An Interview With SAILOR & I

The brooding, glacial pop of Swedish artist Alexander Sjödin, aka Sailor & I, had originally captured the attention of the electronic music scene via the glacial pop perfection of tracks such as ‘Black Swan’ and ‘Chameleon’.

Sjödin describes Sailor & I’s signature sound as “orchestras, analog synths, drums and vocals”, which is a nice summing up of the content of his debut album The Invention Of Loneliness (which we reviewed earlier this year).

Now with the release of the latest single from the album, in the shape of the moody rhythms and smooth synth melodies of ‘Rivers’ (which has also been remixed by Paul Woolford) and new live dates on the way, Alexander Sjödin took time out to chat to The Electricity Club about his music.

This included some conversation about favourite albums, which for the Swedish musician includes Spirit Of Eden by Talk Talk, Blood On The Tracks by Bob Dylan and Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys. Those choices of music perhaps illustrate what a broad canvas Sjödin draws from for his own compositions.

“I think it’s nice to have this diversity. A good album is always been well worked. Not like polished, but really engineered in an emotional way – and that’s tricky because sometimes you’re working with a gang of people who doesn’t see things the same way. So for me to record everything myself, most of the stuff is quite easy because I only have myself to like fight: ‘is this good? Is this talking to me?’”

On that basis, TEC delved into Sailor & I’s past, present and possible future…


Your childhood musical interests, which included the likes of Beastie Boys and Kiss, are quite diverse. Was there any particular band or artist that you feel had a direct bearing on the sound you’ve crafted as Sailor And I?

I had a lot of artists that were influencing me. Everything from Led Zeppelin to The Beatles. I listened a lot to The Beatles from when I was 10-years-old. I had periods where I only listened to music from the ’60s. I listened a lot to Jimi Hendrix. Especially guitarists because I started as a guitarist. I listened a lot to hard rock, like I was really into Iron Maiden, AC/DC. I had a few years when I would only listen to jazz music. I began listening quite intensely to Chet Baker because I love his melodies. He played such as simple way of bebop, almost minimalistic. His songs were so melodic. So I started to repeat his solos, but on guitar. That was a great way for me to understand how to keep things simple, melody-wise. Even if the chord changes – a bit crazy, like in jazz – you can always keep the melody going.

I remember when I began listening to Joni Mitchell, it was really like a big moment for me because Joni Mitchell, she had the melodies and she had her stories, like her divorce, the things she went through over 30 years. But especially the records from the ’70s are my favourite, Hejira, Court And Spark – she made a lot of great records. There were so focused on her vocals and melodies, but still the music was quiet complex. I think many people would find it quite hard to try and learn her songs because it’s quite complex. She’d detune the guitar in a certain way and made her own style. Even if you’re just listening in the background, it could sound like any singer/songwriter, but it’s so complex. So I’ve always been in love with the mix of this complexity of the musicality and the simpleness of telling a story with a melody.

It’s certainly a broad base of influences with very different sounds. So it’s less that you’re listening to these artists for the songs directly, more that you’re picking up how they arrange them and how they’re produced?

Yeah, but I think when I began composing my own music, I was very focused on melodies and lyrics and I never saw myself as a future producer. I’d heard so much, like: “You’re only a guitarist” or “you’re only the guy that writes the lyrics”. Because I came from a classical school context where everyone was the first instrument they learned in school! And then I just thought “OK, I’m not a producer, I’m a songwriter and I play guitar”.

Then back in 2006, I think, we began playing our songs together with friends. We formed a band, mostly to be able to try out our songs in a band context and we ended up just playing my songs and we didn’t have singers. I began to sing the songs and everyone was like “No, you can’t sing – we need to find a singer”. We never found a singer, so we just kept going with me singing and we never could find a producer who was willing to do it for the kind of budget we had It’s quite difficult when you’re starting out. Even if you have a few great songs, because we had quite good songs at the time, like ‘Turn Around’ and ‘Tough Love’ – they were all written a few years before that. ‘Turn Around’ was written 2002 and released 2014, exactly the same melody and lyrics. It was just a different kind of costume in terms of production.

So I began playing around with laptops and synths and tried to dress up the songs in a way that felt this is how I like the music to sound and, after a few years, it just felt like I’d found my own way of dressing songs. I just had to learn how to produce it.

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“I wanted to develop all the time and when people began to remix my songs I started to learn electronic music”

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Your sound has changed quite radically from the more orchestral arrangements on early tracks, such as ‘Tough Love’. Can you describe how the more recent sound of Sailor & I has changed over the years?

