2018 – The Year In Review

A year in electronic music…

Although it might have seemed as if 2018 was a quiet year for electronic music in some respects, there was actually more going on than expected. It saw the return of some classic electronic outfits, the emergence of yet newer acts and plenty of accomplished music to keep even the most jaded electronic music fan happy.


The year kicked off with the release of a new studio album from Savoy. See The Beauty In Your Drab Hometown marked their first release in over a decade. In TEC’s review, Barry Page summed up the album as a “…confident – and surprisingly seamless – collection; playful, adventurous, and boasting a production that benefits from retaining its rough edges.”

Meanwhile, the same month saw the return of darkwave outfit Dicepeople for a collaboration with Moi Saint. Having signed to new record label Syndicol, Dicepeople were keen to experiment and explore new ideas in 2018. Our review of the EP summed things up: “Shallow Under Skin kicks 2018 off with an accomplished slice of dark electronic delights, but also helps to establish Syndicol’s chops as an electronic music label worth keeping an eye on.”

Later in the year, Dicepeople also collaborated with The Brooklyn Foundation for a sensual take on Fad Gadget’s ‘Love Parasite’ or, as Dicepeople themselves summed it up: “a sensual, grinding feast of visceral visuals and sonic seduction.”

Glaswegian electropoppers Chvrches returned, bringing onboard the production talents of Greg Kurstin on ‘Get Out’. “Their new outing appears to have all the elements of their classic kinetic electropop in place,” TEC’s Paul Browne concluded. “There’s a buzzy rhythm track augmented with some clean percussive fills and Mayberry’s clear vocals front and centre.”

Electro Anarchist outfit LegPuppy launched You Should Be Paranoid, an album for the times packed with social commentary and a dazzling array of influences and ideas. The unsettling ‘Selfie Stick’ was one of the tunes on an album that also boasted the dancepop of ‘Running Through A Field Of Wheat’. The TEC review gave it a thumbs up: “You Should Be Paranoid presents a timely album that successfully manages to combine a broad base of musical styles with cultural (and often witty) commentary.”

2018 was a grim year for deaths, which included Mark E Smith, Pete Shelly and music journalist David Cavanagh. But it also sadly saw the passing of Icelandic musician and composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. Perhaps best known for his 2006 album IBM 1401, A User’s Manual, Jóhannsson subsequently went on to establish himself as film composer, scoring the likes of The Theory Of Everything, Sicario and Arrival.

Bristol’s Sinestar returned with their third album A Million Like Us. Jus Forrest reviewed the album in which she commented: “a colourful, if not blinding fusion of modern European electropop that fuses the melodic and the exhilarating electronic with a modernistic dance-ability that is surely worthy of any night spot on the block.”

The grassroots electronic music scene has continued to offer up some accomplished acts in recent years. She’s Got Claws is one of the more intriguing acts to emerge and her 2018 album War Torn was a gritty and raw journey that also delivered a timely commentary on war and conflict.

Other new artists that caught our attention included Jo Marches with the lush synth melodies of ‘Monsters’. Meanwhile, US electronic duo Static Shore offered up their own brand of smooth synth-pop for ‘Sun In My Wake’. Keeping the international theme going, Russia’s Låska drew from classic synth-pop to inspire them.

Kasson Crooker came back under his ELYXR guise to collaborate with Kurt Harland (Information Society) for the smooth synths of ‘Strange Stubborn Proud’.

Sheffield’s Promenade Cinema, meanwhile, gave us the amazing Living Ghosts album. Describing their sound as ‘Cinedramatic Synthpop’, Dorian Cramm and Emma Barson have rapidly chalked up critical appraisal for their darkwave delights, but Living Ghosts really raised the bar, particularly on the dramatic tones of ‘Norway’. It was easily one of 2018’s best albums.

2018 also saw some superb multi-act events being staged. In April, Synthetic City returned with a stunning all-star line-up of electronic acts, including Berlyn Trilogy, Cult With No Name, Tenedle, The Circuit Symphony, LegPuppy and Dicepeople.

Elsewhere, Birmingham staged the Echoes of Electronica event which saw the stage occupied by Among The Echoes, Johnny Normal and Def Neon. TEC’s Jus Forrest was impressed by the event’s “synthesized ambience.” She also interviewed Among The Echoes as part of TEC’s coverage.

