Not well enough known outside of their native Sweden, GarboSTHLM are one of those bands who make exquisite pop that reminds you of the best bits of Duran Duran and Ultravox. They recently warmed-up for Visage in Stockholm, and this new release will keep the 80s vibe going.
Spitalfields Market didn’t used to be a trendy shopping district for City types. It was a back-street series of stalls, with hawkers trying to scrape a living. The members of I Start Counting used to work at the latter, while knocking out superlative pop with Daniel Miller and Paul Kendall lending a hand. This was one of their finest efforts.
No, not the dark website where you could buy drugs with bitcoins – Silk Road is an entirely lovely new track from Hannah Peel. Share without fear.
Legendary Canadian synth pioneers, Rational Youth, have announced live shows for Ottawa and Montreal in January 2014. In a Facebook posting, the band revealed plans for two dates, with more news to follow:
RATIONAL YOUTH LIVE IN MONTREAL & OTTAWA
After an absence of many years we are returning to the live stage!
We will mark our return with a show in our hometown of Montreal at Casa del Popolo on Friday, January 10, 2014, with support The Tibaldos. Tickets $12.
We will be appearing in Ottawa on January 18 at Zaphod Beeblebrox. Tickets $12 through Ticketweb. $15 at the door. Support TBA.
We are working on dates in Quebec City and Toronto and will have more news soon!
Here is the new band line-up:
Tracy Howe: Vocals and synth
Kevin Komoda: Massive analog bowel-shattering synth onslaught
Brian Arsenault: More synths, like a lot more synths
Scott Cameron: Bass
Paul Grainville: Drums, backing vocals
Gaenor Howe: Electronic percussion, theremin, backing vocals
Band photo soon!
The last weeks of 2013 are ticking by, and it can already be declared a vintage year for fans of electronic music and culture. Not only was there a steady stream of high-quality releases from established artists; there were encouraging signs of new artists taking the field, armed with sequencers and bags of groovy waveforms. The cassette format started to make a come-back, encouraged by artisan labels like Flexiwave and Nachos!, while vinyl, special edition CDs and box sets all made headway against the tidal forces of subscription-based streaming. Even promoters got into the act, by putting on festivals that were properly curated, instead of being kitchen-sink events.
Against this backdrop, Cold War Night Life paused to pick out some of the best songs of 2013. From an unusually strong field, we managed to select ten stand-out tracks to make our playlist for the year. If we had a crush on you, this is the mix-tape we would give you for Christmas.
1. Page: Som ett skal
After 2010’s Nu (EN: Now) revived the musical partnership of Eddie Bengtsson and Marina Schiptjenko, the profile and creative output of Page have been reaching new heights. Sweden’s original synthpop act, Page went through several transitions before bowing out at a performance in 2000. The reunion of Bengtsson and Schiptjenko, a decade later, surprised many by reinvigorating their music with mature themes and catchy melodies. Nu came across as a reboot, rather than a simple refresh, of Page’s sound.
The release of Hemma (EN: At Home) in 2013 went even further, showcasing the growing strength and sophistication of Bengtsson’s songwriting while fusing modern and vintage influences. His signature “glamtronica” sound draws upon the best punk, disco and glam rock influences and runs them through a bank of Moog synths. Underpinned by dancefloor-friendly rhythms, the songs on Hemma all come across as having come from a place five minutes into the future.
The most accessible of these is Som ett skal (EN: Like a Shell), which was released by Wonderland Records as a series of limited edition 3″ CD-singles with additional remixes. In a bumper year for electronic music, Page’s effort was peerless.
[button link=”http://www.amazon.co.uk/Som-ett-skal/dp/B00FBHTHUG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1385200814&sr=8-1&keywords=som+ett+skal” icon=”none” icon=”9835″ target=”blank” color=”c0c0c0″ textcolor=”ffffff” size=”small”]Listen/buy on Amazon[/button]
2. Rational Youth: Ring the Bells (Live in Ottawa)
Sitting for thirty years in the attic of Kevin Komoda, a box of memorabilia collected from his days in Rational Youth yielded some expected treasures when opened earlier this year. Besides pictures from Kraftwerk’s 1981 show in Montreal, Komoda found recordings from Rational Youth’s 1983 cross-Canada tour. Tapes from shows in Ottawa and Winnipeg were promptly digitised and released as cassettes and CDs, including bundles with rare and unreleased tracks from the RY archives.
The stand-out song from the live recordings is the version of Ring the Bells played in the Ottawa show. One of the best tracks from the classic Cold War Night Life album, singer Tracy Howe’s vocals and the synthetic strings played by Komoda combine to spine-tingling effect. With live Rational Youth shows being organised for Canada and Sweden in 2014, this is a taster of the magic to come.