One reason was I kind of got tired of the orchestra sound. I wanted to develop all the time and when people began to remix my songs I started to learn electronic music. Because I was never interested in electronic music. All my friends were and I was always like, ‘No, it’s just boring beats, it’s the same thing every time. There’s no melodies, there’s no stories, it’s just for people who are high or drunk’. That’s because I never experienced good electronic music, in terms of the qualities I was looking for.

So when the remixes of my songs began to be played, I was getting bookings suddenly to techno festivals. So I showed up like the first time, it was actually in Istanbul, then I realised, like “Oh my God, I don’t know how to perform these songs in this context!”. There’s a DJ before me and after me and I’m going in here with strings and a completely different tempo than everything else. So I began playing around with how I could present my songs in a different way. And when I did it, I also began to be influenced by electronic music because I was surrounded by electronic music all the time when I played the show – or people I began to work with. Because quite early on I got the DJ guys who had released my music begin to ask me if could produce for them, record synths. At first I was like “Oh I can’t play synths” and I realised, of course I could play synths because I know theory and I’ve played all instruments all my life – and the DJ guys don’t even know what an instrument is! They don’t even know how the strings are working together! So then I got the confidence to say “OK, I can do this”. It’s just about… do what I really like. Listening to what I think is good. Just don’t care about what anyone else thinks. It’s not important.

A lot of your compositions bring in a wide range of sounds and also genres. ‘Flickering Lights’, for instance, was an attempt to bring together classical, house and electronica. Where does the songwriting process for you typically start?

A few years ago I was always starting out with a guitar and a melody and I wouldn’t want to start recording anything before the melody and lyrics were perfect in my mind. But then when I began playing around with synthesisers and beats and loops, things I created, then I found that the easy part for me was melodies and lyrics. So once I had an interesting vibe in a track I could just put that on and – Bang. So most of the time I do the vocals last. I focus on getting a nice vibe and then have the melodic structure and then I can just write and record the topline and then arrange it and then the song’s done.

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“Once I had an interesting vibe in a track I could just put that on and – Bang”

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So ‘Flickering Lights’ It’s basically just two parts, it’s two different chord changes. One that goes down and one that goes up. It took me very little time to produce the track because I had a piano I recorded and then I just added a few extra layers, like the arpeggios. Then I wanted to build it like crazy so I just had an old Prophet 1 synth, which I played around with the filters to make these strange sounds. So I just recorded it two times straight through and cut up the different parts that I liked and arranged it.

But some of the other songs, like ‘Black Swan’, I knew instantly that this is strong material, because I felt something when I recorded it. That topline took me maybe 5 minutes. Because I think Keith Richards said something like “All the songs are already written, you just have to pick them down, write them on paper” and I think that’s very true because the things we create… it’s something we already know, but we’re maybe haven’t been putting them into words before. But they’re already there in your mind somewhere.

So another question should be when do you decide a song is finished?

One way a song is finished as soon as you have a chord change and melody that creates a vibe, not matter how you produce it. Then it’s a song, people will recognise it. But the problem is, when is a production finished? And then it would be when it’s mastered, because then you can’t do so many changes. Because you don’t get the master on multitracks, you can’t cut into it. Then it’s more about arrangement. But I think a song is never finished, in some ways because a song can have many different lives, it can appear in different ways and that’s what I love about music, it’s never finished.

The tracks on The Invention Of Loneliness have this diversity of sound, so it makes for an interesting listening experience.

I was actually a bit nervous that the tracks were too different, like in the sounds I was using. Because I have never released or produced an album before. Once it was done and I listened through it as an album and not just as songs, it really made sense to me.

Much of your material can use what appears to be complex arrangements. Was it difficult to adapt this for live performances?

No, it’s very easy. Because most of the time when I play live I have like 8 tracks, I use Ableton, then I have 8 different tracks, like mixing tracks, where I make loops of different stems from the songs. Then I can live mix how the song would develop in terms of build up or build out or different parts of the songs that could come in and come out. It’s actually quite a good way to learn a song because once you’ve played around with it, that way you really know the strength, how you would feel it, in a certain way when you put certain things up in the mix. To make it euphoric, for example, I can just take these parts out and then put them in at once.

Your cover version of Joy Division’s ‘Disorder’ was quite radical. Why did you decide to cover that track in particular?

I had seen the documentary. That was when I really understood Joy Division, his songwriting and what he was going through. Before it was like, Joy Division was just a brand, like a brand for craziness, this dysfunctional person. Just like a brand, like Coca-Cola or something. But then I really understood Ian Curtis’ aura, at least I got a relation to it so I could connect to it – and then I really loved that song and melody and the lyrics. But I heard it differently because it was so up-tempo.

