Claudia Brücken / Jerome Froese – Beginn

16 05 2018

beginnBeginn is a new collaborative project between Claudia Brücken from German 80s electronic group Propaganda, and Jerome Froese the son of electronic music pioneer Edgar Froese and former member of his father’s band, Tangerine Dream.

Album opener [the] Last Dance is a slow-paced piece that sets the mood perfectly. A Roland CR-78 drum machine programme provides the rhythm, underpinned by deep piano notes, as layer after layer of synths build as the song develops. A lovely, under-stated guitar line ushers out the track.

Claudia Brücken’s vocals sound so good on Beginn, particularly on Wounded, one of the albums darker pieces.

“And I wait, till I’m free, from your memory”

Flight [of] Fancy lifts the mood. The most uplifting song on the album has a White Willow, almost progressive pop feel to it. Cards feels a little like a more modern take on the ZTT / Propaganda sound. Edgy synth lines dart out from beneath heavily processed, frantic beats. The music on Cards is a feast for synth lovers.

Light [of the] Rising Sun is a moving piece. Beatless, and sparesely adorned with piano and electronic shards, the short song flows into Whispers [of] Immortality. Softly spoken verses from Brücken, and an adventurous arrangement from Froese make this one of my favourite moments on Beginn.

beginn2

Beginn is clearly a well-sequenced album. The songs seem to get stronger as the album progresses. Sound [of the] Waves was one of my early favourites, and has a feel of Brücken’s work with Paul Humphreys (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) as Onetwo, mixed with the Björk / David Arnold Play Dead single (particularly the percussion).

“a fleeting sound, a silence inside”

Stars Walking Backwards ramps up the feeling of unease. Breakbeats and pulsating sequenced riffs drive the song forward. All thats missing is a Holly Johnson chant of “Who-ha” to make this a piece of pure ZTT synthpop.

Sweet Sense [of] Liberation features Claudia’s co-vocalist in Propaganda, Susanne Freytag. Claudia and Susanne have recently reunited as xPropaganda, and this track certainly has some of the old Propaganda spirit. Another adventurous arrangement lifts the track to another level.

The album ends, as it started, with a slow-burner in Unbound Spaces. Found sounds and deep wave synths ebb and flow through the dreamy album closer.

Beginn is an intriguing first offering, and is probably not what you would expect from Claudia Brücken and Jerome Froese. It’s most definitely not Propaganda with Tangerine Dream keyboards. Whilst the DNA of both bands can be found at times in Beginn, the album has a sound and identity of its own.

Beginn is released on CD / LP by Cherry Red on 15 June 2018.

[the] Last Dance
Wounded
Flight [of] Fancy
Cards
Light [of the] Rising Sun
Whispers [of] Immortality
Sound [of the] Waves
Stars Walking Backwards
Forevermore
Sweet Sense [of] Liberation
Unbound Spaces

Buy Beginn on CD

Buy Beginn on Vinyl

Buy A Secret Wish by Propaganda on CD

Buy A Secret Wish by Propaganda on Vinyl

Buy Noise And Girls Come Out To Play: A Compact Introduction To Propaganda on CD

Buy Wishful Thinking Collector’s Edition by Propaganda on CD

 





John Foxx – Metamatic (Deluxe Edition)

30 04 2018

meta500John Foxx releases a 3 CD deluxe edition of his Metamatic album on 25 May 2018. The original 10-track album, recorded in 1979 and originally released in 1980 was remastered from analogue tapes back in 2014, along with various B-sides. A few tapes full of instrumental music from the sessions were also set aside for remastering but these revealed further discoveries, including alternative mixes and the song Miss Machinery – a mutant, electro-punk twist on Foxx B-side, 20th Century.

Jonathan Barnbrook (regular Foxx collaborator and Bowie’s Blackstar designer) worked on the new 2018 reissue design as the project grew to 49 tracks across 3 CDs. This includes the 15 instrumentals contained on CD3 which collectively sound like a lost electronic soundtrack with echoes of Quatermass, BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop and the dark DIY electronics of Thomas Leer and Robert Rental.

