TEC005: A Live Report from the Future on the State of Poptronica

by coldwarnightlife

TEC005, the latest in a series of rare live events curated by the experts at The Electricity Club, happens in London on Saturday, 2 March 2019. On past form, it’s going to be a portion of the future served up by the taste-makers in the know.

Headlined by Arthur & Martha, who are reuniting for the occasion, TEC005 will also feature Plasmic (US) and Rainland (SCT) on the bill.

Arthur & Martha are indietronica pioneers with a pedigree. The duo of Adam Cresswell (Rodney Cromwell, Saloon) and Alice Hubley (The Duloks, Cosines) have a remix album in the can. Their fusion of high-tech and lo-fi sounds has been described as akin to St. Etienne in space.

California’s Plasmic arrives fresh from sharing a bill with Soft Cell’s Marc Almond at the popular Sex Cells club in LA. The pink-haired keytar player has a twisted sense of humour and a keen sense of electro melody.

The show will be opened by Rainland. The duo of Ian Ferguson and Derek MacDonald are familiar faces as the driving forces between Analog Angel. Rainland is also popular on the alternative live circuit, playing alongside Assemblage 23 and others with an Ultravox-influenced sound.

To get the low-down, we spoke with Chi Ming Lai from The Electricity Club about the show and his views on the current music scene.

The Electricity Club has championed a lot of acts who aren’t on the mainstream radar. What is it that makes these artists so special?

I like the term avant-pop – the idea that music can still be presented as art while still having a tune. With the bands that are featured on The Electricity Club, there’s always a captivating quality that makes you want to listen to them again. It really is a gut feeling.

I remember the first time I ever heard Vile Electrodes in 2010. “Deep Red” just held my attention, despite being seven and a half minutes long, because it was good; it made me hit repeat. It also had a self-made video which suited the music; it showed they gave thought to their visual presentation as well, which is something very important in these days of promoting via social media.

Karin My is the most recent new TEC featured act in that tradition.

A lot of TEC-backed acts have ended up on tour with OMD or other big name electronic bands. Are there any you are particularly proud of?

I’m proud of all of them, for different reasons.

With Villa Nah, they were one of those acts that I’d been waiting for, and were probably the first new act that TEC were really able to get behind. They had that Nordic melancholy and a classic synthpop flavour with a modern rhythmic slant. But I was told by someone who was involved in the site at the time that they were the sort of rubbish that shouldn’t be featured… so I had the last laugh when Villa Nah were announced as OMD’s UK support act in 2010, especially as the said dissenter was a big fan of McCluskey and Humphreys – it showed how much he knew!

Around the same time, Mirrors were emerging, and they were right up my street with their moody soulful electronic pop that was a development of OMD. Again, the said dissenter wasn’t convinced, but Mirrors got the 2010 European support slot and ended up producing one of the best albums of 2011 in Lights & Offerings. They became the band that set the bar on TEC as to what a new electronic act could be, and it’s a shame that they imploded.

Then, Metroland, who were first featured on TEC in 2012, got the support gigs for the two Belgian OMD gigs in 2013. But the big one was when Vile Electrodes got asked to open on the German dates. I was like a proud uncle, especially as Anais and Martin had become friends since TEC first featured them in 2010.

With Tiny Magnetic Pets, I met them in Düsseldorf in 2015 and was impressed with their set opening for Michael Rother. I bumped into Andy McCluskey who was there to see his NEU! hero perform live, so I thought I’d introduce him to the trio and the rest is history. Ok, finding one OMD support act is a fluke, two is lucky, but it’s five now – I must be doing something right, even if I say so myself! [Laughs]

The UK music scene suffers from an oversupply of acts that don’t grow well under grey skies. What are the qualities that help a band make it here?

Songs are the main thing; and, when recording, get a bit of air into the mix. Listening to some different styles of music would help – too many acts are fixated on Depeche Mode, Gary Numan and Erasure, so end up being quite derivative because they are not adding a twist. A bit of humility would help a few acts, and actually concentrating on honing their craft before trying to get publicity. Some have this bizarre sense of entitlement, which is far too normal…

Night Club are a good example of how to do it right, because they cross Britney Spears with Nine Inch Nails – no-one in their right mind would do this within synthpop, but the concept has worked well!

Talent always shines through. I think it’s no coincidence that TEC featured Arthur & Martha in 2010 and then Rodney Cromwell in 2015. You either have talent or you don’t, and many who want to be featured on TEC really don’t. The Electricity Club is really just me and the writing team’s personal opinions. But, if it does have a role, then it’s to act as a curator to hopefully assist people to decide whether they should spend an hour of their time listening to an act or seeing them live.

The competition for attention is especially fierce with Soundcloud artists and the like. What role do you think management can play in shaping an artist to stand out from the crowd?

I think there’s a bit of confusion as to what a manger does. A manager is employed by the band, but often they are actually loan sharks in disguise who steer them in the direction of where the money is; so, if you get any success, expect them to call in their commission. But many managers are just mates who can’t play an instrument and the role never gets clearly defined because it’s all done on good will; and, if that gets abused, resentment sets in.

Always seek a second or third opinion from people you trust. It always helps, if only to reinforce an original idea or direction – you don’t need a manager to do that.

If you’re talking about promo, then if an act wants that, they should hire a publicist! Of course, most independent artists are stuck with doing their own promo, but it’s worth the effort. Make engaging posts on social media, use a search engine to find out what platforms cover similar acts, then contact them. Most bloggers at this level do it as a hobby, so to expect support is wrong. Just send them your stuff – if they like it, it will get featured… if not, so what? Move on!

What will people be missing if they stay home and miss this event?

TEC005 will celebrate the 10th anniversary of Arthur & Martha, as well as Happy Robots Records, so that’s a good enough reason to come. Arthur & Martha were like the third new act featured on TEC in 2010 but went off the radar shortly after that, so to be able to see them live after all this time is wonderful.

Also on the bill is Plasmic. She’s from LA, so it’s not often there will be the opportunity to see her perform. She’s a pink bundle of feisty energy who will be detonating infectious lo-fi synth bombs from her keytar! On first will be Rainland from Glasgow – the duo’s rousing classic synthpop is the perfect opening tonic! They’ve already supported Assemblage 23 on two successive UK tours, so they’re a proven live entity. It will be fun, if nothing else!

TEC005 kicks off on Saturday, 2 March 2019, at The Lexington on Tolpuddle Street, London N1. A limited number of tickets are still available.

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