[button link=”http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ring-the-Bells/dp/B00GH8J6YU/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1385201075&sr=8-2&keywords=ring+the+bells+rational+youth” icon=”9835″ target=”blank” color=”c0c0c0″ textcolor=”ffffff” size=”small”]Listen/buy on Amazon[/button]
3. Hannah Peel: Harbour
Irish-born and Barnsley-raised, multi-instrumentalist Hannah Peel is best known in the electronic music community for her work with John Foxx & The Maths. With her amplified violin and keyboard work, Peel has brought an iridescent quality to Foxx’s stage shows, complementing the contributions of drummer and modular-synth master, Benjamin “Benje” Edwards. Peel’s solo material occupies a different place from Foxx’s, ranging from music-box versions of classic synthpop to ethereal, sweeping pop tracks that are more obviously inspired by a mixture of the Cocteau Twins and Irish folk traditions.
At the end of 2013, Peel won an award for another track, Chloe, which was used in a British television programme, but the song we chose for our mix-tape was Harbour, which comes from Peel’s Nailhouse EP – one of the independent stand-outs in 2013.
4. Cryo: The Portal
The release of Cryo material is always special, but the first single from the forthcoming Retropia album, In Your Eyes, came with an outstanding bonus track. While the A-side single is a definite alternative dancefloor-filler, The Portal is solid evidence that Martin Rudefelt has a deep well of compelling songs to draw upon. Although released in the position of a B-side, The Portal could easily have been a single in its own right. Dark, brooding and uplifting at the same time, it shows why Cryo continue to set the benchmark for EBM.
[button link=”http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Portal/dp/B00FAU8U8O/ref=sr_1_1?s=dmusic&ie=UTF8&qid=1385202723&sr=1-1&keywords=cryo+portal” icon=”9835″ target=”blank” color=”c0c0c0″ textcolor=”ffffff” size=”small”]Listen/buy on Amazon[/button]
5. Julian & Marina: Count the Stars
One of the surprises of 2013 was the low-key release by the electro-crooner duo, Julian & Marina, of their Distance EP, which included this exceptional track. Count the Stars is a wonderful pop song: elegant and charming in equal amounts. It goes a long way to preserve the feeling of early Pet Shop Boys songs, at a time when the PSB are borrowing ideas from Michael Nyman while singing Fabien Society pamphlets, and deserves wider exposure.
[button link=”http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00D4VUDMM/ref=dm_dp_trk2_B00D4VUDMM” icon=”9835″ target=”” color=”c0c0c0″ textcolor=”ffffff” size=”small”]Listen/buy on Amazon[/button]
6. Candide: Lustfyllda nätter
They’ve been around since 1984, but Candide aren’t stuck in an old-school groove. They released two singles in 2013, both of which were excellent; but, if pressed, we preferred this tribute to influential Swedish new wave act, Lustans Lakejer.
7. Train to Spain: Passion
After a line-up change, which saw a new vocalist come into the fold, Train to Spain started to write and release uptempo, energetic pop songs with renewed vigour. Live dates across Sweden gave audiences a chance to experience their developing brand of synthpop; a combination of classic electronic sounds and driving sequences that sits somewhere on the spectrum between Yazoo and Front 242. This was one of our favourite songs of 2013, and the combination of Jonas Rasmusson’s music with Helena Wigeborg’s vocals holds out great promise for future releases.
8. Acute Onset: Nosology
Hanna Kihlander and Johan Söderling revealed their musical project with a bang, a bleep, clicks and pulses. Nosology showed that their eclectic combination of keyboards and modular components could be deployed to make infectious dance music infused with influences from DAF to A Guy Called Gerald. The DIY spirit behind this project is exactly right for the time.
9. Vive la fête: La Vision
Belgium’s number one party band, Vive la fête went all Vicious Pink for this sultry but rhythm-infused remix. We made it a Track of the Day, but in truth it is one of the top songs for the year. A bouncy synth line, laid in by remixer Pantser Fabriek, gives it a minimal wave feel, but the vocals of model Els Pynoo take it over the top. More of this for 2014, please.
10. Machinista: Pushing the Angels Astray
The duo of Richard Flow (ex-Vision Talk) and John Lindqwister (ex-Cat Rapes Dog) have conjured up a number of high-quality songs in their short time together, and with Pushing the Angels Astray they have established their place among the most exciting new acts of 2013. Their performance at Electronic Summer was one of the highlights of the festival, and with their signing to Juggernaut in the UK, we’ll be seeing a lot more of them next year.
Made for one of the best tracks on 2010’s Nu, this is a rare example of a Page video. Despite being one of Sweden’s best-loved synth acts, Page have not had a lot of exposure on the visuals side to date, so this is a very creditable and cool effort.
A true classic, Push! from Germany’s The Invincible Limit remains a solid dancefloor filler almost thirty years since it was released. With a synth line that flares out from a sequencer in bursts of flame, Push! is exemplary EBM.
