Featuring KARL BARTOS, DEPECHE MODE and HURTS
The Electricity Club didn’t do too well with its 2012 New Album Preview last year as only one of the three albums discussed actually came out! However, the three mentioned here have release dates slated and cover three generations of electronic pop music.
From one of the Godfathers to the young pretenders, with arguably the world’s most successful electronic band sitting in between as the synthfluential bridge, TEC looks forward to what could be in store from this trio of highly anticipated albums.
One person who has probably quietly amused by the KRAFTWERK Tate Modern ticket fiasco was their former colleague KARL BARTOS. He will be returning in 2013 with a new album and world tour so disgruntled fans who missed out on the Tate Modern shows are now likely to be venturing his way for their KRAFTWERK fix!
When KARL BARTOS released his last album ‘Communication’ in 2003, he ended up winning the artistic head-to-head with the Düsseldorf quartett’s ‘Tour De France Soundtracks’ which ironically for an album about cycling, was rather pedestrian! The album’s opening track ‘The Camera’ was a brilliant updating of ‘The Robots’, complete with elastic bassline, vocoders and ‘Computer World’ synths. His solo live shows, which featured no less than ten of his KRAFTWERK co-writes, were nothing short of brilliant.
Although not a founder member having joined in 1974, Der Tonmeister Des Elektronischen Schlagzeugs had by ‘The Man Machine’ in 1978 graduated to become leader Ralf Hütter’s main musical collaborator at Kling Klang. He left KRAFTWERK in 1990 and subsequently worked with Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr on ELECTRONIC’s ‘Raise The Pressure’ as well as OMD’s Andy McCluskey for the superb ‘Kissing The Machine’ on Bartos’ ELEKTRIC MUSIC album ‘Esperanto’. However, geniuses do lose their way occasionally and the less said about Bartos’ “guitar pop out of the computer” album ‘Electric Music’, the better!!
‘Off The Record’ is KARL BARTOS’ first album in ten years and sees material lost for many years being reconceived and recontextualised within a 21st Century setting. The story behind the album’s concept is that during KRAFTWERK’s imperial phase, Bartos wrote – off the record – a secret acoustic diary. Based on his rhythmical and melodic sketches, he has come up with twelve songs that could be perceived as new KRAFTWERK compositions in all but name! With titles such as ‘Nachtfahrt’, ‘The Binary Code’, ‘Musica Ex Machina’ and ‘Hausmusik’, this is not an understatement as Bartos co-wrote all of the ‘Computer World’ and ‘Electric Cafe’ albums as well as hits such as ‘The Robots’, ‘Neon Lights’ and ‘The Model’.
The first single ‘Atomium’ shows Bartos hasn’t gone rockabilly or anything. It has been described in his press release as “neoclassicism meets avant-garde electronica”. The gigantic model of an iron crystal erected for the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels is cited as inspiration to symbolise the rise and fall of atomic power.
Containing synth strings, orchestral stabs, robot voices, electronic swirls and motorik bass, it’s as if the history of analogue and digital synthesis has been piled into that one track! The rest of ‘Off The Record’ is now eagerly awaited.
‘Off The Record’ is released on 18th March 2013 by Bureau B
When DEPECHE MODE announced at a press conference in Paris that they were to release a new album and tour in 2013, many fans watching throughout the world felt they were missing something….indeed they were! Neither the name of the album, tour or even the song previewed were announced, although Mode enthusiasts uncovered that the song’s working title is ‘Angel’! However, the album and tour titles still remain elusive although it was confirmed recently that DM’s 13th studio album will be out in March through Columbia Records, part of the Sony conglomerate.