So I just began to sing it and play piano. It was so obvious, this is a beautiful melody. I hadn’t heard a cover that goes like that, so I just wanted to make it really icy and cold, like the Manchester winter – like in the film. So I thought it was a great song. It deserved to be recorded.

You titled your album The Invention Of Loneliness, what does that title say to you?

It’s complex to explain, because in one way it’s about me being like forced into making music to find myself and it’s quite a lonely process because I can only find the core of what I’m seeking by turning off everything around me. So that journey is quite lonely and it’s like every time I do it, I invent myself again to be able to find myself. Because it could be quite scary to be that open that I am exploring the deep emotional sides of my inner life. So 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.

I think you’ve mentioned in previous interviews that you often use your music as a form of escapism. Do you think that’s changed in you over the years?

Yeah. It has. Because at first I was very insecure. Like “Can I do this? Is this right? Is this wrong?” and it’s quite far from how I work when I’m not a musician, because I’ve always been open-minded. I was left by my biological mother when I was 6-months-old at an orphanage. I was adopted when I was 1-year-old and then, when I was 7, my adopted parents divorced. So my life has been constantly changing, my playground’s been changing all the time.
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“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”

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So I’ve been really learning to be flexible in that way. But as a musician, when I was studying music, I kept the teachers away from me. I just took the pieces I liked from what I could learn, what they could teach me. Like different chords and understanding harmonies or stuff like that that I knew that I could use in a fun way. But then you get to a point where you need to take everything you’ve learned and mature. I guess that’s something that really helped me to feel secure.

And of course its still a process because making music is… you’re trying to solve a puzzle of many different things that comes to your mind, trying to understand what made you feel a certain way, where does this come from? Is this something that scares me? Then you need to turn toward yourself and be honest.

What’s next for Sailor & I?

I have a lot of things planned. I was actually going to release another album, but then I decided – together with the label – at the last minute that, let’s do this album first. Because I didn’t have an electronic album when we signed the contract with Skint. But then suddenly I have an electronic album. So I said “Can’t we just start putting out the electronic album? Because that’s where I am right now” and people would expect me to release ‘Tough Love’ and ‘Turnaround’ and those songs and I would rather not release them on the debut album because I’d already released them. It’s not where I am right now. And I had made the other album, almost 60% ready, so it was just a matter of completing, choosing the tracks because I have a lot of songs ready to be released. It’s like my obstacle is more about choosing what to release [and] when. To make my mind up, where I am at right now musically.

So right now I feel the next album would be a mix of this electronic thing I have with more acoustic drums and guitar. Less club-orientated, but still very electronic. It would work in a club, but not as much as this album. Then I would like to make the album I already started as the third album. Then the 4th album would be more… less elements, just a few instruments.

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So you’re really planning quite far ahead then.

Yeah, I hope to have 4 albums released within 3 years. But it depends. It needs to make sense to release an album. You don’t put it out just to be the guy putting out the most albums in the shortest time. I’ve been waiting so long for releasing albums, so I think it’s more about letting the people who are now beginning to explore me as an artist, to also let them be part of the journey. I don’t want to put out 4 albums otherwise. But the plan is to release the next album, maybe this fall or next year. But there will be an album out very soon.

What are your thoughts on the current electronic music scene and are there any contemporary bands or artists that you like?

I really like James Blake, especially as a live performer. I think he’s really great. I like the more experimental guys like Jon Hopkins and Max Richter and things like that.

But there is a lot of great music, a lot of guys who make interesting music. It’s funny because in the electronic scene, I find they’re not so mature as musicians, so sometimes they do really great things, but they didn’t really understand what they were doing. It’s quite hard for those guys to develop because they’re so focused on playing, so they don’t really have the time to develop as producers. So for me I would like to keep focusing on making music and take that into performing, not the opposite. And that’s tricky nowadays because you make money on performing, that’s like the main way to pay your bills – and that’s something you need to do every month! [laughs]

I might be naive but I think if you do something that’s different enough from what other people do, even if it’s not the trend at the moment, you make music, you tell a story and it connects with people, there’ll always be a market for that. And now we have the world as a market. It’s enough to be smaller, but you need to travel more of course to make everyone satisfied because eventually people want to hear you play.


The Electricity Club extends its thanks to Alexander Sjödin.

‘Rivers’ is available now to download/stream.

The album The Invention Of Loneliness is out now on Skint.

