A live Wire performance is always an exciting prospect. In this video, taken in London in 1985, the band is in one of its transitional phases; recreating itself on stage like a snake shedding its skin.

At this time, Wire were part of Mute Records, and their recordings were made with the help of the same producers who worked with acts like Depeche Mode. On stage, however, they were free to make their own sound, and they subverted pop conventions at every turn.



Photo: Marija Buljeta / AltVenger

Laibach might seem bonkers. They might even be bonkers. But there is a lot of method behind their staging of The Sound of Music.

To start with, it is in accordance with their plan that you will be seated. The band are playing theatres on this tour, so don’t get any funny ideas about moving your hips.

The evening will start with a film: in this case, a documentary about Laibach’s visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on the 70th anniversary of its liberation from Japanese militarism.

Liberation Day tracks the band as they prepare to present The Sound of Music in Pyongyang. It is the most internationalist thing in the world: a Slovenian art collective, travelling with some curious fans and their British label boss, putting on an American musical, written by the children of German Jews and set in Austria, for a film co-directed by a Latvian and Norwegian and financed by the Norwegian arts council, in the capital of North Korea.

Their visit in 2015 was not without controversy, either inside or outside of the DPRK. The right-wing press went nuts in the US and Europe. At their welcoming dinner, the representative of the official culture committee read the group some of the criticism received from his comrades. There were many, it seems, who couldn’t cope with the invitation given to Laibach to stage the country’s first Western “rock” show. Philistines raised the same arguments from both sides of the DMZ: Laibach make use of totalitarian imagery and styling; their music doesn’t fit into conventional “rock” forms; and no one can control them.

The culture committee representative, to his credit, appeared to understand that Laibach is like a fairground mirror – reflecting the viewer in ways that confound their expectations. Born in a pseudo-socialist environment, which collaborated with and confronted foreign systems in accordance with the whims of Marshall Tito, Laibach well understand how to select and position images to provoke a response.

Photo: Marija Buljeta / AltVenger

Even so, before it can be put on, the show has to be run through a number of filters: images from Korean culture that are insufficiently reverent have to go; translations have to be cleansed of South Korean idioms; the arrangement for “Arirang” must be normalised; and Nazi space ships have to give up their Maltese crosses.

The group accept these changes with good grace: the show must go on, so long as the power lines can be jerry-rigged and local busybodies can be pushed away. The collaboration works, and a sizeable but bemused audience takes in the performance politely.

The choice of the musical was to overcome the difficulty of selecting Western material that the North Korean audience would find acceptable. On paper, as one side of a cultural exchange, it makes sense. In the hands of Laibach, a band known for the low growl of Milan Fras’ vocals and martial rhythms, it sounds bonkers. In fact, it is brilliantly subversive.

The Sound of Music is one of the best known and loved musicals of all time. The film version, starring Julie Andrews, is one of the most viewed films globally. For Laibach to tackle the material makes sense on a number of grounds: they are more theatrical than “rock,” even if they make albums and appear with guitars and drums; the U-rated material invites repurposing just as readily as images from Christianity or Western political traditions; and the universal reach of the 1965 film means that the songs will be familiar wherever they go.

In fact, a careful balance is achieved between corruption and conformity: the performance is largely faithful to Rodgers & Hammerstein’s songs, while the use of propaganda graphics and Fras’ distinctive voice mine at the foundations of standard expectations. Idealisation of states, they seem to say, isn’t much different than idealisation of states of mind.

Photo: Marija Buljeta / AltVenger

The most significant change to the material is a tweak to ask, “How do you solve a problem like Korea?” Fras hasn’t changed his typical head-dress; but, in the context of this performance, it takes on the resemblance of a nun’s veil.

The band are joined for this performance by Boris Benko and Marina Mårtensson, who both performed on the album version of the show. They add striking vocals that contrast with and complement Fras’ own.

After the intermission (this is theatre and not a standard “rock” show, remember), the band returns to play a number of songs from the back catalogue. Mårtensson leads them onto the stage for a belting version of “Sympathy for the Devil,” her hair seemingly expanding as the song goes on.

There are some songs from their early days, which make good sense in the confines of a theatre. You can’t dance to them, but you would have fun trying.

The show comes to an end with some material from the Iron Sky movies, completing the conceptual arc from a film about music to music from films. Fras exchanges his head-gear for a cowboy hat, which he tips to hoots and hollers from the audience: for certain, subverting music genres is one of their favourite things.


Nash the Slash was an original. Wrapped in bandages, like a mummified prog guitarist, Nash toured with Gary Numan and Iggy Pop and played along to silent films. With a drum box and electric violin, he fired up alternative music crowds with horror imagery and pulsating, processed riffs.

The man inside the mask, Jeff Plewman, died in 2014, aged just 66. He left behind a legacy of music that spanned film soundtracks and pop music, experimental works, and innovative songs from an alternative jukebox.

Nash is the subject of a forthcoming documentary film, And You Thought You Were Normal. The producers, Tim Kowalski and Kevan Byrne, took some time to speak with us about the details they have disinterred.

Nash was raised to prominence by Gary Numan, and he was loved by the electronic music scene, but he wasn’t a synthesizer artist. Why do you think that he was so adored by that scene?

TIM: Nash crossed a lot of boundaries as an artist. He was classically trained, but he made new sounds with conventional instruments in a world infested with guitars – which was very unconventional and punk-as-fuck in spirit. Combine that with the dark imagery and the theatrics, and it’s no wonder Nash ended up meeting with artists like Gary Numan at the fork in the road between rock and futurism.

KEVAN: It’s true that he wasn’t an electronic musician in a pure sense. He played synths on many of his recordings – usually a Korg Poly 6 and Roland D-50 – but overwhelmingly his music centred on electric violin and mandolin which were heavily processed through fuzz boxes and tape delays. He also used drum machines extensively in the early days, and the only other musicians using those at the time were post-punk bands or bands that were entirely synth-based, like Human League, etc.

There were strong electronic music influences on his music. He was a big fan of Kraftwerk, as well as early Tangerine Dream and Hans-Joachim Roedelius, and very much influenced by Eno, as well. I think some of those elements must have resonated with electronic music audiences.

