Fader – In Shadow album review

24 09 2019

Fader are Neil Arthur (Blancmange) and Benge (John Foxx & The Maths / Gazelle Twin). In Shadow is the follow-up to their 2017 debut, First Light.

Neil Arthur is clearly experiencing a creative streak – along with Fader he has also recently released the debut of another duo project, Near Future, as well as delivering two new Blancmange studio albums, including one of the finest in the bands career in last year’s Wanderlust.

Summoning the spirit of early John Foxx, Always Suited Blue is a tale of the personal and the mundane, jostling with an upbeat, pure 1981 synth-pop soundtrack.

“Lost a tenner, found a pound”

An early album highlight is Midnight Caller, a distopian dismantling of picket-fence suburbia, with a hint of menace that offsets the addictive chorus.

Arthur’s often unsettling lyrics are underpinned by the warm electronic textures provided by Benge. Everyday objects become enemies in What Did It Say – which has one of the most disturbing lyrics coupling with one of the album’s sweetest and most mesmerising tunes.

Youth On A Wall bubbles and pulses, with a wonderfully treated vocal that has its own distinctive, delayed rhythm. A little bit of politics creeping in here.

“May is fading from our view”

The saccharine synths of Whispering echo the softly delivered vocals, that are delivered with such lightness of touch that you have to really concentrate to hear the message being delivered.

Aspirational is an ear-worm of a song, and is followed by one of my favourite tracks on the album, Enemy Fighter with its inventive, haunting vocal arrangement that is topped off with layered, frenetic percussion patterns.

The title track has sparse instrumentation, that builds slowly as the song progresses. Every Page feels the most current of the songs on In Shadow, with vocals scattering in and out of the chorus.

“Heading home now, if home still exists”

The album comes to a close on it’s bleakest song, Reporting, that seems to flit through the ages in a lyric about time and travel. The lyric reminds me a little of the time-travel premise of Kate Bush’s Snowed in at Wheeler Street, but that’s where the comparison ends. The lightest of touch backing makes you concentrate fully on the lyrics, and then the album is over.

“Pressure drop, pleasure stop.”

In Shadow is released on 25 October 2019.

Buy Fader – In Shadow on CD from Amazon

Always Suited Blue
Midnight Caller
What Did It Say
Youth On A Wall
Whispering
Aspirational
Enemy Fighter
In Shadow
Mindsweeper
Every Page
Reporting





2018 end of year favourites (music)

20 12 2018

Here are my favourite music releases from 2018 AKA good ideas to use up your Christmas Amazon gift vouchers. You can thank me later.

Top 5 new albums (in no particular order)

Blancmange – Wanderlust

wanderlust

Blancmange released their tenth studio album, Wanderlust, in October. Wanderlust is a much more stark electronic offering than the early Blancmange albums, but it contains three of my favourite songs of the year with Distant Storm, the insanely addictive In Your Room and Not a Priority (featuring Hannah Peel). The album is a real late-career highlight.

Read my full review of Wanderlust

Buy the album at Amazon

The Midnight – Kids

the-midnight-kids

The Midnight were a new band to me in 2018. I stumbled across them via an online recommendation from Jacob Holm-Lupo from White Willow / The Opium Cartel, and 6 months later they are my 3rd most played artist of 2018 (thanks to Last.FM). If you are interested – my top 5 most played artists (via scrobbles) last year were

1. David Bowie
2. The Stranglers
3. The Midnight
4. Roxy Music
5. Sweet Billy Pilgrim

Anyway, back to The Midnight. They are an electronic act from the USA, described as being part of the synthwave collection of artists, and are heavily influenced by 80s music / pop culture. Their artwork matches the music perfectly, and putting it simply, they write well-crafted electronic pop songs.

Kids is The Midnight’s most recent album, and features the pure-pop of America 2 and is bursting at the seams with analogue synths and drums that sound like Simmons sds9.

Vocalist Tyler Lyle and fellow band member Tim McEwan perfectly capture that feeling of nostalgia and hope (tinged with melancholy) that ran through the music, film and TV of the 80s. I dare you to listen to their music and see if you can resist digging out your copy of The Stand, Back To The Future or any of your favourite series or films from that decade.

Buy Kids by The Midnight on Amazon (MP3)

Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Wapentak

sweet billy pilgrim

The newly streamlined (now just Tim Elsenburg and Jana Carpenter) Sweet Billy Pilgrim released the wonderful Wapentak in mid-2018. Available in digital form from Amazon, or in physical form direct from the band, this is my favourite Sweet Billy Pilgrim album to date.

