Music misses Linea Aspera. The duo of Alison Lewis and Ryan Ambridge was founded in 2011, but broke up a couple of years later. They left behind some of the most exciting new dark wave material to emerge from the UK in decades, including an album and two EPs. This clip, from their 2013 appearance at the Grauzone festival, reveals them as an exciting live act.
Their name is inspired by a line from a Human League song, they make girl-meets-boy pop songs, and they have a knack of producing infectious grooves-it’s no accident that Sweden’s Train to Spain were invited to play at Cold War Night Life‘s event, An Evening with the Swedish Synth, in 2014. As one of a new generation of poptronica acts coming from the Nordics, the duo of Helena Wigeborn and Jonas Rasmusson are great entertainers in a live setting and just as much fun in their studio guise.
Just in time for summer, they’ve revealed their debut album, What It’s All About (SubCulture Records). Eleven tracks of fine poptronica are assembled in this virtual package, drawing on favourites from their live show and previous teasers. The Train is inspired by the synthetic sounds of the 80s, and these can be heard in tracks like “Keep on Running” and “Blipblop” to great effect. Wigeborn’s vocals cover a lot of stylistic ground, even getting a little Opus III on the acid-infused “Remind Myself.”
This is a playful album, which comes with a sense of humour. Depeche Mode fans will love their favourite banana-waving, hand-clapping member being name-checked in the deadpan tribute track, “Martin, David and Fletch”:
We’ve been waiting for some time to hear What It’s All About, and the results are worth it. Train to Spain have produced the soundtrack to summer.
Available on [ot-link url=”http://subculturerecords.bandcamp.com/album/what-its-all-about”]Bandcamp [/ot-link] and [ot-link url=”https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/what-its-all-about/id989266718″]iTunes[/ot-link].
Komputer were the duo of Simon Leonard and David Baker. They started out as I Start Counting, and were supposed to be Daniel Miller’s next big thing after Depeche Mode went supernova big. When that didn’t work out, despite creating exceptional and enduring material, they generated music for raves as Fortran 5, but it was with the creation of a Kraftwerkesque groove that Komputer was born in 1997. Their first album, The World of Tomorrow, contained this gem, which traces a route through North London along Archway, Muswell Hill and Alexandra Palace, by foot and public transportation.
This clip is from a 2011 live appearance.
Slovenian art activists, Laibach, are invading North America with a new video in their arsenal. “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean,” a cover of the Blind Lemon Jefferson song popularised by Bob Dylan, is the latest missive from the trenchcoat-clad dissidents. It comes as the black-cross spreads from East to West across the continent, fuelled by funds raised through an Indiegogo campaign initiated by the group. See here for the announced dates and links to ticket sites.
Jean-Marc Lederman has several incarnations. The Belgian composer and musician is sometimes known as one-half of The Weathermen, or as Kid Montana, depending on the style of music or collaborator of the moment. In his guise as The Ghost, he has previously appeared with Frank Spinath (Seabound) in Ghost & Writer and on a single with Mari Kattman as Mari & The Ghost. The latter project has now grown into a full album, showing off Lederman’s synthpop credentials and Kattman’s dream-like vocals.
Superstitions traces an arc through the spectrum of radio-friendly poptronica. From the opening of “Satellite,” the album unfolds with grace and poise. There is something of a Sarah McLachlan feel to Kattman’s contributions, which will draw comparisons to parts of Delirium’s catalogue, but there are also hints of Madonna’s Ray of Light period. In part, this comes from Kattman’s background as a choral singer, but her style as a lead vocalist is as much about creating atmosphere as it is telling a story.
The stand-out track on the album is a song that has already been issued as a single. “Wolves” trips along with a deceptively simple synth line over a bubbling sequence, carried by rhythms and pads, while Kattman’s voice soars overhead. It’s the restraint shown by Lederman’s production, allowing the tension to build within the track, that is its main strength – a feat repeated throughout the album. The lack of bombast compresses the material and maintains interest across ten tracks of classy synthpop.
Out now on Bandcamp.
Possibly the worst music video ever made, this clip is a playback with Plastic Bertrand walking – it would be a stretch to call it dancing – through Cannes while tourists stop to watch. The song, however, is one of the most infectious pop tracks ever recorded. Bertrand is the Belgian pop star credited with the song, but he didn’t sing on his first albums – which should have given him time to work on his dance moves.
8 May 2015
The world premiere of a new feature film about industrial music brought out members of Throbbing Gristle and Test Dept, along with a tattooed and booted audience keen to see footage of TG, Non and Z’ev. What they got was a 52 minute trawl through the archives, original interview footage, a live Q&A with the film-makers and Chris & Cosey, and a DJ set from the original British metal-bashers.