Like Fad Gadget, Nash was a bit of an outsider. What do we know about the man beneath the bandages? Was he like the character he created?

TIM: Nash was the definition of outsider. A proto-nerd, if you will. He had a deep fascination with the macabre, lived in a movie theatre, and wrote scores for silent films that were shown there. Like many great artists, Nash had a complex character with many contradictions. He had a duality in his day-to-day persona, which – oddly enough – I think was amplified with the bandages.

KEVAN: Nash was a real dichotomy. His inner life was volatile and chaotic, and he remained intensely private until his death. The bandages reflected the mystery of his personal life, which was in some ways unknown to his family and friends.

He was generous and patronly, acting as a mentor to some, but could also be vindictive and petulant. His individuality and fierce independence made him an outsider.

His music fell across genres. He rejected the music industry; and he combined performance art and popular culture, which put him at odds with the world.

Besides working with Gary Numan, Nash toured with Iggy Pop and recorded with Steve Hillage. Are you planning to capture their memories?

TIM: I interviewed Steve Hillage at his studio in London. He was very gracious and forthcoming. Gary Numan also did an excellent interview with us last year when he was in Toronto. We’ve tried getting Iggy but we haven’t been as lucky.

KEVAN: We’re still hopeful that we can get an interview with Iggy, as a big fan. We also want to interview Bill Nelson, Laurie Anderson and – at the top of the wish list – Brian Eno. Nash reportedly met Eno whole recording “Dance After Curfew” with Daniel Lanois.

What are your plans for the film, once it is completed?

TIM: We intend to shop for distribution and are looking at some festivals. We hope to have the film released late 2019.

KEVAN: Dream release date is Halloween 2019!

You have been provided with some one-of-a-kind Nash instruments to help raise funds for the film. What is the story behind them?

TIM: We have been very fortunate to work with Trevor Norris, Nash’s good friend and holder of his estate. Trevor believes in this project and wants Nash’s story to be told, so he’s donated some one-of-a-kind items to us to fund this film. We have Nash’s bat violin that can be seen on a late 70’s TV appearance. We also have one of Nash’s sawed-up violins. Neither are playable, but they really are beautiful. We had 3 bows but they were claimed immediately.

KEVAN: One of the most interesting rewards is a never-before release of Nash’s first live performance (as Nash The Slash) at the Roxy Theatre in 1975. He played a live accompaniment to the Brunel silent film Un Chien Andalou. This was pre bandaged Nash.

Nash had a keen interest in visual art. Is there any material that he created himself in the archives? Will we get to see it?

TIM: Very true. Nash was very visual, had a long history of working with great artists, was a photographer, and had a very hands-on approach to creating his live shows. This extended into his home life. He had a doorway to nowhere in his garden and he did start to paint later in life.

Nash’s early photos from his days at the Rockpile, like Toronto’s Filmore, are being featured at the Masonic Temple and may come out in a book.

KEVAN: The most notable visual archival materials are the photographs that Nash took in the late 60s at the Rockpile (later named The Concert Hall/ The Masonic Hall). There are pictures of blues artists like Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, as well as rock legends, such as Led Zeppelin, The Who and Jimi Hendrix, all of whom were playing for the first time in Toronto.

How can fans help to support the project?

TIM: Please support us at: https://igg.me/at/youwerenormal.

KEVAN: we are running a crowdfunding campaign, and we are about 28% of our way to our goal of $50,000. There’s time left to hit our goal, so anything towards that is enormously helpful. Apart from that, like and share our posts on social media!!


Shine On: Colin Newman

by coldwarnightlife

Colin Newman describes himself as the spotty boy at school, who had trouble with the local Wiltshire bullies. His escapes were listening to Todd Rundgren’s “A Wizard, a True Star” in his bedroom and close-reading of the weekly NME with Desmond Simmons. Together with Simmons, he started a duo that never performed outside of his friend’s living room but gave him the confidence to start a life in music.

Newman left Salisbury for art school in Watford, where he fell in with a band led by George Gill. One day, the band had to rehearse without Gill, who had broken his leg, and discovered that they sounded a lot better without their principal songwriter. Gill’s leg recovered but his musical standing didn’t, so the band went on to become Wire (and, for a time, Wir). Newman’s role in the band has evolved from rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist to include production duties, leveraging the skills that he has honed working with other artists and making solo recordings during Wire’s periodic hiatuses.

Wire has never been a monoline undertaking. Although originally pigeon-holed as a punk/new wave act by the press, the band’s intellectual genealogy owes as much to Marcel Duchamp as Malcolm McLaren: its art school roots occasionally break through the surface as experimental composition and performance art. However, while other band members tested the limits of sound and the subversion of expectations, Newman often found himself exploring the practical side of the industry, including independent distribution (Post Everything), recording (Swim~) and performance (Drill Festivals). Besides Wire, Newman maintains a separate recording project, Githead, together with his partner, Malka Spigel (ex-Minimal Compact), composer Robin Rimbaud (aka Scanner) and Max Franken (also ex-Minimal Compact).

10. Colin Newman – Alone

Newman’s “Alone,” a track from his first solo album, 1980’s A-Z, made a high-profile appearance in the movie, Silence of the Lambs, where it served to set the atmosphere for a scene showing the house occupied by the crazed Buffalo Bill. The brooding, dark tone of the song was drawn out for a cover on This Mortal Coil’s Filigree & Shadow, but the original track still sets the bar for nervous anxiety.

9. Wire – Dot Dash

Written together with Graham Lewis, “Dot Dash” captures Wire’s early aesthetic: short, sometimes snarled, but entirely infectious and hovering on the border between pop and punk. Released as a single in 1978, its chorus is a Morse code message from the future. The single filled the gap between the Pink Flag and Chairs Missing albums, acting as a bridge between the taught, Spartan style of the former and more open, expansive leanings of the latter.

