2017 – The Year In Review

2017 has been an eventful year in the world of electronic music, particularly here in the UK which saw some of the classic acts back in action. But it also saw the emergence of some talented contemporary electronic acts as well. Here’s TEC’s review of the year along with our contributor’s lists of songs and albums that they rated in 2017…


2017 started off in a strange place for The Electricity Club as it found itself in a position to discard the accumulated baggage of many years and give the site a ‘soft reboot’. With an agenda that was focussed purely on music, it was a foundation that provided a sturdy structure for the months ahead.

January saw Austra make a triumphant return with their third studio album Future Politics. Along with lead single ‘Utopia’, the album was a reflection of our times as we entered into a turbulent period in global politics. TEC’s review summed up the album as “…a more intimate and personal approach than previous outings”.

TEC favourites Lola Dutronic also made a welcome return, first with a sequel to their classic ‘Everybody Loves You When You’re Dead’ (now updated to reflect some of the losses music suffered in 2016 such as Lemmy, David Bowie and Prince). We interviewed Lola Dutronic to get some gain some insight into how the globally distant pair produce their music. The duo also managed to bookend the year with a further release when they released the wonderful ‘My Name Is Lola’.

Vitalic came back with the stunning Voyager album. Pascal Arbez’s crunchy flavour of muscular beats and hook-laden melodies was present and correct on his new outing. Tracks such as ‘Waiting For The Stars’ suggested an unabashed nod to Arbez’s favourite ’70s and ’80s songs with a Moroder-esque beat driving this squelchy and engaging electropop wonder. Meanwhile, ‘Sweet Cigarette’ offered up a homage to The Normal’s ‘Warm Leatherette’.

TEC’s Lost Album series delivered some eclectic choices from the vaults for consideration. This included U96’s Replugged, Kon Kan’s Syntonic and Gary Numan’s 1994 album Sacrifice, a release which Barry Page suggested held the keys to the future: “Whilst the album often suffers from its use of some rather unimaginative and repetitive drum loops, the album put Numan firmly back on track.”

Sweden’s Sailor And I, meanwhile, offered up brooding, glacial pop on debut album The Invention Of Loneliness. TEC also spoke to musician Alexander Sjödin, the brains behind the outfit, who summed up his methods thus: “I use music as a kind of meditation. I get into this mood where I turn everything else off and just run as far as I can every time”.

In March, Goldfrapp returned to the fold with new album Silver Eye. While it was a serviceable outing of the glam synth workings that the duo had traded on previously, it was also bereft of many surprises or challenges. A return to Felt Mountain glories seems overdue.

Throughout the year, we were won over by a whole host of emerging electronic acts that caught our attention. This included the “ruptured melodies” of Jupiter-C (a duo championed by the likes of Clint Mansell). The “multi-utility music” of Liverpool’s Lo Five drew our focus to the wonders of the Patterned Air label. Elsewhere, the electro-acoustic sounds of Autorotation provided their own charm while the crunchy qualities of Cotton Wolf also suggested an act worth keeping an eye on.

With the 8th March traditionally being International Women’s Day, we thought it was time to add a twist to it by suggesting an International Women In Electronic Music Day. While the commentary of the likes of Lauren Mayberry (Chvrches) and Claire Boucher (Grimes) had blazed the trail for a level playing field for women, it was still depressing to see tone-deaf blog articles that were essentially ‘Birds With Synths’ being offered up as support.

One of our choices for that esteemed list, Hannah Peel, managed to deliver two albums of note in 2017. The personal journey of Awake But Always Dreaming (inspired by her family’s encounter with dementia) and also the magical world of Mary Casio: Journey To Cassiopeia – an album which our review summed up as “a testament to Hannah Peel’s seemingly endless abilities to craft new and intriguing ideas out of the ether. It’s a cosmic journey that delivers.”

Hopes were high that Basildon’s finest could deliver a solid return to form with their 14th studio album Spirit. But the album divided critics and fans alike on a release which TEC’s review summed up succinctly: “…as impressive as it is lyrically, it’s an often challenging and unsettling listen that doesn’t quite meet up to its billing as “the most energized Depeche Mode album in years.””

Despite the controversy, Depeche Mode still managed to put on their biggest ever UK show, with over 80,000 attendees at London Stadium in June this year.

Elsewhere, another of the old guard was also facing a productive year. Marc Almond released new compilation album Hits And Pieces, which spanned his extensive career from Soft Cell through to his more recent solo work. Although not as comprehensive as 2016’s Trials Of Eyeliner, TEC’s review suggested “…the new compilation offers a more concise selection of music that still manages to cover Almond’s extensive musical career in fine style”.

April saw TEC looking at the dark wave delights of Dicepeople, whose ‘Synthetic’ offered up “brooding gothic synth melodies against a burbling electronic background”. But their cover of Depeche Mode’s ‘Strangelove’ showed the outfit could also deliver muscular electropop that still retained their own unique style. Speaking to Dicepeople’s Matt Brock in an exclusive interview, TEC discovered the band’s strong cinematic touchstone. “Cronenberg’s Videodrome is another huge influence for us with its exploration of very dark themes involving control, voyeurism and the nature of reality as shown via layers of screens (a recurring theme in Dicepeople).”

Marnie released her follow-up to 2013’s Crystal World in the form of Strange Words And Weird Wars. The album demonstrated the Ladytron member’s knack for tunes, which our review summed up as “…a solid album of contemporary electropop that listeners will find intelligent, engaging and yet also fun. Strange Words And Weird Wars is a continuing demonstration on why Marnie is one of electronic music’s most precious assets”.

The emerging generation of electronic artists kept producing new acts of interest throughout 2017. Pixx (who cropped up on our radar after supporting Austra) released The Age Of Anxiety, which our review described as “an album that offers up a combination of smart pop tunes married with thoughtful lyrics”. Hannah Rodgers, the talent behind Pixx, also addressed the surge of nostalgia and retro acts with a philosophical quote: “There are a lot of people who are just trying to recreate things that have already been done, because they’re almost scared of the way modern music sounds, but we do have technology now that allows us to make quite insane-sounding music. And… we are in 2017”.

Kelly Lee Owens was another emerging artist who released her eponymous debut this year. The TEC review summed it up: “At heart an electronic album, the tracks contained within dart between ambient soundscapes and beat-driven compositions”.

AIVIS, a new act that had come to TEC’s attention via The Pansentient League’s Jer White, delivered their debut album Constellate. As with acts such as Lola Dutronic, AIVIS consists of a duo located in separate countries – in this case Aidan from Scotland and Travis based in Ohio. Their use of harmonies and warm synths led us to conclude that “Constellate is a smooth collection of subtle electropop”.

Irish outfit Tiny Magnetic Pets had a good year in which they released a new album and went on to support OMD. The 3-piece unit had made their UK and European live debut back in 2015 championed by Johnny Normal. Now in 2017 they brought new release Deluxe/Debris to bear. TEC’s review gave the album an honest appraisal: “They’ve got the chops to push the envelope, but there are times on this album where, arguably, the band appear happier playing from a safe position. When they introduce their more experimental side, or opt for a more dynamic approach, Tiny Magnetic Pets shine brightest”.

Voi Vang’s powerful voice and dancepop sensibilities made her one of the star turns of 2017. Meanwhile, Twist Helix woke us up with their “dramatic tunes and big, euphoric vocal melodies”. Our Teclist reviews also had good things to say about Elektrisk Gønner, OSHH and Russian outfit Oddity.

Elsewhere, the classic synthpop acts still had a strong showing this year. Erasure released the downbeat World Be Gone, a more reflective album that was heavily influenced by the troubling political climate (a persistent theme for many other releases this year). OMD returned with the follow-up to 2013’s English Electric with The Punishment Of Luxury. The album wore its Kraftwerk influences on its sleeve for a lot of the tracks, while the title number offered a commentary on commercial culture.

German pioneers Kraftwerk brought their 3D experience back to the UK and TEC’s Rob Rumbell offered his thoughts on their Nottingham concert: “…sensory overload… which left you awe-inspired and breathless”.

Blancmange presented a superb compilation of their first three albums titled The Blanc Tapes which we summed up as “the perfect archive for Blancmange’s often-overlooked musical legacy.” Neil Arthur also delivered new studio album Unfurnished Rooms, which prompted an honest critique from TEC’s Imogen Bebb: “whilst as an album it isn’t always easy to listen to, it makes for a welcome new chapter in Blancmange’s ongoing story”.