Sailor & I performs at The Great Escape 19th May (Tickets: http://www.ticketweb.co.uk/feature/thegreatescape/) and Leeds Town Hall 28th May (Tickets: http://www.seetickets.com/event/world-island/leeds-town-hall/1079165?src=c72e31dec18b0af2329b992ede88583c).

http://sailorandi.se/
facebook.com/sailorandi
twitter.com/sailorandi
https://soundcloud.com/sailorandi


SAILOR & I The Invention Of Loneliness

SAILOR & I’s debut album bounces between icy pop and beats-driven electronica…

The brooding, glacial pop appeal of Swedish artist Alexander Sjödin, under the guise of Sailor & I, previously caught our attention with the arrival of tracks such as ‘Black Swan’ and ‘Chameleon’.

Sjödin’s Nordic music sensibilities brought forth intriguing compositions that were often melancholic, yet had a sense of melody and charm about them. Now with the arrival of debut album The Invention Of Loneliness, it gives Sjödin an opportunity to demonstrate the breadth of his musical abilities.

“This process has taught me a lot about myself” suggests Sjödin, “It has taught me to not only use music as a form of escapism, but also as a way of connecting to myself, to get in tune with my inner self and luckily being able to find a way to share my story with other people to be able to connect with them. Making music can still make me feel like I’m five years old again and at tough times, it can make me feel isolated. It’s an emotional ride and that’s why I find it so important to keep on doing this, because it’s real. I need it in my life to stay in balance, to stay in tune with myself”.

The album opens with ‘Black Swan’, which was one of the tracks that really put Sailor & I on the map when it was released in 2016 (in particular, the superb remix by Maceo Plex). The track shows Sjödin embracing a dramatic soundscape with his ghostly vocals interjecting at moments.

As we previously said, ‘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.

Meanwhile, ‘Fire On the Moon’ utilises a lot of elements to arrive at the big, cinematic sound of the final composition (including the use of the classic Moog Rogue). “There’s a cold wind blowing through my aching bones” intones Sjödin on a track that’s big on cinematic arrangements and a busy set of electronics layered on top of each other.

‘Flickering Lights’ is, apparently, Sjödin’s attempt to pull in classical, house and electronica into one song. The result is a song that opens with a very sedate piano motif before opening up into a much more beats-orientated affair.

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There’s a nice use of energetic strings on ‘Next To You’ which gives this track an unusual power that’s augmented by the almost baroque electronic rhythms that call to mind the likes of Austra.

The album steps down a gear for the slower paced ‘Rivers’, a track that at times called to mind fellow Swedes The Sound Of Arrows. There’s a nice combination of moody rhythms and smooth synth melodies at work here which changes gear yet again at the end with a detached and oddly evocative music box tune.

There’s a warmer feel on ‘Supervisions’ with its use of tribal chants and driving bassy synths. Meanwhile, the closes with ‘Black Stars’, an electronic reverie that’s a collage of different sounds, from choirs and strings to noise synths.

The Invention Of Loneliness is an album that adopts a range of styles that include both the glacial pop of the likes of ‘Chameleon’, as well as more instrumental compositions such as ‘Supervisions’. There’s also a competent sense of production on this release that gives the material a vital humanity next to the icy thematic tunes.


The Invention Of Loneliness is out now on Skint.

Sailor & I play at The Pickle Factory on 2nd March
Tickets on sale now – http://www.alttickets.com/sailor-i-tickets

http://sailorandi.se/
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twitter.com/sailorandi
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2017 NEW RELEASES

A look at some of the year’s forthcoming electronic music releases…

2017 is already shaping up to be a good year for record releases with a combination of classic artists and contemporary bands putting out new albums, reissues and compilations. Although not a comprehensive list (and we’ll add on titles as release schedules are updated), here’s a rundown of some of the releases that might be of interest for the electronic music enthusiast…


VANGELIS – Delectus

Collecting together the combined output of all of Vangelis’ Polydor and Vertigo albums, this colossal 12 CD box set will keep your ears busy for a whole week.

The material here has all been newly remastered and covers many of the master’s classics, including Earth, L’Apocalypse Des Animaux, China, See You Later, Antarctica, Mask, Opera Sauvage, Chariots of Fire, Soil Festivities and Invisible Connections. It also features his collaborative outings with Jon Anderson: Short Stories, The Friends of Mister Cairo and Private Collection.

The box set includes bonus tracks (including one previously unreleased composition) as well as a 64-page career retrospective with rare photos and essays.

Delectus is released on 3rd February.

More info:
https://www.facebook.com/VangelisOfficial
http://www.superdeluxeedition.com/news/vangelis-delectus-new-13-disc-box-set/


ANDY BELL – Electric Blue

Better known as being part of jazz/funk combo The Erasure, Andy Bell has taken to the crowdfunding route to promote a remastered reissue of his 2005 album Electric Blue.