Machinista are on an upwards path. The Swedish duo of Richard Flow (ex-Vision Talk) and John Lindqwister (ex-Cat Rapes Dog) are making a name for themselves with a sophisticated, dancefloor-friendly form of synthpop. This track shows off their sleek sound and Lindqwister’s terrific vocals, with some help from a celestial choir.
LEAF 2013, London
10 November 2013
In his next life, William Orbit is going to be a university professor. A particularly English kind of genius, he appears on stage with course notes that he doesn’t read and muses about the relationship between notation and music at the end of the universe. Along the way, he shows off a drum machine that is actually a machine that plays drums, explains the formal structure of pop hits, tells the history of his work with Malcolm McLaren and Madonna, and shares videos of Soviet trains crashing. An engaging and charmingly self-deprecating speaker, students will love him. A tweed blazer with elbow patches is all that stands between him and tenure at a top college.
Well, that and Britney Spears. As one of the UK’s leading producers, Orbit is in demand among the upper tiers of commercial pop music as a songwriter, studio fixer and remixer. He wouldn’t say this himself, but there is a strong argument that he rescued Madonna’s career with her Ray of Light album. Britney’s comeback needed some oomph, as well, so he recently found himself Stateside working on her next single, Alien. The regularity of such assignments will make it difficult to teach normal classes, and he’s given up drinking, so the quadrangle of an appropriately prestigious university will have to wait for another day.
Orbit’s appearance at the London Electronic Arts Festival was billed as a show, rather than a seminar, but it moved between both ends of that spectrum like the needle on a VU meter. Orbit came to the stage with Torch Song and Bassomatic songs, reaching back more than two decades to his early club hits. In the course of the evening, he shared a remix of Falling Free made for Madonna (revealed as one of his favourite tracks), Purdy from his My Oracle Lives Uptown album and snippets from the next Strange Cargo effort (expected in the New Year). They are all distinctively Orbit-treated tracks, impressed with sublime style. Although he makes a living sharing his creativity with household-name artists, Orbit’s output is often on the alternative or experimental side – like Brian Eno without his oblique strategy cards.
Eno certainly would have appreciated Orbit’s demonstration of a new toy, the Gogobot: a robotic machine that played rhythm on a traditional drum set with added percussion. While Torch Song collaborator Rico Conning supervised the machinery [Editor’s note: Conning is also its inventor], Orbit used it to accompany sounds issuing from his laptop. As Orbit confessed to a love for steam power, as part of a diversion into the influence of digits (fingers) on counting systems, it is perhaps a matter of time before he develops a steam-punk version.
Orbit’s manner is entertaining and informative. Perhaps there is a market for spoken-word shows with audience questions for record producers – as Kevin Smith has done on the back of his successful films and podcasts. If so, then it would be easier for Professor Orbit to schedule lectures between pop hits and Youtube experiments than to squeeze the music into end of term breaks.
25 October 2013
Silent Wave, formerly known as Waveshaper, gave their second gig ever at Jazzhuset, Gothenburg. Let me introduce them to you, because I don’t remember them doing that at the show: Silent Wave is the electropop duo of Tildeh Hjelm and Hans Olsson Brookes. If you’re a fan of great music from Gothenburg, there’s no way you could’ve missed Hans and his work (including Wonderland artists, Universal Poplab). Being the co-owner of Svenska Grammafonstudion, he’s involved in everything, believe me. If you’re well-grounded, you also understand that he knows exactly what he’s doing and he simply does it well.
Tildeh has been making her own music for years, and with their different backgrounds they make a pretty good team – especially since they met and got to know each other at the Pustervik venue only a year ago. I was there, too, going to one of Timo Räisänen’s concerts (the connection for Hans is that he plays the keyboards in Timo’s band and has produced him). Oh, what a night.
That was a night of way too many beers, but it was also noteworthy for bringing about Silent Wave. About four months ago, they released their first video, called Landscapes. The song DreamOn DreamOn has been released on SoundCloud, but the band doesn’t offer much more by way of recordings right now. The sound is quite experimental; featuring some heavy electronic beats, as well. According to the two members, they are influenced by Depeche Mode, The Cure, The Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead and My Bloody Valentine. According to me, Tildeh is getting her influences from Björk, as well. What a voice and what a nice way of singing!
Silent Wave hit the stage just after midnight. They have a really powerful intro, played instrumentally. Being as new as they are as a band, the gig was only about 25 minutes long. They even played Landscapes twice; using it as an encore number, as well. I can’t decide if it’s a fudge or cool. A little bit a both, maybe. Silent Wave is a good live act. I’m not getting the “OMG, this is the best thing I’ve ever seen” feeling that I get from catching Depeche Mode or Chvrches live; but, having been to over 100 concerts this year, I can assure you that they are well worth keeping an eye on.