Howard Jones also went down the compilation route with the comprehensive Best 1983-2017 which the TEC review suggested: “this 3-CD set will have a special appeal not only to loyal Howard Jones fans, but also perhaps a new audience keen to experience the appeal of this pioneering electronic musician”.

While there were bright moments in the year, the music scene also saw tragedy in 2017 with the loss of Can’s Holger Czukay, trance DJ Robert Miles and Roland founder Ikutaro Kakehashi.

Barry Page provided some long-form features which took the focus to Norway’s a-ha, particularly the side projects that the likes of Morten Harket and Paul Waaktaar-Savoy have embarked on.

Speaking of a-ha, although the idea of an acoustic album by an electronic act seemed absurd, it was a concept that the Norwegian outfit embraced for Summer Solstice. The breath-taking arrangements for classics such as ‘Take On Me’ and ‘The Sun Always Shines On TV’ proved that a-ha still had the chops to surprise people.

Meanwhile, Midge Ure’s own orchestral-inspired approach for Ultravox and his solo numbers resulted in the release of Orchestrated later in the year. TEC’s Jus Forrest summed things up: “As an album, Orchestrated is diverse enough to pique interest. It’s contemporary enough to be relevant, and there’s enough classic tracks to reach out to fans”.

The soulful tones of Fifi Rong returned, this time with a bolder electronic sound on ‘The Same Road’. TEC’s review concluded that the new song “…demonstrates that Fifi Rong is capable of adding plenty more colours to her musical palette”.

Kasson Crooker, formerly of Freezepop, also provided some gems throughout 2017. There was the Gishiki album released under his Symbion Project banner – a release that we summed up as “one of the standout electronica releases of the year.” Meanwhile, he launched new outing ELYXR which was designed to be a collaborative project introducing different singers for each subsequent release. This included the warmth of ‘Engine’ as well as the punchier (and lyrically timely!) ‘Godspeed’.

2017 also delivered a diverse selection of electronic music events that showcased a multi-line-up of diverse acts. May saw Synth Club Presents, which included the ever-excellent Vile Electrodes as well as the sultry delights of The Frixion and the energetic pop of Knight$.

Culled from their 2016 album Ath.Lon, in June Greek duo Marsheaux unveiled a new video for ‘Now You Are Mine’.

Meanwhile, July delivered one of the bigger events of the year with Liverpool’s Silicon Dreams. Combining established artists with newer acts, this year’s event pulled together an all-star schedule featuring Parralox, Avec Sans, Future Perfect, Berlyn Trilogy, Caroline McLavy and Voi Vang. As TEC’s review stated: “The 2017 incarnation of Silicon Dreams serves not only as an evening of entertainment, but also as an example of the importance of grassroots electronic music events. By showcasing both up-and-coming talents alongside more established acts, it’s an event which demonstrates a legacy in action”.

August presented the Electro Punk Party which offered up some of the more alternative acts on the scene. This included Dicepeople, Microchip Junky, Hot Gothic, the dark surf guitar of Pink Diamond Revue and the anarchistic LegPuppy. In fact, LegPuppy demonstrated an impressive schedule of live performances throughout the year as well as releasing songs such as the wry observations of ‘Selfie Stick’ and dance-orientated ‘Running Through A Field Of Wheat’.

The regular Synthetic City event returned, this time at Water Rats in King’s Cross. The evening brought with it some superb performances from the likes of Hot Pink Abuse, Eden, The Lunchbox Surrender, Train To Spain and Parralox (marking their second UK live show this year). The weird and wonderful Mr Vast topped things off and the whole affair was superbly organised by Johnny Normal.

Susanne Sundfør, who released the superb Ten Love Songs album back in 2015, brought a much more challenging release in the form of Music For People In Trouble. The album weaved in acoustic touches, spoken word segments and often unsettling soundscapes. But the epic ‘Mountaineers’, featuring the distinctive voice of John Grant, had an almost physical presence with its hypnotic tones.

The mighty Sparks returned with new album Hippopotamus and delivered a superb live performance in London back in October. The same month, the 22rpm electronic music festival took place. Showcased by record label Bit Phalanx, the event featured the likes of Scanner, Derek Piotr, Digitonal, Coppe and a truly stunning performance from Valgeir Sigurðsson.

The Sound Of Arrows brought out their newest album since 2011’s Voyage. Stay Free offered a much more grounded approach to electropop than the dreamy moods of their previous release, but still managed to deliver some cinematic pop moments. Their pop-up shop to promote the album was also a nice touch!

PledgeMusic has proved to be a vital lifeline for many artists in recent years. It’s a funding option which delivered for everyone from Ultravox to OMD. Gary Numan used the platform to fund his 21st studio album Savage (Songs From A Broken World) which provoked critical praise and which Jus Forrest suggested delivered “a flawless production of intrigue; a soundtrack that brings together the atmospheric, the lonely, the eerie and, in places, the added drama of colourful crescendo”.

Empathy Test, an electronic duo from London, also chose the PledgeMusic route and achieved such success that they decided to release not just one, but two albums together. The stunning Losing Touch and Safe From Harm revealed a band that could combine mood and melancholy in an impressive collection of songs. TEC’s conclusion that compositions such as ‘Bare My Soul’ demonstrated a band capable of delivery that was both “mythical and melodious”, also showed the heights that contemporary electropop can ascend to.

As the year drew to its conclusion, there were still some gems to pop up on the radar. Canadian sleazy synth specialist TR/ST teased us with ‘Destroyer’, a nocturnal affair that (along with the year’s earlier release ‘Bicep’) paved the way for a new album due in 2018.

Scanner, who had delivered a stunning performance at the 22rpm event, also unleashed The Great Crater, an album of mood and often brooding unease. Our review’s final conclusion was that “The end result is less listening to a body of work and more being immersed into a physical experience”.

Curxes brought us the hypnotic delights of ‘In Your Neighbourhood’, which paved the way for new album Gilded Cage.

As the winter months drew to a close, we took a look at Parralox’s latest release ‘Electric Nights’, which proved to be a euphoric floor-stomper. Meanwhile, Norway served up Take All The Land, the debut solo album by Simen Lyngroth which TEC’s review summed up as a “beautifully well-crafted and intimate album”.

Perhaps one theme that 2017 demonstrated time and time again is that electronic music continues to evolve and thrive, particularly at the grassroots level where emerging acts are less focused on being a pastiche of the bands of 40 years ago. Instead, there’s a fresh and dynamic scene which has seen a genre looking to the future rather than the past.

This doesn’t scribble over the achievements of decades of previous electronic acts. That history and legacy continues to exist, but perhaps the idea that acts don’t need to be beholden to the classic acts is a concept that younger artists are more willing to entertain.


CONTRIBUTOR’S LISTS

IMOGEN BEBB

Top 5 Songs Of 2017

OMD – The Punishment of Luxury
Gary Numan – My Name Is Ruin
Sparks – What The Hell Is It This Time?
Alphaville – Heartbreak City
Tiny Magnetic Pets – Never Alone

Top 5 Albums Of 2017

OMD – The Punishment of Luxury
Tiny Magnetic Pets – Deluxe/Debris
Blancmange – Unfurnished Rooms
Superdivorce – Action Figures
Brian Eno – Reflection

Favourite Event of 2017

OMD at Liverpool Empire in October.

Most Promising New Act

Superdivorce


JUS FORREST

Top 5 Songs Of 2017

Among the Echoes – Breathe
Tiny Magnetic Pets – Control Me
John Foxx and the Maths – Orphan Waltz
Gary Numan – My Name is Ruin
Gary Numan – Bed of Thorns

Top 5 Albums Of 2017

Jori Hulkkonen – Don’t Believe in Happiness
Gary Numan – Savage (Songs from a Broken World)
Tiny Magnetic Pets – Deluxe/Debris
Hannah Peel – Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia
Richard Barbieri – Planets + Persona

Most Promising New Act

Spaceprodigi


BARRY PAGE

Top 5 Songs Of 2017

OMD – Ghost Star
Waaktaar and Zoe – Mammoth
Depeche Mode – Cover Me
Simen Lyngroth – The Waves
Alexis Georgopoulos and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – The Marble Sky

Top 5 Albums Of 2017

Waaktaar and Zoe – World Of Trouble
Simen Lyngroth – Take All The Land
a-ha – MTV Unplugged Summer Solstice
Empathy Test – Losing Touch
Sparks – Hippopotamus

Favourite Event of 2017

Depeche Mode at London Stadium, June 2017

Most Promising New Act

Simen Lyngroth

Best reissue

China Crisis – Working With Fire and Steel


JER WHITE

Top 5 Songs Of 2017

Tiny Magnetic Pets – Semaphore
2raumwohnung – Lucky Lobster (Night Version)
Sylvan Esso – Die Young
Pixx – I Bow Down
Vitalic (ft. David Shaw and The Beat) – Waiting for the Stars

Top 5 Albums Of 2017

2raumwohnung – Nacht und Tag
The Moonlandingz – Interplanetary Class Classics
AIVIS – Constellate
Jupe Jupe – Lonely Creatures
Vitalic – Voyager

Favourite Event of 2017

Kraftwerk in 3D at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh.

