Posts Tagged ‘Electropop’

James Wells

Kids Love Surf’s fourth single finds them continue the dreamy shoegaze trajectory of ‘OYO and ‘Moment’, but takes a more overtly electro / pop approach, with a crisp 80s disco drum beat. The chiming guitars may hark back to late 80s / early 90s Cure via vintage shoegaze, but the vocals – bathed in reverb and sculpted with a hint of autotune are clear and soulful, and very much to the fore against the blurred swirl of ambient synths that create a wash of sound.

It’s all pinned together with a nagging bassline that’s integral to the song keeping its shape. As a production work, it’s smooth, and it’s deft: with a solid and definite structure, the catchy chorus is distinct but slows effortlessly. At just three minutes and a half minutes long, it’s succinct – to the point that it makes you want to hit repeat straight away.

UK electronic indie outfit H2SO4 were one of the best kept secrets of the late ’90s, releasing a slew of singles and a brace of albums at the turn of the millennium that were well received by pundits and public alike, with songs that can be heard in TV shows such as ‘The Sopranos’, ‘Six Feet Under’ and ‘Queer As Folk’. 

Now, via a collaboration with production duo Bombay Monkey, they have created a stunning new album of ’80s tinged electronic prog-pop interlaced with atmospheric soundscapes. Entitled ‘Love And Death’, it will be released on 23rd July 2021.

The slinky and hypnotic album opener ‘Machines Love’ is available as a single now. A bittersweet take on love, loss and the transience of passion, the accompanying video features H2SO4 vocalist James Butler battling with dancer Lydia Savva as the physical embodiment of his virtual chess opponent.  Watch the video here:

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‘Perpetual Sequence’ is the ninth full-length album by Croc Shop, an electronic based act featuring long time members Mick Hale and vMarkus. With a post-electro, pop and synth-rock approach over the duration of its eleven captivating songs, the duo also make occasional nods to their post-punk goth and electro-industrial origins.

Originally formed as Crocodile Shop in a flat above a record store in West Berlin, the band released their debut album, ‘Lullaby’, in 1988. Produced by Dave Fielding of The Chameleons, the record displayed dark goth-rock influences that only hinted at what was to come. They subsequently transitioned towards an electronic-industrial sound as they began replacing band members with machines, releasing ‘Celebrate the Enemy’ in 1993.

In 1995 they signed to Metropolis Records and issued the albums ‘Beneath’, ‘Pain’, ‘Everything Is Dead And Gone’, ‘Order + Joy’ and ‘World’. The last of these was a nifty fusion of EBM and synth pop that arrived in 2002 and their first album under the shortened name Croc Shop. 2004 saw the release of ‘SEA’ (Self Extracting Archive), which was a double CD ‘Best Of’ the band’s musical output. Pursuing other musical interests, group mainstays Hale and vMarkus then took a longer than expected break from recording together.

Fifteen years later, with the ‘election’ of and chaos caused by Trump, the band’s creative and political fires were rekindled and they began to work on new material that resulted in the blistering ‘Resist!’, a nine song digital album released in 2020, followed by ‘(TRiP): The Rest In Pieces’, a thirty track ‘Rest Of’ Croc Shop that featured tracks not included on ‘SEA’ as well as a number of remixes.

Croc Shop have toured heavily across North America and Europe throughout their career and have garnered loyal fans the world over. They have shared stages with acts such as Rammstein, Front 242, The Damned, Nitzer Ebb, Project Pitchfork, Xymox, Switchblade Symphony and Numb. Their live show has been described as an “audio-visual-assault”, with multimedia video projections, bold lighting and an energetic stage presence.

Ahead of the album ,they’ve unveiled a video for second single, ‘Secrets’: what it here:

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29th January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I have a hunch that the ethereal, bohemian songstress may not have been born Gabrielle Ornate, but it’s certainly fitting for the kind of light, decorative, yet expansive and kaleidoscopic electropop showcased on her debut single, ‘The March of the Caterpillars’.

Yes, it has that quintessentially 80s vibe, but then that in itself has become something that’s grown beyond its origins to become a genre unto itself, meaning that this single is both of a time and timeless. Propelled by a solid beat and buoyant bassline, it balances elements of both rock and pop, it’s a perfect vehicle for Gabrielle’s vocal, which switches from quiet and contemplative to full and bold in the choruses.