8. Colin Newman – & Jury

Newman’s solo work yielded three albums between 1980 and 1983. The first of these, A-Z, has been characterised as the Wire album that would have followed 154, but for Bruce Gilbert putting the band on ice. While Newman’s songs could have slotted into the Wire groove, there is a question whether the band could have agreed on them. 154 reflected a growing tension within the group, reinforced by the need to subvert expectations, and the songs on A-Z are leftfield art/pop held within a relatively conventional framework. They remain strong compositions – much stronger than some of the material on 154 – and there is something to be said for them having been aired in Newman’s own space.

7. Parade Ground – Moans

Newman helmed Parade Ground’s “Moans,” and the sound of this track clearly owes something to his studio performance. Part of the Brussels scene of the 1980s, in which Newman became immersed, Parade Ground crossed Joy Division with Fad Gadget, maintaining a po-faced look and sound that contrasted with the commercial excesses of the times. Newman adds vocals, keyboards and guitars here, and the result is a certified indietronica gem.

6. Virgin Prunes – Decline and Fall

After Wire hit the wall, following a disastrous tour supporting Roxy Music in 1979, Newman turned to his solo work, but the lure of production and the need to make a living led him into a studio chair for the first album from Virgin Prunes. Rough Trade had talent-spotted the Irish post-punk outfit and wanted something quite specific and quite general: “A pop record,” is what Rough Trade boss Geoff Travis asked of Newman. He found the task challenging, as the Prunes were desperate to avoid any comparisons to another Dublin outfit then gaining attention: U2. It didn’t help that one of the guitarists was The Edge’s brother. Newman described himself “bludgeoning” the Prunes into releasing “Baby Turns Blue” as a single, but the song he has expressed the most appreciation for was “Decline and Fall,” an album track.

5. Wire – Drill

Poor Suzanne Summers didn’t know what had hit her when Wire performed on NBC’s The Tonight Show in 1987. The most Establishment entertainment programme on American television was usually hosted by the comedian, Johnny Carson. On the night Wire played a musical slot, Summers was in the host’s chair and Wire were touring “Drill” – so that’s what they played. Based on a riff from early punk-tinged hit, “12XU,” which had been abstracted into a repetitive framework that could stretch to 30 minutes in performance, a key vocal element was the onomatopoeic, “Dugga dugga dugga.” Summers was complimentary, but she would have known that the audience at home, watching from their Sealy Posturepedic beds, must have thought that the band had landed from outer space.

4. Minimal Compact – My Will

Brussels has played an interesting role as the cradle for a lot of alternative music. For a long time the home to Tuxedomoon, the birthplace of New Beat and the centre for many EBM artists, such as Front 242, the city was also the base for the Crammed record label. Minimal Compact were part of that scene when they wrote off to Newman – legend has it, at the suggestion of Daniel Miller of Mute Records – to ask him to produce them. They had already hit the US college radio sweet spot with “Next One Is Real,” and Newman found he had a number of shared interests with the band. One thing led to another, as they say, and Malka Spigel became his life and musical partner.

3. Githead – Take Off

The Githead project was intended as a one-off live arrangement, for the tenth anniversary of Newman’s Swim~ label, but it sparked an interest that has kept it going for four albums. Although part of its work will sit comfortably to Wire fans, Githead has its own sound and feel, and the sense of familiarity comes from Newman’s voice rather than from a derivative style.

2. Immersion – Metal Sea

In the 1990s, Newman became interested in the prospects of electronic dance music and home recording. One of his projects was Immersion, which became an avenue for exploring ambient and dancefloor-oriented tracks together with Malka Spigel. The time spent working on this material helped to refine his recording skills, which led to a critical reappraisal of the production of Wire’s 1980s recordings and set the stage for Newman to exercise greater control over the band’s future studio sound.

1. Wire – Pink Flag

If Wire has a signature song, it is “Pink Flag.” The title track from their first album is an apocalyptic vision for the New World, rendered in two chords, with lyrics that read like a late-twentieth century Book of Relevations. Like a club track, it breaks down and builds up to an ecstatic release, but one that is delayed for as long as the band keep hitting E. “Pink Flag” has been performed as a minimalist composition and a wall-of-sound with a massed guitar collective, but the anchor is always Newman’s vocal contribution, imbued with more determination than menace.


yazooBorn in the suburb of South Woodford and raised in Basildon, Vince Clarke could have ended up as a cab driver or worked at Ford’s Essex plant, but instead he founded three of the world’s most successful pop groups: Depeche Mode, Yazoo and Erasure.

It was his charismatic, blue-eyed friend, Robert Marlow, who was expected to make it big amongst their Basildon contemporaries, but Simon & Garfunkel fan Clarke proved to be more adept at writing sparkly pop songs. He turned underemployment to his advantage during the early days of Depeche Mode, programming future hits into a sequencer on the sofa or practicing keyboard riffs with headphones on (to avoid annoying his mum).

Today, he lives and works in New York, surrounded by one of the world’s greatest collections of vintage synthesizers, and is revered as the musical genius behind more than three decades of chart-bothering electronic pop hits – from Depeche Mode’s “Dreaming of Me” in 1981 to the latest Erasure album, The Violet Flame.

Along the way, Clarke’s interests have broadened into ambient soundscapes, soundtracks and remixing work. In 2012, he released Ssss, an album of techno-driven instrumentals, with his former Depeche Mode bandmate, Martin Gore. The same year saw a 10 CD box set, The House of Illustrious, compiling more instrumental works – many of them designed for art galleries and dance companies – with Heaven 17’s Martyn Ware.

vinceandericHaving settled into the Erasure groove thirty years ago, it is almost forgotten how the ambitious but impatient Clarke left Depeche Mode just as they were on the cusp of world domination, or that his working relationship with Alison Moyet was so difficult that Yazoo’s second album was recorded in separate studio sessions. Of the latter experience, Clarke told an interviewer from Songfacts, “It was sad, but I don’t think we could have continued working together without probably strangling each other.”

A natural collaborator who likes to work alone; a synthesizer master who composes on acoustic instruments (guitar or piano) – Clarke is a man of contradictions, and some of his best work arguably has been generated by the tension between his pop instincts and the contrasting styles of his musical partners.