Originally released in October 2005, Electric Blue includes the hit single ‘Crazy’ and follow up ‘I’ll Never Fall In Love’, as well as duets with Jake Shears (Scissor Sisters) and Claudia Brücken (Propaganda/Act).

The reissue, which is being run via PledgeMusic, will be an expanded 3 CD edition in a hardback book package featuring extended versions, remixes and rarities. The release also features lyrics, previously unseen images and brand new sleeve notes.

Electric Blue is out on 24th February.

More info:
http://andybell.com/andy-bell-electric-blue-deluxe-3-cd-album-reissue/
http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/andy-bell-electricblue


NEW ORDER – Be Music

After recording ‘Blue Monday’ (the only song they ever did), one hit wonders New Order had plenty of spare time on their hands during the 1980s. As a result, they took on production duties for a variety of artists. Using the tag of ‘Be Music’, this covered production work by all 4 members of the band and took in the likes of Quando Quango, 52nd Street, Marcel King, Paul Haig and Surprize.

This 3 CD set also includes tracks by Marnie, Section 25, A Certain Ratio, Factory Floor and the underrated Royal Family & the Poor.

Among the bonus tracks is ‘Knew Noise’ by Section 25 – produced by Ian Curtis and Rob Gretton back in 1979, as well as the complete 22 minute version of ‘Video 586’ recorded by New Order in 1982.

Be Music is out on 17th February via Factory.

More info:
http://www.neworder.com/
http://factorybenelux.com/new_order_presents_be_music_fbn60.html


SAILOR & I – The Invention Of Loneliness

The glacial broodiness of Swedish electronic musician Alexander Sjödin , under the moniker Sailor & I, was a pleasant surprise which was heralded by the subtle power of new release ‘Chameleon’.

Forthcoming album The Invention Of Loneliness will feature ‘Chameleon’ as well as earlier release ‘Black Swan’. Sailor & I’s sound has developed into a lush production style with Sjödin’s vocals taking on a whispery, hypnotic presence.

The Invention Of Loneliness
is released 24th February on Skint.

More info:
http://sailorandi.se


MARC ALMOND – Hits and Pieces: The Best of Marc Almond and Soft Cell

This compilation brings together some of the best Soft Cell tunes alongside choice cuts from Marc Almond’s solo outings and collaborations.

As a result, this release (which comes in both single and double CD versions) features such classics as ‘Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go’, ‘Bedsitter’ and ‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye’ from the Soft Cell years. Meanwhile, ‘Tears Run Rings’, ‘Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart’ (with Gene Pitney), ‘Jacky’ and ‘The Days Of Pearly Spencer’ cover the later years. Also included is new song ‘A Kind Of Love’.

While not a truly comprehensive compilation (and rumours continue over a possibly extensive Soft Cell collection), it’s a serviceable collection of Almond’s best work.

Hits and Pieces: The Best of Marc Almond and Soft Cell will be released on 10th March.

More info:
http://www.marcalmond.co.uk/


DEPECHE MODE – Spirit


Depeche Mode release their 14th studio album Spirit on the 17th March. With cover art by long-time collaborator Anton Corbijn, it is preceded by the single, ‘Where’s the Revolution.’

The follow-up to 2013’s Delta Machine, the 12-track album was produced by James Ford (whose former clients include Klaxons and Little Boots). According to Dave Gahan, “He’s not just a great producer, he’s a great musician. So he was able to guide us. Martin had written some great songs and demoed them and I had too, so he was able to take those songs and take them to another level.”

The first song from the album ‘Where’s The Revolution?’ has also been unveiled.

More info:
http://www.depechemode.com/


A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS – Remixes & Rarities


Not just a witty line from Pulp Fiction, as part of a continuing series from Cherry Red, this new release will collate a variety of rare remixes and edits from Liverpool synthpop outfit A Flock Of Seagulls.

Among the tracks featured on this 2 CD release are the US 7″ cut of ‘I Ran (So Far Away)’, an instrumental version of ‘Who’s That Girl (She’s Got It)’, live versions of ‘Space Age Love Song’ and ‘The Traveller’ as well as 12″ versions of ‘Never Again (The Dancer)’, ‘Nightmares’ and no less than 4 versions of their signature tune ‘Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You).

Remixes & Rarities is released on 24th March via Cherry Red.

More info:
https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/remixes-rarities-deluxe-2cd-edition/


GOLDFRAPP – Silver Eye

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).

Silver Eye has been in development for some time with an initial announcement in 2015 that the pair had been working on new songs. But it wasn’t until January this year that the title of the album was confirmed.