Metamatic is one of the most influential electronic albums from the early 80s. Following his departure from Ultravox, Foxx stripped the sound back to just voice and electronics. The stark, at times industrial electronica still sounds like the future, 38 years after the albums original release. That is some testimony to the quality of the material.

johnfoxx

Most people will be aware of the singles Underpass and No-one Driving, but dig a little deeper and there is much more to savour.  He’s a Liquid is a key track, with lyrics that have always made me feel ill at ease.

“She’s elusive
He’s adhesive”

A New Kind of Man ups the tempo and hearing this track, I am instantly transported back to the late 70s / early 80s. A sense of detachment and isolation drip from Foxx’s lyrics on most of the songs on Metamatic. The off-kilter Tidal Wave conjures up the spirit of J. G. Ballard and would have sounded great as part of the soundtrack to High Rise.

Blurred Girl is almost a template of the sound of 1980. The classic Roland CR-78 rhythm and the plaintive synths add a rare warmth to what is often an icy cold musical landscape.

“Standing so close, Never quite touching…”

Touch and Go is probably the most commercial track on the album. I love the way that the synths rise like waves in the songs outro, smoothing the metronomic beat. The end section is by far my favourite musical performance on the album.

“There’s motorway sparks
And meetings in the park
And fires from years ago
You can watch your friends
Through this tiny lens
Then you’ll know that there’s no way home

John Foxx would leave the sound of Metamatic for his next studio albums but returned to the cold electronica for some of his more recent work, particularly with Louis Gordon and The Maths.

Discs 2 and 3 of the deluxe Metamatic are a treasure trove for Foxx fanatics. Disc 2 brings together B sides, radio edit / single mixes, the wonderful single Burning Car and alternative versions of album tracks. Like A Miracle (Alternative Version) is an early version of the song that was released as a single in much fuller form in 1983. Underpass (Extended Version) and Blurred Girl (Longer Fade Version) are another two highlights of the second disc.

Another key track from Disc 2 is My Face, originally a flexi-disc release, and almost acting as a hint to the sound of the second John Foxx album (and my personal favourite) The Garden.

Disc 3 includes 15 instrumentals – some more fully formed than others. The sparse instrumentals are interesting to hear as part of the history of the album, but I don’t think I will return to them often. My favourites on disc 3 include a mournful alternative version of Glimmer, and the haunted ballroom piano of Fragmentary City (that predates the work of The Caretaker aka James Leyland Kirby by several decades).

Disc 3 is rounded off with Miss Machinery, a cold twist on B side 20th Century, a fascinating Giorgio Moroder-like take of No-One Driving, and an early version of Burning Car (with a Fade To Grey like bassline).

Disc 3 ends with a lo-fi Like A Miracle and a warmer , more fully realised and piano under-pinned take on No-One Driving, that feels like it was recorded nearer to The Garden.

This definitive version of Metamatic is released by Metamatic Records on 25 May 2018.

Disc: 1
1. Plaza
2. He’s a Liquid
3. Underpass
4. Metal Beat
5. No-one Driving
6. A New Kind of Man
7. Blurred Girl
8. 030
9. Tidal Wave
10. Touch and Go

Disc: 2
1. Film One
2. This City
3. To Be With You
4. Cinemascope
5. Burning Car
6. Glimmer
7. Mr. No
8. Young Love
9. 20th Century
10. My Face
11. Underpass (Radio Edit)
12. Non-one Driving (Single Version)
13. Like a Miracle (Alternative Version)
14. A New Kind of Man (Alternative Version)
15. He’s a Liquid (Alternative Version)
16. Plaza (Extended Version)
17. Underpass (Extended Version)
18. Blurred Girl (Longer Fade Version)

Disc: 3
1. A Frozen Moment
2. He’s a Liquid (Instrumental Dub)
3. Mr. No (Alternative Version)
4. The Uranium Committee
5. A Man Alone
6. Over Tokyo
7. Terminal Zone
8. Urban Code
9. A Version of You
10. Glimmer (Alternative Version)
11. Fragmentary City
12. Metamorphosis
13. Approaching the Monument
14. Critical Mass
15. Alamogordo Logic
16. Touch and Go (Early Version)
17. Miss Machinery
18. No-one Driving (Early Version)
19. Burning Car (Early Version)
20. Like a Miracle (Early Version)
21. No-one Driving (Alternative Version)

Pre-order Metamatic Deluxe 3-CD from Amazon
meta500





Plenty – It Could Be Home

14 04 2018

It Could Be HomePlenty was Tim Bowness’s immediate pre-no-man band. In 2016 and 2017, Bowness and fellow founder members Brian Hulse and David K Jones re-recorded Plenty’s catalogue of 1980s songs, revising some of them and even adding a newly written song (The Good Man). The end result is the debut album, It Could Be Home released on 27 April 2018 on Karisma Records.