Most Promising New Act

AIVIS


PAUL BROWNE

Top 5 Songs Of 2017

Susanne Sundfør – Mountaineers
Empathy Test – Bare My Soul
Austra – Utopia
TR/ST – Bicep
Curxes – In Your Neighbourhood

Top 5 Albums Of 2017

Empathy Test – Safe From Harm/Losing Touch
Hannah Peel – Mary Casio: Journey To Cassiopeia
Austra – Future Politics
Susanne Sundfør – Music For People In Trouble
Sailor & I – The Invention Of Loneliness

Favourite Event of 2017

Synthetic City 2017

Most Promising New Act

Empathy Test


2017 – Songs Of The Year

Electronic music in 2017…

If 2017 proved anything it was that the field of electronic music is a broad one. A lot of songs grabbed our attention across 12 months of intriguing, captivating and often challenging music. While many classic synthpop acts proved that they could still hold their own, the next generation of electronic artists also demonstrated that they could craft unique tunes that didn’t rely on the past.

Here are 25 songs that are not presented in any particular order, but as whole were the standout tunes for The Electricity Club in 2017.


GARY NUMAN – My Name Is Ruin

The release of Gary Numan’s 21st studio album Savage (Songs From A Broken World) marked the synthpop pioneer’s highest charting album since Telekon back in 1980. This latest body of work transmited a thoughtful concept, centred around the modern-day issues that would seemingly put into question the survival of the planet.

‘My Name Is Ruin’ was the first single to emerge from the album. It gives Numan himself something to be especially proud of, given his daughter, Persia, provides the unique backing vocals on the track. The results – an eclectic mix of the angelic-like choral tapestry set against robust dance-driven beats.

Further reading: Savage (Songs From A Broken World)
http://garynuman.com/


VITALIC (ft. David Shaw and The Beat) – Waiting for the Stars

There’s a robust quality about the electronic tunes contained on this latest release by Vitalic, which appeared to signal a strong start for electronic music in 2017.

Vitalic, aka Pascal Arbez, had been operating since the late 1990s as an underground artist, but achieved a larger profile with the release of his debut album OK Cowboy in 2005. New album Voyager draws from a wealth of influences, including nods to the likes of Giorgio Moroder and Cerrone. Certainly, standout track ‘Waiting For The Stars’ is an unabashed nod to Arbez’s favourite ’70s and ’80s songs, which in places is deliberately out of tune. Featuring vocals from David Shaw, there’s a Moroder-esque beat driving this squelchy and engaging electropop wonder.

Further reading: Voyager
http://www.vitalic.org/


AUSTRA – Utopia

Many of the releases of 2017 seemed to reflect a troubling period in contemporary culture, particularly with politics providing a turbulent backdrop. Austra were one of those outfits and the release of their album Future Politics offered up some thoughtful insight into troubled times.

The familiar bassy synth tones that Austra’s Katie Stelmanis has crafted as part of the classic Austra sound provided the foundations for ‘Utopia’. This rumination on the “collective depression”, that Stelmanis suggests is a result of city living, has strong hooks and melodies as some smart percussive frills keep the song moving along.

Further reading: Future Politics
http://www.austramusic.com/


EMPATHY TEST – Bare My Soul

London-based duo Empathy Test took us by surprise this year with each successive song. On ‘Bare My Soul’, the soaring melodies and heartfelt lyrics have a particular power that manages to undo all those tired old tropes about synthpop being cold and unemotional in one song.

The lyrics offer up brief vignettes, each of which manage to elicit the idea of something being both “tragic and beautiful”. At the same time, there’s a subtle building up of layers of electronic elements that culminates in a powerful delivery that’s both mythical and melodious.

Further reading: Bare My Soul
EmpathyTest.com


TR/ST – Destroyer

One of Canada’s electronic music gems re-emerged earlier this year with a new song and talk of a new album. ‘Bicep’ delivered the trademark sleazy synths and unsettling sounds that made TR/ST (aka Robert Alfons) such a captivating act over the course of 2 previous albums.

‘Destroyer’ shows a departure of sorts here for Alfons, with a much more restrained composition. It’s a more nocturnal affair peppered with reedy intermissions, although Alfons’ grimy vocals are present and correct. The video itself is produced by, and stars, choreographer Ryan Heffington (Sia, Lykke Li, Florence and the Machine, Arcade Fire). It charts a journey through a late night streetscape which is interspersed with oddly unsettling choreography.

Further reading: Destroyer
https://www.facebook.com/dressedforspace


OMD – La Mitrailleuse

Culled from their 2017 album The Punishment Of Luxury, ‘La Mitrailleuse’ takes its inspiration from a painting by the artist CRW Nevinson (regarded as one of the most famous war artists of World War I). Nevinson was deeply affected by what he saw in France during World War I, which had a profound effect on the paintings that he produced at the time. This included the 1915 work La Mitrailleuse, which translates from the French as “the machine gun”.

In the hands of OMD, ‘La Mitrailleuse’ is composed of a mesmerising droning intro which leads to a rhythm track designed to emulate explosions and, in particular, machine-gun fire. Meanwhile, Andy McCluskey intones “Bend your body to the will of the machine”. It’s the perfect companion to Nevinson’s work which sees the style of the soliders rendered in angular shapes, suggesting a merging of man and machine – a theme carried over in the video, which again features the distinctive style of Henning M. Lederer, who previously worked on videos for OMD’s English Electric album.

Further reading: La Mitrailleuse
http://www.omd.uk.com
www.omd-messages.co.uk


SUSANNE SUNDFØR (feat John Grant) – Mountaineers

While the success of her 2015 album Ten Love Songs managed to raise the profile of Norwegian musician Susanne Sundfør, new album Music For People In Trouble took Sundfør back to her singer-songwriter roots. Although the album boasts some fine electronic flourishes, there’s also more nods to jazz and traditional instrumentation.

The album’s crowning achievement is clearly the epic ‘Mountaineers’ which starts with the basso profundo voice of John Grant. Here, Grant’s sonorous delivery echoes from the depths with its lines about “Jumbo jets spiralling down like vultures of the stars”. It’s suggestive of the type of composition that This Mortal Coil were noted for with the emphasis on the voice to provide an compelling hypnotic effect.

When Sundfør comes in, the song suggests a coming to the light from a great darkness, a sudden revelation (“What it means/Now I know”) and builds to a choral symphony that takes the breath away.

Further reading: Music For People In Trouble
http://susannesundfor.com/


DEPECHE MODE – Cover Me

Released in March this year, Depeche Mode’s 14th studio album Spirit has proven to be one of the most divisive collections of new songs in their 37-year career. A sonically-challenging (and often unsettling) listen, the album has certainly divided fans; many of whom haven’t gotten over the fact that Alan Wilder left the band 22 years ago. By contrast, most music critics were united in their affection for the new album, praising the band for their aggressive and new approach, and also for Martin Gore’s politically-charged wordplay.

Like ‘Broken’ on Depeche Mode’s previous album Delta Machine, singer Dave Gahan once again provided the album’s best track in ‘Cover Me’, a slow-building, other-worldly electro-ballad with a Bowie-inspired lyric: “It’s about a person who travels to another planet only to find that, much to his dismay, it’s exactly the same as earth” Gahan explained to Rolling Stone magazine. Featuring some sinister electronics and a beautiful coda that recalled ‘Clean’ from 1990’s career peak Violator, this was space-aged synth rock at its finest.

Further reading: Spirit
http://www.depechemode.com/


LOLA DUTRONIC – My Name Is Lola

As Lola Dutronic, the Toronto/Düsseldorf electronic duo of Richard Citroen and Stephanie B have carved out an impressive career of engaging pop tunes. They jumped back in earlier in the year with a sequel to one of their best known tunes ‘Everybody Loves You When You’re Dead, but it was their love letter to Berlin later in 2017 that stood out for us.

