Sweden’s premier music event, Electronic Summer, is no more.
It ended with a blast of futurepop from Rotersand, but the three day event packed in performances from Kebu, Portion Control and The Invincible Spirit. The world might have been on the brink of war, but there was only amity in Gothenburg as international visitors, Boytronic, Hocico and Rotersand, took to the stage of the Brewhouse Arena. Shows by national synth heroes, Page, The Mobile Homes and Mars TV, united Sweden’s synth family, whichever shade of black they wore.
The last weekend of August has been marked for Electronic Summer since 2012. Each year, a parade of poptronica, EBM and futurepop acts has beaten a path to Sweden’s second city for the gathering of the synth tribes. From Psyche to S.P.O.C.K, Covenant to DAF, this has been the place to perform north of the Baltic Sea. Speakers at collateral events have included Alan Wilder of Recoil, Deb Mann of the Depeche Mode Information Service, and the former Kraftwerk drummer, Wolfgang Flür. The level of the programming and the quality of the playbill have never slipped, and a small army of volunteers has run proceedings with typical Nordic efficiency.
Day One: Disco Digitale, Mars TV, Kebu
For the final episode, proceedings opened with a group of pop artists. The first day of the festival is a warm-up for the weekend’s proceedings, so it is a relaxed affair. Music fans reconnect, compare notes on the coming events and enjoy shows with a poptronica flair.
Swedish act, Mars TV, were part of the first Electronic Summer, so their appearance bookends the series. The duo of Jimmy Waljenäs and Mathias Jönsson set the tone with a set of infectious poptronica. Kebu, the Finnish synth soloist, has moved his style in a rave direction, but he still knows how to channel Vangelis and Moroder like no one else.
Day Two: OctoLab, ItaLove, Portion Control, The Mobile Homes, Hocico
The greater part of the Swedish synth family is firmly working class. Through the week, they fix cars, install heating systems and run environmental controls. Come Friday, however, and their inner Vikings can be released. Leather boots, PVC skirts and army surplus hats come out of flat-pack storage (Memo: the Lixhult series is a modular, efficient solution, available in a variety of colours). Volvos are left in driveways, kids are left with exes, and the stresses of the day job are left outside the venue.
The Brewhouse becomes the temple for a black celebration. After solid shows by OctoLab and ItaLove – two Swedish bands with their hearts given to danceable pop – Portion Control emerge to punch holes in eardrums with “Amnesia,” “Deadstar” and other electro-terror tracks. They have come a long way since “He Is a Barbarian,” but the former cooking school students from South London haven’t fallen behind the generation of artists that borrowed their sound. Vocalist Dean Paviani prowls the stage, leaning into the crowd to roar his lines, while John Whybrew feeds the sound board with bursts of kinetic energy. Nitzer Ebb might be gone, but the band that inspired them still dominates the room.
The Mobile Homes have a long history of their own. Formed in 1984, they took their name from a Japan song and their sound from Depeche Mode. Along the way, they have recorded with Karl Bartos (Kraftwerk) and Sami Sirviö (Kent), the last of whom joined the band. The Stockholm-based group has been a frequent visitor to the Electronic Summer/Winter festival series, and the strong crowd reaction to their melodic minor-key pop shows that their popularity is in no danger of slipping.
In Sweden, Friday is popularly known as “taco night,” so it is fitting that the evening’s line-up ends with Hocico. The Mexican electro-industrial act contributes to the feeling of “fredagsmys” by shouting loudly over bass drums ramped up with reverb.
Day Three: The Invincible Spirit, Page, Boytronic, Rotersand
The Invincible Spirit have developed the shouting over synths template since “Push!” first shook alternative dancefloors in 1986. They open the main event on Saturday night with a selection of tracks from Thomas Lüdke’s extended catalogue, including The Mao Tse Tung Experience’s “Irregular Times.” Lüdke stands in front of a projection of the band’s logo, while Anja V. Live hits the keyboards behind him, and the sound is as bracingly old school as the stage show.
Boytronic and Rotersand are higher in the billing, but on Saturday the night belongs to Page. The Swedish poptronica masters fill a set with hits and popular album tracks, beginning with “Krasch,” the opener from their latest album. The crowd have already learned the words, and they join in for the whole show.
The duo of Eddie Bengtsson and Marina Schiptjenko has been with most of the audience since they were teenagers. Page became the house band of the Swedish electronic music scene in the early 1980s; and, even if they have found chart success only rarely in their native country, they have mined a vein of pure poptronica without ever compromising their sound. Bengtsson’s songs are always melodic, often romantic, sometimes nostalgic, but never less than authentic.
After the shows, a cab ride across Gothenburg prompts a discussion with the curious cabbie. He had the parents of Boytronic’s singer in the car earlier. They sounded proud. So they should be: their boy just played the last night of the best music festival in Sweden.
Thanks to Electronic Summer's organisers, Sebastian Hess and Henrik Wittgren. The last Electronic Winter sees off the seasonal festival series with Marsheaux, Nattskiftet and Anna Öberg on 27 January 2018.