Electric dreams of different persuasion…
Last year’s electronic music schedule was greatly improved by the release of the first Generation Blitz compilation album. Featuring a selection of tunes from established and upcoming acts, Dusk to Dawn (see our review) managed to throw a nod to the legacy of the Blitz Club era, while also firmly planting its feet here in the 21st Century. As TEC’s Album of the Year, we summed it up as “…an engaging mix of electronic music moments that certainly manages to achieve its mission statement. At the same time, it seems to also capture something of the spirit of the contemporary electronic music scene.”
Concrete and Chrome represents the second volume and features some of the outfits that appeared on the first album alongside a selection of fresh electronic acts to keep things interesting. This includes old TEC favourites such as Brutalist Architecture In The Sun, The Rude Awakening, Agency-V, Cult With No Name, Tin Gun and V-Sor, X. Among the new acts on this album are Canadian mood merchants Honey Beard, Swedish synth-pop duo Covered In Snow and veteran outfits B-Movie and Komputer.
As before, much of the album is focussed on previously unreleased tracks, mixes and edits. The album is, again, compiled by Martin James, Timo Jalkanen, Gary Fones and Colin Spencer.
As ever, you can’t beat Brutalist Architecture in the Sun for some hard-edged synth-pop which they serve up in fine style on ‘Grief Killed Hope’. Despite the sharp edges of this composition, it’s got a groove going on and there’s something tangible and human lurking at its heart.
Emily Zuzik & Tim Lefebvre’s ‘EVill’ is a curious mix of minimalism and attitude. Similarly, Gemma Cullingford serves up a sparsely arranged cover of Exile’s ‘Kiss You All Over’.
Perhaps one of Concrete and Chrome’s most surprising moments is a contribution from The Rude Awakening. ‘To Say Goodbye’ offers a much tougher, more angular synth-pop approach than listeners might expect from the electropop duo. The relentless percussion drives along an effective number which is also augmented by some sweet Bridget Gray vocal warblings in the mix.
Keeping things mixed up, Video L’Eclipse step the gears up a bit with the dynamic and punchy ‘My Enemy’. Elsewhere, the strange, smoky moods of ‘Aphelion’ by Denial Waits offers up understated rhythmic pulses, offset with a starker, sometimes more sinister vocal narrative.
Nostalgia Deathstar conjure up a multifaceted serving of anxiety pop on the busy ‘What If I Did’ while Chrysalid Homo gives us the quirky ‘Dominic Kohl’. EmT present the strident electropop of ‘Diva’ (as discussed in our review previously). The acidic narrative looking at an “Attention-seeking nobody” still retains a bite to it.
Meanwhile, the plaintive piano moods of ‘My Right Hand Holds the Biosphere’ are trademark Cult With No Name. It provides an oasis of sorts for the middle of CD2 of the compilation; a crisp, lush little moment of tranquillity.
BlakLight’s ‘Wicked Face’ is a stealthy, beguiling slice of synth-pop, while established outfit B-Movie contribute the slow-burning, immersive affair of ‘Nostalgia’. There’s some acerbic musings here on looking backwards (“The more things change/The more they stay the same”).
There’s a few other familiar TEC moments on the album, including Tin Gun who offer up the angsty ‘Anthracite Days (Blitzed Edit 002)’ which appeared in its original incarnation on the Reanimation EP (see TEC review previously).
Concrete and Chrome’s international appeal is bolstered by the inclusion of Swedish electropop outfit Covered in Snow. ‘Spaceboy’ is dripping in angst amidst a mix of bold and poilished electropop licks. Meanwhile, Canadian dreampop duo Honey Beard serve up the reflective ‘Sleep Walking’, a synthwave-infused wash of twilight moods.
Pulse Lab provide one of the album’s best moments in the shape of ‘Only the Ocean Knows’. A perfect slice of synth confectionery with some wistful little narrative musings (“Sweet and salty/First kiss”).
Elsewhere, Zaine Griff and Chris Payne’s ‘Merry Go Round’ has a fragile, baroque quality to it giving up one of the album’s most charming tracks. That mood is reflected in a curious little reverie care of Maxx Silver. ‘Disappear’ seems to throw out nods to lost synth-pop outings. It’s a sad, captivating composition that also has a melancholic charm.
Switching to the quirkier side of synth-pop, ‘Jumbo Jets (Booster Mix)’ from Komputer is essentially synth pads matched against strange vox pop samples. A reworking of an unreleased demo from about 4 years ago, the repetitive nature of this composition has a strangely mesmerising effect.
Wavewulf gives us electronic pop cut from a much simpler template on ‘Robots of the Desert’. Similarly, PowerStateFailure’s ‘Give Us The Night’ serves up machine-like rhythms that throb through this instrumental number, yet the track still breathes with a particular warmth.
The lilting moods of ‘Alone In The Dark’ from Rocket Report are also a nice draw. That’s followed by V-Sor,X, past masters of a more earthy, solid take on synth-pop. Here, that’s represented by one of the album’s more weightier affairs with ‘Tomorrow’s Past’. V-Sor,X’s Morgan Bryan has a confident vocal delivery which is a nice contrast to the swish synth foundations of this number.
Agency-V’s ‘Rain’ gives up a smooth slice of electropop goodness as the album reaches its end. Steven Jones & Logan Sky’s ‘Re-Invented (On Polaroid)’ seems to dip into post-punk territory with a little art pop to close proceedings.
There’s a lot to dive into on Concrete and Chrome which, as an album, is clearly going to serve up something for everyone. If there’s a criticism to be made it’s that this instalment is perhaps not as tight as its predecessor. It does feel like it could so with some pruning here and there to produce a leaner and meaner offering. That said, Concrete and Chrome delivers an effective reflection of the contemporary electronic music scene and also provides the listener with plenty of directions for further investigation.
Concrete and Chrome is out now: https://generationblitz.bandcamp.com/
Note: The original review was based on an early pre-release of the album which had a resequenced track listing. This revised article has been adjusted and expanded based on the correctly sequenced release version.