Continuing the duo’s talents for crafting accessible electronic pop with engaging melodies, ‘My Name Is Lola’ is a track that Richard Citroen describes as “a bit of a departure from our usual ‘Wall Of Sound’ approach, we’ve taken on some of Alle Farben & Robin Schulz’s colours”. It’s a quirky pop tune that’s a lot of fun and includes shout-outs to all of the duo’s favourite Berlin haunts.

Further reading: An Interview With Lola Dutronic
https://www.facebook.com/lola.dutronic


DICEPEOPLE – Synthetic

Dicepeople, an electronic outfit from London, had a very busy year with several live performances and also a muscular cover version of Depeche Mode’s ‘Strangelove’. The group have an emphasis on strong visuals as part of their live shows and they draw inspiration from the likes of Depeche Mode, John Carpenter, Siouxsie Sioux, Front 242 and all points inbetween.

‘Synthetic’ is pretty much on-point with its brooding gothic synth melodies against a burbling electronic background. Atashi Tada’s vocal lead is tweaked and distorted and lends the whole affair a cyberpunk aesthetic.

Further reading: Synthetic
An Interview With Dicepeople
http://dicepeople.com/


LEGPUPPY – #Selfie Stick – Narcissistic Prick

Electro punk outfit LegPuppy have a knack for cultural commentary. Take ‘Selfie Stick’, which the 4-piece outfit released earlier this year. There’s a brooding quality to the song; a prowling tonal mood with cynical synths that provides the foundation for a lyrical dragging on Instagram culture (“Instagram that pic/Snapchat me a vid/I’ll show you my dick”). It’s a timely theme in a world where people are measured on the number of followers they have on Twitter or the belief that 17,000 ‘Likes’ can provide a fig-leaf of sorts for an empty, shallow soul.

Or as LegPuppy themselves put it: “Welcome to the Age of Narcissism where our future leaders are more interested in how many likes their stupid selfie gets on social media. Where their heroes and inspirations are Reality TV stars.”

Further reading: Selfie Stick
http://legpuppy.net/


ELYXR (feat Naoko of Princess Problems) – Godspeed

Seattle-based electronic musician/producer Kasson Crooker put together a new project for 2017 which sought to include his particular take on electronic music with a diverse range of singers.

‘Godspeed’ marked one of these releases, with the vocals coming care of Naoko Takamoto (Princess Problems). There’s a raw energy at work on a busy composition that also seems to elicit a sense of unease. Despite this, there’s a kinetic quality to the electronic melodies threaded through the piece. Conceived before Trump’s US victory, ‘Godspeed’ was penned as a reverie on the concerns such a presidency would bring. Lyrics such as “gather up your belongings/’cause he’s coming” pretty much seals the deal.

Further reading: Godspeed
http://www.symbionproject.com/


CURXES – In Your Neighbourhood

When Curxes first made their presence known several years back, they brought with them a very different approach to electronic music that presented one of the more captivating acts on the scene. Pulling from a variety of influences, the Curxes unique sound of stark pop ran through songs such as ‘The Constructor’ and ’Creatures’.

Describing themselves as “a decorative set of bones, channeling the ghosts of Discothéques past”, Curxes were a perfect fit for the first Electricity Club event staged in 2011. But it was a journey that also saw them later remixing the likes of Chvrches on the Scottish trio’s 2013 Recover EP.

‘In Your Neighbourhood’ (taken from new album Gilded Cage) shows Roberta Fidora opting for a much more languid style of singing combined with a warm, engaging layer of electronics. Meanwhile, the video is a strange amalgamation of a lost children’s puppet show and a TV repair shop.

Further reading: In Your Neighbourhood
www.curxes.com
www.robertafidora.com


THE SOUND OF ARROWS – Beautiful Life

‘Beautiful Life’ marked the welcome return of Swedish synthpop outfit The Sound Of Arrows in 2017. It’s a composition that continues the electronic duo’s talent for cinematic pop, but there’s also a more organic element with big string arrangements prominent in the mix. “Turn up the music and bring down the rain” suggests the dreampop lyrics atop subtle synth rhythms. Meanwhile, the track is given plenty of epic sweeps courtesy of the strings section.

The band later released new album Stay Free, presenting a more grounded take on the classic Sound Of Arrows formula.

Further reading: Stay Free
http://www.thesoundofarrows.com/


PIXX – I Bow Down

Taking her name from a nickname associated with her grandmother, Hannah Rodgers embarked on her musical career as Pixx in 2015. A former Brit School student (where the likes of Adele and Amy Winehouse had their roots), Rodgers signed to the 4AD label at the impossibly young age of 19.

Debut album The Age Of Anxiety, presented a collection of songs that offer up electronic music that’s both accessible, yet also has a sense of quirkiness and charm. ‘I Bow Down’, for instance, starts from simple foundations before building an insistent beat that works its magic. The video, with its strange visuals, also keeps things interesting.

Further reading: The Age Of Anxiety
http://pixxmusic.com


FIFI RONG – The Same Road

The soulful, beguiling style of Fifi Rong has been winning over both the press and the public for many years via releases such as Next Pursuit and Future Never Comes. It’s an impressive catalogue that also suggested that the London-based musician had carved out her niche and was happy with heading in that particular musical direction.

However, her new release ‘The Same Road’ sees Fifi do a left turn with a tune that’s distinctly more electropop-orientated than previous outings. Here, the lush soundscapes are put to one side for a cleaner, sharper approach to song arrangement. Electronic melodies echo through the song, augmented by Fifi’s familiar mesmerising vocals. At the same time, this is a tune crafted in the form of contemporary electronic music, rather than as a pastiche of ‘80s synthpop, which is always a bonus.

By bringing onboard the mixing talents of Max Dingel, who previously worked with the likes of Goldfrapp (as well as White Lies and Muse), the dynamic qualities of ‘The Same Road’ presents an engaging number that’s likely to surprise long-term Fifi Rong enthusiasts.

Further reading: The Same Road
http://www.fifirong.com


WAAKTAR & ZOE – Open Face

With much of the attention this year centred around a-ha’s new acoustic project, Paul Waaktaar-Savoy’s collaborative album with singer Zoe Gnecco, World Of Trouble, passed by almost unnoticed earlier this year. Which was a shame because this was as good as – if not better than – a-ha’s last studio album Cast In Steel. In fact, one such track, ‘Open Face’, almost made it on to a-ha’s 2015 comeback album, but was overlooked in favour of inferior cuts such as ‘Door Ajar’.

Released as a single in April this year ‘Open Face’ is certainly the most electronic track on the New York-based duo’s album, and boasts some fine Kraftwerkian synth work from Kurt Uenela, who has also collaborated with Dave Gahan on some of Depeche Mode’s recent releases (including this year’s Spirit).

Further reading: Lifelines: The Side Projects of a-ha
http://waaktaar.com/


THE RUDE AWAKENING (feat Brooke Calder) – Let Nothing Take Your Pride

When he’s not promoting the likes of the Synth City event electronic music event, Johnny Normal also spends time on writing and composing under his own steam.

Under the banner of The Rude Awakening, which sees Johnny bringing onboard the talents of Brooke Calder (Lolly Pop, A*O*A, POP INC), new release ‘Let Nothing Take Your Pride’ offers a reflection of our times in its themes. There’s a defiant tone to the track which deals with anyone who’s come under fire from life: “Struggling with your conscience I try to make you see/but all around your friends surround taking a piece of me”. Revolving around themes of resilience and fighting your corner, the song could be said to be a rallying call for those that have been beaten down.

The track (which also saw its live premiere at September’s Synth City event) draws from the classic synthpop template with an anthemic pop approach peppered with synthetic brass stabs. With some polished backing vocals by long-time friend and collaborator Brooke Calder, ‘Let Nothing Take Your Pride’ presents an electropop tune with some whack.

Further reading: Let Nothing Take Your Pride
www.abnormalproductions.rocks


PARRALOX – Electric Nights

Johanna Gervin once again demonstrates that she’s one of the finest voices in the world of electropop with her vital vocals on ‘Electric Nights’.

It’s a euphoric floor-stomper crafted in the style that only Parralox can pull off. ‘Electric Nights’ also comes with a suitably dynamic video packed with visual delights. It’s an explosion of primary colours and effects that lends the whole affair a dayglo sheen. The composition actually dates back to 2002, back when Roxy was part of the Parralox line-up (she also co-wrote the song). The tune was submitted to the Australian Independent Music Awards – and apparently won Best Dance song in 2003, but plans to release it seemed to get delayed due to Parralox’s hectic schedule.