Plenty are joined on the album by no-man live band members Michael Bearpark and Steve Bingham, Tim’s Bowness / Chilvers collaborator Peter Chilvers and Jacob Holm-Lupo (White Willow / Opium Cartel).

Whilst the album is understandably shot through with a real 80s sensibility, with touches of The Blue Nile, David Sylvian, Peter Gabriel, Thomas Dolby, and David Bowie lingering in the sounds and arrangements, It Could Be Home deserves to be listened to as more than just a work of pure nostalgia.

The album opens with a synth heavy, lightly delivered Jagger / Richards As Tears Go By, that is more Stranger Things than Lost in the Ghost Light. Hide delivers an Associates vibe to the music, and signals an album that is much more upbeat than recent Bowness releases. I think that the recent Bowness solo album’s have delivered some of his finest work, with material that is often comparable to a lot of his work in no-man, but it is good to hear a different side with Plenty. Vive la différence.

By far my favourite track on the album, the melancholic Never Needing is the one track on It Could Be Home that would fit onto one of Tim’s recent albums. Fans of no-man’s early work will recognise the song – previously recorded by no-man as Life is Elsewhere, and nowadays mostly existing on dusty old bootlegs or sitting as an (original “dodgy”) Napster-era, hiss-filled mp3 file on people’s hard-drives.

The Plenty version is a revelation. Sparse, brooding and slow-building, with an aching synth line and some of Tim’s most personal and direct lyrics and vocals. This is one of those occasions where I can confidently say that it is worth buying the album just for this song.

“You live in your world and I die in mine.
But I’m hopeful life is elsewhere”

Broken Nights really lifts towards the middle section of the song, before a key 80s stalwart (synth marimba bells) usher in the rest of the song.

Foolish Waking is another of my favourites from the album. Beatless and with some wonderful guitar lines from Michael Bearpark, and feeling a little like the work of the only Tim Bowness/Samuel Smiles studio album, World of Bright Futures from way back in 1999.

plenty

Strange Gods is underpinned by a delicious Mick Karn like bass-line, has hints of Bowie in the verses and a chorus seemingly inspired by The Blue Nile. So how can you not like the song? The mix, carried out with obvious love and attention by Norwegian guitarist, composer and producer Jacob Holm-Lupo (White Willow / The Opium Cartel) is colourful and warm throughout the album, but especially on Strange Gods.

Every Stranger’s Voice features Peter Chilvers on piano and the forensically detailed lyrics are filled with memories of an intense but long dead relationship. A powerful Michael Bearpark solo lifts the song towards its conclusion.

Another uptempo track is Climb, which has a real post-punk meets The Associates taking a quick detour via The Comsat Angels (circa the Fiction album). What a marvellous melting pot.

The Good Man is a new song that emerged during the recording sessions, and lyrically is tied to the album’s key track, Never Needing. The music has a late 80s feel, and lyrics that signal regret at letting go and giving up the fight too soon. The Good Man and the album’s closing title track offers something very different from recent Bowness releases.

The fact that the recording sessions produced new material of this quality, along with out-takes (such as a wonderful version of Forest Almost Burning, that I hope is revisited) suggest that there is a future for Plenty beyond this album.

If you pre-order It Could Be Home by Plenty from Burning Shed, on CD, vinyl or exclusive limited edition blue vinyl, you will receive an exclusive postcard and a free download EP of four of the band’s 1980s demos. Please note – this exclusive offer is only available until 27-04-2018 and only From Burning Shed.

