Saturday, 27 February 2010

Electro Classic Jukebox: Human League.

Before the pretty, pretty club-land girls Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley (who, after Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh left to start Heaven 17, created a "new vision" for leader Philip Oakey) joined Human League, there was an entirely different sound that encapsulated the new, experimental style that was seeping through the pores of late '70s England.

Don't get me wrong. While I quite like the post-Reproduction records (Dare is still the darling of the synth-pop world), I still have to say that the exquisitely experimental daring and newness of what they were doing at the time trumps more than a few artists at this time. In an age of Kraftwerk, Gary Numan, glam David Bowie, and Joy Division, this Sheffield band made its mark with an ultimately uncompromising electronic sound, and introduced to us forever the nasal vocals of the one and only Philip.

From 1979's Reproduction, here is the Human League with "Empire State Human."

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Late on the Monty Python Monday!

I apologize profusely for having forgotten Monty Python Monday! Can you guys ever forgive me? For some strange reason I feel that I've dropped the baton and have lost the comedy, per se, that might have, for you, kept all the sad and lonely music I've been discussing somehow afloat!

Just kidding, guys. It's all good here. Just as I'm going to keep you all up to date on what's good and interesting in the world of synth-pop and electronica, I'm going to try to make you kids laugh, as well. I'm going to ease down on the Monty Python, and focus a little bit more on the Mighty Boosh! I've nothing for an introduction, except that there is Howard, and there is Vince. Vince likes Gary Numan (which automatically makes it suitable for my blog!), but for now they're pondering the expansive wastes of the ... tundra!!!


Sunday, 21 February 2010

Electro Classic Jukebox: John Foxx.

Following his departure from Utravox! in 1979 (Midge Ure would take over the singing duties in 1980 after his own departure from Visage), John Foxx declared that he would "like to be a machine," and then, like Jonathon Frakes in Star Trek: The Next Generation, made it so. Retreating with engineer Gareth Jones to an Islington studio "the size of an eight-track cupboard," he followed his Kraftwerk and Gary Numan dreams and recorded the first of his two solo records, Metamatic. (The name, if you're curious, refers to a "painting machine," first unveiled in 1959 at the Paris Biennial by kinetic artist Jean Tinguely.)*

Released in January 1980, Metamatic was an abrupt departure for Foxx. As the old joke goes, he completely threw out the guitars and brought out the synths! It's an exciting record, written by a man who had read Crash by JG Ballard just a few too many times (funnily enough, JG Ballard seems to have been a major influence on many of these pioneers of the synth-pop sound - his dystopian futuristic landscapes, usually only about five minutes into the future, really spoke to their newfound "outsider" status). Full of allusions to cars, speeding, concrete, vast empty stretches, and roadworks, one can say with absolute honesty that Metamatic moves. It's always in motion, and that's what makes it so damn cool.

For my money, I'd like to nominate "Underpass" for outstanding song on this record. We've all seen underpasses in real life. They're not pleasant places, for the most part. Listening to this song, you can picture the grimy concrete of the pilings, hear the traffic roaring above your head, see the murky illumination of the fluourescent lights, and see the homeless lurking in the shadows in makeshift tent-cities. In other words, it's a great place to get mugged. Without further ado, here is John Foxx and "Underpass"!

Just another fun little note. The engineer on Metamatic was one Gareth Jones, then just starting out with his career. John Foxx's second (and last) album was called The Garden. Afterwards, he opened up a studio of his own, called Garden Studios. It was here where Depeche Mode recorded Construction Time Again. Who was the engineer? None other than Gareth Jones.

* Thank you, Wikipedia!

Friday, 19 February 2010

Review: Organisation.

Atmospheric. Majestic. Sombre. A dark-hearted cocktail of heartbreak and misery. With no further ado, I'd like to tell you, dear readers, about Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark's second album, Organisation. Released in October 1980, I would be tempted to say that this is probably their bleakest release, especially coming so soon on the heels of their much poppier eponymous debut (which, in essence, was basically a faithful reproduction of their live shows up to date). What's rather interesting about Organisation, now that I think of it, is how the entire affair begins: with the energetic and quite poppy "Enola Gay." I'm pretty sure everybody, at one point or another, has heard this classic anti-war track. As we all know, Enola Gay was the airplane (USAAF B-29 SuperFortress) that dropped the atomic bomb "Little Boy" on Hiroshima, Japan on the 6th of August, 1945, instantly vaporizing (and slowly killing) 140,000 citizens. Even due to its grim subject matter, it's certainly the catchiest single on the album. Such a juxtaposition - noodling synths, an immensely hummable tune, and snazzy drumbeats layered over lyrics such as "Is mother proud of Little Boy today?" and "Aha, this kiss you give, it's never ever gonna fade away." And now that that story has been told, it's time to move on to the rest of the album.