Lyrically, it’s about evolution and ‘respecting one’s roots’, but said lyrics are largely oblique and poetical, spinning together a succession of thoughts and images to form a semi-abstract flow, which works nicely.

It’s a strong debut, and Gabrielle seems to have emerged in full-fluttering glory.

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28th January 2021

James Wells

This seven-tracker follows the same format as previous EP releases from the past couple of years, and features Dissonance’s collaborative duel with Melodywhore, ‘Damage: 1st Assault’, augmented with six remixes.

The remix package very much has its roots in the field of dance, from whence the work of Cat Hall – aka Dissonance – has emerged – although, as her bio notes, it ‘incorporates elements from industrial, pop, and alternative rock’ which has seen the project ‘compared to bands like Nine Inch Nails, Curve, This Mortal Coil, and Information Society.’

Coming together with Melodywhore has facilitated the exploration of the darker, harder-edged leanings of the Dissonance sonic palette, which places ‘Damage: 1st Assault’ very firmly in NIN territory, with an erratic stop-start beat dominated by a whipcrack snare driving a bubbling synth bass, which in turn underpins some dark atmospherics. It lands somewhere between Pretty Hate Machine and the electrosleaze of ‘Closer to God’, and it’s solid.

The remixes – being remixes from a selection of guests – accentuate different features, with Joe Haze’s CF2 remix pumping up the bass and beats to create a driving, dense backdrop to the backed-off, breathy vocal (which also highlights the Curve comparison), while the more stripped-back Machines with Human Skin Corrupted remix comes on more like the original Pigface recording of ‘Suck’, but with soulful backing vocals that owe more to Depeche Mode.

Steven Olaf’s remix is dirty but also beholden to 80s robotix synth, and so it goes. The REVillusion Revision Remix is a spaced-out stomper that goes for the slowed-down anthemic vibe.

The one thing that’s conspicuous is how the remixes stay fairly true to the original form and structure: there isn’t one reworking that takes the song somewhere entirely different, and there’s nothing as daring or brain-mangling as, say, JG Thirlwell’s radical remixes of Reznor’s cuts, and there’s nothing wrong with that by any means – it all just feels a little safe and reverent. And without any of the versions doing anything particularly radical, it does get a shade monotonous listening to the remixes back-to-back.

Still, it’s a decent enough tune, and if you’re prone to playing songs on a loop, this will save you hitting repeat.

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Pretty Ugly Records – 13th March 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

So I stumbled over Sex Cells by practically sticking a pin in last year’s Live at Leeds programme, and it paid off. Ok, that’s not quite true: while surveying the schedule, they looked interesting and probably worth a punt, so I took a gamble it paid off, with the their tense industrial-edged electronica that reminded me of Pretty Hate Machine era Nine Inch Nails, only weirder and sleezier. Coupled with the duo’s slightly oddball, even vaguely awkward, presentation, it was compelling. The same has been true of their releases to date, which lead us to this, their debut album.

The album’s cover is a bizarre watercolour-style tableau of the pair, and on the one hand, it’s naff (and I’m being polite: the more you look at it, the more awful details reveal themselves. Like, is the cat really supposed to be licking her nipple? What’s that on his dick?), but on the other, it’s a perfect encapsulation of their perverse, quirky style. They don’t play by the rules. And if their name is a play on the adage and Soft Cell, then it’s entirely fitting. If it isn’t, it maybe ought to be.

The headline here should perhaps be that David M Allen is the lead producer here. Renowned for his work with The Human League, The Sisters of Mercy, The Mission, Depeche Mode, The Psychedelic Furs, Wire, The Associates, and The Chameleons, little more probably needs to be said here, beyond the fact that in terms of production, ‘That’s Life’ sounds like you’d probably expect.

‘That’s Life’ bridges the gap between The Human League and Nine Inch Nails, and doesn’t include any of their previous single releases apart from leader ‘Deranged’, which crashed in with a suitably salaciously shocking promo video in March, demonstrating their tenser, harder-edged side while at the same time nailing everything about the band into a box of two-and-a-half minutes.