Order Plenty – It Could Be Home on CD from Amazon

Order Plenty – It Could Be Home on vinyl from Amazon

As Tears go by
Hide
Never Needing
Broken Nights
Foolish Waking
Strange Gods
Every Stranger’s Voice
Climb
The Good Man
It could be Home

Band website: www.weareplenty.com





Near Future – Ideal Home

8 04 2018

near_future_-_ideal_homeIdeal Home is the debut album from Near Future, a collaboration between Blancmange’s Neil Arthur and electronic artist Bernholz (who also performs live as part of Gazelle Twin).

The opening track, with its alarm-like electronics and 80s drum-machine toms, is a real statement of intent. I love the twin vocals on this track, they really remind me of the more experimental side of Godley & Creme (such as the Freeze Frame album from 1979).

Field This is a sparse, edgy piece of electronica, with off-kilter live and processed vocals.

“I remember when this was a car-park, I remember when this was a field”

Overwhelmed is one of the album’s highlights. At times reminding me of the title track to John Foxx’s The Garden, the glacial beauty of the strings work well with the heavily processed vocals and the kitchen sink drama of the lyrics.

Thought Terminating In Your Night builds from scratchy, discordant noise to a more fully formed piece, but the unnerving digital undertones remain to the songs end.

Come And Play is a warmer electronic track that builds from the sounds of children playing. I love the reverb-heavy, almost early Clannad like vocal lines that decorate the second part of this trance-like (mostly instrumental) song.  Along with the title track, this is my other favourite from the album.

near_future

Dawn is the album’s longest track, and another song that utilises found sounds before mutating into something far removed from the beautiful birdsong that ushers in the dawn. Heavily processed, at times robotic spoken words sit atop a mixture of harsh pulses and softer synth lines. The mixture of the two extremes is unsettling and suits the track perfectly.

Gap In The Curtain is another juxtaposition – the edgy, paranoid vocals jostling for dominance over the optimistic, rich synth backing makes this a unique track on the album.

The song that is nearest to the work of Neil Arthur’s main band Blancmange is Kites Over Waitrose. The arrangement reminds me a little of the dark mood of This Mortal Coil, the 80s 4AD collective. Abrasive saw synths and audio seepage underpin the spoken vocals on Kites Over Waitrose.

Album closer Bulk Erase could easily have been recorded in 1983 / 84, with its metronomic kick drum and slowly building keyboard lines.

“Too much has happened, that I need to forget
To be moving forward, without all this regret”

There are further strong hints of John Foxx in Bulk Erase as well as a more recent electronic artist, Deptford Goth.

This is an interesting debut release from Near Future, and adds to a very productive period for Neil Arthur – with recent releases from Blancmange as well as another alternative electronic project Fader.

If you have not heard the work of Bernholz, the other half of Near Future,  some of his releases are available on Spotify, including the album How Things Are Made which has some great songs including the wonderful title track.

Near Future – Ideal Home

1. Ideal Home
2. Field This
3. Overwhelmed
4. Fish And Chips
5. Thought Terminating In Your Night
6. Come And Play
7. Dawn
8. Gap In The Curtain
9. Kites Over Waitrose
10. Bulk Erase

Pre-order Near Future – Ideal Home on Amazon





Blancmange – Unfurnished Rooms

16 09 2017

unfurnished roomsUnfurnished Rooms is the 9th studio album from Blancmange.

The 2017 version of Blancmange is a world away from the colourful electronic pop of Living On The Ceiling and Blind Vision. Recent releases find the band (now down to Neil Arthur with co-producer and musical partner in Fader, Benge plus occasional appearances from guitarist David Rhodes) producing much darker and more minimalist electronica.

The title track of Unfurnished Rooms hisses and crackles, with a feel of the first two John Foxx albums. Deep synths and frantic guitar lines accompany this song with lyrics hinting at confusion and things being not what they seem, in a dream-like state.

We Are The Chemicals is an early album highlight. I love the glam-rock guitar and any track that centres around “a chemical spillage on a trading estate in Altrincham” is likely to pique my curiosity.

The 70s T-Rex type guitar is ramped up a notch for What’s The Time? – a conversation piece set to music.

“Whats your favourite crime?”

The album’s most moving song arrives at the halfway point of the album. The lyrics for Wiping The Chair focus on the minutiae of a former friendship or relationship, set to a potent mix of 80s sounding electronica and a gothy, The Cure referencing intro.

