Musik Music Musique 1980 – The Dawn Of Synth Pop album review

22 06 2020

Musik Music Musique is a 3 CD compilation from Cherry Red, chronicling the beginnings of the synth-pop music revolution that was to dominate the charts for years to come. Whilst containing well-known names from the era (Buggles, The Human League, Ultravox and Spandau Ballet) the tracks chosen from these artists are not the obvious big-hits.

The real discoveries and delights in this compendium are the more obscure tracks, from the likes of XYNN, Nick Nicely and other acts who often released just a handful of songs before disappearing forever.

The first of the 3 CDs contains one of Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’s finest earlier songs, the naggingly addictive Messages. The Human League are represented by their cover of Mick Ronson’s Only After Dark, taken from the final album produced by the line-up that featured Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh, who left the League to form Heaven 17 with Glenn Gregory later in 1980.

Victims of the Riddle was the debut single from Toyah (it was actually released in 1979, but we will let that slip!). A keyboard driven song, with minimal guitar, it sits well on this compilation. Waiting by Ultravox is a good choice, as is Hazel O’Connor’s Sons And Lovers, with tribal drums offsetting the sax and synth squelches.

My favourite track on Disc One is from one of the most under-rated albums of the 80s, Sympathy from the debut (and only) album from Pauline Murray and the Invisible Girls. Pauline was the vocalist in new wave band Penetration, and this Martin Hannett produced album saw Murray move in a more electronic direction. If you haven’t heard this album, its definitely worth investigating.

The compilation’s title track is from Zeus aka producer Zeus B. Held (Fashion’s Fabrique, John Foxx’s The Golden Section, Pete Wylie Sinful) and is a charming vocoder delivered pop song. XYNN (German multimedia artist Michael Winter) delivers the sparse and haunting Computed Man.

Gina X Performance (another Zeus B. Held collaboration) is represented by Vendor’s Box, a fuller arrangement than a lot of the purely electronic tracks on this compilation.

Lawnchairs by US band Our Daughter’s Wedding uses a similar synth sequence to the OMD track that kicks off the first CD, and is a regular on alternative 80s compilations / 80s themed radio.

Two of my favourites (from the songs I was unaware of previously) sit on the first CD. Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne by Suicide was produced by Ric Ocasek of The Cars, and DCT Dreams by Nick Nicely is a lo-fi masterpiece, overflowing with more than it’s fair share of pop hooks.

The second disc opens with a key early Spandau Ballet track Glow, and a hidden gem from Robin Scott’s M in Official Secrets (avoiding the obvious Pop Muzik, great song as it is).

Galactica from French space-rock band Rockets is well sequenced next to Kim Wilde’s album track Tuning In Tuning On and Landscape’s European Man, which pre-dated their most well-known song from 1981, Einstein a Go-Go. Admit it,that song is stuck in your head now, isn’t it?

Melbourne band The Metronomes provide a “Ray Bradbury inspired tale of star-crossed love between two computing devices” with their contribution A Circuit Like Me, that cosies up to one of John Foxx’s early, icy slice of the future singles No One Driving.

The most well-known track on this compilation is the Midge Ure assisted Philip Lynott (Thin Lizzy) single Yellow Pearl, a song that was used as the theme for Top Of The Pops during the first half of the decade.

Dalek I Love You (Destiny) by Liverpool’s Dalek I is a premium slice of electronic new wave influenced pop. French band Taxi Girl contribute an early single in Mannequin. Fans of The Stranglers will remember Taxi Girl from the 1981 La Folie tour and the JJ Burnel produced / Jet Black featuring Seppuku album in 1982.

This World Of Water, a no 31 with a bullet UK singles hit by New Musik, a band formed by producer Tony Mansfield, sits in the track list just before one of my favourite Japan songs, the Roxy Music Manifesto influenced Quiet Life.

The third and final disc opens with one of Buggles finest songs, Astroboy (And The Proles On Parade). Last year there were rumours of a new, third Buggles album. Here’s hoping….

The second song titled Mannequin is from Glasgow’s Berlin Blondes, with a great mixture of new wave basslines and electronic synth lead lines. Yello supply a scratchy, discordant Bimbo and the pure-pop quota is increased by The Lonely Spy from David Balfe and Bill Drummond’s Lori And The Chameleons project.

Blood Donor serve up a quirky Doctor Who homage and The Korgis Drawn And Quartered highlights a different side to the band who had a huge hit with the dreamy Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime.

The debut album from Visage was so influential, and single Mind Of A Toy features here. The handclaps and slap-bass mutant funk of Mataya Clifford and the track Living Wild adds a wild sense of fun to the final disc.

Karel Fialka’s The Eyes Have It was a near-hit in 1980, and received lots of radio play at the time. The Russians Are Coming by The Red Squares is a short track driven by cold war paranoia.