“We’ve never liked repeating ourselves” Alison Goldfrapp has said of Silver Eye, “Often we react to things we’ve just done. We like the spontaneity of not knowing. It’s only through the process that we start to figure out what it is”.

Silver Eye is released on 31st March via Mute.

More info:
https://www.goldfrapp.com/
http://mute.com/


ERASURE – World Be Gone

Erasure’s 17th studio album will be entitled World Be Gone and features ten new tracks written, performed and produced by Erasure and was mixed by Matty Green. The album will be available on CD, Vinyl (with download code), Limited Edition Orange Vinyl (with download code), Cassette (with download code) and via Digital Download.

World Be Gone will be released via Mute on 19th May.

More info:
http://www.erasureinfo.com/erasure-announce-world-be-gone-album-and-concerts/


MARNIE – Strange Words And Weird Wars


With the reveal of new song ‘Alphabet Block’, Helen Marnie announced details of a follow-up to debut release Crystal World.

Marnie had, of course, crafted her music as part of the mighty Ladytron in her formative years. But her subsequent solo career have demonstrated that she’s more than capable of producing good tunes outside of the iconic 4-some.

The album is a collaborative effort with producer Jonny Scott (whom Marnie worked with on 2014’s standalone release ‘Wolves’). The album itself is apparently more of a step into pop territory with a bit of shoegaze thrown in for good measure. 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”.

Strange Words And Weird Wars is out on 2nd June.

More info:
http://www.helenmarnie.com/


FADER – First Light

Fader is a new collaborative project hatched between Neil Arthur (Blancmange) and Benge (John Foxx And The Maths/Wrangler). The title track of debut album First Light was unveiled online in March 2017.

Benge co-wrote and produced the critically acclaimed Interplay album with John Foxx, released in 2011 under the name John Foxx & The Maths. Benge also performed with the outfit for live performances and on further album releases. More recently, Benge has started new project Wrangler featuring Stephen Mallinder and Phil Winter.

First Light was recorded and mixed at Benge’s MemeTune Studios while Neil Arthur recorded his own vocals in his home studio. The resulting album is full of twisted electronic pop songs and haunting atmospherics with lyrics from Arthur that explore internalised, dead-of-night fears to stream-of-conscious visions of city life and evocative descriptions of lost and lonely figures who find themselves out of time and out of place.

First Light is released 23rd June.
More info:
https://fader.tmstor.es/


EMPATHY TEST – Safe From Harm

The atmospheric synthpop produced by combo Empathy Test offers a refreshing and original change from many of their contemporaries. Latest release ‘By My Side’ showed a smooth slice of warm synthpop with a polished production that offered up a cinematic panorama of electronic goodness (as our review explained).

‘By My Side’ follows on from the 2016 double A-side single ‘Demons’/’Seeing Stars’. A third single release, ‘Bare My Soul’, was released on 21st April, followed by a PledgeMusic campaign to fund the release of their long-awaited debut album. Titled Safe From Harm, the album will also be accompanied by a new single taking the title of the album.

Safe From Harm is released 23rd June.

More info:
Soundcloud.com/EmpathyTest
Facebook.com/EmpathyTest
EmpathyTest.com


GARY NUMAN – Savage

Electropop pioneer Gary Numan returns with new studio album Savage. The new album draws from Gary’s ideas that he’s been developing for some time for a potential novel. “My long neglected Science Fantasy epic that will probably never see the light of day but, much as the short stories I was writing around Replicas time did for that album, so this permanently unfinished book is giving me a huge amount of material to write new songs about”.

Savage, which will be released via the BMG label, sees Gary working once again with Ade Fenton as producer. The album has been supported by a PledgeMusic campaign which gives pledgers unique, inside access to progress at every level, via text updates, audio updates and video updates and the chance to hear new music from early demos, through early production and guide vocals to the fully produced but pre-mixed versions prior to the mastered versions that will be on the finished album.

Savage is due for release in August via BMG.

More info:
https://garynuman.com/


GIRL ONE AND THE GREASE GUNS – Night Of The Living Electrical Appliances

While The Strange Little Lines That Humans Draw In The Dust effectively gathered together Girl One’s previous output, the band had announced plans for a standalone album in the works.

Night Of The Living Electrical Appliances will be an 11 track album released on Next Phase : Normal Records (which is Girl One And The Grease Guns’ own label). It will be a vinyl release (and download too). All tracks were recorded at The Glass Factory in 2016. Among the tracks featured on the new album, we have intriguing titles such as ‘The Voices In The Walls’, ‘Deaden The Glare’, ‘He’s A Replicant’ and ‘She Sits In The Freezer’.