Opening song, ‘Shimmer,’ is dominated by a low-slung oscillating bass and trudging drum machine that provides the backdrop to Matt Kilda’s monotone spoken word vocal and Willow Vincent’s lost, demented banshee shrillness that calls to mind Skeletal Family, early Siouxsie, and early Cranes.

‘We Are Still Breathing’ is a neatly-crafted reflective electropop tune. It’s got hooks, melody, and a dreamy quality. Things take a dark turn on the next song, ‘Human Costume’ a spiky post-punk electrogoth stomper that screams Hallowe’en and horror, with some pretty barbed lyrics that turn the mirror on society and the human psyche. And it still packs a killer chorus, too.

They go full death disco with ‘Cruel Design’, and Willow coms on all breathy and ice witch in the vocal department, bringing a contrast between the vibrant energy of the instrumentation and the cold detachment of the voice, in a role reversal between human and machine. It’s a complete contrast to the final song, ‘Hang the Flowers’, which is a sparse, folksy number that ripples dappled shade to fade.

The combination of shock tactics and neat dark-edged electropop is a well-established tradition that can probably be traced back as far as Suicide, but really became a thing in the 80s, and as such, Sex Cells should by rights be a yawn, their edginess predictable, their material laden with well-worn tropes, and the metaphorical shrug of a title does nothing to raise expectations. And yet they make it work, and make it exciting.

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30th August 2019 – Retratando Voces

Christopher Nosnibor

This split release, which pairs Leeds solo artist Black Ribbon with Nottingham duo Don’t Try, follows up on the former’s remix of Drahla’s single ‘Twelve Divisions of the Day’ and the latter’s 2018 single, ‘JWAFJ’, emerging on a German label. Mixed and mastered by Wayne Adams of Bear Bites Horse Studios, and featuring artwork by Hayden Menzies (METZ), this has got the lot behind it – and it delivers on all of its promise.

Listening to the dark, goth-tinged post-punk vibes that permeate both contributions, it makes sense: you get the impression that however much there’s been a sustained renaissance for all things goth-tinged and post-punk here in Britain (which, let’s face it, hasn’t been especially great of late), these are artists who will likely fare better on the mainland, especially in Germany.

Black Ribbon’s ‘Interception’ arrives in a squeal of feedback before clattering percussion and angular synth discord pave the way for a driving dark disco groove. It’s a magnificently mangled hybrid of DAF, Gary Numan, The Human League and early Foetus. Take away any one of the elements and it’s a different animal, but it’s the collision of all things at once that make it special. Done differently, it could be a straight-ahead electropop tune, albeit with an industrial production and early 80s vibe. But with incidentals exploding all over the place, while the vocals, heavily treated and low in the mix have a robotic tone and veer between blank monotone and rising desperation.

Transitioning through a series of passages with some expansive instrumental segments, it stretches out to build a masterfully epic listening experience. Fading out just shy of nine minutes, its end brings a disappointment that its not much, much longer.

The Big Black comparisons that have been hovering around Don’t Try are of merit in the context of ‘Melancholy Chapters’, the drum machine pounding relentlessly behind a gauze of guitars reminiscent very much of ‘Bad Houses’ from Big Black’s debut. Notably, this was Albini and Co’s attempt to sound like The Cure. And while it captured the claustrophobia of 17 Seconds, it did so with everything cranked up to eleven. Don’t Try bring the goth via Big Back loop full circle here with a pulverising six minutes of hard-hitting bleakness.

However, something about ‘Melancholy Chapters’ calls to mind other acts, notably to my ear The Screaming Blue Messiahs, particularly in the sneering vocal delivery. It’s kinda punk, kinda something more sophisticated. That doesn’t mean it’s not direct, hard-hitting, heavy: if anything, this is denser and packs more impact than their previous releases, which have focused on primitivism and treble.

It may only contain two songs, but this feels like a massive release, a landmark of sorts, and something deserving of a lathe-cut clear vinyl 12”. It’s challenging and likely divisive, with both acts taking something that could be accessible and rendering it with degrees of difficulty. On a personal level, this is much of the appeal: I crave art that makes demands, and admire the makers of the art that does so. But it’s more than that: art that challenges probes into the soul and the psyche, it alerts the senses and makes you feel. Against a backdrop of sameness that induces a numb torpor, we need that jolt, that kick, that buzz to remind us we’re alive. And this does that.