When the German experimentalist band Kraftwerk (more, much more, on them later) played in Liverpool, UK in the October of 1975, a certain spark was ignited in the imagination of one Andy McCluskey, who, immediately after the show, knocked on the backstage door and introduced himself to the band. According to Wolfgang Flür in the BBC Four documentary Synth Britannia, McCluskey had said, "We've just been shown the future - we're going to throw out all our guitars, and buy nothing but synthesizers TOMORROW!"

And how that inspiration shows, in Organisation! Andy McCluskey, his long-time partner in music Paul Humphreys, and the permanent replacement for their drum-machine (lovingly entitled "Winston"), Malcolm Holmes, came together and created an interesting hybrid of pop music, electronic experimentalism, and industrial chic - all thrown together with a punk-rock ethos of, in Humphreys's words, "just go out there and do it, already!"

So they did, and, in the heyday of synth-pop, they put out a piece of art that's nearly unprecedented in its audacity and originality. It practically goes without saying that the surge of brilliant synth-pop that launched from the UK was mightily helped by acts such as OMD and others that sprouted like wildflowers from the bleak Northern towns during the rubbish end of the '70s, when Victorian slums began to be ripped down and replaced by the narrow and grey concrete high-rises of modern-day England.

Take a fine track like "Statues." The KORG sends a seamless stream of smooth doom in the background, as finely tuned harpsichord synths pluck and bend in the fore. An organ-borne clickety-clack drumbeat pulls gently, as the most forlorn and defeated vocals I've ever heard sag like dead orchids.
What is faith
And when belief
And who knows how
These things deceive;
I never said,
And though I tried
If I could leave,
I'd sleep tonight.
The song's just bloody haunting. There's such an imminent gloominess that lurks underneath everything, like a fungus you know grows under the most beautiful of gardens. And how the notes just hang there, and how, as the song fades into the ether, McCluskey's vocals just wail in pain, "I can't imagine how this ever came to be." Fade into nothing. Written as a post-humous dedication to Ian Curtis (15 July 1956 - 18 May 1980), I'd like to think that Ian himself would have been so fucking proud.

I'd like to make a quick side-note on how damn catchy "The More I See You" is, before I move on to the highlight of the album - "Stanlow." "The More I See You" is a subtle and somewhat funky marriage between Kraftwerk and Gary Numan. This immensely hummable track practically dares you not whistle its charms after hearing its lovely lilts and turns. It's also the only cover on the album, based on the 1945 single by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon. Like I said earlier in this paragraph, it's as catchy as all hell, and sometimes I'll find myself attempting to play the imaginary keyboard on the edge of my desk! Great love song, filtered through the emotive lens of early '80s synth-pop.

Which brings us to the final song on the album (unless you happen to purchase the remastered 2003 version, which has six extra tracks on it, including a nifty re-working of their first single, "Electricity"), "Stanlow." It's certainly rare to hear a love-song devoted to an oil refinery near Liverpool Bay, Merseyside, but here you have one. At six minutes, forty-one seconds long (of which the first two and a half minutes are comprised almost entirely of samples taken from within the refinery itself!), this is ... well, it's fucking amazing, is what it is.

I - I just can't do it justice. I'll let the final lyrics set the tone.
A morning comes just as it left
The warmer feeling seldom owned
And tonight all I see alone
And as she turned we always knew
That her heart was never there.
What does it all mean? Frankly, I've never been to Stanlow, nor have I experienced what it meant to have it in such close confines during the waning years of the '70s. But it must have been one hell of a landmark, to be honest, to have inspired such a beautiful, heartfelt paean. And, just when the lyrics and music fade away, the intense, heartless churning of the machine takes over once again and slowly disappears, as if into the River Mersey.

And this is one hell of an amazing album. And that, dear readers, is what I think of when I think of Organisation.

And I leave you now with OMD performing "Statues" in 1981. Enjoy, dear readers, and have good dreams.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Electro Classic Jukebox: A Flock Of Seagulls.

You know, there are certain moments when one is young, and a song will come right out and go through you. It speaks volumes about where you've been, who you are, and what you make about the world in which you live. "Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You)" is one of those songs; at least for me. I'm not sure what it is, exactly, but there's just a certain emotive energy at work here in this track that, for lack of a better word, speaks to me. It's not as if A Flock Of Seagulls is one of my favorite bands, either -- frankly, I've managed to intentionally ignore most of their output, and at the same time not really fret about what I may be missing, but -- this song! It's nearly perfect. Mike Score's voice does a brilliant job of conveying a sense of longing, and the music is just top-notch. I love the buzzing guitars, the special effects layered over Ali's (Mike's brother) drumming, and the noodling and quite catchy synths. And what can I say about the video, except that I'm a sucker for science fiction imagery, especially the interior of spaceships! And can we all agree that that was one hell of a haircut? From Liverpool, UK, here's A Flock Of Seagulls with their 1982 single "Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You)." Enjoy!

