
shop. Richard Larsen, Rowan Pierce and
Bevan Smith draw heavily on nostalgic
feelings in their lyrics, most obviously in the
schoolyard reminiscences of ‘Ms Woolley’,
but throughout, and that’s definitely part of
the album’s comforting aesthetic. But their
music charts its own unique path, combining
the fragile off-kilter pop melodies of Vampire
Weekend (‘Sojourn’) and the relaxed slacker
attitude of Beck (‘The New Happy’), all mixed
up in a world where lo-fi acoustic elements
and playful electronics are carefully but
organically interwoven. BW
Already Needs Must royalty, Gavin Hardkiss
unleashes the first new CD to carry the
Hardkiss name since his late brother Scott’s
‘Technicolour Dreamer’ in 2009. Moments
into ‘Divine Secret’ it’s quite emotional
to hear that unique blend of luminescent
space disco, psychedelic soul, indie pop and
dreamy acid house in beautifully rude health
as heavenly melodies soar over contagious
beats coated in sparkling luminescence.
While the intergalactic funk of ‘Burning
Up’ casts back to Hawke’s early 90s
hallucino-vamps, twinkles spurt over the
finger-clicking deep house of ‘Take My
Breath Away’ and ‘Somewhere Out Of Gaia’
astonishingly caresses the cosmos, the hot
and wet ‘Like A River’ casts a seductive
spell that, like much of the album, forges
mesmerising new hybrids for modern times,
Gavin singing and working with global
collaborators.
There’s no magic like Hardkiss magic and
this magnificent album has it in hard-toresist buckets. The album’s Pledge campaign
hosts further delights that include remixing
opportunities. KN
Slowdive
Dead Oceans
86
The New Happy
Melodic
Love In Stars
Hardkiss Music
THE BACK
MONO LIFE
MARK LANEGAN BAND
ANIMAT
Precision engineering. That’s the key to
‘Sandalphon’, Mark Osborne’s follow-up
to ‘Phrenology’, his 2015 debut album
as Mono Life. Osborne’s skill is not only
in the sounds he crafts – sharp, bright,
clear, and unashamedly, unswervingly,
uncompromisingly so – but also in how he
puts those sounds together. It’s hard to
imagine that any element could be placed
anywhere other than where it is.
With tracks such as ‘Radiate’ and
‘Phantoms’, we’re talking first class nouveau
techno, while ‘The Science Of Love And
Deception’ is a lopsided and pitched down
big beat stomper. ‘No Stars’ is The Orb on
the wrong drugs and ‘The End (Keep Smiling)’
shows Osborne is adept at the cinematic
thing as well as the dancefloor thing. The
only weak point is ‘Ultra’, which sounds like a
half-baked Boys Noize tune.
But let’s not dwell on that. ‘Sandalphon’ is
a very good record. On the nail, on the money,
on top of the world. Just a couple of clouds
down from heaven. P
In interviews supporting the release of their
1993 album ‘Songs Of Faith And Devotion’,
Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan somewhat
risibly claimed that his band had more or
less singlehandedly inspired grunge. It
takes ex-Screaming Tree and bona fide
grunge musician Mark Lanegan to deliver
an electronically-enhanced rock LP to both
pour fresh scorn on Gahan’s comment and
effectively deliver the album that Depeche
have been trying desperately to make for the
past 25 years.
This is a record with powerful and
effortless depth; bleak, oppressive,
impenetrably heavy in mood for sure, yet
possessing a quality that commands your
attention absolutely and unflinchingly.
Above its electronically-imbued textures
sits Lanegan’s unmistakeable voice, with
the gravelly tone that – like everyone from
Cash to Iggy to Cohen – tells you its owner
has really lived a life. Only the college rockmeets-JAMC motorik shapes of ‘Beehive’
and closer ‘Old Swan’ offer any sense of
lightish relief. MS
The way the world’s going, it would seem the
sensible survival options are to either live
under the sea, build a rocket to the moon, or
curl up under the duvet for the foreseeable.
On their fourth album, Sheffield duo Mark
Daly and Michael Harding conceptually opt
for c), influenced by George Perec’s 1967
novel ‘A Man Asleep’, the story of a student’s
pursuit of indifference in the face of a
corrosive society.
Well, plus ça change… but ‘How To Be
A Shadow’ could be today’s perfect bit of
escapism. Slipping into the deep, cinematic
chill-out style they adopted as part of the
Sundaze collective, a life is lived over 12
tracks, from the sleep skip of ‘Late Night
Dawn’ through to the minimalist ADHD of
‘Your Room The Universe’. Later, ‘Bridge
Over The Sane’ takes us in a trip hop John
Carpenter-esque wander leading to the
strings-soothed ‘The Third Exit’. Turn off your
mind, indeed. JK
TOITOITOI
AKATOMBO JOHN MATTHIAS & JAY AUBORN
Following ToiToiToi’s 2015 single for
Ghost Box’s ‘Other Voices’ series, Berlin
conceptual artist Sebastian Counts returns
with a debut album for the imprint and it truly
is the wunderkammer the label claim. ‘Im
Hag’ – a common suffix for a place name
in Germany – explores German culture
(including what is described tantalisingly
as “a nostalgia for the vanishing concept of
internationalism, once exemplified by town
twinning”. How I miss twinning.)