10. West India Company – Ave Maria

Blancmange was a duo that came to prominence about the same time as Depeche Mode. They became friendly with Clarke through supporting Depeche on their Speak & Spell tour. In the summer of 1984, Blancmange’s Stephen Luscombe put together this East-meets-West fusion track under the name, West India Company, with vocals being provided by the popular Bollywood singer, Asha Bhosle (who was later name-checked in a popular song by Cornershop). It was recorded at Splendid Studios, set up with Eric Radcliffe on the site of Blackwing Studios, where he worked following the break-up of Yazoo. Clarke set to work with his Fairlight CMI synthesizer, getting credit on the sleeve for “pyrotechnics.”

For the technically-minded, it will be of interest that, in the same year, Clarke showed off the capabilities of his Fairlight CMI for Electronic Soundmaker and Computer Music magazine. His presentation included samples of tablas recorded with percussionist Pandit Dinesh, who had contributed to West India Company’s recording.


9. Billy Ray Martin – Sweet Suburban Disco (Vince Clarke Mix)

Former S-Express and Electribe 101 vocalist, Billy Ray Martin, pulled in Clarke for a remix of her 2011 solo single, “Sweet Suburban Disco.” With Erasure, Clarke has perfected the adaptation of the disco template to contemporary danceable pop, so he would have been an apparent candidate for remixing duties. Less obvious was his match-up with Happy Mondays, for whom he provided one of the remixes of “Wrote for Luck” (the other coming from Paul Oakenfold) that signaled the transformation of Manchester indie into the Madchester rave scene. Clarke has been selective about his remixing assignments, but he almost always finds the sweet spot that infuses a great song with dancefloor magic.


8. Dome – To Speak

Dome was the experimental project of Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis, on hiatus from their roles in Wire. Their output features little by way of melody or traditional song structure, but Clarke appeared on their fourth album, Will You Speak This Word, as the operator of his rare and expensive Fairlight CMI synthesizer. The story goes that Clarke didn’t feel comfortable turning over his Fairlight CMI to Gilbert and Lewis, fearing it could be messed up by inexperienced operators, so he found himself on the album as a manipulator of sounds. This track also features the voice of his then-girlfriend, Deb, who was one of the prime movers behind the Depeche Mode and Yazoo Information Services.


7. Absolute – T.V. Glare

After the break-up of Yazoo, Clarke set up his own record label, Reset Records, together with the owner of Blackwing Studios, Eric Radcliffe. The artists released on Reset included Robert Marlow, Peter Hewson, Hardware and Absolute. Robert Marlow was the best-known of the Reset stable, but his Clarke-produced album, The Peter Pan Effect, didn’t see commercial release until 1999. Absolute’s effort is in a similar vein, and is interesting for the recognisable sounds and accents that were extracted from Clarke’s equipment.


6. Vince Clarke & Paul Quinn – One Day

“One Day” veered from Clarke’s usual formula. It was sung by Paul Quinn, the singer from Bourgie Bourgie, and incorporated a synthetic string sound that is a rare reminder of Clarke’s childhood violin training. The Cold War-influenced video featured the unlikely image of Clarke holding a semi-automatic rifle and manning a border post. The single just dented the Top 100 on its release in 1985, but its moody, brooding feeling has made it an enduring favourite for fans of Clarke’s music.


5. The Clarke & Ware Experiment – House of Illustrious (Extract Three)

In 1999, Clarke released Pretentious with Martyn Ware. A second collaboration appeared in 2001, Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle. In 2012, a box set of their joint work appeared, gathering both albums and adding to them no less than eight CDs of material accumulated from commissioned works. Clarke has described the early Human League albums, before Ware left to start Heaven 17, as key influences on him, which showed how electronic music didn’t have to be emotionally cold.


4. Erasure – Stop!

The project with which Clarke has been most closely associated for three decades, Erasure, was not initially a great success. Andy Bell, a women’s shoe salesman, auditioned for Clarke, producer Flood and Mute Records boss, Daniel Miller, after dozens of other singers had been rejected. Their first album together, Wonderland, made it into the lower rungs of the Top 100 in the UK, but the band’s first three singles failed to achieve the commercial success or reap the critical praise that Yazoo had won. Touring and refinement of their sound built up Erasure’s profile, and a string of chart-topping releases firmly established them as a world-class act.

The Crackers International EP came out in time for Christmas in 1988, sporting a sleeve inspired by a Soviet propaganda poster and led by a high energy track that has become a crowd favourite. With its bright, synthetic brass and seasonal bells, pulsing synths and layered vocals, it’s iconic Erasure.


3. The Assembly – Never Never

Clarke’s original plan for The Assembly was to record an album of songs with different vocalists – a concept that doesn’t sound dissimilar to the British Electric Foundation project of future collaborator, Martyn Ware. Together with Eric Radcliffe, Clarke worked out a scheme for the album, but they were reportedly defeated by the complex licensing and exclusivity practices of the recording industry. The only material to make it to release was 1983’s “Never Never,” which featured The Undertones’ vocalist, Feargal Sharkey, and the instrumental B-side, “Start Stop.”

2. Depeche Mode – Puppets

Everyone has their own view on Clarke’s work with Depeche Mode, which makes it difficult to pick out just one song. While “Just Can’t Get Enough” has become a mainstream classic, more experimental works from Clarke’s time with the band, like “Shout” and “Any Second Now,” have their own appeal. There are some who would argue that “Ice Machine” should have been the A-side of their first single, instead of “Dreaming of Me,” while debate continues whether the version of “Photographic” that appeared on the Some Bizarre compilation was better than the one on Speak & Spell. We selected “Puppets” because it captures the essence of the sound that Clarke designed for the band: simple, repetitive phrases building into elegant, interlocking sections, allowing room for Dave Gahan’s vocals to breathe. They took a different direction when he left, leaving fans to dream of what might have happened if he had stayed.