Monday, 15 February 2010

Monty Python Monday.

Just in case you guys think I forgot - here's today's Monty Python Monday. In what is probably the best-known song in Monty Python's oeuvre, here is Eric Idle doing his damnedest to make Brian (Graham Chapman) feel a bit better after being abandoned on the cross by family and followers alike. What can one say? "Life's a piece of shit, when you look at it ..."

Good call, Eric - you always were the most musically inclined of the Python troupe!

Gig Review: Depeche Mode.

18 NOVEMBER 2005

Well, let me begin by stating what a wonderful and enriching evening this night turned out to be. It was everything I expected and more! What a blast -- and I know that this is probably going to sound a wee bit like hyperbole, but of all the Depeche Mode shows that I've seen over the last 17 years, this one definitely ranks in the top 2. No, actually, this one was the best, 'cos of my intense liking of the new album, and the fact that, unlike the Exciter tour of 2001 (which I still liked), they took the time and effort to make some room for their pre-Violator oeuvre.

One striking example of why Depeche Mode is such an influential and exceptionally brilliant band would have to be their skill of derivative science. Sure, on paper they're a slick, preternaturally affluently-talented noise-making group of British (Essex, fools!) gentlemen who know a thing or two about how to program and sample great sounds along with Gore's (and now, apparently, after
Paper Monsters, Gahan's as well) succulently nuanced and tongue-in-cheek lyrics of faith, disappointment, lies, truths, and the search for the inner-self ... uh.

My apologies. That last sentence was completely out of control. I didn't know how to stop it; it was a finalist for
Sentences Gone Wild. Ahem.

Needless to say, though, their live shows are something else entirely. I swear, Dave Gahan is equal parts Bono and Mick Jagger (astutely noted by my good friend Michael)!

Here are 10 highlights of the show. Read on, dear readers:

1. I feel I have to begin with the stage design. The three synths were outfitted with what appeared to be a retro-UFO surrounding, and to the left of the stage was a giant metallic orb with two "eyes" that shone with a muted intensity. Words flitted across in a scrolling manner on one of two panels on the front of said orb. The other panel glowed with large single word statements such as "LOVE", "SEX", "ANGEL", "PAIN", "HURT" and "TRUST". A multitude of brightly-colored lights flashed everywhere with varying intensity.

2. The opening track, "A Pain I'm Used To", was fantastically distorted and violently sensual.

3. There was a strange diarama of six screens in the back of the stage, and they showed distorted and engrossingly colored films of the guys performing ... sometimes when the cameras fell on Dave or Marty or Andy with the screens behind them, there was an odd glimpse of infinity behind them. A bit like standing between two mirrors.

4. Martin got the rock-star in him that evening. During "Home", he sung his heart out, and whilst the outro went on, he hopped with his guitar and sauntered out to the catwalk with a huge shit-eating grin on his mug. That hat he wore for the first half of the show, though? It really needed to

5. "Question of Time"!

6. "Somebody"! First encore! It was gorgeous. I know a lot of people back in the day who lost their virginity to this song. It's easy to surmise why!

7. Dave Gahan introducing the other band members -- there was the drummer Christian Eigner (who was fucking rocking), and Peter Gordeno, the guitarist/keyboardist who's toured with Depeche since 1998. When Dave introduced Martin, he did the "I'm not worthy" routine with his arms, and it was just freaking

8. The show was relentless in its punishing beats. Wow. My Swiss friend Florian said it best: "There were no holes in the show. It was spotless, man!" During my favorite track off the new album, "Suffer Well", it was just ... it was fucking religious, hell yeah.

9. Those crazy snapping sound effects during "Behind the Wheel". I've always liked them, and I've (I think) mastered the timing, so whenever I hear the song, I just sort of automatically snap my fingers, like so:
snap snap snap snap. It sounds better when I hear it than when I type it, ha ha.

10. I know some people don't like large shows, but when I see a band (i.e. Depeche Mode, The Cure, et al.) that can only perform in a large venue, it makes me really really happy to be surrounded by so many fucking people who are having an absolute blast. The feeling of hearing great music performed well with so many like-minded souls is essentially infectious. The show made me happy. It was awesome.

So that's that. If one is interested in visiting the general awesomeness of their 2005
Touring The Angel tour, then I reckon one should go and pick up the DVD, Touring The Angel: Live In Milan. It's freaking brilliant; one wouldn't be disappointed, I think. The way they monkeyed around with "Personal Jesus" and "Never Let Me Down Again" is worth it on their own, I kid you not! I would like to give Depeche Mode, on this date in 2005, a grade of ...