Further reading: Electric Nights
www.parralox.com


BRUCE WOOLLEY & POLLY SCATTERGOOD (with The Radio Science Orchestra) – Video Killed the Radio Star

When it comes to pop tunes, there’s a select few that manage to be immediately recognisable regardless of whatever decade they were recorded in. So the iconic opening bars of The Buggles’ ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ have been so impressed on popular culture that it’s difficult to imagine that there’s anyone unfamiliar with the tune anywhere on the planet.

The song was reimagined earlier this year care of one of the tune’s original composers – Bruce Wooley – in collaboration with dark pop chanteuse Polly Scattergood. The new version (which carries the subtitle of ‘Dark Star’) opts for a radical deconstructed adaptation of the song in conjunction with the Radio Science Orchestra (a project established by Bruce Wooley). As a result, Polly Scattergood’s laconic vocals in tandem with the orchestral arrangement lend the song an intriguingly evocative sound that still manages to lose none of the original composition’s power.

Further reading: Video Killed the Radio Star
www.radioscience.com


MARNIE – G.I.R.L.S

The release of 2013’s Crystal World album demonstrated that Helen Marnie continued to display a talent for good electronic music, even while Ladytron were on an extended hiatus.

Drawing comparisons with the likes of Ladyhawke and Goldfrapp, Marnie’s latest album Strange Words And Weird Wars has opted for a much more electronic palette on this release, which also throws a nod or two to synthwave. ‘G.I.R.L.S’, with its cheerleading chants, offers up one of the strongest tracks on the album. It’s Pop with a capital ‘P’.

Further reading: Strange Words And Weird Wars
http://www.helenmarnie.com/


TWIST HELIX – Little Buildings

There’s an energy to Twist Helix that definitely leaves an impression. Hailing from Newcastle, Twist Helix consists of singer and synth player Bea, bassist Michael and drummer James.

New release ‘Little Buildings’ (taken from forthcoming album Ouseburn) has a solid sound to it which is helped by their willingness to embrace a variety of instrumentation, including guitar and live drums. The result is a robust tune which is topped off with Bea’s powerful vocals.

Further reading: Twist Helix
https://www.twisthelix.com/


SIMEN LYNGROTH – The Waves

Simen Lyngroth is a Norwegian singer-songwriter with a distinctively soft and crystalline voice, who is currently enjoying a dual career; as both a member of folk-pop trio Ask and as a solo artist exhibiting more electronic influences.

Awash with snowcapped melancholia, debut solo album Take All The Land is strongly influenced by Radiohead and features a number of fine jazz-infused electro-ballads. Arguably, one of the album’s most immediate and commercial cuts was ‘The Waves’, and it was duly released as a single in October. Deviating from the formula slightly with its use of programmed electronics, this was a standout track from one of this year’s most exciting new releases.

Further reading: Take All The Land
http://www.simenlyngroth.com/


SAILOR & I – Chameleon

Swedish electronic musician Alexander Sjödin caught everyone’s attention in 2017 under the moniker Sailor & I. Debut album The Invention Of Loneliness bounced between icy pop and beats-driven electronica…

Nestling among the tracks on the album, ‘Chameleon’ has a subtle power to it that can take a few spins to appreciate. There’s a dark piano melody over which Sjödin’s yearning vocal offers hints of change or transformation. Meanwhile, a gradually-building slab of stark electronics gives the track a dark pop appeal.

Further reading: The Invention Of Loneliness
http://sailorandi.se/


VOI VANG – Mirror


As one of the artists performing at last summer’s Silicon Dreams event, Voi Vang made an impression as someone to watch.

‘Mirror’ demonstrates her knack for dancepop with an electronic flavour. The track starts out with a plaintive piano melody before transforming into a much more dynamic outing. Bouncing between pop and EDM elements, there’s a captivating use of rhythms and melodies to produce a powerful dance floor filler. It’s also a track that reveals Voi Vang’s impressive vocal range, which has a punchy, direct power that sits in tandem with the driving electronic beats.

Further reading: Voi Vang
https://voivang.bandcamp.com/releases


Text by Paul Browne and Barry Page.


An Interview With LOLA DUTRONIC

Life with Lola…

As Lola Dutronic, the Toronto/Düsseldorf electronic duo of Richard Citroen and Stephanie B have carved out an impressive career of engaging pop tunes. Originally conceived by Richard Citroen to combine his love of ‘60s French pop with modern electronic music, Lola Dutronic’s music pulls together a talent for melody, witty lyrics and a captivating vocal style to form a catalogue of electronic pop with a unique sense of charm.

Their 2015 album Lost In Translation presented the band at their best, particularly with their scathing commentary on modern cultural conceits such as reality TV and social networking.

Lola Dutronic have certainly been prolific this year. They kicked things off with a sequel to their 2012 song ‘Everybody Loves You When You’re Dead’. The tune’s blackly humorous lyrics about how musicians appear to enjoy their best attention only once they’re dead got a contemporary update in the form of ‘Everybody Loves You When You’re Dead (The Sequel)’.

The pair followed this up with their take on ‘Male Stripper’ (with Man2Man) and they’ve just released their newest single ‘My Name Is Lola’.

Their latest outing continues the duo’s talents for crafting accessible electronic pop with engaging melodies. Essentially a love letter to Berlin, ‘My Name Is Lola’ is a track that Richard Citroen describes as “a bit of a departure from our usual ‘Wall Of Sound’ approach, we’ve taken on some of Alle Farben & Robin Schulz’s colours”.

Originally, the pair had planned to record the lyrics in Stephanie’s native German. But translating Richard’s English lyrics proved unworkable, so they left it alone. “We did manage to include German shout-outs to all our favourite Berlin haunts!” adds Richard.

The Electricity Club spoke to both Richard Citroen and Stephanie B on life in Lola Dutronic. Ich bin Lola!


What are the pros and cons of working when the pair of you are in separate countries?

Richard: Apart from the technical marvel of recording over the interwebs, about the only pro I can think of is the time difference. I’m a morning person and Steph’s a night owl, so when we record together, it’s lunchtime at my end and early evening at hers, so that works out well for both of us.

Cons are that it’s hard to capitalize on any local interest and it’s very difficult to organize live shows – mostly because of the expense involved – although we have managed it a time or two with our friend and unofficial 3rd member, Dirk Krause filling in for me on the European dates.

Stephanie: Richard already said it all – yes, finally being a night owl comes in quite handy!

How does the process of writing new songs start?

Stephanie: As Richard is the mastermind behind the project and writes pretty much everything, I come in rather late in the process. When he has finished a couple of songs, he sends them to me with a guide vocal and some notes, and then I start recording my parts.

Richard: Once we’ve sorted out the keys properly, Steph then adds her vocals and her sometimes amazingly elaborate harmonies and sends them back to me, where I mix the whole thing.

We usually Skype each other before going for a take to sort out what kind of mood to go for etc., but the harmonies are always a total surprise.

It’s not 100% foolproof. We’ve binned a number of songs that haven’t worked out properly, but I’d say our hits to misses ratio is about 80%.

Lola Dutronic has moved on quite a bit from the early days of covering French pop. How do you view Lola Dutronic today in terms of what defines the sound of the outfit? Or is it a continually evolving process?

Richard: It’s a definitely an evolving process.

I liked doing the French pop thing, mostly because I love the sound of the language, but it started to get old, and a friend of mine came up to me at a gig in 2007 and called us “adult contemporary” and I thought to myself, “I’m not having that!”, so I started to rethink the whole thing. So much so that the next time we played live, the same guy congratulated us on our “raw sound”. A bit of splash and buzz and four-on-the-floor can work wonders, you know?

Whenever I’ve revisited some of our early albums, I’m struck by how dirgey a lot of it is, which was quite surprising, since it didn’t seem so at the time, but nowadays we’ve definitely got a much more Eurodisco sound than we ever used to.

Of course a lot of that has to do with Stephanie being German… which is a language I’d like to utilize a bit more in the future.

I think it’s really important to move forward to the best of your ability, and while it’s an easy trap to live in your own particular bubble, I do try to stay on top of what’s happening in the charts. Of course for all I know our next record might end up sounding like The Chainsmokers, although somehow I doubt it.