Moving outside of the UK, Swedish band Vogon Poetry did a star turn with their new album Life, The Universe And Everything. Taking nods from a variety of science fiction themes, the electronic outfit turned out polished tunes such as ‘Dangers In Space’, Jarre-style influences on ‘Heart Of Gold’ and even a cover of S.P.O.C.K classic ‘In Space No One Can Hear You Scream’. TEC’s Paul Browne suggested the album “boasts some effective synth-pop and is a continuing demonstration of Sweden’s rich electronic music culture.”

2018 also saw DEFSynth acting as promoters for a variety of boutique shows. This included performances by rising star Voi Vang, 3D, Punkdisco, Cult With No Name, Cyberwaste, the UK debut of US artist Meganoke and, of course, Jan Doyle Band.

The warm, engaging pop of Fiat Lux returned in 2018. The band, who had previously brought us the layered melancholia of ‘Feels Like Winter Again’ during the 1980s came back with the summery vibes of ‘It’s You’.

In May, Ian Burden, formerly of The Human League (and also occasional collaborator with Parralox) offered up his debut solo album Hey Hey Ho Hum. TEC were invited to the press launch where Mr Burden chatted about his musical history in the company of fellow former leaguer Jo Callis.

While vinyl continued to elicit a strange hold on the record-buying public, cassettes have also seen their stock rise in recent years. We looked at the work of The Dark Outside, an odd venture designed as a site-specific 24-hour radio broadcast that performed in the darkest place in Scotland. This music subsequently came back to life as strictly tape format releases. Volume 3 featured contributions from the likes of Curxes and Near Future (a Blancmange side project).

Marconi Union staged a special gig with Digital in support in June, providing a fine evening of ambient electronica. The same month saw a-ha’s Electric Summer tour in full swing. It provided an opportunity for the Norweigian synth-pop outfit to share the stage with OMD and Tom Bailey.

Pinklogik released Glint, an album of glitchy dreampop that the TEC review summed up as “reflective musings that offer a dreamy escape for the willing listener.”

Radio presenter, promoter and musician Johnny Normal put together a whole new musical project in 2017 as The Rude Awakening. In 2018 the outfit returned with the additional vocal talents of Bridget Gray with ‘Your Wetness Is My Weakness’, a composition that did little to hide its strong themes of sexuality. Or, as the TEC review declared it: “a sinful hymn on the pleasures of the flesh hammered out on leather-clad electronics.”

Wakefield’s finest also rocked up with a new EP in the summer. Flowers Fall from Berlyn Trilogy presented the weighty drama of ‘Domus Aurea’ and the evocative beauty of ‘Simone (Nicole)’ – a song inspired by French resistance fighter Simone Segouin, which boasted some fine lyrical work (“You’re the heroine of liberty/Effortless style and dignity”) in tandem with the sweeping synths.

Fresh from their collaboration with ELYXR, Information Society returned with their own new outing, ‘Nothing Prevails’ which received its premiere here on The Electricity Club. The Minnesota-bred electronic group asked listeners to question the security of their own circumstances and situations. Our review suggested it was “an energetic, if sobering, number that’s laced with meaty percussive stabs and melodies.”

Over 37 years since it was first recorded, the near-mythical follow-up to Fakkeltog, by pre-a-ha outfit Bridges, finally saw the light of day. Greg Lansdowne assessed Våkenatt (an album which also boasts sleeve notes care of The Electricity Clubs’ own Barry Page) and noted that some of the DNA of the future a-ha was hidden away there. “Add Våkenatt to the list of those must-have items for a-ha fans” was TEC’s conclusion.

Fresh from their collaborative efforts earlier in the year, Dicepeople returned with new album One From Many. TEC’s Paul Browne delivered the verdict on the new release: “Dicepeople have always plunged into dark wave waters and One From Many takes a deep dive in the same spaces. It encourages a sense of reflection in those darker depths however, combined with an accomplished hand at hypnotic beats and melodies.”

August also saw the release of Battery Operated Orchestra’s noir-esque synth-pop album Snare. TEC’s Paul Browne concluded: “BOO have demonstrated that their talent for composition, melodies and ideas is far from exhausted. Snare is a stunning piece of work that doesn’t require a lot of codebreaking skills to appreciate.”

Hotgothic gave us the bittersweet glory of ‘I’m Still Yours’ – “…a tune that will touch your heart and perhaps remind you of someone you miss.”

Autorotation released Mapping The Dark Room, an EP of thoughtful, introspective tunes, including the wintery tones of the wonderful ‘Buran’.

September proved to be a busy month with one of the more intriguing releases from an outfit known as Hieronymous FTP. ‘Nous Pâlissons (Fade To Grey)’, as the title suggests, was a new arrangement for the classic Visage song. The new arrangement gave the tune a dynamic quality, with the operatic polish on the female vocal lending the composition a stylistic finish that sounds fresh and captivating.