A Pain That I'm Used To
John The Revelator
A Question Of Time
Policy Of Truth
Walking In My Shoes
Suffer Well
Damaged People
I Want It All
The Sinner In Me
I Feel You
Behind The Wheel
World In My Eyes
Personal Jesus
Enjoy The Silence


Just Can't Get Enough
Everything Counts

encore #2

Never Let Me Down Again
Goodnight Lovers

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Electro Classic Jukebox: Depeche Mode.

From Depeche Mode's 1987 album Music For The Masses, here is "Little 15" in all its melancholic glory. Directed by their longtime videographer and photographer (and stage designer!) Anton Corbijn ("Control"), this video follows a general theme employed during their "Strange" sessions. Alienation, emotional violence, commitment, sex, control, addiction, and dependency loom rather large in these pieces of work. "Little 15," in my humble opinion, probably exemplifies most of these themes all by itself!

BUILDING TRIVIA: If you watch the video, you'll see a tall, stark concrete building. Finished in 1972 by the architect Ernö Goldfinger, this block of council flats in North Kensington, London are a classic example of the Brutalist style of architecture. They are also an example of hard-to-police slum apartments filled with gang violence, drug dealing, and prostitution. Yet Goldfinger was not a nice man - legendary author and anti-Semite Ian Fleming so completely disliked him that he named his iconic bad-guy after him in the James Bond novel "Goldfinger."

The photo at the very top is a picture I took of Trellick Tower in London, August 2009. It's a pretty damn impressive (and somewhat oppressive-looking) building!

COMING SOON ON SECOND DRAWER UP FROM THE LEFT: I review the Editors' gig at the Warfield in San Francisco, I take a second look at Organisation by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, and I try out some electronic music-making applications for the iPhone. Take care of yourselves, dear readers, and stay out of trouble!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Gig Review: Editors.


When Editors released their most recent album In This Light And On This Evening (October 2009), some of their fans seemed to become mildly disgruntled at the musical direction the Birmingham, UK quartet was drifting towards. After all, after two very successful records - their 2005 debut The Back Room and 2007's An End Has A Start - Tom Smith and Company decided to bring legendary producer Flood into the mix (haha, yeah, pun kind of intended) and veer into the realm of bands such as Depeche Mode, New Order, and Erasure. So, yeah, some fans were, like I said, mildly disgruntled about the whole lay of the land. I am not one of those fans.

Now, I have a theory I’ve been working on as to the general theme of the Editors' songs. I might be completely off-base (and off my rocker as well), but try to stick with me here: Everybody (I think, though I hate to make generalizations) knows the Serenity Prayer, don't they? (It's a staple philosophy behind AA. Alongside burnt coffee, chain-smoked cigarettes, and stale biscuits) "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change," it goes, "courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference." So I've been listening to Editors for quite some time, and I think I've arrived at the conclusion that the narrators of their songs are often held in the psychological grasp of the basic crux behind the Serenity dilemma. For within their songs you will find stories of men who, confronted with the stark realities of Love, either A) question whether or not they're good enough for it; B) see themselves as a some kind of a "savior"; C) realize how much work goes into making a relationship work; D) worry that they're giving too much of themselves to their significant other; or E) wax poetic on the fragility of love and people in general.
Please do not ask me to go further into this comparison. I highly recommend listening to the music and lyrics of the Editors, and sending me an email regarding your thoughts. Chatting with my girlfriend earlier today, she told me: "Well, that's one way to look at it!" Let me know what you think.
But I digress. Let me tell you about the show!
The In This Light And On This Evening Tour dropped down in San Francisco Monday night at the stately and beautiful Warfield Theatre. Consisting of Tom Smith (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, and piano), Edward Lay (drums and percussion), Russell Leetch (bass guitar), and Chris Urbanowicz (lead guitar and synthesizers), Editors hit the stage with a ninety-minute set that featured tracks from all three of their albums, and had the energy and forthwith to make them shine.
Here are some highlights. First of all, I’d like to state that their music is as tightly-wound on stage as it is on their records. There’s an intense efficiency at play here, and I’m happy to report that it was on full, glorious display during their show. Watching them play older songs with newer numbers, I was constantly reminded of how much of a team they are. Everything, and every sound, just comes together like they were born to be, man.
Take “Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool,” off the new album, for instance. Intense and vaguely horrific, it’s a prime example of the new direction Editors are taking in their song-writing. Featuring squelching synths that buzz about like nasty little insects layered over a deep and roiling drumbeat (which is appropriate, I think, for a song that mentions in its lyrics, “chewing with an open mouth, raw meat, your blood drool attracts the flies …”), Tom Smith’s rich baritone seems to have been perfectly designed for conveying the confused sense of loss that permeate the soul of the track. Even hearing him say the word “fuck” (“I don’t want to be left out – or get fucked”) seems somewhat out of time and place, and frankly I feel that that limited usage of profanity gives the single uttering of it a certain power that the likes of 50 Cent, Jay-Z, or Ice Cube couldn’t achieve in a fucking paragraph, let alone an effing LP, yo. Following the logic of the “Serenity Prayer” I was referring to earlier, I’d say this particular narrator was one who did not possess the serenity to accept what cannot be changed. “I give a little to you, I give a little to him, I give a little to her!” Smith chants, and you can sense his frustration at how little he gets back.
I sometimes found myself wondering if Tom Smith has a bone in his body. Watching him writhe and flail about on the sparsely decorated stage (actually, unlike a lot of shows I’ve seen recently, there wasn’t a single projection, movie, or even a curtain with the bands’ name on it behind the goings-on), I kept subconsciously waiting for him to run into something, slam into Leetch or Lay, or just trip over his feet and fall down on the dusty wood of the Warfield’s platform!
The first single off of In This Light And On This Evening, “Papillon,” surged forth like a fantastical marriage of Doctor Who and New Order. When Smith bellows, “IT KICKS LIKE A SLEEP TWITCH!” you could feel the force resonate in your stomach. “Munich,” off their first album, was full of cool little surprises, including (to my delight) a hell of an extended ending, something I really find endearing about the live experience in general. And "Bones" was just fucking majestic in its rocking power. "YOU'LL SPEAK WHEN YOU'RE SPOKEN TO," Smith intoned over and over again, as the music brought the freaking house down!
Now, there were a couple of moments that seemed a little, well, dull. "Lights" was a rather milquetoast moment, coming across like a boring Coldplay throwaway, and "You Don't Know Love" seemed to be a little weak and rote - a bit like filler and not much else. But these, dear readers, are just minor quibbles in the grand scheme of things, and Editors have officially reminded me of how powerful and grand their music can be - especially in a live setting. Their new musical direction, and how they've come to marry driving indie pop with a delicious electronic sensibility, has certainly not "mildly disgruntled" me. My hat's off to them, and I can't wait to see where their new musical road takes them (and their loyal fans). Cheers, gentlemen. I give your show a ...
In This Light and On This Evening
An End Has A Start
You Don’t Know Love
The Boxer
The Big Exit
Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool
The Racing Rats
Walk The Fleet Road
Like Treasure
Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors
Bricks and Mortar
Fingers In The Factories
And here, for your listening pleasure, I'd like to play for you a song. From In This Light And On This Evening, here's Tom Smith and company with their new single, "Papillon." Enjoy, and have a lovely day, friends!

