While My Synth Gently Bleeps!
ELECTRONIC is the new magazine from Future Publishing, the same people who gave the world ‘Future Music’, ‘Metal Hammer’ and ‘Classic Rock’. If The Electricity Club had been conceived as a print publication, it possibly might have looked like this!
“ELECTRONIC is about bringing together all different kinds of electronic music – from the early experimentalists through to the current crop of electronic artists, by way of krautrock, synthpop, synthpunk, electro, house, techno, ambient, and so on”. They also promise “No gear reviews, no walk throughs, just up close and personal with the artists you love.”
The last magazine like this of any note was probably Steve Malins’ largely wonderful one-off special ‘Depeche Mode & The Story Of Electropop’ for the Q and Mojo stable back in 2004. Of course, there is Future Music although that has largely been musician as opposed to listener focussed. But before that, there was possibly the trendy Romo rag ‘New Sounds New Styles’.
In Spring 1981, there was an excellent launch edition featuring KRAFTWERK, BRIAN ENO, VISAGE, ULTRAVOX, SPANDAU BALLET, DURAN DURAN and a then unknown DEPECHE MODE but there were already scribblings of discontent within its pages as some of the writers doubted the value of the synthesizer. ‘New Sounds New Styles’ seriously lost its way when it went monthly with forages into jazz funk, latin and psychobilly!
So what of ELECTRONIC’s content? The first good sign is the accompanying CD compiled by BBC 6 Music’s synth champion Mark Jones of Back To The Phuture fame. Although several of the usual suspects are there like OMD’s ‘Electricity’, DEVO’s ‘Whip It’ and YAZOO’s ‘Situation’, there are the unexpected but welcome inclusions of ULTRAVOX’s ‘Mr X’, JAPAN’s ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’, CABARET VOLTAIRE’s ‘Nag Nag Nag’ and THE NORMAL’s ‘TVOD’. A good compilation informs as well as celebrates…so full marks there. And there’s the bonus that the CD is not a horrible mixed collection although as ULTRAVOX’s ‘Mr X’ segues into another song on its parent album ‘Vienna’, the sudden cut as opposed to a special fade on this track is a trifle irritating!
The magazine itself is comprehensive and contains among its main features, a brand new interview with UNDERWORLD as they were working on their triumphant 2012 Olympics opening ceremony soundtrack, a retrospective look at the making of THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Dare’, a silver jubilee celebration of Detroit Techno and an archive 1977 conversation with KRAFTWERK.
The trick of a good article (as was often mastered by the recently lamented entertainment mag ‘The Word’) is to make it a good read for people who probably had limited interest or knowledge in the subject prior. So in the case of UNDERWORLD for The Electricity Club, the text is both informative and entertaining. “…I wanted to build synthesizers. And it was a huge disappointment ‘cos the course was nothing at all like that.” says UNDERWORLD’s Rick Smith on his Electronic and Electrical Engineering degree course…by bizarre coincidence, The Electricity Club had exactly this same experience!!
The story of THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Dare’ is a tricky one for most writers with the inevitable account of how Susanne and Joanne were discovered at the Crazy Daisy disco but just as you think this will be another heard it all before account of V2192, there is the previously little known revelation from Jo Callis, the REZILLOS guitarist who was recruited into the band to provide some experienced songwriting prowess, that he was first shown how to operate a synthesizer by the then recently departed League founder member Martyn Ware !!!
Meanwhile, with KRAFTWERK interviews so difficult to come by even on the internet, archive chit-chat from the days when a snap of percussive white noise had to be triggered with a metal rod rather than clicked via a mouse is delightfully welcome, such is the mystique that the classic Klingklang quartet still command!
Also featured are well-known figures GARY NUMAN, JOHN FOXX, VANGELIS, TANGERINE DREAM, PROPAGANDA, CAN, BLANCMANGE, SPARKS, HEAVEN 17 and ULTRAVOX, cult favourites ASHRA, SILVER APPLES and FAD GADGET plus Veronica Vasicka, curator of the ultra-hip Minimal Wave label. New acts are not left out with HUSKI, IAMAMIWHOAMI, MUNERAN HUMANOS, PURITY RING and TWIN SHADOW all figuring.
Obviously, not everything can be covered in one issue, but by featuring many of the key innovators in electronic music from the last 40 years and members of the new guard, this pilot is an important manifesto. After all, electronic music has always been about looking forward and breaking with tradition.
Overall, the ELECTRONIC team appear to have a full grasp of the scene, unlike several recent attempts by assorted media and record labels to centralise the genre. Thus, this is a well put together publication about musicians, songwriters, producers and shapeshifters, NOT club culture, DJs or the 80s! With its greater depth of artistic breadth, it reaches the parts that other magazines cannot reach…the main quibble though for many will be the price tag of £7.99!
The electronic music audience are a discerning bunch who are happy to spend money on quality product. But paying this much for a magazine will take some getting used to and this could be the sticking point in the long term. If things go well, then ELECTRONIC will go to a second issue in the Autumn and possibly quarterly in the future. But to get there, it requires support…so are you in the Moog for “the new mag for electronic music fans”?
ELECTRONIC Magazine is available at WH Smith and online at:
It can be previewed at:
Text by Chi Ming Lai
2nd August 2012