The same month saw Synthetic City Reloaded – a return bout for the popular electronic music festival. This time around, the event showcased the likes of Battery Operated Orchestra (BOO), Hiltipop, Shiny Darkness, The Rude Awakening and Robert Marlow among others.

Caroline McLavy returned with her remix album Quasi-Static, bringing in the talents of Parralox, Nature Of Wires, Def Neon, LorD & Master and others to work their magic on the tracks that had appeared on McLavy’s earlier Electrostatic album.

The Norwich duo of Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth, collectively known as Let’s Eat Grandma, gained critical acclaim on the back of their new album I’m All Ears. The unusual instrumentation and arrangements for the songs produced some stunning work, including the long-form epic of ‘Donny Darko’. The pair also demonstrated that they could deliver an equally captivating live performance when they rolled into London in September.

2018 also brought Brighton-based outfit Fröst to our attention. Their album Matters was a sonic delight, which impressed TEC’s Paul Browne: “As an album, Matters presents sumptuous glacial electropop that oozes elegance and style, with a touch of the Düsseldorf school for good measure.”

2018 also saw the 40th Anniversary of synth-pop pioneers OMD. The band produced a few welcome surprises as a result, including a new book. Pretending To See The Future was OMD’s first official publication since 1987’s Messages. While the final publication lacked a critical editor’s eye and the sense that the publishers had overstretched themselves, the book still managed to offer some insight into the band’s early years. Throughout its 400 pages, it was packed with rare photos and illustrations and plenty of input from the band and fans.

October saw OMD stage a special concert in conjunction with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. This performance also threw up a few surprises, including a live rendition of classic B-side track ‘The Avenue’ and a brand-new composition ‘The Daughter Of The Minotaur’ – a piece that the band composed for the film Female Human Animal (see our sister site Wavegirl’s review here).

Meanwhile, Barry Page penned a long-form piece on one of OMD’s ‘lost’ albums Universal. “…it’s an album that has divided fan opinion over the years,” the article suggested, “whilst its lack of commercial success has somewhat coloured McCluskey’s own opinion of it. But this lyrically focused and well-produced collection has actually aged very well and stands up against the best of the band’s back catalogue.”

New Zealand’s finest, Princess Chelsea, came back with new studio album The Loneliest Girl. Much of the album took on a reflective approach dealing with age and the passage of time. But it also served up the pastoral synths of ‘Wasting Time’ which also demonstrated Chelsea’s talent for wry observational humour.

The enigmatic Girl One And The Grease Guns offered up Transmissions From The Glass Factory, a special 12″ release which showcased both the outfit’s talent for raw frenetic rhythms as well as that love of ’60s girl groups.

Twist Helix had already caught our attention due to their euphoric electropop tunes. TEC interviewed the band and had Bea Garcia ponder on what category the outfit belonging in: “We’ve called ourselves everything under the sun and still haven’t quite got the genre right. Electronic-alt-pop, synth-pop, electro-pop, industrial pop, indie-electronic… none of them really fit, but does it matter?”.

But Twist Helix’s second studio album Ouseburn knocked it out of the park. With a strong focus on the decline of local music scenes – and the community around the Ouseburn area of Newcastle – Twist Helix crafted a superb record which our review concluded: ” a superb album of soaring pop tunes that also have a heart and a message lurking within the infectious melodies.”

October gave us the second album from the enigmatic Poppy. TEC’s review walked away impressed: “Am I a Girl? Is a much more polished effort than 2017’s Poppy.Computer. The compositions here are busier, beefier affairs and there’s some impressive tentpole bangers…”

In the midst of a PledgeMusic campaign, the legendary Ladytron took time out to grace the stage at The Roundhouse in London. Although they limited the number of new songs to perform, they still did an excellent turn on their extensive back catalogue with an evocative ‘International Dateline’ and a euphoric ‘Seventeen’.

Parralox brought out their latest remix extravaganza Holiday ’18, an album which boasted covers of classics by the likes of Blondie, The Human League and The Cure. There was even a Dare-inspired cover of ‘Be My Lover Now’, Phil Oakey & Giorgio Moroder’s classic 1985 single.

Empathy Test unveiled new work in the form of the sepulchral ‘Holy Rivers’ and a hymn to themes of anxiety and isolation on ‘Incubation Song’. They also shared the stage with Man Without Country. With both acts sharing a taste for brooding, melancholic reveries, it seemed to be a perfect match. Certainly Man Without Country had a distinct Nordic flavour to his material and it was an entertaining evening for the chilly winter evenings.