Monday, 8 February 2010

Monty Python Monday.

Wenn ist das Nunstruck git und Slotermeyer? Ja! Beiherhund das Oder die Flipperwaldt gersput! Well, that's the "German" translation of "The Funniest Joke In The World," written by Ernest Scribbler, "manufacturer of jokes." As a consequence, he died - laughing. This is just freaking brilliant! Apparently, this joke is 60,000 times funnier than Britain's great pre-war joke!

Interview: The Presets!

So here's the scoop: A couple of years ago, I performed interviews with an esteemed music website called Luckily, I was able, in the midst of my duties, to interview the Sydney, Australia-based duo The Presets in the back of their touring van with my cameraman Trent. The date was 21 May 2008, and we were parked in front of MEZZANINE, in downtown San Francisco. You can link to the site by clicking here!

Thomas B: This is Thomas from, and we are chatting with the Presets. Welcome to San Francisco, and congratulations on the new album!

Kim Moyes: Thank you very much.
Julian Hamilton: Thank you!

TB: I was wondering, if when you guys are writing the music, do the instrumentals say things that words can't?

JH: Sometimes with lyrics, they get put on the songs towards the end. I guess sometimes they have nothing to do with that abstract idea the song made us feel then when it was just an instrumental. The lyrics are funny like that. Sometimes they inject a real warmth or romance or melancholy into quite a stark - you know - techno-track, for instance, and hopefully gives it another layer. But definitely, the instrumentals and also the instrumental parts of the songs, we wanted them to be strong in character and then the lyrics we add to that or, totally, fuck it. [laughs]

KM: Then on this record we have this song "Aeons," which was this amazing composition and melody, and that's all it was; and we were trying hard to make it into something, maybe make it into a song or whatever and give it like a feel that was a bit house-y and stuff, and then one day sort of was just like, you know what, it's all about this really great mood and then it just kind of turned into this really other-worldly cosmic sort of experience that didn't have a "drum-feel," that doesn't go down that road and just ... it's all those things that we love about science fiction films like [Blade Runner composer] Vangellis stuff - it's all got that stuff in it. And it's a real relief when you're working on songs to be pop songs and you're working on beats and grooves to sort of make you feel a certain way to ... just go and do something that's completely polar-opposite. Those songs always have a real special moment in the way you create them and also in the way that they lay out on the record, you know? Like, it's a relief, or a palate-cleanser or something, and it just adds that extra dimension to what we do. It's important for us to put those songs on, 'cos if it's just an album of bangers it would be like a little bit , uh -

JH: - Too much.