Whatever all that might mean, this is
a proper heady brew, for sure. The future
medievalisms of ‘Der Duft Der Wälder’,
begins with the explanation that it is “a
dance song in praise of aromatic leaves worn
as decoration”. Right you are. The whole
thing is compellingly strange as is the way
with the excellent Ghost Box. Samples from
long lost broadcasts, nosies off, the squelchy
teleprinter funk of ‘A Travel Agent’s Dream’,
the rumbling skew-wiff dub of ‘Mond In Den
Ästen’, the whole thing is a treat from the
sleeve onwards. NM
‘Short Fuse’ is the fifth Akatombo album from
Paul Thomsen Kirk, a Scottish musician who
has lived in Japan for a number of years. It’s
edgy and weighty and no mistake. There’s a
moment on ‘The Incarceration Of Habit’, the
final track on the vinyl version of ‘Short Fuse’,
when it sounds like the sky is falling in. Duck!
There are elements of post-punk here –
Virgin Prunes, Clock DVA, 23 Skidoo at their
weirdest and noisiest – but with a dollop of
very 21st century angst chucked into the pot.
On the few occasions that the tension eases,
as with ‘Solitude In Numbers’, a charming
music box tune, it’s just a prelude to another
dramatic sonic attack. Duck!
If you’re still standing at this point, you
deserve a medal. As does Paul Thomsen Kirk,
one of the most innovative and underrated
experimental music producers of the last 20
years. If you’re not familiar with his work, this
is an excellent place to start. P
John Matthias is the kind of guy you’d want
in your pub quiz team. He’s a professor of
sonic arts, a physicist, and the creator of
classical influenced albums for Accidental,
Non-Classical and Ninja Tune. Here he teams
up with producer Jay Auborn again after
working together on the soundtrack for last
year’s ‘Broadmead’ documentary.
‘Race To Zero’ was recorded everywhere
from Devon to Iceland, and then digitally
drenched in effects to disorientate and
disassociate, a comment on the way we
increasingly experience reality through the
medium of technology. Soaring strings and
curlicues of piano might lull you into a false
sense of security at the start, but ‘Race To
Zero’ is built of stern stuff. On the urgent
‘Wax Heart’ cyclical synths are matched
with heavy drums, while ‘Tilted Stage’ is an
abrasive surge of dissonant electronic noise
and hard beats. Sometimes the mixture is
a little jarring, but on the rapturous closer
‘Songbird’, it’s glorious. BM
Sandalphon
Mono Life
Im Hag
Ghost Box
Gargoyle
Heavenly
Short Fuse
Hand-Held How To Be A Shadow
Disco Gecko
Race To Zero
Village Green
87
S TE VE GIBBS
STEVE GIBBS
Adrift
Injazero
SLACKK
A Little Light
R&S
A stunning debut from UK-based
With his second album, Slackk
pianist and composer Steve
completes a transformation from
Gibbs. Occupying the same neosometime grime producer to the
classical space as artists like
purveyor of much more complex
Dustin O’Halloran and Jóhann
electronic music, in part inspired
Jóhannsson (with dashes of Clint by becoming a father. The result
Mansell and Max Richter), ‘Adrift’ is music informed by freneticism,
eloquently blends melancholy
but slowed down into a wonky
and elevation with its deft
R&B stroll allowing jazzy melodic
compositions of piano, strings
phrasing to nestle between the
and electronics. From opener
beats. Despite the darker edges
‘Passion’ right through to the
on tracks like ‘Ripe Corn’ and
more uplifting tones of ‘Bokeh’,
‘Desert Eagle’, ‘A Little Light’ is
Gibbs’ meticulous production
an optimistic and unexpected
has cemented his position firmly
collection. MS
alongside his contemporaries.
Ambient textures have never
sounded so rich. FM
88
LOOPER
DISCO INFERNO
Belle & Sebastian offshoot
Looper formed in the late 90s,
more as an art school project
than a full-fledged band. But
the band’s delicate smallness of
folksy tunes embellished with
electronics found an audience,
not least though several quite
high profile film and TV syncs.
This very recent album is now
getting a vinyl release after a life
as a download-only outing. It has
all the Scots charm you could
hope for, literary, earnest, cosy
and wryly amused. MR
A long overdue and luxuriously
packaged reissue for this
startlingly ahead-of-its-time
1992 debut from the criminally
unsung Essex trio. At its heart
it is shimmeringly post-punk
indie (see ‘Entertainment’ and
‘Leisuretime’) sharing the likes
of Ride and MBV’s penchant
for dense lysergic intricacy, but
also Wire’s fearless, cerebral
experimentalism (‘Interference’).
But it’s the digital elements, via
a Roland S-750 sampler, that sets
this lot apart. Post-rock really
before the term was coined. One
to treasure and pretend you
knew about all along. CG
Offgrid:Offline
Mute
In Debt
Rocket Girl
THE BACK
IAN W IL L IA M CR AIG
IAN WILLIAM CRAIG
X MARKS THE PEDWALK
KILCHHOFER / HAINBACH
T.RAUMSCHMIERE
His ‘Centres’ long-player of last
year provides the raw material
for this lo-fi album-length EP
recorded to cassette. On the
electro glitchy ‘Centres’ the
tape manipulation techniques
he used, a bit like Alvin
Lucier’s ‘I Am Sitting In A
Room’, searched for (and found)
beauty in distortion and noise.