1. Yazoo – Softly Over

Given the fractious relationship between Clarke and Alison Moyet during the recording of You and Me Both, one might think that there is a reference to their working arrangements behind the opening line: “It’s over, there’s nothing more to say.” Actually, this song is a sweet story of love passing beyond reach, in which the warmth of the electronics contrasts with Moyet’s pained, blues-tinged vocals – just the combination that made an ex-punk and a Simon & Garfunkel fan such a potent combination.


Daniel Miller is best known as the owner of Mute Artists (formerly Mute Records, but the original name didn’t come with the sale by EMI) and as The Normal, the artist name used for the release of “TVOD”/”Warm Leatherette.”

The son of Austrian refugees, Miller grew up in North London with a love of Kraftwerk, Can and Neu! and worked as a DJ before buying a Korg 700s and recording his first single. Modest and uncomfortable in the limelight, Miller performed as The Normal with Scottish electronics pioneer, Robert Rental, but found himself happier in the studio and working behind the scenes with his record label than standing on the stage himself.

He discovered and propelled the careers of Depeche Mode and others, but over the years has also been seen lending a technical hand to Thomas Dolby and Soft Cell or producing The House of Love. Miller still records as Sunroof! with his close friend and Mute producer, Gareth Jones.

To launch our new feature, Shine On, we’ve picked out a number of songs to reflect the breadth of Miller’s work as a producer, composer and performer. The constants are a well-developed sense of arrangement, an instinct for unique sounds that are often detuned or shaped in unexpected ways, and a feeling for driving rhythms. These reflect his Krautrock influences but also the effort that comes with closely reading the manuals to his collected synthesizers and then throwing them away.

10. Missing Scientists – Big City Bright Lights

The synthesizer credit on this 1980 release is granted to one “Jacki” and a co-production credit on the A-side goes to “Larry Least,” but both are pseudonyms for Miller. “Jacki” was one of the mythical players in Miller’s Silicon Teens fantasy pop group, while “Larry Least” was a name he adopted as a reference to the producer, Mickey Most.

The reggaetronica style is one that is not commonly associated with Miller, though he was later to contribute to On-U Sounds’ legendary Pay It All Back compilation a few years later.

9. Voice of Authority – Fuh Fuh

When On-U Sound released their first sampler album, Pay It All Back, in 1985, it cost the same as a single and was packed with the juiciest reggae/experimental tracks from Adrian Sherwood’s burgeoning stable of artists. It also contained this short and peculiar composition by Miller, featuring early sampling technology.

8. Thomas Dolby – Radio Silence

In the early 1980s, it was known that, if an artist needed help with some complicated synthesizer set-ups, or the use of a Synclavier, Miller was the go-to person. He did production work with Soft Cell, but less well known is his contribution to this 1982 Thomas Dolby song.

7. Alex Fergusson – Stay with Me Tonight

Another 1980 production effort credited to “Larry Least,” this single from Alex Fergusson (Alternative TV, Psychic TV) is clearly programmed/performed by Miller. At the time, Ferguson was experimenting with the move from punk to electro-pop, a path charted by Mute Records. This single appeared on the Red Records label.

6. Silicon Teens – Sun Flight

Miller’s Silicon Teens project was, for the most part, a series of covers of rock standards, like “Memphis, Tennessee” and “Just Like Eddie,” but it also yielded a couple of original Miller compositions. “Sun Flight” is the one that gets remembered best, as it combines themes of space travel and synths in a way that was not totally dissimilar to a later Mute release, “Fred vom Jupiter” by Die Doraus und Die Marinas.

5. Fad Gadget – Lady Shave

The strength of Miller’s songwriting and production work came out most strongly in his work with Frank Tovey (aka Fad Gadget). Miller took songs written by Tovey and turned them into brooding electronic classics with the menace of punk but a style of their own. The early Fad Gadget singles became an outlet for Miller’s creativity, where he could stretch his one-fingered compositional style to the limits.

“Lady Shave” is an exceptional song from a number of standpoints: the sequenced bassline that carries the song is electro-minimalism incarnate; the studio itself is played to generate tones based on an electric shaver; and the unconventional top line is distinctively Miller.

4. Duet Emmo – Or So It Seems

The most achingly beautiful pop song ever made, we’ve called “Or So It Seems” before, and this collaboration between Miller and Wire refugees, B.C. Gilbert and Graham Lewis, shows Miller at his one-fingered best. Lewis’ vocals are like threads of glass spun around the core of a grumbling bass-line and bells, but the build-up and release of tension in the song is 1982 shot-through.

3. Sunroof – Hero

Miller’s occasional project with Gareth Jones, Sunroof has largely been responsible for covers of Krautrock classics, like this legendary Neu! track. The vocals here are provided by the extraordinarily beautiful Alison Conway, who has appeared as A.C. Marias on Mute and made a number of videos for the label.

2. The Normal – TVOD

If you put out a record by yourself, while living in your mum’s house, the last thing you’d expect is for it to be covered by Grace Jones and adopted as the title for her album. Such was Miller’s luck with “Warm Leatherette,” which Jones’ producer probably heard played by DJ Rusty Egan at the Blitz club.

An attempt to make punk music with synthesizers, “TVOD”/”Warm Leatherette” came out in 1979, while the DIY spirit was still strong, and it is the springboard for everything that followed. We’ve picked “TVOD” for this list, because it gets less attention but shows off techniques like tape cut-up that link the single to the industrial scene that was taking shape at the time.

1. Depeche Mode – Shout

The influence of Miller on early Depeche Mode is very clear from their recordings. While a major label would have polished their sound and image beyond recognition, Mute and Miller brought out the experimental side of the band and gave them room to explore sounds and rhythms that were less obviously commercial. One of the best examples is on this B-side to 1981’s “New Life,” which is driven by sequenced drum-like sounds and the simplest synth line ever.


Myrkur – Mothlike

by coldwarnightlife

Myrkur returns with a new album, Spine, on 20 October 2023. “Mothlike” is the second single from the album, and it comes with a video by David Pitt.

Amalie Bruun’s last album, Folkesange, represented the Danish artist’s connections to traditional folk song, but her black metal sound seems to have returned. Capable of stirring emotion with the lightest of touches and the heaviest of winds, Bruun’s voice works powerfully with either style. Still working through the experience of becoming a mother, she has birthed Spine in Sigur Ros’ Iceland studio; unleashing storms of emotion that Jonsi rarely gets to express himself.