KM: Yeah, and also not a complete picture of who we are.

[At this moment, Julian turns to Kim and gives him a hearty high-five]

JH: Good answer, man! Fuckin' hell! Yeah, the other thing is when you're watching old films, like science fiction films, you know, like whatever, like Escape From New York, or something like that ...

Trent Berry, my cameraman: Blade Runner.

JH: Yeah, like Blade Runner. Yeah, sometimes your favorite bits of music on those films were the ones that weren't the big themes; you know, you had your big themes, the big bits where they're running or it's scary - but then there's that sort of moody music in one scene where you're, "Wow, that's the cool music, there!" I guess "Aeons" is like that. For us, we've got these big pop songs, big dance numbers ... uh - sounds like a musical! Big dance numbers. [laughs] And then, yeah, there's some incidental moody thing that hopefully takes people by surprise and ... just ... shifts their consciousness ...

KM: Yeah, like totally. Yeah, a song like "Aeons," it makes all our artwork and everything ... seem like the answer to the world we're trying to make.

JH: Like, "I get it!"

KM: Yeah, it's like, just when you thought - just when you listened to all the songs, you think, "Oh yeah - I get the Presets." And then you hear a song like that and ...


KM: "Damn! I can't hate these guys anymore!"

[laughing uproariously]

TB: Well, a question I've always wanted to ask is, due to its isolation from North America and Europe, Australia seems to have a different sort of feel of music that comes out from Oz, and I'm wondering if you guys notice that, and if [that perceived sense of isolation] has any effect on you guys' - I dunno, what's the word?

Trent: Your song-writing and crafting!

JH: I dunno, it's pretty hard -

KM: Check out the thesaurus behind the camera!

JH: - It's a tricky one, that one. I guess you can sort of argue both cases. Yeah, we are far away from the rest of the world; we haven't got as much of a musical history as, you know - we go to Berlin, and techno music there is such a big part of their culture; or, obviously, you go to England or the States and they've got this musical lineage ... we haven't got quite as - we've got a musical lineage in Australia but not quite as long and as distinguished as the rest of the world. So we are kind of this sort of bastard child, you know, we haven't got this sense of weight on our shoulders, so we can be perhaps freer and more fun in what we do. But then these days, also, the isolationism - I don't even know if it really exists anymore. There are a lot of these bands around the world that you can hear on your computer whenever you want to, and we sort of do have bands all over the world and we exist on these hard drives all over the world, so I never know whether we're totally free and isolated or whether we are just part of this global mash ...

KM: Yeah, it is real funny, like, we've grown up with all your TV shows and a bunch of English TV shows; and so all of our pop culture is a mash-up of everything - but also I think it's more about the place and the people whereas there's a bit more of a lightheartedness and a bit more of a "not-as-serious-as-the-rest-of-the-world." So I guess we kind of are like the rest of the world, but just not as serious, and we can clown, just like we do have this - yes - sense of freedom, a little bit, you know, about what we can do, and I think - I dunno - I think there's only a handful of bands coming out of Australia that are actually any good. [laughs] It just happens to be that there's a couple of really good ones right now.

JH: And we're not, we're not one of them.

KM: Yeah, and we reckon good luck to them! [laughs]

JH: Our music sounds a little like Blade Runner meets Are You Being Served?.

KM: Yeah, but also it still has a really, like, upfrontedness like the AC/DC hard rock sort of stuff that's really, probably the predominant Australian sound, you know? Like a lot of our songs, like "My People", for instance - it's balls-out, you know, and that's a particularly Aussie thing. And not particularly "Aussie" in that no one else can do it, but it's rough and ready -

JH: Like the Clash!

KM: Yeah, it's rough and ready -

JH: Convict music! It's like a convict sea-shanty for the 21st Century.

KM: Yeah, like "Convict Prison Rave!"

TB: We gotta write that one down! Okay, the NME basically (and recently) said, "All hail the second wave of Australian New Rave..."

JH: What was the first wave?

KM: Yeah, and Australian New Rave, haha, that was us again! So, yeah, wow. NME ...

JH: We just let the music speak for itself. I dunno, it's weird. Like we were talking about this before with someone else, and you've got maybe us, Cut Copy, and Midnight Juggernauts, and there's a few bands in Australia sort of doing cool things at the moment ... So I guess we've got - you can think of three bands doing sort of similar things, and I guess you can call it a "new wave." But it's tricky - I think the only thing that sort of really makes us together is that we all use electronic instruments, and we also have a real belief and try to make a sincere music that we're, that ... we're honest with ourselves, you know, trying to do something original. The only things that are really similar about what we're all doing ...