I love the way the album slowly builds as each song progresses. The first few songs are stripped back and highlight Tim and Jana’s perfect vocal interplay. By the time we get to Junkyard Dogs, the beauty of this album fully reveals itself. The trio of Why the Long Face, The Briar Bell and A Shelter of Reeds hits the absolute sweet-spot for me.

Why the Long Face feels like Steely Dan with a sprinkling of Field Music, and boy oh boy, what a perfect chorus. The Briar Bell highlights the vulnerability in Jana’s vocals that sit so well with Tim’s aching harmonies.

A Shelter of Reeds is simply stunning. At times the arrangement (especially the Danny Thompson influenced bass parts) remind me of Never For Ever period Kate Bush, and the two vocalists hit a real peak on this song.

Have a listen to A Shelter of Reeds and then buy the album (CD or mp3), it deserves to be added to your collection.

Tracey Thorn – Record

record

Record is an album full of one word titles and shifting moods, from the electronica of early single Queen, the love song to pop music that is Guitar and one of my favourite songs of the year Face.

Face is up there with personal favourites By Picadilly Station I Sat Down and Wept and A-Z as one of the most moving songs in Tracey’s solo catalogue. The whole album is musically and lyrically so strong and uplifting, and feels like an antidote to the often bitter and cruel world we currently live in.

Buy Record on Amazon

Lunatic Soul – Under the Fragmented Sky

fragmented sky

Under the Fragmented Sky is a companion piece to 2017’s Fractured album, and finds Mariusz Duda continuing to explore textures and moods with this largely electronic project. Album opener He Av En uses voice as an instrument, and adds Cure like guitar lines to the mix.

The fractured, jittery synths of The Art of Repairing sit in stark contrast to the more traditional arrangement of the title track. I love how the music of Lunatic Soul continues to evolve with each album, and Under the Fragmented Sky continues the journey.

Buy Under the Fragmented Sky on Amazon

Honourable mentions

Other albums that I have loved in 2018

David Bowie – Welcome To The Blackout

BLACKOUT

My favourite Bowie live album (it’s Stage on steroids, or maybe it’s the side-effects of the cocaine?) and worth buying for the version of Stay alone!

Buy Welcome To The Blackout at Amazon

The Midnight – Days of Thunder / Nocturnal

nocturnal

These are not 2018 releases but I am breaking the rules and including them here, as I first heard the albums this year. Sadly not available on CD at the moment, the albums are available on vinyl and download only.

If you want your pop-fix, you will fall in love with the feeling of Light Years (feat. Nikki Flores), but the title track, with its deep bass and neon-lit synths hits all the right buttons for me.

Buy Days of Thunder (mp3)

Buy Nocturnal (mp3)

Favourite re-issues of 2018

Kate Bush remasters

KB-CD-Packshot-2-Square-3000 2

The Kate Bush remasters finally arrived this year, and whilst the only new material was one previously unreleased track, Humming, the album’s have never sounded so good. If you don’t have much Kate Bush in your collection, the box-sets are a great way of collecting the vast majority of Kate’s music. 

The highlights for me are improved versions of The Dreaming and Aerial.

Read my full reviews of Part I and Part II

Buy Kate Bush – Remastered Part I  

Buy Kate Bush – Remastered Part II

John Foxx – Metamatic (Deluxe Edition)

meta500

This year saw the release of the definitive version of this electronic classic from 1980, which contains 49 tracks across 3 CDs. 

Read my full review.

Buy Metamatic (Deluxe Edition)

This Mortal Coil – It’ll End In Tears / Filigree and Shadow / Blood

Blood

The three albums from This Mortal Coil were made available in remastered form for the first time this year (the remasters were previously part of a now out-of-print box-set).

I think most people would be interested in the first album, It’ll End In Tears from 1984, due to the inclusion of Tim Buckley’s timeless Song to the Siren, featuring Elizabeth Fraser & Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins) but all three albums are worth investigating.

Filigree & Shadow (1986) is my favourite and is a perfect winter album. Live piano and strings cosy up with discordant electronics to create a gothic masterpiece. The Jeweller (Dominic Appleton, Deirdre and Louise Rutkowski with Simon Raymonde) segues perfectly with a Simon Raymonde composition, Ivy and Neet.

Talking Heads Drugs (from 1979’s Fear of Music) is given a radical refresh by Alison Limerick with members of The Wolfgang Press and Colourbox.

The third and final release Blood, like Filigree & Shadow, was a double album on its initial vinyl and cassette release. Each album is a single CD disc for these reissues. Randy California’s Nature’s Way is a highlight, with powerful vocal performances from Alison Limerick and Deirdre Rutkowski.

Buy It’ll End In Tears 

Buy Filigree and Shadow 

Buy Blood 

Here’s to a great year of music in 2019.





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





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.

Follow Mr Kinski’s Music Shack on Twitter

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








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