The songs, and especially his
lovely voice, emerge with more
clarity here, with tape hiss and
tape compression being used
as another eery and nostalgic
sound source. MR
A ninth long-player from the
“German Skinny Puppy”, EBM/
future-pop stalwarts Sevren
Ni-Arb and Raive Yarx whose
return in 2010 with the ‘Inner
Zone Journey’ album after a
15-year hiatus was like they’d
never been away. ‘Secrets’, the
follow up to 2015’s ‘The House Of
Rain’ is a deep growl of a record
that lets up for not one second.
Ni-Arb’s vocal, especially on
‘Sacred’ and ‘Photomatique’,
really has something of the
Numan about it. Whether you’re
a fan in particular, or just of
EBM in general ‘Secrets’ won’t
disappoint. SR
Toronto’s Marionette label
ushers in a new series of
split offerings with a shared
release from Swiss artist and
musician Benjamin Kilchhofer
and Hainbach (Berlin’s Stefan
Paul Goetsch). Kilchhofer opts
for complex modular sequences
and muted pulses, deploying
discordant clanks, chants
and handclaps across his four
gently melodic and occasionally
spiritual pieces. Hainbach, in
contrast, bestows his pieces
with hopscotch rhythms and
purposeful robotic passages, not
unlike being pleasantly trapped
inside a busy circuit board. MS
Berlin’s Marco Haas, aka
T.Raumschmiere, has
come a long way since his
‘Monstertruckdriver’ days. He’s
been a bit busy recently, working
with the likes of Yello’s Dieter
Meier and German new wave
legend Andreas Dorau, but now
he gives us his new solo LP
‘Heimat’ full of squelchy techno.
‘Amina’ is like a soundtrack to
the Roswell incident, and then
there’s the deep throbbing
crackle of ‘Le Fux’. Nobody does
it quite like the Germans. FM
Slow Vessels
130701
Secrets
Meshwork
Acosta
Marionette
Heimat
Kompakt
89
JONI VOID
JONI VOID
MONKOORA
IKONIKA
ALL THE PEOPLE
Jean Cousin, formerly French DJ
Johnny Ripper, moves sideways
from Montreal’s beatific loft
scene to gentler, sometimes
unsettling, soundscapes
inspired by musique concrète
and his heroine, Delia
Derbyshire. Resolving to not
play an instrument, there is
certainly less “self” on this
debut, so found sounds, IDM and
twitchy techno are overlaid by
poetry on ‘Observer (Natalie’s
Song)’, freestyle rap on ‘Yung
Werther (Ogun’s Song)’ and
witchy whispers with ‘Empathy
(Ayuko’s Song)’. He even allows
himself one industrial banger,
‘Abjection’. JK
Glasgow-based Julie Fern
Crawford follows up last
year’s ‘Pale Slopes’ mini LP
with another short blast of
wonky pop thrills. There’s a
proper songwriter sensibility at
work here, couple that with a
willingness to get inventive and
it’s little wonder she caught the
ear of fellow Scot Anna Meredith
who chose her for an artist
residency recently. The vibrant
chiptune-isms and auto-tuned
vocals of ‘Bocx Wurld’, the
Spector-ish ‘Giant White Hs’
and the gentle tinkling chaos of
‘Alaska 14’ are all treats. NM
It may be called ‘Distractions’
because it’s taken Ikonika four
years to follow her last album,
but there’s nothing but pure
focus going on here. She hasn’t
betrayed her roots in grime, but
her economic, unpretentious
production sensibility is to
put to use on a wide spread of
atmospheres, from the sprawling
freeform electronica of ‘Do I
Watch It Like A Cricket Match?’
to the irregular rhythms of
‘Girlfriend’, which sounds like
Plaid re-editing Prince’s backing
band. Worth the wait, definitely.
South London brothers Ashley
and Simon Arnold (formerly drum
’n’ bass outfit The Burbs) and the
smooth pipes of vocalist Curtis
Dennie serve up a debut album
that ticks an awful lot of boxes.
Like a 21st century Massive
Attack (the trip hoppy ‘Operator’,
the huge vocals of the pianoled ‘Arm Around You’…), but it
never feels derivative. Tracks
like the busy houser ‘Beach
Club’ show there’s enough good
ideas (and drum licks) here to
keep everyone happy. Can’t help
humming ‘Parklife’ when I hear
their name though. NM
Selfless
Constellation
90
Nuclear BB
Hot Gem
Distractions
Hyperdub
BW
R Together
100 Billion Wires
THE BACK
LABEL PROFILE
THE INDIE IMPRINTS CATCHING OUR EARS
POND
The Weather
Marathon Artists
PERTH COLLECTIVE KEEP THOSE PSYCHE POP
THRILLS COMING ON SEVENTH LONG-PLAYER
In their nine-year, six-album lifetime, it’s been quite a ride
for Australian collective Pond. Hatching from the hotbed
of a psychedelic improv scene in Perth and sharing
members with Tame Impala, their MO is little about native
cultural behemoths AC/DC and Nick Cave and more about
a Dadaist filtering of rock’n’roll, electronica and prog into
the most fantastical pop that gleefully teems with trippy
fruit, cosmic cardigans and heroic sharts.
On ‘The Weather’, their seventh long-player, the
four-piece present a quasi-concept album reflecting on
the psychology of “colonial cities around the world” and
what frontman Nick Allbrook sees as the darkness behind
the “shimmering exterior of cranes, development, money
and white privilege”. From the photo used on the sleeve
of the Perth’s Central Business District in the 80s, Pond
present a bizarre theme park that looks colourful and
glossy, but its capitalist wonderland can only offer to
oppress and exclude. Heavy, man.