Hayden Menzies Artwork

James Wells

And after weeks of torrential rain, temperatures so far below the seasonal average if feel more like a different season, we suddenly find ourselves not experiencing just warmer weather, but day one of a burning heatwave set to last for… two days.

Imbeciles may scoff about so-called ‘global warming’ because they fail to grasp the fact that in some places, like Britain, the melting of the ice caps doesn’t mean we can grow bananas, grapes and coffee beans in our window boxes, and that instead, tropical storms are going to batter us while the coastline shrinks beneath rising sea levels.

So, what do we know? Thanks to the press blurbage, we know that ‘HIN is the new ambient/electronic project of Jerome Alexander, best known as Message To Bears, along with his school friend Justin Lee Radford, also known as The Kids And The Cosmos’. We also know that the ‘Warmer Weather EP’ is HIN’s debut release.

The five songs on offer here are mellow to the max. The beats are so laid back they’re practically soporific, all the tones so soft-focus as to be tantamount to dissipating vapours in a clear blue sky on a hot summer’s day. Yes, this is definitely a hot summer’s day soundtrack. But it’s also completely smoothed out, depersonalised, chilled to the point of total blandness, the Mr Whippy of ice cream. What is there to say? Can I have sprinkles and a flake with that soft vanilla?

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Christopher Nosnibor

Leeds synth-led post-punk outfit FEHM have mellowed a fair bit since they first burst onto stages in and around their hometown three or four years ago. New single, ‘Scarborough Warning’ may lack the abrasive edges and wild, wide-eyed bass-driven gothy mania of early songs like ‘Sinking Sands’, but that isn’t to say this more commercial sound is without edge.

This means that while Paul Riddle’s frenzied holler has softened to a brooding croon, and the instrumentation sounds less like X-Mal Deutschland and more like early Human League with a hefty dash of The Cure in the mix, not to mention a lead guitar part that’s pure (early) New Order, there’s a dark, melancholy edge to this slice of disco-pop. It’s heavy on reverb and imbued with a nagging wistfulness, and it’s also still deeply rooted in the first half of the 1980s.

I dig.

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FEHM will also be playing a handful of dates in August support of the release:

2nd: The New Adelphi, Hull

3rd: The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds (With full supporting line up including Drahla)

9th:The Underground, Newcastle

10th: The Castle, Manchester

11th, The Shacklewell Arms, London

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Ventil Records V009 – 24th May 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

ƒauna’s style is billed as ‘dystopian avant pop’, and her second album is a magnificent mosaic of alienation. Vintage drum machine sounds click and pop out spartan rhythms, overwhich bibbling synths loop and ripple.

The press release emphasises the album’s dominant themes – facing down an uncertain future, dissecting new digital identities, the importance of political activism – and points to the fact that Infernum is very much an album of our times. But so much of the album’s intrigue lies in its juxtapositional positioning, its straddling of contemporary and retro. This also applies in absolution to the sonic makeup of the album.

The first track, ‘Primus’ has ƒauna outline – in a detached robotic voice – the circumstances surrounding the making of the album. It’s a perfect encapsulation of the album as a whole, a work of retro-futurism which may or may not be autobiographical. It’s a mistake to synthesis the artist and the art, and this of course connects with the issues of identity – in particular virtual and digital identities. Who is ever truly themselves on-line, in public, in company? In any context, identity is a construct, and ƒauna explores the layers of construction here.

Supposedly emerging from ‘a dark crossroads between conceptual pop, downtempo hip-hop, and the euphoria of the club’, these influences manifest primarily in sparse electro compositions which resonate with the kind of tape-looping experimentalism of the underground of the late 70s and early 80s. The structures and overall production are sparse, the compositions perversely disjointed, deliberately angular, with .

Then again, the rolling synth swell of ‘Death Fly’ and bouncy insistence of ‘Lonely at the Top’ are crisp pop, distilled down and refined to its purest, most immediate from, while elsewhere, ‘Went Home Got Lost’ pushes more overtly contemporary dance-orientated tropes to quirky but affecting effect.

It’s an analogue take on an analogous representation of postmodernism: the collision of past, present, and future, with no clear distinction between the boundaries. And watching those boundaries dissolve with every clipped, synthetic beat is fascinating, and in some strange way, quietly exhilarating.

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