While further details on Night Of The Living Electrical Appliances are still to be unveiled, it’s likely that the outfit will continue to deliver on their manifesto of “causing confusion with a mixture of pure synth pop and more experimental electronic sounds”. So nothing like Mumford & Sons then.

Night Of The Living Electrical Appliances – release date scheduled for summer.

More info:
https://www.facebook.com/Girl-One-And-The-Grease-Guns-440754999339179/


SPARKS – Hippopotamus

Having formed long before synthesizers had actually been invented, classic duo ‘The Sparks’ still managed to craft some unusual, innovative tunes during their formative years.

Now still active in the 21st Century, brothers Ron and Russell Mael will released their 22nd studio album Hippopotamus in September.

Sparks’ music has always been innovative and instantly identifiable. Recorded in Los Angeles, Hippopotamus sees them take the pop form, shake it up, and create an album that is adventurous, fresh and idiosyncratically ‘Sparks’.

More info:
Hippopotamus will be released on 8th September.
Pre-order the album via https://sparks.tmstor.es/cart/product.php?id=31873


BLANCMANGE – Unfurnished Rooms

The reformation of Blancmange, and the subsequent release of 2011 album Blanc Burn, came as a surprise (particularly to those fans of traditional English desserts).

The synthpop outfit had recorded one of the most highly regarded electronic music albums of the 1980s with the release of their debut album Happy Families in 1982.

Neil Arthur has since continued to both tour and release new material under the Blancmange banner, with the last release being the 2016 album Commuter 23.

Details on the latest Blancmange album Unfurnished Rooms is scarce at present, although dates for a UK tour have been announced for the autumn.

More info:
Unfurnished Rooms is due for release on 22nd September, 2017.
http://www.blancmange.co.uk/


ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK – The Punishment Of Luxury

OMD’s 2013 album English Electric was critically acclaimed and demonstrated that the classic synthpop outfit were still very capable of producing intelligent electronic music in the 21st Century.

OMD’s 13th studio album The Punishment Of Luxury was inspired by a painting by 19th Century artist Giovanni Segantini. Describing the themes of the album, Andy McCluskey remarked: “First world problems. All of the shit we have to deal with is only a problem that’s created for you by some suggestion that came from a marketing man or a PR job that’s been done on you. Everything you think you know was placed there by a marketing man… Everything you think you want, you don’t”. That said, we’ll got out on a limb and suggest that it’s probably highly likely that OMD fans will want this album.

The Punishment Of Luxury is scheduled for release in September.

More info:
http://www.omd.uk.com/
Read more about the album on our sister site Messages: The Punishment Of Luxury.


A-HA

Norwegian EDM and dubstep specialists a-ha can’t decide whether to retire or not (as 2015’s Cast In Steel album demonstrated). But now plans are underway for a special live acoustic album and concert film from a series of intimate performances to take place between 26th June – 30th June this year.

According to Morten Harket, “The band is finally coming together for live acoustic recordings of a wide selection of our songs! As we speak, there is palpable growing excitement about this in the group. We had wonderful moments with the fans during our last tour, and as a fourth member of the band you certainly have had an influence on our commitment to this. I really look forward to it all!”

In early 2018, a-ha will take this special acoustic set on the road. Magne, Morten and Paul will be joined by a handpicked ensemble of musicians to embellish and reinvent the classics, as well as present new material in acoustic arrangements.

The album, DVD and broadcast are scheduled for release in November 2017.

More info:
http://a-ha.com/news/articles/acoustic-evening/


FREEZEPOP

US synthpop outfit Freezepop have embarked on the crowdfunding route to launch their 5th studio album. Raising over $88,000 via Kickstarter, the Boston-based group have also added on goodies such as bonus albums, vinyl releases, cover version requests, comic strip and even a sandwich (overseas customers will unfortunately have to make do with a picture of a sandwich…).

The new album follows on from 2007’s Future Future Future Perfect, which featured the crunchy dynamics of ‘Less Talk More Rokk’ and the wistful ‘Thought Balloon’. Details of the new release have yet to be confirmed, although on the topic of the potential songs, the band suggests they’re “deeply awesome”.

More info:
http://www.freezepop.net
http://www.kickstartfreezepop.com/

Album details and release date TBC


U96 – Reboot


German electronic act U96 are best remembered for ‘Das Boot’ (a techno styling of Klaus Doldinger’s 1981 film theme) and Eurodance hits such as ‘Love Sees No Colour’ and ‘Love Religion.’