And the heavy extends to opener, and lead track,
‘30000 Megatons’. Released on the day Donald Trump
was elected president, its plea to trigger a nuclear
armageddon is set to an escalating, arpeggioed
synthscape, defused by the strident, bittersweet Scritti
Politti pop soul of follow-up ‘Sweep Me Off My Feet’ (also
posted to the web to coincide with Trump’s inauguration).
Here part-time member and Tame Impala leader Kevin
Parker’s influence as producer comes to the fore.
Acclaimed for his work on his own huge hit, ‘Currents’,
Parker herds this glitter-cheeked bag of cats into a
modern sonic space that sparkles with 80s FX, from nods
to M/A/R/R/S and AR Kane on ‘Paint Me Silver’ to the sax
break on electro-funker ‘Colder Than Ice’.
They’ve not packed their humour or much-loved
surrealism away entirely, though – breaks for whimsy
include some King Gizzard-esque garage hysteria on
‘A/B’ and the deep groove on the ode to a portastudio,
‘All I Want For Xmas (Is A Tascam 388)’. The whole thing
consolidates around Jay Watson’s two-parter, ‘Edge
Of The World’ where decadence and destruction is
framed beautifully by a soaring, Todd Rundgren-like rock
opera. We might be going to hell in a handcart, but the
soundtrack is spectacular.
JO KENDALL
LABEL: Central Processing Unit
LOCATION: Sheffield, UK
EST: 2012
POTTED HISTORY: Born and bred in the Steel City, CPU’s Chris Smith
was, he says, brought up listening to the synthesisers of The Human
League, Gary Numan and Ultravox. Heavily influenced by synthwave and
1980s computer games, his obsession with techno began with a mixtape
doing the rounds at his school (circa 1990) containing tracks Sheffield
techno pioneers Sweet Exorcist and the like. A trip to the old Warp
record shop on Division Street to buy said records and he was hooked,
soon finding himself DJing in and around Sheffield’s club and pirate
radio scene
“I’d dreamt about starting a record label for a long time,” says Chris,
“and I had a clear vision about what I wanted it to stand for, I just needed
some help with the visual identity.”
A chance meeting with the folk at Sheffield’s renowned creative
agency Human Studio led to a rather distinctive identity and Central
Processing Unit was born.
“I wanted a minimal design that had collectability, like the old purple
Warp record sleeves,” says Chris of the striking sleeves that contain the
catalogue number of the release, in binary. “Fast forward to 2017 and
a barrage of amazing artists, both established and new, are patiently
awaiting their binary catalogue numbers.”
MISSION STATEMENT: “Quality electronic music,” he says without
blinking. Plain and simple.
KEY ARTISTS & RELEASES: CPU does a desirable line in warm, rich
techno and has attracted well established artists such as DMX Krew,
Microlith and Mrs Jynx and has seen releases from Annie Hall, Cygnus,
Jensen Interceptor and Mikron.
FUTURE PLANS: “We’ve just returned from a CPU Showcase at Tresor
in Berlin,” says Chris, “which was a great success. More showcases are
on the agenda and we are always looking for promoters who will have
us. Our five-year anniversary is approaching in October and we have a
special double vinyl gatefold of CPU remixes in the making. Our ultimate
goal though is to reach 256 releases, which is our 8-bit binary catalogue
system maximum.”
ANY OTHER BUSINESS? Asked for his advice about setting up a label,
Chris says “be patient, be nice to your artists and customers, and
don’t use MS Paint to make your logo”. He also offers a tip: “A lot of our
releases sell out quickly so we encourage joining the CPU mailing list to
be the first to hear”.
For more about CPU, visit cpurecords.net
91
FIRST AND LAST AND ALWAYS
ERASURE
World Be Gone
Mute Artists
ANDY AND VINCE TACKLE WORLD’S WOES
WITH LASHINGS OF THEIR USUAL PANACHE
ONE HALF OF ERASURE, THE ONE AND ONLY VINCE CLARKE
REVEALS THE FIRST AND LAST RECORDS HE BOUGHT AND
THE ONE HE ALWAYS REACHES FOR IN TIMES OF TROUBLE
FIRST
GENESIS
A Trick Of The Tail
Charisma (1976)
There was a record shop in our home town
called Down Town Records. I must have been 17,
so 1977. I had the money to buy a stereo record
player and to buy my first album, so it’s the first
record I heard in stereo. I couldn’t believe it. I
would lie in my bedroom with a speaker by either
ear listening to that album over and over again. It
was like magic.
LAST
PAUL SIMON
Stranger To Stranger
Concord (2016)
I’m a huge fan of Paul Simon, but I wasn’t into
his really recent stuff. I heard him talking on the
radio about this record and it really intrigued me
so I thought I’d check it out and see what he’s up
to now. I was playing it last weekend actually. I
like to play music on a Saturday morning when
I’m doing the ironing, and, you know, I’ve got
quite a fancy stereo now.
ALWAYS
THE HUMAN LEAGUE
Travelogue
Virgin (1980)
One of my all-time favourite records. It sounds
as exciting and as strange now as it did when I
first heard it. It was this amazing combination
of sounds no one had heard before, and then
there were those science fiction lyrics. I still
listen to it for inspiration for sounds. If I find that
I’m working on a production or a remix, and I’m
repeating myself, then I’ll refresh my brain with
a dose of The Human League.
