13 December 2014
Turnout for the annual electriXmas event in Malmö is traditionally strong, attracting legions of black-clad synthers from across Sweden and around Europe, many of them musicians coming to size up or show their appreciation for the competition. The line-up for this year’s event had real pulling-power, with the Belgian EBM legends, Front 242 and Suicide Commando, headlining a festival that also featured two of Sweden’s best home-grown acts, Sista mannen på jorden and Machinista. The highlights of the event came from these last two, who electrified the audience with poptronica of such strength and quality that the running order of the programme could easily have been reversed without any drop in energy.
Machinista are the duo of vocalist John Lindqwister and keyboardist Richard Flow. Lindqwister takes to the stage in typically stylish fashion, sporting an Aladdin Sane shirt and tattoos – a sartorial signal of what is to come, as he belts out crowd favourites like “Pushing the Angels Astray,” “Molecules and Carbon” and “Salvation.” Beside him, Flow drives the machinery and adds colour with a sonic palette boasting hues of Italo and industrial dance music. Their record label closed its doors earlier this year; but, with a brace of remixes in the vaults and new songs on trial, Machinista are clearly pregnant with a second album. You can tell by the glow on the faces of their fans.
Eddie Bengtsson’s SMPJ project has three studio albums behind it, along with a compilation of demos and rare tracks. Practically every one of the songs on those releases is suitable for a live show, so narrowing the choices down for a set list must be daunting. On this outing, classic hits like “Sekunder” [EN: “Seconds”], “Ögon” [EN: “Eyes”] and “Stanna kvar” [EN: “Remain”] are joined by “Leonov” from Ok, Ok, Ok. The most recent SMPJ single, “Stadens alla ljus,” [EN: “City Lights”] gets a make-over as “Malmös alla ljus” in a cheeky ad-lib, but it’s all in fun and the crowd happily take up the chorus. Behind Bengtsson, Christer Hermodsson does an impression of Ron Mael from Sparks; leaving his keyboard to offer some impromptu dancing before rushing back to hit his cues. The show is practiced but not predictable, and the crowd roar into life as they recognise the first notes of each song. Their only disappointment is that the band is on a schedule and its set has to come to an end.
Front 242 are soon lining up “Headhunter” for the black-armoured crowd. Their aggressive electronic rhythms are a hit, but the Front’s cyber-sonic assault stands in contrast to the layers and textures of the poptronica acts that came before them. There’s a light-hearted contest for the hearts and minds of the audience, but on this night the unending movement of hips and feet mean that everyone’s a winner.
Photo: Petter Duvander