“But your voice still sounds the same…”

Anna Dine also feels like it is inspired a little by the sound of the early albums of The Cure – with the sort of deep bass that underpinned A Forest. I love the mood conjured up by Unfurnished Rooms, the album has a real feeling of space aided by the good use of glacial reverb and delay.

In December has ringing guitar lines sitting alongside warm, early 80s strings. Old Friends adds some twisted pop to the mix, delivered without warning in the form of a stunning chorus that serves as a prelude to the Nine Inch Nails channelling Gratitude. David Rhodes (Kate Bush / Peter Gabriel) adds some quality guitar work to Gratitude, reminding me a little of the power of the late John McGeoch (Magazine / Siouxsie and the Banshees).

The album ends with the track that will probably become most fans favourite, Don’t Get Me Wrong. By far the albums longest track (at just over 8 minutes), and no, its not a cover of The Pretenders track! Don’t Get Me Wrong features long-time Blancmange admirer John Grant giving it his best Mike Garson on piano as well as adding wonderful mood-altering backing vocals. The album closer abandons the sparse , early 80s feel of the rest of the album, and hints at a possible new direction for Neil Arthur & Blancmange.

I’m so glad that Blancmange are still developing and heading in new directions, instead of looking back to their past. Give Unfurnished Rooms a listen if you are a fan of electronic music, I think you will find much to enjoy.

Buy Blancmange Unfurnished Rooms on CD

Buy Unfurnished Rooms on vinyl

Buy The Blanc Tapes





Fader – First Light

22 06 2017

FaderFader are Neil Arthur (Blancmange) and Benge (John Foxx & The Maths / Gazelle Twin). They have released their debut album, First Light, on Blanc Check Records.

First Light is a dark, simmering electronic album. The music sits somewhere between Cabaret Voltaire and early (pre-The Garden) John Foxx. And that’s a good place to be.

3D Carpets is driven by analogue synths and minimalist percussion, with a chorus that soaks into your brain. I don’t have a clue what Neil Arthur’s lyrics are about on a lot of the songs – but I love the images they conjure up,  they paint a picture that is open to personal interpretation. Its good to use your 21st century imagination.

Check The Power has a tense, paranoid vocal delivery from Arthur, and some fine, deep bass synth lines from Benge.

“You better go back”

I love the way the synths sound so dirty,  not like VST / emulations, the duo clearly use authentic machines.

There is a real depth to these meaty sounds. Way Out is a case in point – the sweeping synths shift from deep low to brighter high notes. At times I struggle to believe that this album was recorded in 2017, not 1979.

“Caught in the moment of doubt”

The title track continues the edgy feel, with Arthur shouting about “Catholic converters” and “Resume the search at break of day”. The track First Light reminds me a lot of John Foxx, have a listen below.

The marching percussion and thick synths on Wonderland conjure up memories of early OMD and very early Human League / Heaven 17. Over the first few album listening sessions, I grew to appreciate the stream of consciousness, quite dystopian lyrics. There is also a lot of humour on display here.

Liverpool Brick is a wonderful, beatless song. The sparse but melodic instrumentation works really well with the lo-fi recording of the vocals. Liverpool Brick also contains my favourite lyrics on the album. Like the track, the lyrics are very direct (in stark contrast to the rest of the album).

A Trip To The Coast delivers one of the most memorable songs on the album. A real mood of melancholy and lost, fading memories permeate throughout my favourite track, which will surely appeal to the Stranger Things generation. I hope A Trip To The Coast is used to promote First Light, as I think it will be a favourite with a lot of people. Put this song on your SoundCloud, Fader!

The album closes with another album highlight, Launderette. Apparently a “very British take on the solitary mood of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks” (a print of which sits on my home studio wall, fact-fiends). Such a moving piece, with a metronomic delayed vocal delivered over a dark, simple synth-scape, and a throbbing low hum.

“In silence and silver, Ikea blue bag.
Washing away the stain, on our rags”

Nighthawks_by_Edward_Hopper

First Light is a fine debut release from Fader, and a must-buy for fans of late 70s, early 80s electronic music. I hope its the first of many releases from the electronic duo, as there are clearly lots of places left for Arthur and Benge to explore.