92
There’s a scene in Stephen Daldry’s ‘The Hours’ where
Ed Harris, playing a despondent and terminally ill poet,
sits in the open window of his apartment, admits his
enduring love for Meryl Streep’s character, makes peace
with his lot and then consciously falls to his death. It was
love, acceptance and defeat combined, and savagely
unexpected in its framing.
That scene serves as a useful reference for Erasure’s
equally unexpected self-produced ‘World Be Gone’ in
general, and its title track specifically. You never expect
Andy Bell and Vince Clarke to trade in melancholia, even
though tracks like ‘Sometimes’ were never fully the
most upbeat of pop moments; but the song ‘World Be
Gone’ has an amplified world-weary tone and a sense
of futile disappointment – despite a chorus that reaches
a tentative grandeur using the effortless electronic
majesty that Bell and Clarke have always done so well.
Perhaps you also don’t expect Erasure to be especially
defeatist. The closest you get in their back catalogue is
‘The Circus’, which decried industrial decline without ever
being particularly forthright about it. A similar approach
runs through ‘World Be Gone’; others, notably Clarke’s
old band Depeche Mode, have gone for grandstandingly
in-your-face attacks on inequality in particular. The
Erasure angle is more eloquent, more focussed on
shining a light on how much had been achieved in the
battle against intolerance, and how those gains were
being violently reversed through the darker side of
populism. It’s no coincidence that ‘A Bitter Parting’ coopts the melody from ‘I’d Like To Teach The World To
Sing’ in wanting the world to get along a bit better.
On paper it might seem like a bold move, but it’s done
with a typical Erasure sensitivity using relationships and
mistakes in love as proxies for socio-political issues, and
is all the more listenable for it. An Erasure fan looking for
something lighter needs to focus on the two tracks that
bookend the album; but even in the seemingly positive
outlook of ‘Just A Little Love’ there’s someone, Ed Harrisstyle, hearing the pleasant sound of angels calling as they
make their peace with the world they’re leaving.
MAT SMITH
THE BACK
PENGUIN CA FE
PENGUIN CAFÉ
The Imperfect Sea
Erased Tapes
Penguin Café was the imagining
of the late Simon Jeffes, who,
with his band, mixed folk,
minimalism, samples and a form
of ambient music to unique effect
in the 1970s and 1980s. His son
Arthur has taken on the mantle,
and his own incarnation of the
group nods to post-classical,
while incorporating subtle
references to dance music. ‘The
Imperfect Sea’ is imbued with
PCO’s same playful spirit, with
less eccentricity. Joyous and life
affirming. BM
AITOR ETXEBARRIA
Markak (Soundtrack From The
Motion Picture)
Forbidden Colours
More usually known as Basque
producer El_Txef_A, the first
outing under Etxebarria’s own
name is a sombre but never grim
soundtrack to a documentary
about the turbulent history of
the region’s city Guernica. It’s a
mixture of instrumental textures,
from electronic abstractions
to more traditional pianos and
violins, probably put to their best
use when teamed up, such as
the tension-filled ‘Marraska’,
although the occasional echoes
Portishead’s reverb-drenched
Rhodes in ‘Markak’ and
‘EzBereziak’ hit the spot too. BW
JON BROOKS
Autres Directions
Clay Pipe Music
Pre-orders for this muchanticipated release sold out in
a matter of hours – no surprise
really, given the Ghost Box
stalwart’s cult standing. While
the familiar warm retro-textures
of Brooks’ analogue futurism are
all present (lovely opener ‘Se
Reveiller’, and the hypnotic title
track), it’s the focus on locationrecorded atmospherics that
make this piece so exceptional. A
homage to this Francophile’s love
for the time he spends in Brittany
and Normandy, it’s brimming
with the idealism of the romantic
voyager. CG
ART OF NOISE
In Visible Silence
(Deluxe Edition)
China
The reissue campaign continues
with the second full-length from
the groundbreaking Art Of Noise,
by this point a trio following
their bust up with Horn and
Morley and departure from ZTT.
Remastered for 2017 ears and
with a disc of demos, jams and
extended versions and remixes
that includes the chart baiting
‘Peter Gunn’ featuring Duane
Eddy, and Max Headroom’s
helping hand, which turned the
excellent ‘Paranoimia’ into a
novelty record. Still, it’s a minor
niggle about a set well worth a
revisit. NM
93
JL IN | PHOTO: M AHDUMITA NANDI
JLIN
GOTO80
MT WOLF
DELIA GONZALEZ
Support from Aphex Twin
and Holly Herndon would be
enough to propel anyone to
mainstream status, but on her
second album Jerrilynn Patton
ploughs an uncompromising but
compelling path. There are more
collaborations than her debut
‘Dark Energy’, including Herndon
and avant-garde minimalist
William Basinski, but they cast
little light onto the sub-bass
staccato. Feel the persuasive
percussion pull you down, but
beware: as the voice says on
‘1%’, “You’re all going to die down
here”. FR
The binary-obsessed Sheffieldbased imprint serves up this C64
glitch ’n’ beats 10-tracker on
3.5-inch floppy disc. Once you’ve
figured how to load it up (there
is instructions, you’ll need your
own disc drive), the tuneage
itself is from prolific chiptune
legend, Anders Carlsson. Five
of the cuts are generative
“eternal remixes” with CBM 8-bit
animations for the other five
tracks by Raquel Meyers. You
need to put a little work in, but
the fruit tastes so much sweeter
for it. NM
The debut from British threepiece Mt Wolf has been a long
time coming. ‘Aetherlight’ is a
mish-mash of electro-acoustic
and post-rock, with a scattering
of minimal electronics for good
measure. Comparisons with
The xx will be drawn, but this is
more evocative of Sigur Rós if
anything (and better for it). The
falsetto vocals can get a little
grating at times, but stick with it.