The compilation ends with La Düsseldorf and their boozy sounding Dampfriemen, drawing on early Kraftwerk and what sounds like too many visits to Bavarian Bierkeller’s. Dampfriemen is the only song on the album featuring a kazoo solo along side the electronic instruments, so a fitting end to this entertaining glimpse into the birth of 80s synthpop.

Disc one

Messages – Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark
Musik, Music, Musique – Zeus
Coitus Interruptus – Fad Gadget
Computed Man – XYNN
Metal Love – Rod Vey
Vendor’s Box – Gina X Performance
Lawnchairs – Our Daughter’s Wedding
Tokyo – Science
Only After Dark – The Human League
Victims Of The Riddle – Toyah
DCT Dreams – Nick Nicely
Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne – Suicide
Waiting – Ultravox
Money – Moebius
Falling Years – The Fallout Club
Da Vorne Steht Ne Ampel – Der Plan
No, Nothing, Never – Dark Day
Sons And Lovers – Hazel O’Connor
Sympathy – Pauline Murray And The Invisible Girls

Disc two

Glow – Spandau Ballet
Official Secrets – M
Chip n Roll – Silicon Teens
Galactica – Rockets
Tuning In Tuning On – Kim Wilde
European Man – Landscape
Can’t You Take A Joke? Ha Ha Hi Hi! – Henriette Coulouvrat
A Circuit Like Me – The Metronomes
No One Driving – John Foxx
Kebabträume – D.A.F.
Harmonitalk – Gary Sloan And Clone
Yellow Pearl – Philip Lynott
Dalek I Love You (Destiny) – dalek I
Mannequin – Taxi Girl
This World Of Water – New Musik
Quiet Life – Japan
Chase The Dragon – Kevin Harrison
Diskomo – The Residents

Disc three

Astroboy (And The Proles On Parade) – Buggles
Mannequin – Berlin Blondes
A Certain Way To Go – The Passage
Between – Sic
Bimbo – Yello
Images Of Delusion – Genocide
The Lonely Spy – Lori And The Chameleons
Lucy – Craze
I’m A Computer – The Goo-Q
Doctor …? – Blood Donor
Brushing Your Hair – Alex Fergusson
Drawn And Quartered – The Korgis
Mind Of A Toy – Visage
D’ya Think I’m Sexy – British Standard Unit
Living Wild – Mataya Clifford
Private Lives – Systems
The Eyes Have It – Karel Fialka
Suis-je Normale – Nini Raviolette
China Blue Vision – Eyeless In Gaza
The Russians Are Coming – The Red Squares
Dampfriemen – La Dusseldorf

Released on 31 July 2020.

Buy Musik Music Musique 1980 – The Dawn Of Synth Pop





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





East India Youth – Culture of Volume

8 04 2015

eastindiayouthCulture of Volume, the second album from East India Youth, opens with The Juddering, an instrumental that starts off spitting out a synth- line reminiscent of Bowie’s title track to Station to Station, before the big synths take over.

Culture of Volume is not an instrumental album, the majority of the tracks feature vocal performances, the first of which, End Result, sneaks in some Duran Duran sounding synth flavours, and displays an intelligent, expansive arrangement.

Beaming White, though driven by mid-80’s sounding synths in the intro, has a feel of Delphic‘s Acolyte album. And that’s a key point with this album – William Doyle (aka East India Youth) is clearly influenced by the 80’s sounds of Kraftwerk, David Bowie, Ryuichi Sakamoto, John Foxx and Soft Cell but he writes songs that are contemporary, with vocals more inspired by Wild Beasts and Everything Everything than his apparent 80s influences.

Hearts That Never is one of the more up-tempo pieces, with a great bass-line and rolling percussion. The hands-in-the-air anthem Entirety is lifted by the sweet keyboard lines towards the middle of the pacey, at times industrial track.

The stand-out song for me is Carousel, which has shades of The Garden era John Foxx, and a real 1980’s 4AD feel in the use of long, spacey reverbs. Beatless and beautiful, it’s a moving piece of music, especially the slowly distorting outro, which has a little of the feel of The Disintegration Loops by William Basinski.

The straight-forward pop of Don’t Look Backwards has a dreamy treated piano and strings ending, which plays perfectly into my second favourite track, the 10 minute plus Manner of Words. Slow-burning textured pads and lead lines give way to disintegration and decay.

The album closes with Montage Resolution, another instrumental soundscape built from layers of jagged reverb-heavy lines underpinned by a deep synth.

This is the first music I’ve heard from East India Youth, and its piqued my interest enough to seek out their debut album, Total Strife Forever.

Buy Culture of Volume CD or download on Amazon

Buy Total Strife Forever on CD or download at Amazon








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