Trevor Horn never wanted to learn to read the manual and learn how to program a Fairlight. At the time, one of the most powerful and expensive synthesiser systems, the Fairlight impressed its sound and sequencing on the biggest hits of the 80s thanks to Horn’s team of technicians and producers. One of them, JJ Jeczalik, became accomplished at working the machine’s primitive sampling and looping capabilities. Add producer Gary Langhan, composer Anne Dudley, and you have the Art of Noise.

Paul Morley wanted in the project, too – lifting the group’s name from the writings of the Fascist artist, Russoli. It was never clear what Morley added, other than words on record covers, but Horn’s contributions are also difficult to detect. The project used his tools and studios, and his label released its first records, but the Art of Noise eventually moved on.

There is more history before we get to the present day, but for the moment we are interested in the emergence on streaming services of various versions of the band’s first hits, “Moments in Love” and “Close to the Edit.”

“Share (Moments in Love)” appeared on 1 September 2023 with eight tracks. From “Moments in Love (Original, Part One)” to “The Spring Flowers,” established fans will be familiar with the material, but it is a solid reminder of how ahead of the times the group were. If this isn’t one of the most beautiful love songs ever written, then the heart is dead.

The rhythms of “Close (to the Edit)” should be firmly embedded in the heads of any electronic music fan from the 1980s. The Art of Noise team worked on Malcolm McLaren’s b-boy/world music crossover with Trevor Horn, and they both borrowed the feeling of the streets and returned phrases for sampling by the original hip hop generation. Class.

From the band’s FB post:

Two tracks arrive on download and streaming platforms for the first time: the original 7″ A-side mix (“altogether now”) and the 12″ picture disc A-side mix (“Edited”).

Three tracks from the various original 12″ vinyl editions of Close (To The Edit) return to digital platforms: Close-Up, Close-Up, Closely Closely (Enough’s Enough). The single’s classic B-side, originally titled A Time To Clear (It Up) on the 12″ picture disc rounds out the set.

All tracks featured are taken from the original master tapes. In the case of Edited, that’s a copy master from Good Earth Studios of Dean Street, London dated 05 February 1985. And in the case of the 7″ A-side mix, that’s the original Town House cutting master by Gordon Vicary from 17 September 1984.

The 7″ version itself was edited together by Nicholas Froome, assisted by Dave Meegan, on 05 April 1984 at Sarm East studios working with tapes originally recorded by Dudley/Jeczalik/Langan on 12 May 1983.

Art of Noiseologists will note that, when the Influence compilation was released in 2010, the ‘single version’ of Close (To The Edit) it included was, in fact, the earlier, slightly longer 04:11 edit. This will arrive on digital platforms later this month, under its original title, Beat Box (Diversion Seven).



From the City of Angels comes a devilishly good EP by Die Sexual. The duo of Anton and Rosselinni Floriano have shaped their debut release with a deft club-friendly touch. It helps that Anton has been honing his craft as half of Black Light Odyssey, which has an official remix of Depeche Mode (“Oh Well”) to it’s credit, as well as unofficial remixes and covers.

Bernard van Isaker

Bernard Van Isaker

(Via RedSandPr)

Based in Belgium, Side-Line has been active since 1989 and is one of the most popular websites worldwide for electro/industrial music. They also regularly release ‘name your price’ compilations of darkwave, post-punk, electropop, synthpop and industrial music via Bandcamp to give a platform to new bands and also fund their charity work.

An 88 song collection entitled ‘Electronic Bodies’ was released on 1st September that immediately hit the no 1 spot on the Bandcamp Industrial chart, while it currently sits at no 3 on the Alternative chart and no 5 on the overall chart.

The compilation dives deep into the rhythms of 1980s EBM (Electronic Body Music), New Beat and their contemporary offshoots, while featuring artists from territories that span Germany to Australia, USA to Estonia, and many more. In doing so, it proves that these styles still resonate worldwide after being established four decades ago. ‘Electronic Bodies’ is also in some ways a tale of two halves, with the first immersing listeners in old-school vibes and the latter offering participating artists additional freedom in their sonic manipulation.

The commitment of Side-Line in showcasing a blend of emerging talents and seasoned acts remains unwavering, with chief editor Bernard Van Isacker providing “a special shoutout to Erlend Eilertsen [Lights A.M, Essence Of Mind] for masterfully enhancing some of the tracks, as not every artist boasts high-end studio equipment.”

The Bandcamp offering also includes an exclusive ‘Electronic Bodies’ T-shirt and – in true EBM spirit – a combo package that includes a strictly limited edition hand-numbered stainless steel flask. Each of these orders include a medallion and badge plus a download of the entire compilation, ensuring that the beats never stop.
The T-shirt can be purchased HERE and the T-Shirt/flask HERE. Shipping will take place in early October.

All proceeds from sales of ‘Electronic Bodies’ will be donated to psychological support for Ukrainian soldiers and citizens suffering from PTSD.


(Via Mute)

Vince Clarke has announced details of his debut solo album, Songs of Silence, a 10-track lyric-less album of uncategorisable ambient beauty. The album will be available on vinyl, CD and digitally via Mute on 17 November 2023, and launches today with ‘The Lamentations of Jeremiah’, the first piece of music to be shared from the project.

Listen to the track and watch the moving video – one of the first to be directed by Turkish-born NY-based portrait photographer Ebru Yildiz (Laurie Anderson, Mitski, A Place to Bury Strangers, Algiers) – which finds Clarke in a liminal space:

Ebru Yildiz explains, “When I first heard the song, I felt like it contained a whole lifetime within itself. All of the drama and peace, anxiousness and calmness, tension and hope, and everything in between. I wanted the visuals to feel like all those extremes as well.”

As the Ivor Novello winning songwriter behind countless chart-topping pop songs as co-founder of Erasure, Yazoo and Depeche Mode, Clarke has – unbelievably – waited until now to embark on a solo release.