The eight-minute epic ‘Starliner
II’ is worth the admission price
alone. FM
Cuban-American artist Delia
Gonzalez has been involved in
some extraordinary records with
former studio spar Gavin Russom.
Whereas their material tended
towards psychedelic acid house,
her solo songs take another
route. ‘In Through The Light’ is
a stop-in-your-tracks cascade
of piano loops, humming bass
and gorgeous synth touches,
concluding in a delirious spinning
sequence. ‘Hidden Song’ is
Harmonia playing disco, and
‘Roulette’ is a haunting piano
zone out. One for the best of the
year lists, no doubt. BM
Black Origami
Planet Mu
94
Floptrik
Central Processing Unit
Aetherlight
CRC Music
Horse Follows Darkness
DFA
THE BACK
COLOURBOX
LEFTFIELD
‘Music Of The Band
(1982-1987)’
4AD
Leftism 22
Sony
REISSUE FOR ALBUM THAT PAVED THE WAY
FOR DANCE MUSIC’S MAINSTREAM LEG UP
TRAILBLAZING SAMPLING PIONEERS MARK
TATE EXHIBITION WITH ART OF THEIR OWN
If you believe the hype, Leftfield’s debut album was the
first home listening dance album, as though Massive
Attack and Primal Scream never existed, while Autechre
and Orbital had already nailed the techno album. ‘Leftism’
was by no means a first.
What the London duo did have, however, were
two things. Firstly, a blanket airplay ban for ‘Open Up’
because John Lydon’s taunting “burn Hollywood burn”
was too much for playlisters spooked by Los Angeles
bush fires. Secondly, the triple-vinyl package was
sleeker than Vanilla Ice’s pomade-plastered quiff. So
Leftfield had it all: subversive cool juxtaposed with
coffee table chic. It also helped that ‘Leftism’ sounded
like British urban unrest cast into the high seas, all
anti-establishment placards with a pirate flag. So
what relevance for Leftfield now there’s no unrest and
everyone’s happy? Ahem.
The timing of this remastered reissue could not be
better. We need Leftfield’s speaker-shredding sonics
more than ever. Was it wise for this 22nd anniversary
re-release (yes, that’s a thing now) to include a full remix
album? Surely they’re meddling with a sacred techno
cow in full view of the public, there’s a reason why there
aren’t happy hardcore remixes of Autechre albums, or
panpipe covers of ‘Trans-Europe Express’. Fortunately,
these remixes leave the sacred cow relatively unalarmed.
Zomby winds ‘21st Century Poem’ into an air-tight
spiral, Skream’s stadium remake of ‘Open Up’ has our
hands in the air without losing any of the punch, and
Adrian Sherwood gets as dubby as heck on ‘Release The
Pressure’. There’s true affection for the source material
from the likes of Hackney beatsmith Ben Sims and, in fullon roller form, Hodge and Peverelist. All in all, enough of
the original motifs remain to keep ‘Leftism’ fans happy.
While their third album ‘Alternative Light Source’
seemed well received, but, the odd Afrika Bambaata
collaboration aside, the band will never beat their 1995
selves. ‘Leftism 22’, that most specific of anniversaries,
seems a respectful way to celebrate that. They may not
have been first, but, as Neil Barnes sets out on tour to
perform ‘Leftism’ in full for the first time, their legacy
echoes loud and clear.
The hugely underrated Colourbox are a band that should
be shouted about from the rooftops. Formed by brothers
Martyn and Steven Young in 1982 (Steven sadly died last
year) and signed to 4AD, they burned so very brightly,
blazing a dubby electropop trail packed to the rafters
with new-fangled technology that allowed them to
sample anything that moved. Perhaps best known for
‘The Official Colourbox World Cup Theme’, which was a
hair’s breadth from becoming the BBC’s official theme
for the 1986 tournament in Mexico, there’s much more to
Colourbox as this cracking compile proves.
This 16 track set was originally compiled for a work
by German photographer/Turner Prize winning artist
Wolfgang Tillmans. His 2014 piece ‘Playback Room’
treated Colourbox’s music in the way galleries would
treat visual art, so in his Berlin studio you could listen to
music on a very decent sound system and then admire a
display of mastertapes and records and, on the walls, a
list of the sounds they sampled across these 16 tracks
(‘Comic Strip Presents… The Bullshitters’ on ‘Edit The
Dragon’ or long lost double act Hale And Pace on ‘We
Walk Around The Streets’ anyone?).
Tillmans’ ‘Playback Room’ forms part of his first major
show at London’s Tate Modern until 11 June and this
soundtrack, available from the Tate shop as a gatefold
double vinyl, is a work of art in itself. The Tillmandesigned sleeve features a “deconstruction” of his
beloved colour laser copier, while some of Colourbox’s
original 23 Envelope artwork and that sample list feature
on the inside slips.