KM: None of us think that ... none of us ever thought - like, going back to what NME said, none of us ever thought of ourselves as "New Rave" or part of that thing that NME thought they created. That's their deal, and if they want to do that, to label us, well we can't stop that - but we've always just done our thing, Cut Copy's always done their thing, and we were doing it way before all the other guys were doing it, so we actually started "New Rave!" [laughs]

JH: And they were actually calling us "electro-clash" three years ago, you know, and it'll be something else next year; and that's fine, I mean, but we just write the tunes, man ...

KM: [adopting hippie voice] "Yeah, man ..."

JH: We just write ... [starts laughing]

TB: That's a great answer!

KM: I dunno, I'm just the drummer ... [everybody laughs]

TB: Ages from now, what would you like people to say about the Presets?

KM: Oh, my God - I was so ... how embarrassing.

JH: That was a fun time.

KM: Ha ha, that was crazy times; that was when ... [adopts grandfather tone] "Listen, kid. I remember those days. That was when a pill was a real pill, and your mum let me cum in her mouth!"

[Julian holds his head in his hands, and laughter fills the van]

TB: Best. Answer. Yet!

Trent: Got MILF?

KM: Yeah, I got a MILF!

Trent: That's awesome.

TB: Kick ass, guys, thank you so much! I appreciate it!

JH: Thanks, Thomas!

KM: Thanks!

TB: Thank you for having us! Look forward to seeing you tonight - it's going to be brilliant.

So there's the interview. If you'd like to watch it for yourself, then just click here! Have a brilliant week - and thank you, dear reader, for doing what you do!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Electro Classic Jukebox: Thompson Twins.

Named after Thompson and Thompson, the bumbling twins from Hergé's The Adventures of Tintin, the Thompson Twins successfully married synth-pop with a touch of calypso and a dash of raggae. Taken from their last album as a trio, 1985's Here's To Future Days, the fun and lively "King For A Day" is a perfect example of everything coming together neatly in a brilliant single. Here's Tom Bailey (a personal note: I share the same name as him!), Allanah Currie, and Joe Leeway performing the aforementioned "King For A Day." Charming video, as well!

Stay tuned, dear readers, for an interview I did with the Presets!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Electro Classic Jukebox: Front 242.

From their 1988 album Front By Front, here's Aarschot, Belgiums's Front 242 with "Headhunter." Directed by the one and only Anton Corbijn, I think it captures the industrial imagination of the track quite well. And who can forget these lyrics back in the day?
"One, you lock the target,
Two, you bait the line,
Three, you slowly spread the net,
Four, you catch the man ..."

Monday, 1 February 2010

Monty Python Monday.

From Monty Python's "Monty Python's Previous Record," here is the "Argument Sketch." I love how Michael Palin says, "This isn't an argument, this is a contradiction!"

Review: Voices & Images.

Released on March of 1988, Camouflage's debut album Voices & Images starts off with a sound that I - and, indeed, quite a few people, for that matter - find quite endearing and nostalgic. The sizzling crackle and pop of a needle being dropped on a spinning slab of vinyl that opens their jaw-droppingly beautiful single "That Smiling Face" just brings back so many pleasant memories of bringing a new LP into your home, peeling off the plastic film, pulling the paper sleeve from its glossy cardboard envelope, and smelling that odd and somewhat magical chemical whiff that emanated from the disk as you carefully placed it on the deck and gently - ever, so gently - placed the needle on the 33 1/3 RPM record and listened to the album in its proper order (there certainly was no "shuffle" mischief back in those days). I'm certain I'm not the only one who remembers this introductory sound, and how, like Pavlov's dogs in 19th Century Russia, nearly salivated in anticipation of the aural ride I was about to be taken on.

I was a sophomore in high school when I first listened to Voices & Images. I'd bought the album from Wherehouse Records on Los Gatos Boulevard, hustled it home, put it on my bitchin' stereo in my room, sat back on my hand-me-down leather recliner, and let the magic flow over me, eyes closed, head swaying, and just totally getting it. I think Camouflage recognized that feeling, and so actually made a recording of it! How cool is that?

But I digress.

Formed in 1984, a full four years before their debut would see the light of day, Camouflage consisted of a trio of schoolmates in Bietigheim-Bissingden, Germany: Heiko Maile, Marcus Meyn, and Oliver Kreyssig. They'd done their time playing in small local clubs, passing out demo tapes, and honing their talents. Finally signed to a label on the strength of what would become their best-known hit, "The Great Commandment," they solidified their synthesizer sound and put out a pretty fucking solid record, Voices & Images. I will do my damnedest to not be distracted by the sheer awesomeness that constitutes the needle-on-record sample that introduces the opening track, "That Smiling Face."