Recorded in his home studio in New York, and featuring photography and artwork by the award-winning Magnum photojournalist Eugene Richards, work on the album began as a distraction during lockdown, a chance to finally get his head around the possibilities of Eurorack, a modular synthesiser format famed for its addictive and limitless configurations. “I could have gone on forever, I could have not stopped,” explains Vince, “I was enjoying the process so much and wasn’t thinking about anyone else hearing it. But hearing it develop in my studio, in my head, learning new tricks – that’s been the best thing about this. I was in a state of shock, actually, when Mute said they wanted to release this album.”

Alone in the studio, Clarke set himself two rules: first, that the sounds he generated for the album would come solely from Eurorack, and second, that each track would be based around one note, maintaining a single key throughout. “Nobody in my household is particularly interested in what I get up to in the studio” says Vince. “Even the cat used to leave after an hour or so of listening to drones.”

The resultant album’s mood of synth-generated, cosmic remoteness is interrupted by stark interventions, reminders of the human hand at work amid this machinery – a scrambled sample like a distressed transmission from a fighter pilot, the wordless operatic contributions of Caroline Joy, the sawing brimstone of composer Reed Hays’ cello on ‘The Lamentations of Jeremiah’, and the album’s centrepiece which builds around the 1844 anti-scab folk song ‘Blackleg Miner’, glowing with resonance and relevance. Elsewhere on the album Clarke manifests relentless sequencer patterns, gradual accelerations, Moog-style drones, glistening droplets of synth, and burgeoning swells of processed guitars, with Clarke describing the tracks as “having a sense of sadness, of things going bad, things crumbling”.

Not content to rest on his considerable pop legacy, Vince Clarke has instead opened up exciting new electronic vistas for himself, and for the rest of us, in which the permutations and possibilities are limitless, Clarke declaring “The infinite shades of sounds you can create with just the tiniest tweak of a knob or slider continues to fascinate me.”


Here’s a piece of trivia: Where was the last ever Fad Gadget performance? The answer is: the Swedish Alternative Music Awards in Gothenburg. It was a tragedy to lose Frank Tovey, but it was not accidental that the promoters of the legendary Romo Night had pulled him across the North Sea for a show. They know how to respect their elders in the Nordic music scene.

So it is that a Lustans Lakejer shirt plays a prominent role in this video from Strange Tales. Sweden’s answer to Duran Duran is still playing shows, but respect where it is due. That isn’t to say that Strange Tales are newcomers to the scene – the band was first active in the period, 1984-1987, but it was only in 2020 that they returned.

The band is made of up of:

  • Karl Johan ”Kalle” Larsson – composer, lead vox, backing vox
  • Tobbe Lander – composer, synths
  • Jonas Berg – composer, synths

There is an album on the way. Untold will include this single, “Somebody Else” – which gives good impressions, and not only because we love a good LL promo shirt.


The legendary producer, Stephen Hague, started out making the most uncool music possible. As a member of La Seine, he shared responsibility for long-haired 70s guitar combos making mainstream rock. As a songwriter, he provided input to Ringo Starr. As a session musician, he programmed synths for Gordon Lightfoot. Hague’s real break came, however, from his time with Jules and the Polar Bears – the lead singer went on to write songs for Cyndi Lauper (“App Around the World”) and Alison Moyet (“Whispering Her Name”), while Hague became an in-demand producer.

Things started to look up with work on Ric Ocasek’s Beatitude. The Cars front man had decided to move in an electronic direction, and Hague’s keyboard experience was just what he needed. The fact that Hague had acquired a CS-80 didn’t hurt, either. Thus began a career making many of the hits of the 80s for OMD, Erasure, Pet Shop Boys, and New Order. That turned into a career making hits in the 90s for Dubstar, Blur, Robbie Williams and Electronic. And it continues, to this day, with efforts for Lizzo, Whitey, and the renewed Dubstar.

Hague’s reputation has come at a cost. Some bands have seen him as their record label’s attempt to impress them with a winning sound. Others have worried that his production – like that of Trevor Horn – is just a little too glossy. There is no arguing with the results, however: Stephen Hague productions have a technical quality that the labels are willing to pay for. He has writing credits on songs that have never lost their appeal. And he has helped UK bands to cross the Atlantic when they were struggling to get attention. There is no pleasing some people (looking at you, Peter Hook), but the songs speak for themselves.

10. Rock Steady Crew – (Hey You) Rock Steady Crew

Hip hop and electro had been taking shape for a few years before Rock Steady Crew appeared on the scene. This Hague-produced and co-written single was a global sensation. The track topped the charts in Belgium and the Netherlands, and it was a top ten hit in Sweden and the UK. The Crew were a breakdancing troupe, and this song took their b-boy/b-girl ethos from the streets of New York to the world.

9. OMD – Secret

In 1985, the band that had written “Distance Fades Between Us” was searching for the commercial success that had fallen into the laps of the bands they had inspired. Cue a call from Virgin Records to Hague to work with OMD, whose radio-friendly direction had been demonstrated by the previous year’s Junk Culture. Hague went on to produce two albums for OMD; the first being Crush, which yielded this classic single. It is sometimes said that OMD is a band of two audiences – one experimental, the other commercial – but the pop credentials of “Secret” must be something that both camps can agree on.

8. Malcolm McLaren – Madam Butterfly

Hague worked with the former Sex Pistols manager, Malcolm McLaren, on a number of projects. Their first connection was indirect: the World Famous Supreme Team had taken samples from “Buffalo Girls” for “Hey DJ,” which had been produced by Hague. That was quickly noticed by Charisma, McLaren’s label, who had known of Hague through an association with Peter Gabriel, and he was soon in the frame for McLaren’s Fans album. An LP full of cod opera merged with hip hop must have sounded mad on paper, but they managed to record elegant voices that still raise a shiver.

