Liverpool’s Electronic Music Event Returns…
This summer sees the return of Silicon Dreams – Liverpool’s premiere electronic music festival, featuring Sinestar, Northern Kind, Twist Helix, Berlyn Trilogy, OVVLS, Armada Named Sound, The Rude Awakening and Caroline McLavy.
Silicon Dreams evolved from the Vintage Computer Festival back in 2010 (which also featured OMD on the bill). The 2013 Silicon Dreams event featured both Heaven 17 and Northern Kind in performance and also featured a talk by Martyn Ware. TEC writer Jer White penned a review of the event and concluded: “Synth-pop’s still alive and as vibrant as ever.”
In 2017, Silicon Dreams returned with an all-star line-up featuring Parralox, Berlyn Trilogy, Avec Sans, Future Perfect, Voi Vang and Caroline McLavy. TEC’s review summed it up: “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.”
For the 2019 event, Silicon Dreams has pulled together both veterans and contemporary acts featuring some of the most critically acclaimed acts of recent years (including the first gig by electropop outfit Northern Kind in over seven years). The venue of choice for this year’s event is yet again Liverpool’s prestigious Philharmonic Hall Music Room, a fitting location to enjoy some of the best talent the electronic music scene can offer.
Sinestar are a five piece band from Bristol comprising Iain Brownlie, Mark Trueman, Matt Mohangee, James Skuse and Peter Steer.
The band released debut single ‘I Am The Rain’ independently in 2011 and have since gone on to release a further three EPs, several singles, and three full length albums. Sinestar’s latest album release, 2018’s A Million Like Us received critical acclaim across the electronic music scene.
In The Electricity Club’s review, Jus Forrest summed up the album: “… a colourful, if not blinding fusion of modern European electro-pop that fuses the melodic and the exhilarating electronic with a modernistic dance-ability that is surely worthy of any night spot on the block.”
Sinestar have headlined and supported sell-out shows across the UK and Europe, sharing the stage with the likes of Heaven 17, Covenant, Mesh, Blancmange, De/vision, Toyah Wilcox, Republica plus many others.
A duo consisting of Matt Culpin and Sarah Heeley, Northern Kind emerged in 2006 demonstrating an ability to craft polished pop with a strong electronic thrust. Their distinctive sound swiftly won over fans who had been keen to see what synth-pop could sound like in the 21st Century. Their 2007 debut album 53°N brought critical praise, particularly for the combination of Heeley’s powerful vocals and Culpin’s ability to craft engaging electronic melodies that had hints of Vince Clarke in its DNA.
Northern Kind also demonstrated that they could deliver on the live front as well. The duo’s rapidly growing profile would lead to spots at the Silicon Dreams Festival in 2013 (where they shared the stage with Heaven 17) as well as support slots for Gary Numan and Alan Wilder at the Postbahnof in Berlin.
Their last album, 2013’s Credible Sexy Unit album, again drew acclaim (including praise from Erasure’s Andy Bell). The Electricity Club’s review concluded: “…the songs that make up Credible Sexy Unit form exactly what you’d expect from Northern Kind: retro-amped chipper tunes, superlative singing, enduring song writing, and a professional attitude that belies their indie sensibilities.”
Northern Kind have returned in 2019 with ‘Lip Service’ – a finely tuned slice of dancepop perfection.
Northern Kind’s appearance at Silicon Dreams will also mark their first gig in over seven years.
Armada Named Sound
Armada Named Sound is an electronic music project created by Spiros Maus that started around 2014. His approach embraces features a range of female vocalists with different timbres, range and personalities fronting his electronic compositions.
As a result, their music can cover a wide ground with some often surprisingly catchy electropop moments. Tunes such as the evocative ‘Bittersweet’ have both a stylish flourish as well as a sadness that touches the heart.
The outfit made a spirited live appearance at the Synthetic City Reloaded event in 2018 and are keen to bring their unique sound to Silicon Dreams in 2019.
Euphoric, northern goth-pop trio Twist Helix make accessible poignant lyrical themes exploring loss of community and urban renewal. The band’s 2018 album Ouseburn (see TEC’s review previously) has won praise for its joyous and widescreen synth-pop take on the English North.