"That Smiling Face." Wow. Words cannot describe how lush and gorgeous this track really is. But that's not going to stop me from trying, oh hell no. Swirling back and forth and right to left, the synths gently poke and prod from behind a blanket of humming effects and a deep, bass-y keyboard as the song opens, as the blanket spreads warmly, launching into an effective drum line that gives it a soul, gives everything a glossy sheen that goes down like hot buttered rum. Marcus's silky voice, possessing a faint touch of an accent, then arrives, in a song about a failing relationship, and one's indecision about how (or whether) to end it all.

"All this love just while you were standing near to me,
Never sure about the time you spend with me,
I can't stand the way you deal with friends of mine,
Never sure if love's not just a waste of time..."
And when the verses finally come to an end, and the future of the relationship is in doubt, he sings, "while you stand beside me, while you move into my arms," and it's so breath-taking in its sadness, I still get a little shiver and a tear in my eye. And then we as listeners are launched into a minute-and-a-half of pure instrumental gold, with a crescendo of glistening synths that rise into the heavens of absolute electronic goodness. It's a fucking great song, and I defy you to listen to it and not be moved.

Camouflage then proceed to tear into the evils of Apartheid-era South Africa with the track "Neighbours," a political screed that savages the outrageous racism that was law in that country when this album was released.

"Black men leaders cried for freedom,
White policemen shot them dead.
The survivors get in prison,
Based on laws which no one understands."
I think they nail the head when they go on about how white people, in the white suburbs, "watching white TV" facilitated the perpetuity of such evil arrogance by doing nothing, just sitting back on their white asses, not caring in the slightest how much suffering was taking place in their own backyards. "Neighbours" nails it, and then some!

From there, Voices & Images dips its toes into many different musical themes, from the lost innocence of childhood ("Where Has The Childhood Gone?"), to racial discordance ("Strangers Thoughts"), to abject minimalist experimentation ("From Ay To Bee"). This is an album that is rich with ideas, both in philosophical and atmospherical ideologies, and it wears these ideas proudly. But I've saved the best track for last.

"I Once Had A Dream," the closer, is piece of art. Opening with industrial hisses and thumping that bring to mind Depeche Mode's Construction Time Again, this track ends up where "That Smiling Face" hinted at - the complete dissolution of a relationship. The sound effects slowly build up with ratcheting tension, as Marcus's sad, sad voice talks about how the titular "dream" went, with flourishes of poetic language:

"She nearly had filled all my days,
She let me forget all the things around me,
She was all I wanted ..."
And then she was gone, along with the dream, and the absolute crushing loneliness is so real, so visceral, that now there is nothing and life stares at him like a gaping emptiness. Once that realization has set in, the lyrics end, and we are treated to a Baroque orchestration that rains down on our ears with thudding drums, lilting reedy-sounding synths, and a soaring sampling of stringed instruments, coating us in the lonesomeness that surrounds the death of love. Stirring stuff, absolutely.

But don't take my word for it. Here's a remix of "Neighbours," courtesy of our good friends at YouTube. Take care of yourselves, it's nice to see you around! Spread the word, and have some happy listening. Cheers.

Mission Statement!

Hello gentle readers. I would like to take this opportunity to introduce to you my new-fangled "mission statement." There are only a couple (or, on completing this, four) rules I'm trying to follow, and I'll try to make them brief.

  1. The music I review, reflect on, or dwell on must be mostly (but not completely - the rules are flexible) driven by electronic inflections. IE: In the world of New Wave, Thompson Twins would cut the mustard; Men At Work would not. You will not see Men At Work on this site.
  2. There will not be articles about raves. In fact, after much thought, I've decided to cut the genres of rave, house, trance, and banging techno loose from this site, as they'll probably just end up muddying up the waters. It's not that I don't appreciate the music, but shit, if I ended up writing about ALL electronic music, I'd probably sprain something. That being said, though - an album that has house-y traits will be given thought here. An example of this would be Crystal Method.
  3. Certain artists will do something that might qualify, even though other works by said artist won't make the cut. IE: David Bowie. Now, Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars won't make it on these pages, for instance, but something along the lines of the Brian Eno-produced Low certainly might. Same goes for the new Editors album (In This Light And On This Evening), as compared to their debut The Back Room. While I'm at it, I'll say that New Order will make it, as opposed to their previous incarnation Joy Division (RIP, Ian Curtis).
  4. A good friend Trent said earlier today (and I like what he said), "It's shit made for the LPs, and that might be danceable, as opposed to stuff made with the sole aim of being danced to."
And that pretty much describes how it is going to be here. Things might change; they might not. It's fluid. All I know for sure is that I'd really like to spread the gospel of electronic music. You may like it, you may not; what it boils down to is I'd like to share with you the music that brightens my life, and - who knows? - might just brighten yours. There's some great stuff out there that you may or may not have heard of ... and I'd like to take the opportunity to let you know about it!