7. Pet Shop Boys – Love Comes Quickly

The first producer to work with the Pet Shop Boys was Bobby Orlando, the Hi-NRG pioneer who had created alternative dancefloor hits for the Flirts and Divine before Neil Tennant tracked him down in New York. Orlando gave his treatment to “West End Girls” and co-wrote “One More Chance,” but his studio was not big enough to contain the stars that the PSB were turning into. A change of labels led to an invitation for Hague to rework the PSB material for their first album, Please. It was a step ahead of Orlando’s octave-bouncing Hi-NRG style, and it gave the duo a string of hits. Hague got a writing credit on this single, which helped to establish their new sound and his credentials as the go-to producer for electronic pop music.

6. Erasure – A Little Respect

When Vince Clarke wrapped up Yazoo and started Erasure, it was assumed that his Midas touch would be revealed again. Instead, the first Erasure album almost sank without a trace. It is a good thing that he held his nerve and carried on, as the duo were able to establish themselves as one of the most enduring and entertaining acts to emerge from the 1980s. In 1988, Hague’s reputation as an electronic music producer led to an engagement that saw Erasure topping the UK album charts for the first time. It wouldn’t be the last time that Clarke and Andy Bell would lead the sales tables, but their change of fortune owes something to Hague’s ear. Vince Clarke wasn’t entirely happy with the experience, however, and the gig for the next album, Wild!, went to Gareth Jones and Mark Saunders.

5. The House of Love – I Don’t Know Why I Love You

In 1989, The House of Love were on the verge of becoming massive. Hague was called in to work some magic on this song, which was released as a single despite singer Guy Chadwick’s intuition that it wasn’t the right track for the times. It didn’t reach the top 20, but it became a hit among US college radio stations and the cool crowd. It is still one of the band’s best-regarded songs from that period.

4. James – She’s a Star

James were discovered by Tony Wilson of Factory Records and recorded their first release for the legendary label in the same Stockport studio used by Joy Division. They were concerned about using up their best songs in the studio, however, so opted to record what they took to be their three worst songs for their debut EP with Chris Nagle. No fear of that Mancunian logic being allowed when Hague got involved, but he was pulled in by Fontana while the band were in a shambolic state: the singer had another project to work on; Brian Eno was only half-involved with production work to date; and the studio set-up was a mobile arrangement in the drummer’s house. Retreating to Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios near Bath, Hague set about cleaning up the process and the songs, leading to a string of top-ten hits and critical acclaim. Nice one.

3. Sheila Chandra – Ever So Lonely/Eyes/Ocean

One of the greatest voices to emerge from Britain belongs to Sheila Chandra. The former Monsoon vocalist had a solo career that was tragically cut short when she developed “burning mouth syndrome” – a condition that makes even whispering painful. Hague was tapped to remix a medley of three of Chandra’s greatest songs, “Ever So Lonely,” “Eyes,” and “Ocean,” for the 2001 compilation, Gifted: Women of the World. The digital release had to wait until 2023’s Out in the Real World, but the sonic purity of Chandra’s voice is timeless.

2. Dubstar – Hygiene Strip

Hague’s work with Dubstar began in 1995, when the original line-up was still on Food Records. Disgraceful – which had a pencil case on the cover that was so sexy that Woolworths banned it from display – contained the classic tracks, “Not So Manic Now,” “St Swithin’s Day,” and “Stars.” Hague added accordian to the album, as well as a layer of glossy production that lifted the pop potential of the songs.

Fast forward to the Covid-19 lockdowns, and Hague was called on to work with the renewed Dubstar on tracks for their album, Two. Sarah Blackwood’s vocals had lost none of their innocence or classiness in the intervening years, while Chris Wilkie’s guitar playing had acquired a new sensitivity. Hague’s unpressured approach highlighted the self-assurance of the band, while adding to the playfulness of the enterprise.

1. New Order – True Faith

Peter Hook likes a whinge. The former New Order bass player became very upset when he felt that, during the recording of “True Faith,” Hague paid little attention to his contributions. Hague, to his credit, now says that he wishes Hook had made more of a noise when the single was being crafted. It certainly didn’t lead to him being vetoed as producer for New Order’s mid-career, difficult album, Republic, but Hooky’s unhappiness is featured loudly in his biography. New mind, Hague’s single-mindedness turned “True Faith” into one of New Order’s most majestic singles and got the band onto the soundtrack for American Psycho. Can’t complain about that.


These boots were made for dancing. The stomp of DMs to old school EBM fills the new album from Container 90 – AirWare soles lending bounce to the Swedish duo’s latest offering.

Grand PrixXx is the fourth studio album from Ronny Larsson and Jonas Rundberg. It contains some previous single releases, as well as new sounds to bring the train of sequenced bass further along the tracks. As usual, it takes extra motor power from the band’s no-nonsense, anti-fascist politics. From the opening “Eurovision Song Protest” to the Test Dept-esque “New World Disorder,” there are no punches pulled in the lyrics or the rhythms.

When you live in a society where the second largest political party (by votes) is led by synth-loving fascists, programming the machines to fight back makes all kinds of sense. In lieu of a regular package, Container 90 offer a sixteen-page comic book that has content for each song.  In a time of universal streaming, that is a revolutionary act.


Sweden’s Kite aren’t nearly as well known in the UK as they ought to be. Two appearances this year should help to change that, but the shows were relatively low key. Back in their homeland, they just performed in front of thousands of rapturous fans, who have been treated to the duo’s anthemic poptronica for years in great locations with their full light-shows.

Their latest release, “Don’t Take the Light Away/Remember Me,” gives us two new songs to add to the sense that the Swedes know something that the Brits don’t. In this remix by Emmon producer, Jimmy Monell, the lead track from the single gets a harder treatment for the dancefloor.


Remember Delays? The Southampton band had a strong claim to be the kings of indietronica. Even Trevor Horn got in on the action, adding his production gloss to their hit, “Valentine.” Sadly, singer Greg Gilbert left us two years ago, which left a crown to be claimed.

A strong contender comes from Ireland, in the shape of Lucy Gaffney. Nettwerk, the home label of Moev, Delerium, and Sarah McLachlan, have already snapped her up. Gaffney’s songs are strong, and to our ears the sound owes something to the influence of Delays. She has a support slot with the Wedding Present in Belfast on the 7th of September in Belfast, which ought to cement her indie credentials no end. 

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