Releases taken from the album have premiered in PRS for Music’s M Magazine, The Revue.ca, Get in Her Ears, Little Indie Blogs and the band have been championed by Amazing Radio Worldwide, BBC Introducing and Radio 3 (Spanish National Radio).
Their live show is delivered with a compelling urgency by frontwoman and lead synth player Bea Garcia as the band dramatically re-imagine the cityscape of their home Newcastle-upon-Tyne, blurring the boundaries between creation and destruction, decline and redemption, hope and despair.
Berlyn Trilogy are a modern synth-pop band using a range of synthesizers and vocals, propelled along by pounding rhythmical drum machines and a bass guitar.
The release of their 2014 album A Perfect Stranger presented a collection of solid synth-pop that boasted the percussive pop of ‘Synthetic Love’ and the epic tones of ‘The Drone’. Their 2018 EP Flowers Fall embraced a gothic pop that showed a band evolving through the muscular ‘Domus Aurea’ and evocative ‘Simone (Nicole)’.
Berlyn Trilogy are retro-futurist romantics with classic electronic structure and a darkly exciting edge. Escape the dull grey that is the disappointment of yesterday’s future through songs of the city and the heartbreak of unreturned love.
As played on BBC 6 Music, the perfectly pitched harmonies and soft tones of OVVLS contrast the morbidity that seeps from lyrics depicting the emotional turmoil of being a millennial battling through the age of false idealisms and filtered images. This is further harnessed through hypnotic rhythms and dark soundscapes giving the band a sound that much exceeds sonic expectation from two people.
Renowned for their unusual collaborations, OVVLS invest much of their time making the music an all round experience. From live visual shows to releasing singles as ‘message in a bottle’ style USBs, the band’s ethos has quickly grabbed attention of press around the globe resulting in shows in the likes of New York and Philadelphia and playing on line-ups including likeminded artists such as Clinic, Let’s Eat Grandma and Warpaint.
The Rude Awakening (feat. Bridget Gray)
The Rude Awakening write and perform stylish, sensual and evocative synthpop music about subjects many would leave well alone. Interesting, charming and extremely likeable modern electronic pop songs with a slightly dark uneasy side.
Formed by radio presenter, promoter and electronic musician Johnny Normal, The Rude Awakening, as described by TEC, explore “The darker more sensual aspects of the human relationships explored here are not a million miles away from some elements that define the storyline to Soft Cell’s Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret.
Their debut album Kaleidoscope featured the Numan-esque ‘Emerald Dancer’, the techno spirit of ‘Trite Shite’, the dreampop beauty of ‘Butterflies’ and the bold strides of ‘Let Nothing Take Your Pride’.
Caroline McLavy has a passion for creating beautiful melodies that are also filled with energy and engaging vibes, making for a direct and forward-thinking feel. She manages to combine stunning melodies with infectious grooves and great beats, in order to create a catchy, yet direct and edgy sound.
Caroline made her debut in 2014, releasing her first album, Electrostatic to great acclaim from fans and critics alike. Ever since then, she went on to further develop his earnest blend of sophisticated Art-Pop and EDM grooves with a modern, punchy tone.
She returned in 2018 with the Quasi-Static album (see TEC review previously), a series of remixes taking tracks from Electrostatic that included work from talents such as Parralox, Nature Of Wires and LorD & Master.
Silicon Dreams also features Electronica – an electronic duo presenting a celebration of 80s synthpop/electro music (Featuring the likes of Duran Duran, Japan, OMD, Depeche Mode, Human League, Numan, Soft Cell, Ultravox, Tears For Fears, Kraftwerk, Spandau Ballet, Visage etc.).
DJ Max Speed (Artefaktor Radio, Sentinel Manchester) will be spinning tunes between performances.
Silicon Dreams takes place Saturday June 29th from 1:30pm – 12am at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, Hope Street, Liverpool L1 9BP.
Tickets are £28 and available via:
Publications that have featured his contributions include Electronic Sound, Metro, Japan Update Weekly, J-Pop Go, Wavegirl and OMD Messages.