Dave Gahan said: “The album has a very organic and direct feel to it. It’s not a blues record, but it definitely has a soulful vibe. During the recording process we really tried to get the elements of performing and the live show into the album more”. This can only mean more guitars and more contributions from DM’s live drumhead and Gahan’s writing partner Christian Eigner! ‘Angel’ is certainly blues-based and frankly, a bit of a mess…“the time signature is all over the place!” as one disgruntled fan remarked. The fact that a tour has been announced with no album or tour title indicates that the band are possibly in a bit of a mess too. Obviously, scheduling targets have been missed…either that or this is actually all a very clever publicity stunt!
Meanwhile, Martin Gore has said: “I am very happy with how the album turned out. The music has a similar vibe to ‘Violator’ and ‘Songs of Faith & Devotion’ and I think the songs on the album are among some of the very best we’ve done”.
In truth, all long standing Devotees actually want are some really outstanding tracks, not necessarily a retread of ‘Violator’. Trentemøller’s excellent remix of ‘Wrong’ indicated that there was nothing awry in Gore’s actual songwriting, but more possibly that there was a lack of nerve with regards production and arrangements for the last album ‘Sounds Of The Universe’.
The new album has been produced again by Ben Hillier but with assistance from Christoffer Berg who has worked with FEVER RAY, there might be some fresh input. It is understood that mixing duties will be undertaken by Flood. The album is also expected to feature a writing collaboration between Martin Gore and Dave Gahan following the success of their first co-write ‘Oh Well’, the best track to have emerged from the ‘Sounds Of The Universe’ sessions. Quite why Gore and Gahan haven’t actually tried to write more songs together to add some much needed creative tension is a mystery!
The as-yet-untitled album is expected to be released in March 2013 by Columbia Records
“Ladies & Gentlemen, thank you for your patience. And so it begins…The Mass is coming”. HURTS follow-up to the million selling ‘Happiness’ is entitled ‘Exile’. ‘Happiness’ was the fastest selling debut album in the UK in 2010 and while the duo didn’t exactly take the UK singles chart by storm, the magnificent ‘Wonderful Life’ and ‘Stay’ were Top 5 hits in Germany.
Their ‘Happiness’ campaign culminated with a gig at Brixton Academy in 2011 where KYLIE MINOGUE joined them on stage to perform ‘Devotion’ and ‘Confide In Me’. HURTS’ success appears to have come from blending many different musical elements. Their sound is electronic but not totally synthpop, it’s stylishly romantic but not wet and it’s poppy but not cheesey. It’s as if they have cleverly fused ULTRAVOX, DEPECHE MODE, TEARS FOR FEARS and A-HA with TAKE THAT, ELTON JOHN and THE BACKSTREET BOYS to become the SAVAGE GARDEN of the new Millennium! Certainly, Europe loves them and HURTS very much touch the cultural sensibilities of those territories with their BROS Go To Bavaria imagery!
For ‘Exile’, Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson have maintained their melancholic optimism but have added a grittier edge to their arthouse stylings. An additional rawness is welcome as tracks such as ‘Silver Lining’ and ‘Illuminated’ from their debut lost the possessed Gothic grandeur of their demos in the final recording stage. Certainly the track that has been previewed so far ‘The Road’ appears to be possibly everything DM’s ‘Angel’ isn’t!
As well as HURTS’s rousing and emotive dramatics, there is the augmentation of distorted guitar but it is used more as an ENO-esque percussion instrument that compliments the anguished dynamic. And when Hutchcraft soars with the couplet “in the dead of the night – I feel you”, it’s as though he’s been reading his DEPECHE MODE CD booklets! And as ‘The Road’ comes to its end, it actually turns into a 4/4 version of ‘I Feel You’!
As is usual with HURTS, less is more and no further tracks have been previewed but expect a development of ‘Happiness’ rather than a wholesale reinvention and probably not much variation in the tempo!
This sophomore album has been produced by Jonas Quant who worked on most of ‘Happiness’ while several new tracks will be premiered at the London and Berlin concerts in February 2013.
‘Exile’ is released on 11th March 2013 by Major Label/RCA
Text by Chi Ming Lai
1st January 2013