[blockquote align=”right”]

“All my friends will tell you that I’m a bit of a wise-ass and I thought it might be nice to get some of that into the songs”

[/blockquote]

There’s a very particular sense of humour to some of Lola Dutronic’s songs, I’m thinking in particular of songs such as ‘Everybody Loves You When You’re Dead’ and ‘Go Fuck Yourself’. Are you ever worried about any negative response your songs will provoke?

Richard: I initially started writing songs like that because, apart from the fact that I’d gotten fed up with writing “Moon & June” type lyrics, I wanted to get some of my own personality into the songs. All my friends will tell you that I’m a bit of a wise-ass and I thought it might be nice to get some of that into the songs. People don’t seem to mind, and if they do, apart from the usual tiresome online haters, they’ve certainly kept it to themselves.

Stephanie: Richard is a hell of a storyteller, not only in his lyrics, but also in real life. It is always very enjoyable hanging out with him, and I’m glad his very particular sense of humor, as you put it, finds its way into his songs. I guess people who cannot relate to it, simply choose something else to listen to.

Was it a strange experience revisiting ‘Everybody Loves You When You’re Dead’?

Richard: Slightly strange, yes. For years, whenever a high profile musician died, we’d get people suggesting that we add a verse about them. People like Lou Reed etc., but we didn’t think it was such a good idea. This continued right up until the end of last year and still we resisted, but the final straw was George Michael dying at Christmas. All of sudden a couple of artists that I know and respect got in touch and suggested that it might not be such a bad idea after all, so I thought, screw it, let’s do it!

From a musical point of view, I liked the idea of revisiting the track so that I could incorporate some of the production techniques I’d developed over the last couple of years and finally mix it properly.

Stephanie: From the technical side, yes. Once I finish a song, it is finished, and that can even go so far that I even forget the lyrics again, unless I prepare for a performance, because of course I don’t listen to my own stuff day in day out. So re-recording a song that had been already finished a couple of years ago was something new, and I wonder what will happen when we play it live in the future, now that I have so many verses to choose from!

Were there any artists that you considered, but didn’t make the cut for the new versions of ‘Everybody Loves You When You’re Dead’?

Richard: I thought about including Carrie Fisher because pretty much everybody loved her, but she was a film star and I wanted to stick to musicians.

Greg Lake was a possibility, but despite his epic talent and the fact that ELP is what got me interested in synths in the first place, he always irritated me on a personal level, so he was out.

However, I did manage to include a little nod to Keith Emerson in the synth break. Too bad nobody’s noticed yet!

Since I wrote the first version very quickly, I wanted to do the same with this version, but if I’d taken a little more time I would have probably re-written the George Michael verse and not gone for the cheap joke, because even though a lot of his music was a bit too middle-of-the-road for my liking, I loved George Michael. However, I stand by the Prince lines, which everybody seems to like.

Do you think that the ever-changing landscape of the music industry makes it increasingly difficult for new bands?

Richard: We’ve got what I like to think is some sort of profile, but we get asked to perform for free all the time, so I can’t even imagine what it must be like for new bands just starting out.

[blockquote align=”right”]

“It’s getting to the point that only people that come from money can afford to get in the game”

[/blockquote]

Certainly those pay-to-play multi-band bills with a half dozen bands seemingly chosen at random is no way to go.

I’m not the first person to suggest this I’m sure, but given what people seem to expect in the way of production values on stage now and the high costs involved for even the simplest shows, it’s getting to the point that only people that come from money can afford to get in the game. Now this is fine when it’s someone who is actually talented like Lana Del Rey, but the day is coming when it’s going to be someone with no discernible talent buying their way onto a label and into the charts.

Stephanie: I think what makes it hard for new bands is that there is such A LOT OF music around. There are not only a few big idols, but hundreds of thousands of artists competing for the audience’s attention on the different music outlets, and many of them are actually good! So you get new music offered each day, narrowing the attention span for each artist, album or song down more and more. I myself discover new bands through Spotify playlists each day, and the albums I have saved are now so numerous that I can’t listen to them all anymore. Many of these artists are self produced, and I guess that also many or most of them cannot make a living from releasing their music and playing shows. Recording at home has become very affordable, and musicians are producing great stuff all by themselves, but in the end they HAVE to, as it has become even harder to MAKE money with your music in a field with so many others to compete with.

What are your thoughts on crowdfunding schemes for music, such as PledgeMusic and Kickstarter?

Richard: We’d start one tomorrow morning [to] finance a tour, but I’m afraid we’d probably only raise not much more than a tenner, but I think it’s a cool thing if you actually need it. However, I think that it’s a disgrace that they allow Amanda Palmer anywhere near it. She certainly doesn’t need the money.

Stephanie: If you know who your fans are and how to address them, crowdfunding can be a very good tool for you. But if you have 100 Facebook fans and are hoping that you can attract new fans by a crowdfunding campaign, because somebody “discovers” you between all the other Kickstarter projects and is convinced by your music to give you money, forget it. You need loyal fans who will buy your CD anyway, because they will help you producing it by giving you the money in advance. Otherwise, you risk your image with a crowdfunding campaign that did not raise the money you needed.

I have no problem with Amanda Palmer doing crowdfunding, she does not take anything away from any other artist, and rather gave an example to us how it needs to be done.

Lost In Translation features some quite scathing critiques on social networking and the phenomenon of reality TV. Do these reflect your own thoughts on these aspects of modern life?

Richard: ‘Reality TV’ is a song I co-wrote with my friend Manoush, who is a cult-film actress and singer in Germany, so most of the lyrics are hers. However I certainly agree with the sentiments, as it’s a mystery to me why anyone would watch people like the Kardashians. They don’t seem to do anything, and we’re watching them not do it.

As for social networking, well it’s really taken over everyone’s lives hasn’t it? I’m itching to pick up my phone right now! It is weird how it’s brought people both closer together and further apart at the same time. Certainly it’s not doing the greeting card industry any favours, is it? I wish people happy birthday on Facebook all the time, but I can’t remember the last time I sent anyone an actual card in the mail.

Stephanie: Yes, WHY do people watch the Kardashians – I also don’t get it. But although I don’t “get” many of the trends out there these days, and it has always been that way, I guess from time to time one also needs to get vocal about it. My own social media use is pretty limited to Facebook, but I only log in there once a week or so, I have less than 100 friends there, and Facebook surely is not how I stay in touch with them.

I see most social media outlets as useful tools for (self) promotion rather than a way to connect with my friends.

What does the future hold for Lola Dutronic?

Richard: No idea. Just keep going and hope somebody notices… although I think we’d both love to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest. I’m British and Stephanie’s German, so why not?


Outside of the joint interview, we also quizzed Lola Dutronic’s team individually to explore the band’s history and the equipment they use. Richard Citroen reflects on past and muses on the elements that make Lola Dutronic work – and also his thoughts on the late Marty Thau. The former New York Dolls manager, who also worked with Suicide, was an important figure in Lola Dutronic’s history when the band signed to his newly revived Red Star record label in 2010…

What originally inspired you to do such unique versions of classic French pop songs?

Richard: I was messing around on my computer doing some Moby-type tracks and one day I thought it would sound cool to have a French girl singing on it, so I sampled up some old Francoise Hardy records. They sounded cool and so I sent them to a label in Vancouver. They weren’t interested because of the licensing issues, but they did ask me to have a go a remixing Katrina & The Waves’ ‘Walking On Sunshine’ for them. Somewhere along the line I realized that the resulting dub-ish type track fit perfectly with Serge Gainsbourg’s ‘Je Taime No Moi Plus’. The finished remix wasn’t releaseable for technical reasons, so I hit on the idea of redoing it with my singer Frankie Hart, who spoke French. While this newer version was much brighter and poppier than I had originally planned, Lola Dutronic was born!

Can you talk a little about what instruments and equipment you use in the studio?

I have a pretty minimal set-up that’s really starting to show it’s age.

The usual iMac, DAW (Acid Pro 6) and M-Audio interface with a couple of synths (MicroKorg & Yamaha EP340), plus a Fender Stratocaster and a little Vox amp, plus a couple of outboard FX units.

I’d love to get a Nord or some of the new Korgs & Rolands and maybe an Arturia synth.
Just something to broaden the palette a bit, although I must confess I’m not much of a gear head.

What do you think Marty Thau brought to Lola Dutronic that you still think is important today?

[blockquote align=”right”]

“Marty taught me how to make a record properly and to think outside that little indie box”

[/blockquote]

Marty taught me how to make a record properly and to think outside that little indie box. Having been associated with some proper hits in the past, he viewed everything through that prism. While he was under no illusions about the commercial viability of some of the acts on Red Star, we both agreed that if you don’t think your record is a hit, why should anyone else?