Which brings us to the tunes. Every last track here,
collected from their all too brief output of one proper
album and a nice pile of singles and EPs, is a doozy.
The standard is sky high from the off, opening with the
country and western dub of ‘Looks Like We’re Shy One
Horse/Shoot Out’ in its full eight-minute, Sergio Leonesampling glory and then it just gets better and better.
Show me someone who doesn’t listen to euphoric ‘The
Moon Is Blue’ on repeat, show me someone who thinks
the dub stylings of the ‘Escape From New York’-sampling
‘Baby I Love You So’ isn’t all that and I will show you their
cloth ears.
FAT ROLAND
NEIL MASON
REVIEWS BY
CARL GRIFFIN,
JO KENDALL,
NEIL MASON,
FINL AY MILLIGAN,
BEN MURPHY,
KRIS NEEDS,
PUSH,
FAT ROL AND,
MARK ROL AND,
SAM ROSE,
MAT SMITH,
BEN WILLMOT T
95
NEEDS MUST
FULLY TOOLED UP WITH A BIG OLD BUCKET IN ONE HAND AND
A SHINY AUDIO SHOVEL IN THE OTHER, KRIS NEEDS WANDERS
OFF IN SEARCH OF LESSER-SPOTTED WAXED WONDERS SO YOU
DON’T HAVE TO GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY
WHITE HILLS
MEREDITH MONK
DIVINE
TOMOHIKO SAGAE
There’s a wave of great
electronic-based music
currently billowing out of
New York. Dave W and
Ego Sensation, aka White
Hills, first manifested as
psyche space rockers
with a krautrock twist but,
continuing the arc from
the deconstructed postpunk of 2015’s ‘Walks For
Motorists’ (recorded in
a remote Welsh studio),
the duo’s latest episode
draws from the panic
and shock lapping at
their own doorstep to
produce an industrial
strength statement of
boiling New York rage
that’s being compared
to Primal Scream’s
‘Xtrmntr’. Mixed by
Martin Bisi (Sonic Youth,
Eno, Bambaataa), the
Hills unleash a potent
barrage of brutal
drum patterns, guitar
blizzards, heavyweight
bass, ominous drones
and distorted vocals.
Wire-jagged barrages
including ‘A Trick Of
The Mind’ and ‘Attack
Mode’ are crowned by
the juddering skyline title
track. A masterclass in
using electronic battle
weapons to rail against
21st century plagues.
Still in New York,
but 46 years earlier,
released for Record
Store Day as a faithful
replication, ‘Key’ marked
the recorded debut of
hugely-influential New
York composer, vocal
innovator and director/
choreographer Meredith
Monk. ‘Key’ unlocked
Monk’s brave new world
using tracks recorded
at events and galleries;
as she explains, each
song dealing with “a
different vocal character,
landscape, technical
concern or emotional
quality.” On ‘What Does
It Mean?’ Monk tattoos a
proto-house keyboard riff
on electronic organ over
which her treated voice
gabbles like an enraged
chipmunk. ‘Under Street’
predicts Kate Bush
(spiked with dodgy acid)
before the fluctuating
operatic sigh draping ‘Fat
Stream’ and ‘Do You Be’
deploys the descending
doom chords later used
by Suicide on ‘Che’, while
the subterranean tribal
call of ‘Dungeon’ flies
similar airways to Yoko
Ono. Fearlessly groundbreaking stuff that still
sounds startling.
And New York again, this
time we’re embroiled in
the dance-crazed 80s
with Divine, the world’s
most famous drag queen
making his long-playing
debut in 1982 with an
album scoffed at by the
cognoscenti, but loved
in the clubs. Divine, aka
Harris Milstead, looked
like an overweight bruiser
in drag and sang like a
trucker, which made for
a memorable ‘Top Of
The Pops’ appearance.
Featuring music created
entirely electronically
by Bobby Orlando and
heavily indebted to
Giorgio Moroder, tracks
such as single ‘Native
Love (Step By Step)’,
‘Shoot Your Shot’ and
‘Kick Your Butt’ saw
Divine bellow simple
lyrics about dancefloor
lust over crashing
drum machines and
squirtatious synthesised
disco. The original sixtrack album is joined by
extras such as new ES
theme tune ‘T-Shirts &
Tight Blue Jeans’ and a
second disc of remixes
by Mark Moore, Jon Of
The Pleased Wimmin and
others. Another fine Big
Apple artefact.
“This is not a love song,”
says the blurb, while
this Japanese producer
is described as “dark,
industrial and dangerous”
on his Discogs page.
His third onslaught
for Steve “Makahito”
Bailey’s heavy duty
Rodz-Konez imprint is
nothing short of brutal.
After a coruscating wall
of sheet metal racket and
wall-shaking electronic
rumbles, Tomohiko
throws down a relentless
heavyweight war drum
then shags it senseless
with a dense pile-up
of mangled guitar riffs
and hellish distress
calls from the abyss.
It’s aptly called ‘Out Of
Control’. The B-side’s
‘6204c3p5’ reins in the
drums to a bludgeoning
4/4 juggernaut stomp
slashed with another
impenetrable barrage of
machine-spew detritus,
genital-savaging sonic
excrement and rogue
bison flatulence. As hard
and dark as techno gets,
it harks back to when
such trouser-blasting
senses stomping and
cranial annihilation was
a crucial dancefloor
ingredient.