U96 will shortly release their seventh album, Reboot, the follow-up to 2015’s The Dark Matter EP. Tracks include the excellent ‘Monkeys’, which was previewed last year, and a collaboration with former Kraftwerk percussionist Wolfgang Flür.

Release date TBC.

More info:
https://www.facebook.com/U96reboot/


DAYBEHAVIOUR – Based On A True Story

3-piece synthpop outfit Daybehaviour caught our attention with the 2003 release ‘The Sweetness of My Pain’ and TEC also reviewed their third album release Follow That Car! in 2012. Their talent for melody and classy, sophisticated dreampop was front and centre on the tracks featured on that album.

The Stockholm-based outfit have been working on their fourth album titled Based On A True Story for a while. The first song to be taken from the album was the stylish pop appeal of ‘Change’, which appeared in 2015. The group have provided updates on the album’s development recently and they appear to be getting close to a release date.

Release date TBC.

More info:
https://www.facebook.com/DayBehavior/
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCx1KaWdnouVOq2TmLEfbaZw
http://www.daybehavior.com/


Outside of the albove, there’s also new releases mooted by TR/ST, The Sound Of Arrows and Princess Century (aka Austra’s Maya Postepski) and possibly a new studio album from Electric Youth (following on from their work with Nicolas Winding Refn for a curated album connected with the film The Neon Demon).

Thanks to Stuart Kirkham at Hall or Nothing and Darren at Next Phase : Normal Records.
Also Barry Page and Soopy for additional input.


Introducing SAILOR & I

Synthpop with a Swedish flavour care of SAILOR & I…

Swedish electronic musician Alexander Sjödin caught everyone’s attention with the dark electropop appeal of ‘Black Swan’ in 2016 under the moniker Sailor & I.

Sjödin grew up with an avid interest in music, with the likes of Beastie Boys and Kiss informing the young Swede’s initial musical education. Crafting his own music from an early age, this background activity took on a more active role when he opted to trial out his tunes in public under the guise of Sailor & I.

Taking the name from reading psychology in high school, the duality of the name Sailor & I represents the two wills competing inside Sjödin – reason and drive, ego and id.

There’s a glacial broodiness about Sailor & I’s material that sets it apart from much of the generic club tunes that are floating around on the current music scene. At times the songs suggest hints of fellow Swedish outfit The Sound Of Arrows and comparisons have also been drawn with everyone from Bon Iver to Sigur Rós. Or as Sjödin describes Sailor & I’s signature sound: “orchestras, analog synths, drums and vocals”.

PREORDER NOW

Sailor & I first arrived on the scene in 2012 care of debut release ‘Tough Love’ which employed an evocative strings arrangement against an emotive vocal delivery from Sjödin. The Turn Around EP, which arrived in 2014, continued along familiar lines and also saw Sjödin’s work remixed by the likes of Âme and Joris Voorn.

Âme’s remix of ‘Turn Around’ gave the track a much more dynamic work-over and it subsequently raised Sailor & I’s profile in the blogosphere, as well as spending several weeks in the Beatport chart.

Adapting his music for live performances, Sjödin performed at several festivals and gigs across Europe throughout 2015. Sjödin also spent time collaborating with other electronic artists, while still working on his own material.

‘Sweat’, which arrived the same year, was built around a plaintive piano melody and subtle electronica. The release also slipped in a cover version of Joy Division’s ‘Disorder’ for good effect.

Signing to the Skint record label, Sailor & I returned in 2016 with the release of ‘Black Swan’. The new release revealed an evolution in Sailor & I’s sound with a much more lush production style and Sjödin’s vocals taking on a whispery, hypnotic presence.

A superb remix version of ‘Black Swan’ by Maceo Plex lent the track a more muscular feel, while keeping Sjödin’s distinctive vocals intact.

Now new release ‘Chameleon’ arrives, ahead of debut album The Invention Of Loneliness, which is due out on 24th February.

‘Chameleon’ (which premiered via Eton Messy) 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.

Meanwhile, the forthcoming album will gather together ‘Chameleon’ alongside earlier releases ‘Black Swan’ and ‘Fire On The Moon’ – a powerful track that weaves together brooding synths against deep layers of electronics and treated vocals.

Sailor & I have shaped up to be one of the more intriguing electronic acts of the modern era and The Invention Of Loneliness may well be one of the more interesting releases of 2017.


The Invention Of Loneliness is released 24th February on Skint.

Sailor & I play at The Pickle Factory on 2nd March
Tickets on sale now – http://www.alttickets.com/sailor-i-tickets

http://sailorandi.se/
facebook.com/sailorandi
twitter.com/sailorandi
https://soundcloud.com/sailorandi