He also got me to appreciate the beauty of Suicide, who up until that point were only of historical interest to me.

What are your thoughts on the fact that Canada has been putting out some impressive bands and artists in recent years? Are there any that stand out particularly for you?

I’m assuming that you mean people like Austra and Pirate Coleure and while they’re cool, the one Canadian act that’s impressed me the most is The Weeknd. I work with a lot of local Toronto acts, rappers/singers mostly, and about 4-5 years ago, I started getting people asking me if I could make them sound like The Weeknd. And I’m like… Who? I’d never heard of him, so I checked him out online, and was really impressed. Some of his stuff was barking mad like the one where he does his thing over that Portishead machine gun track. I mean who does that?! Around the same time we both appeared in a round-up article of cool acts out of Canada, so I was happy about that, so I generally kept an eye on him.

I’m really pleased with his recent chart topping success. I hear him everywhere I go.


German-based singer and musician Stephanie B provides the mesmerising vocals for Lola Dutronic. Here, she reflects on her background in music and how her distinctive vocal style was developed for the band…

Can you talk a bit about your background and interest in music?

Stephanie: I have always rather been a verse-chorus-bridge kind of person, meaning I like straightforward pop tracks. However, I got kind of stuck in the ’60s. I like a lot of what comes from this time from Francoise Hardy, Frankie Valli, Jackson Five, Serge Gainsbourg, and also film music by the likes of Francis Lai, Lalo Schifrin and others, as well as a lot of Bossa Nova. Masterful use of songwriting skills and harmonies, and this underlying melancholy…

Today, I also listen to electropop acts as well as acoustic singer songwriters. And I kind of find pieces of all of this in Lola Dutronic.

You’ve got a very distinctive singing approach which certainly appears to reference that classic French style. Do you draw inspiration from any particular singers?

Well, I guess most has been said already with my previous answer. I have been inspired by certain music and singers, but when I joined forces with Richard, we developed the current style of Lola Dutronic together.

Germany has its own rich musical history, but are there any more recent German artists or bands that stand out for you?

I have to admit that I am not so in touch with what is really popular in Germany right now – it is male pop-rock with German lyrics and all sounds the same to me.

However, I recently liked the pretty successful female duo BOY, the not-so-successful-yet band JOCO and the hopefully soon-successful band HOLYGRAM.


The Electricity Club extends its warmest thanks to Richard Citroen and Stephanie B.

‘My Name Is Lola’ is out now.

https://geo.itunes.apple.com/us/album/my-name-is-lola-single/1310134654?mt=1&app=music
https://soundcloud.com/user-852942535/my-name-is-lola
http://loladutronic.bandcamp.com
https://twitter.com/LolaDutronic
https://www.facebook.com/lola.dutronic


INTERNATIONAL WOMEN IN ELECTRONIC MUSIC DAY

On International Women’s Day, a showcase for those women who work in the world of electronic music…

International Women’s Day, which falls on 8th March each year, has become an opportunity to not only recognise the achievement of women throughout history, but to also raise awareness of issues such as gender equality, violence, women in science & technology and to promote the aspirations of girls and women worldwide.

On the basis that women have made a significant impact on the world of electronic music across decades, with people such as Delia Derbyshire, Daphne Oram, Bebe Barron, Wendy Carlos and Laurie Anderson being pioneers in their own distinct ways, we thought that we’d celebrate in our way with an International Women In Electronic Music Day.

It’s not always been an easy time for women in music and even today there are challenges and problems that have made the path difficult for some musicians. Lauren Maybery of Chvrches has spoken at length about the rise in misogyny, particularly in online commentary. Equally, Claire Boucher of Grimes fame has had to address issues within the world of music production (which ironically led to some misinformed writers to conclude that Boucher was flying a flag for militancy). It’s also something that Katie Stelmanis of Austra has addressed more recently.

To celebrate the contributions that women have made to electronic music, we thought it made sense to flag up some of the musicians, composers and singers that TEC has championed in the past. This selection is by no means definite and certainly isn’t designed to present a complete picture of women in electronic music, but is purely a sampling of the broad range of electronic music that women are active in.


Princess Chelsea

If there’s one particular star on the electronic music scene that’s been on the ascendant in recent years, it’s New Zealand’s Princess Chelsea. Scoring a cult hit with the indie charms of ‘The Cigarette Duet’, her 2011 album Lil’ Golden Book also demonstrated a fine talent for wistful electronica and tales of growing up in Auckland.

Her 2015 album The Great Cybernetic Depression cranked the electronic elements up to ’11’ and showcased songs that had a much more raw and personal edge. There was also a concept album approach which La Chelsea herself described as: “it represents a personal and societal depression due to social change triggered by technology.”


Hannah Peel


The varied musical career of Hannah Peel has presented a musician and composer with a particular ability to craft evocative melodies and compelling lyrics. Her most recent release Awake But Always Dreaming was assembled from the singer’s own encounter with the debilitating effects of dementia in her own family.

‘All That Matters’ combined fine electronic pop elements with a sweeping, uplifting quality to it. Released as a single, the track employs a combination of synth hooks and strings measured against Peel’s haunting vocal.


Marsheaux


Hailing from Greece, Marsheaux combine the ethereal vocal style of Sophie Sarigiannidou and Marianthi Melitsi with distinctive percussive rhythms and unashamedly electronic melodies. Their 2003 debut album E-Bay Queen and 2006 release Peekaboo demonstrated both an ability for original synthpop married with a smart choice of cover versions (such as The Lightning Seeds’ ‘Pure’ and New Order’s ‘Regret’).

Their most recent release was Ath.Lon although, arguably, it was their phenomenal 2009 album Lumineux Noir that set the bar. That album demonstrated a clear linear progression from their early material through to the bold, impulsive electronic masterpiece that few contemporaryacts have managed to emulate.


Kid Moxie


Originally from Greece, but now resident in LA, Kid Moxie is the musical moniker of Elena Charbila. Kid Moxie’s music is a blend of powerful beats, pop sweetness and haunting melodies. She’s collaborated with the likes of Twin Peaks composer Angelo Badalamenti and Clint Mansell and more recently released the excellent Perfect Shadow EP.


Susanne Sundfør


Susanne Sundfør’s musical career set a particularly high standard with the release of her 2015 album Ten Love Songs. The Norwegian musician’s glacial landscapes of electronic melancholy had a very particular personal touch and it’s small wonder that the album received critical acclaim.


Austra


Katie Stelmanis was another Canadian musician who made an impact in the world of electronic music on the back of several releases by Austra. From 2011’s Feel It Break through to the most recent album Future Politics, Stelmanis has brought to bear not only a stellar talent for tunes, but on the latest release a more pronounced commentary on politics.

The familiar bassy synth tones that Stelmanis has crafted as part of the classic Austra sound provide the foundations for ‘Utopia’. This rumination on the “collective depression”, that Stelmanis suggests is a result of city living, has strong hooks and melodies as some smart percussive frills keep the song moving along.


Grimes


The phenomenal success of her previous album Visions clearly caused something of a dilemma for Claire Boucher. The album had, in many ways, been a gear change from her earlier work in opening up the often cryptic soundscapes that had been the trademark sound of Grimes previous.

But Art Angels delivered a much more commercial vehicle for Grimes that could have swayed fans had it not been for the quality of the material on the album. Grimes goes electropop for ‘Kill V. Maim’ with its harsh percussion and insistent bass beat, sounding as if Hooky had dropped by the studio for a session. Again, it’s a fine example of the natural evolution of the Grimes sound. “I’m only a man/do what I can” intones Boucher on one of the more memorable tracks on the album.


Marina And The Diamonds


Marina Diamandis has consistently produced top tunes under the guise of Marina And The Diamonds, but also manages to switch gear on every subsequent release. The intimate Froot was an example of the talent that the Welsh musician can bring to bear.

‘Forget’ was one of Froot’s hidden gems with catchy hooks and a euphoric chorus. It’s lyrical themes of regret and moving forward utilise Marina’s smart wordplay as she regrets the times spent chasing rabbits when “I was born to be the tortoise/I was born to walk alone”.


Polly Scattergood

There’s a good combo of the ethereal with the more intense part of the electropop spectrum in dark pop chanteuse Polly Scattergood’s material. Her 2013 album Arrows received critical acclaim and Scattergood describes herself as a storyteller: “I write about emotions and moments, not all are biographical”.

More recently Scattergood lent her vocal talents to a reworked version of ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’.