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Buy First Light by Fader (CD) on Amazon

Buy the album on Vinyl

or buy the album on mp3

Visit Fader on Facebook or follow the duo on Twitter





Sand – A Sleeper, Just Awake.

25 09 2016

cover_275lA Sleeper, Just Awake is the second album from Sand, the solo project from Sam Healy of North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO).

I bought the first Sand album in 2013, and it didn’t grab me straight away, but I rediscovered it recently and its had lots of plays particularly the haunting A Pill to Keep the `plane from Crashing (a track so good it appears on the forthcoming North Atlantic Oscillation compilation).

So I was pleased to find out that a new Sand album is on the horizon. A Sleeper, Just Awake builds on the primarily electronic vein of the debut album, but has much more variety in its choice of instrumentation and hit home much quicker than the first album.

Mayfly is a powerful opener and a real beauty – with a stunning arrangement and percussion that reminded me of Talk Talk and Steve Jansen / late period Japan. As with NAO, there are twists and turns and a great use of power followed by restraint that keeps you hooked throughout the songs.

L.T.G.B. has intriguing lyrics (I can’t wait to see them in the CD sleeve-notes) and is presumably a play on the term LGBT.

“Comic opera brought you here, months too late”

One of the first things that attracted me to NAO was the complex, often manic drums that topped a modern, progressive sound palette. Sand offer equally ambitious percussion, mainly using drum machines, which adds to the different taste between the two projects. Commitment to the Bit reminds me a little of Danish pop proggers Mew. I love the almost overloaded mix on this track, as it breaks down to a synthy, reverb-laden middle section, as the brief respite allows you to appreciate the songs power.

The awkward time signature of Seldom Used Furniture adds to the tracks charm, and at the moment, its my favourite track on the album. A slowly evolving arrangement in a song devoid of an obvious chorus makes this song stand out as one of the albums key tracks. Every single time I play Seldom Used Furniture I silently exclaim to myself “those synths”. Its a stunning piece of music, and one of Healey’s greatest songs.

“Knock yourself out”

Talking of time signatures, berceuse is a style of composition that is a lullaby, usually in 6/8 time. Sand’s Berceuse is instrumental for the first half of the track, before deep, heavy instrumentation and vocals disturb the arrangement before it shifts back to its almost mantra-like song structure.

sand-logo-1024x288

Embers ushers in one of the albums more atmospheric arrangements. Sparse guitar and synth populate the verses, with an almost Beatles / Lennon like chorus.

Initial has a Nine Inch Nails meets David Lynch vibe, with danger and disquiet hiding behind the almost cinematic string arrangement.

“First I damage you, then you carry me”

The album draws to a close with its two longest tracks. Coward builds from swirling organ and a click-track percussion track into an arrangement that blurs the boundaries between Sand and NAO.

“We’ve come to rest, at the edge of the air”

One of my favourite parts of the album is the quiet section just after 4 minutes into Coward. An almost no-man, Returning Jesus sounding section – just drums, bass synth, piano and distant, discordant guitar carry the song to its final destination.

The album ends with its longest piece, Earth Mound Square. I love the mixture of hard-sequenced synths and acoustic instruments that drive the first section of this track. I’m a sucker for songs that mix electronic and natural sounds, so I was always going to be a fan of A Sleeper, Just Awake.

The arrangement shifts, sways and evolves slowly, maybe mirroring how landscapes evolve over time through the gradually changing seasons. The end section has some moving, minimalist lines that bring the album to its conclusion.

Earth Mound Square is a well-chosen ending to a beautiful, moving and varied album by Sand. A Sleeper, Just Awake is already well on its way to being my favourite release from the North Atlantic Oscillation / Sand catalogue.

A Sleeper, Just Awake along with Hannah Peel’s similarly titled Awake But Always Dreaming, must surely be a contender for best electronic album of 2016.

A Sleeper, Just Awake is released 30 September 2016.

Buy the album

Buy the CD / download directly from Sand

Buy the download on Amazon

Buy the first Sand album on Amazon

Buy North Atlantic Oscillation – Lightning Strikes The Library – A Collection from Amazon








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