Industrial Soundtrack for the Urban Decay is a French independent production, created by Amelie Ravalec and Travis Collins. Its premise is that industrial music – the experimental style that is characterised by harsh sounds, cut-up lyrics, the use of found sound, and so on – was born amidst urban decline as the counterculture of factory workers or unemployed youth. The story is told by many of the prime movers from the scene, including Genesis P-Orridge, Chris & Cosey, Boyd Rice, Stephen Mallinder, Graeme Revell and Dirk Ivens. Most of the interviewees are from the UK, so their reactions to the Thatchist police state of the 1980s are key to the narrative, but there is also space given to Vale from Re:Search and the Belgian founder of Sordide Sentimental, who publicised the industrial scene for the love of its art.
The term, industrial music, came from Throbbing Gristle, who created the Industrial Records label to issue their own music and that of artists like Thomas Leer and Robert Rental, Monte Cazzaza or Sweden’s Leather Nun. Adopting the communications style of corporations and popular culture reference points like Greatest Hits albums, they subverted the mainstream by injecting themselves into it. In the film, P-Orridge explains the coining of the term as a branding exercise, alongside the adoption of the band’s lightning flash logo, but the film and its participants steer clear of any pedantic discussion about what is truly industrial.
There is little in the film that will surprise long-time followers, and footage from the Rough Trade tour showing Robert Rental perfoming with Daniel Miller or clips of Cabaret Voltaire’s TV appearances, promoting their first album for a major label, can be easily found on Youtube. Fans who know the music will appreciate hearing “their” genre used in a feature film, but it rolls past quickly in a blizzard of clips that don’t always correspond to the soundtrack. Completists will point out that the film misses the chance to look at artists like Zoviet France, Muslimgauze or Severed Heads, so that the picture is somewhat distorted for less-informed viewers, but the producers explained that they were constrained by their budget and chose to focus on the artists they were able to interview.
The choice of several tracks from CV’s Crackdown album invites questions about the interface between industrial music and pop, but the opportunity is passed over. That is unfortunate, as many of the artists being highlighted made material intended for a more commercial audience – SPK’s “Metal Dance,” much of CV’s later output, Chris & Cosey’s “October Love Song” or Test Dept’s “New World Order” all provide examples – and it would have been interesting to hear their views about the creative limits of each genre.
Those quibbles aside, Industrial Soundtrack for the Urban Decay is an entertaining, accessible and informative run-through of industrial music’s history. Its running time means it can be squeezed onto Sky Arts, but for now look out for it on the festival circuit.
In a bar, somewhere in an America sketched by Tarantino, there is a jukebox which plays the songs of Silver Ghost Shimmer. When enough quarters have been dropped into the machine, its lights brighten and the room is filled with soaring guitars and crushed beats hewn by John Fryer. The rhythm is picked up by the bored girlfriends of grizzled bikers shooting pool, and they are carried to the dancefloor by the elegant but pained vocals of Pinky Turzo. The bikers don’t look up from their game, but they know instinctively that the gazes of the men at the bar are on their girls. They feel their looks – and the pain.
Fryer’s sonic signature is etched deeply into the duo’s first album. Soft Landing is tagged with chorus and delay-fed guitars that hang over proceedings: at times, hovering like elemental mist in a dark forest; at others, evoking the faded glamour of a once-striking actress. The combination of beauty and decay is difficult to balance, but a Lynchian sense of mystery binds them on tracks like “Suffocated” or “This Mortal Shimmer.”
Fryer’s work shaped the style of many 4AD and Mute artists, at both the commercial and experimental ends of the industry. His work for He Said, Graham Lewis’ solo project, lured Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails to the UK, while his contributions to This Mortal Coil have provided a powerful soundtrack to both weddings and break-ups. From Depeche Mode to Swans, Cocteau Twins to Fad Gadget, Fryer has discreetly shaped the soundtrack to more than three decades of dancing and dark emotions. With Silver Ghost Shimmer, one of several projects he is pursuing simultaneously, Fryer is tapping a deep vein of raw emotion, which takes inspiration from The Shangri-Las and other American “tough girl” groups of the 60s.
Singer Pinky Turzo lives in California, while Fryer currently works from an Oslo base. Fryer sends the music along undersea cables or beamed from satellites, having weaved the instrumental tracks around space for Turzo’s vocals using strings, keyboards and guitars in his studio under the Northern Lights. From the opening bars of “Soft Landing,” it is clear that their contributions fit together like the intertwined fingers of old lovers; neither dominating the other but adjusting comfortably and instinctively.
The girls dancing to Silver Ghost Shimmer on the jukebox move the same way. The floor of the bar is covered in sawdust, which collects the tears of their admirers.