Christine And The Queens


French outfit Christine And The Queens managed to make an impact in 2016 via the subtle electropop touches of album Chaleur Humaine. Founder Héloïse Letissier, who has described Christine And The Queens’ sound as “freakpop”, managed to bring a Gallic charm to electronic music alongside visually arresting choreography for live shows. Huge in France, Christine And The Queens gained a broader audience through a 2015 US tour with Marina And The Diamonds.

2016 brought us the UK release of ‘Tilted’ whose oddly effective ‘reversed’ melodies and engaging beats helped pave the way for Chaleur Humaine. ‘Tilted’ represents an approach that slips easily into accessible commercial pop, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing for a catalogue of work that features an intriguing talent at work.


Princess Century


Occasionally on percussion duties for Austra (and formerly part of TR/ST), Maya Postepski has also carved out her own singular electronic music path under the guise of Princess Century.

Dipping into “minimalist cosmic disco psychedelia” as well as the “weird Krauty EDM vibe” of recent material, there’s something oddly compelling about Postepski’s unique electronic explorations.


Lola Dutronic


The trans-global duo of Lola Dutronic have been pushing out quality electronic music since 2004. From adaptations of 60s French pop through to musings on modern pop culture, the outfit’s finest moment to date is arguably their 2015 album Lost In Translation album.

One of the strongest components of Lola Dutronic is the sultry vocals of Germany-based singer Stephanie B – here working wonders on a sequel to one of their best songs.


Goldfrapp


The collaborative duo of Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory have charted an intriguing career arc following on from debut release Felt Mountain in 2000. It included dips into ‘folktronica’ evidenced on 2008’s Seventh Tree and the synth optimism of Head First in 2010. Meanwhile, 2013’s Tales of Us was considered by some outlets as a return to form (as the phrase goes).

Forthcoming album Silver Eye has been in development for some time and appears to be cast firmly in an electronic mold.


Marnie


Better known as being part of electropop outfit Ladytron, Helen Marnie has been keen to pursue a solo path in recent years, which led to 2013’s Crystal World album.

Marnie’s distinctive vocal style leaps out from any tune that she puts her hand to. With the reveal of new song ‘Alphabet Block’, she also announced details of a follow-up to Crystal World in the shape of the forthcoming Strange Words And Weird Wars. The official stance on the album is “soul crushing synths are wonderfully accented by hook-laden choruses as Marnie boldly explores up-tempo electro dream-pop”. Which we certainly can’t argue with.


Fifi Rong


Originally hailing from Bejing, Fifi Rong’s beguiling music encompasses a broad range of influences, including electronica, dub and hip hop. It’s a sound that’s continued to captivate both the music press and fans alike since her 2013 debut ‘Over You’. Or as Fifi herself once put it: “It’s a very individual and intimate language that I speak, with unfiltered and naked feelings of my own, for those who want to join me and listen to something real.”

‘Future Never Comes’ gives her sultry vocals a cinematic soundscape. “’Future Never Comes’ is by far the most epic-sounding track I’ve made” says Fifi, “with a lyrical theme going back to my initial breakthrough of the fear for pursuing my dream and answering my calling. Making this track as a collaboration feels like taking a glorious vacation away from being immersed building my own island.”


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LOLA DUTRONIC Everybody Loves You When You’re Dead

Electropopsters LOLA DUTRONIC return with a sequel to one of their most classic tunes…

Lola Dutronic was conceived by Richard Citroen to combine his love of 60s French pop with modern electronic music. Now teamed with Germany-based singer Stephanie B, the Canada-based composer served up perhaps Lola Dutronic’s finest moment to date in the shape of 2015’s Lost In Translation album (see review here).

Prior to that, back in 2012, the global-spanning duo of Lola Dutronic knocked out a release titled ‘Everybody Loves You When You’re Dead’, an irreverent song which namechecked some of the greats in music history who had sadly passed away (and which also featured backing vocals by Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth).

Now Lola Dutronic have returned with a sequel to the classic – with a revised list of ‘guests’ thanks to 2016’s devastating cull of musicians. “Our friends and fans have been urging us to update it for ages, but we’ve always said ‘no’” suggest the dynamic duo, “However, 2016 was such a pig of a year, with so many of our heroes dying, we couldn’t say no any longer, so here it is!”

Recorded and mixed over the Christmas period, the new version has mentions for Lemmy, David Bowie, Prince and Leonard Cohen (that well-known synthpop artist). As with the original, the witty lyrics might offend some, but any tune that takes a pop at the likes of Ted Nugent is a winner in our book…


Everybody Loves You When You’re Dead : The Sequel is available via iTunes and Bandcamp.

https://www.facebook.com/LOLA-DUTRONIC-80232595392/
http://loladutronic.bandcamp.com


LOLA DUTRONIC Lost In Translation

Electronic duo LOLA DUTRONIC return with a collection of tunes that exude style and charm…

Lola Dutronic was a project originally conceived by Richard Citroen to combine his love of 60s French pop with modern electronic music. The result has been a steady catalogue of inspired pop tunes which combine elements of wit and charm. If you’re a fan of outfits like Denim, this is the sort of thing that will strike a particular chord.

The particular approach of Lola Dutronic to music is best typified by 2012’s ‘Everybody Loves You When You’re Dead’ – a melodic slice of pop sensibility that explores the art of post-mortem fame (and which also features backing vocals by Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth).

Now teamed with Germany-based singer Stephanie B, the Canada-based composer has served up perhaps Lola Dutronic’s finest moment to date in the shape of Lost In Translation.

The album (dedicated to the memory of New York Dolls manager Marty Thau) features as fine a collection of tunes as you can expect from a contemporary electronic outfit. Along the way, you also get some pithy commentary on the absurdities of modern living, such as the percussive pop of ‘Modern Suicide’ which dourly declares: “If a tree falls and you’re not on Twitter, would anybody see it, would anybody care?”

This theme is continued on the throbbing beats of ‘Reality TV’, exploring the obsession with fame and celebrity in the modern age. It’s this ability to combine simple, yet catchy electronic melodies with quirky lyrical narratives that have crafted Lola Dutronic’s own unique sound (and certainly sets them apart from the landfill electro that’s everywhere these days).

Meanwhile, ‘I Believe’ offers a straightforward love song with a yearning vocal from Stephanie B. “I believe that we could last forever/if we could only get together” could be viewed as an adolescent lyric on paper, but it’s given a particular charm and a particular power on this serving of wistful pop.

One of the album’s finest moments, however, has to be the acid-toned ‘Go Fuck Yourself’ with its pointed lyrical content about the breakup of a relationship. The melodic delivery of the song adds a delightful skewed element to the composition, complete with a jaunty organ solo at the halfway point. But it’s the straight delivery of the closing lines, including “And take your Kenny G records with you – and don’t forget Billy Joel” which offers the icing on the cake.

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ITUNES

Keeping Lola Dutronic’s traditional Gallic torch song aesthetic alight, ‘Trying Not To Think About You’ delivers a travelogue paean to lost love and memory. Meanwhile, the stately pace of ‘The End Of The World’ continues tales of heartbreak and doomed romance with a definite French twist.

Citreon also spares time for a direct reference to his first musical love with a unique version of ‘Harley Davidson’ – a tune that Serge Gainsbourg originally penned for Brigitte Bardot.

‘Keep On Dancing’ employs judicious use of electronically treated vocal effects for an infectious slice of synthpop as Stephanie unveils a tale of growing old disgracefully. Meanwhile, the naïve charm of ‘The Christmas Disco’ offers up its stories of office Xmas Party dramas. The burbling synth rhythms chug along for a foot-tapping portion of seasonal pop.

‘Happy Endings’ furthers this peculiar combination of perky pop tunes and emotional turmoil. The breathy, sensual vocals of Stephanie B are given an electronic tweak on this very effective electropop delight.

The album closes with a ‘Modern Suicide’ reprise in which Lola Dutronic state their disdain for social networking: “Thank you for your interest, but don’t look us up on Pinterest”. Stick that in your Twitter.

It’s difficult to find a duff track on Lost In Translation, suggesting that Lola Dutronic have managed to raise the bar on what’s essentially the pinnacle of their work to date. The album will certainly appeal to those with a penchant for both good tunes and wry, social commentary – with a sprinkling of doomed love affairs.


Lost In Translation is out now.
https://www.facebook.com/LOLA-DUTRONIC-80232595392/
http://loladutronic.bandcamp.com

This article originally appeared on the Wavegirl site.