Stop Mute Defeat
Thrill Jockey
LP/CD
96
Key
Tompkins Square
LP
Jungle Jezebel
Cherry Pop
CD
Vicious Circle III
Rodz-Konez
12-inch/Download
THE BACK
PHONOPHANI
VARIOUS ARTISTS
MAX COOPER
KRIS GIETKOWSKI
MTUME
As I said last issue, some
of the most challenging
yet rewarding musical
explorations is belching
forth from the Hubro
imprint. They keep on
coming and this return of
Espen Sommer Eide to the
alias he first used in 1998
could be the furthest out
yet. “I started hammering
the keyboard with my
paws… There was no
composition or reasoning,
just the beating of blood
in my ears. I was finally
making music like a dog”
he proclaims in the liner
note for his unearthly
bombardment of abstract
ambience and the kind
of sonic experiments
he’s been carrying
out in European art
galleries and museums,
performed on his selfinvented instruments and
software. Sometimes
Terry Riley springs to
mind as dense loops loom
then morph into walls
of pulsating globules.
Drones are rife and, as on
‘The End of All Things’,
‘Sunrise On Bear Island’
and mischievous ‘Untime
Me’, the effect can be
shatteringly evocative.
Certain to perk up the
ears of any passing dogs.
Back in the world of high
grade techno, it seems
like only last week DJ
3000 was celebrating 10
years of the esteemed
label he initially started
to give embattled
Detroit a new techno
outlet. Now hitting 15
and still in rude health,
this latest set presents
a stellar cast and some
faith-restoring tracks
that make you want to
whirl your Y-fronts round
your head and cry, “Oh
Lawdy, yes!”. The roll
call reflects how 3000’s
original roster has grown
to embrace cutting edge
producers from around
the world, for example
Detroit ghetto-tech
legend DJ Nasty and
awesome new blood
Mazepa joined by LA’s
Esteban Adame, whose
‘Political Gain’ builds
from a gauzy clanker
to urban symphony.
Highlights include Lionel
Weets’ delirious ‘Love Is
The Key’ and Veronique
Page’s shimmering
‘Metropolis. DJ 3000
himself unleashes an old
school floor-scorcher
called ‘Just Work It’, with
exhortations supplied by
Paris The Black Fu.
Digital only, but this
month’s exception to the
physical rule. Audiovisual artist Max Cooper
follows his ‘Emergence’
project with an EP that
continues to explore
blending scientific
research and music to
deeply evocative effect.
Inspired by Babraham
Institute DNA research,
he’s forging what could
be called biological
techno. ‘Chromos’ enters
on a glistening bed of
marimba-like tones and
cut-glass frequencies and
‘Coils Of Living Synthesis’
starts with further
washes and microscopic
quivers before a slow-mo
house groove kicks in.
‘Molten Landscapes’ sets
up a simple plink-plonk
tech-house pulse; ‘Four
Tone Reflections’ rides
a shimmering 12-minute
groove that defines the
set’s mix of gorgeously
mind-blowing beauty
and sonic boundaryshoving. Finally, Cosmin
TRG transforms a glassy
loop from ‘Chromos’ into
a pummelling techno
heaver garnished with
UR strings before the
original’s underlying loom
from the undergrowth.
Without a doubt this
month’s most bonkers
project has to be Polish
multi-instrumentalist Kris
Gietkowski remaking the
debut albums by prog
pioneers Egg, The Crazy
World Of Arthur Brown
and Atomic Rooster as
devoted instrumentals.
During his Polish
adolescence, Kris didn’t
have access to normal
sound equipment so
made his own out of old
radios and plugged in his
keyboards. He managed
to upgrade when he
moved to the UK a decade
ago and commenced
diving into the wonderful
world of computer
software too. The Arthur
Brown is of particular
interest as ‘PreludeNightmare’ was the first
45 I ever got back in 1968.
I know every nuance and,
although instrumental,
Kris does it proud. Even
madder is the fact that
the Atomic Rooster disc
seems to be entirely
composed of drum tracks,
although Egg’s complex
jazz-flavoured prog gets a
more faithful replication.
This is the sort of thing
that keeps making sound
alive and fun.
Guilty pleasure time
again. This overview
of US soul maestros
Mtume has to be here
for the handful of tracks
that soundtracked
an amazing time that
started in the Ladbroke
Grove flat I shared with
Youth, and ended up in
New York, where they
were hammered on the
city’s radio stations as
harbingers of exquisitelycrafted funk and soul.
This two-disc set
straddles the five albums
they made between
1978-1986 after being
formed in Philadelphia by
James Mtume and Reggie
Lucas, who met while
playing in Miles Davis’
band. A number of tracks
merit ES attention, with a
refinement of electronic
instruments to play main
melodies on the like of the
magnificent ‘Juicy Fruit’,
love triangle beauty ‘You
Me And He’, P-Funkderived ‘Green Light’ and
the deliciously playful
‘Would You Like To (Fool
Around)’. Topped by the
honey-dripping vocals of
Tawatha Agee, electronic
bedroom soul just never
got better.
Animal Imagination
Hubro
LP/CD
15 Years Of Motech
Motech
2xLP/CD/Download
Chromos
Mesh
Download
Three Of A Kind
Fruits De Mer
3xCD
Prime Time: The Epic
Anthology
Soul Music/Cherry Red
2xCD
97
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