After lying relatively low since her 2015 album Art Angels, Grimes came back with a collaboration featured on Poppy’s new album. But then the Canadian musician followed up with the amazing ‘We Appreciate Power’, featuring the talents of HANA. The song combined raw guitars with some warm, euphoric electronic elements. Its themes of artificial intelligence and a digital future seemed to be a timely tune for the 21st Century.

Parralox, meanwhile, came back later in the year with a new single release. “Lounge pop appeal with lush melodies” was how TEC summed up the stylish ‘Paradise’, which featured the distinctive vocals of Marcella Detroit.

Jean-Michel Jarre gave us a winter wonder with his sequel album to 1978’s Equinoxe (which followed on from his classic 1976 album Oxygene). Equinoxe Infinity was a testament to Jarre’s continuing talent for crafting emotive electronica and demonstrates that the French musician still has that magic touch.

2018 was a surprisingly busy 12 months for electronic music, but 2019 is already shaping up to be a similarly packed year of good music. Stick around with The Electricity Club as we bring you more news, reviews and interviews in the year ahead!


CONTRIBUTOR’S LISTS

BARRY PAGE

Top 5 Songs Of 2018

Norway – Promenade Cinema
Zukunftsmusik – U96 feat. Wolfgang Flür
What Do You Do/Waterworks – Bridges
Wonders – VNV Nation
A Month Of Sundays – Savoy

Top 5 Albums Of 2018

Våkenatt – Bridges
See The Beauty In Your Drab Hometown – Savoy
Noire – VNV Nation
Living Ghosts – Promenade Cinema
Reboot – U96

Favourite Event of 2018

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Live at the Royal Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

Best reissue

Planet Jarre – Jean-Michel Jarre

Most Promising New Act

Promenade Cinema


JUS FORREST

Top Songs Of 2018

Fuck Puppet by The Rude Awakening feat. Bridget Gray
Northern Lights – by Soft Cell
The Watchers – by Jean-Michel Jarre

Top 5 Albums Of 2018

Gary Numan – Live At Brixton Academy
Nine Inch Nails – Bad Witch
Gary Numan – The Fallen EP
Jean-Michel Jarre – Equinoxe Infinity
Dicepeople – One From Many

Favourite Event of 2018

Rock The Moor Festival Cookham
Gary Numan with The Skaparis Orchestra

Best reissue

John Foxx – Metamatic 3CD Deluxe Edition

Most Promising New Act

The Rude Awakening feat. Bridget Gray


IMOGEN BEBB

Top 5 Songs Of 2018

Do It All The Time- I DONT KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME
Lose My Mind – Shannon Hurley
Lilo- The Japanese House
New Year’s Eve – Pale Waves
Sweet But Psycho – Ava Max

Top 5 Albums Of 2018

My Mind Makes Noises – Pale Waves
Love Is Dead – CHVRCHES
Am I a Girl? – Poppy
War Torn – She’s Got Claws
You Should Be Paranoid – LegPuppy

Favourite Event of 2018

OMD Liverpool Philharmonic gigs.

Best reissue

Kate Bush Box Sets.

Most Promising New Act

I DONT KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME


JER WHITE

Top 5 Songs Of 2018

Doubtmouth – For Esmé
The Shadow – Millie Turner
Journey – Sarah Nixey
Horizons – Orlean
Tourterelle – Vive La Fete

Top 5 Albums Of 2018

Hello Science – Reed & Caroline
Confident Music for Confident People – Confidence Man
Righteous Woman – For Esmé
Destination Amour – Vive la Fête
We Sleep Again – Dream System 8

Favourite Event of 2018

The Prodigy, Glasgow SECC

Best reissue

Planet Jarre – Jean-Michel Jarre

Most Promising New Act

Millie Turner.


PAUL BROWNE

Top 5 Songs Of 2018

Grimes – We Appreciate Power
Poppy – Time Is Up
Promenade Cinema – A Chemical Haunting
Empathy Test – Incubation Song
OMD – The Daughter Of The Minotaur

Top 5 Albums Of 2018

Promenade Cinema – Living Ghosts
Poppy – Am I a Girl?
Twist Helix – Ouseburn
BOO – Snare
Fröst – Matters

Favourite Event of 2018

OMD Liverpool Philharmonic

Best reissue

Planet Jarre – Jean-Michel Jarre

Most Promising New Act

Fröst