Electronic acts descend on London for a packed synthpop extravaganza…
2019 sees the return of the Synthetic City Electronic Music Festival, a regular fixture on the gig-going calendar featuring nine distinctive acts from both the UK and abroad.
Hosted as ever by Johnny Normal, an electronic music artist in his own right and also a well-known radio host, Synthetic City is an outing that continues to showcase established artists alongside newer acts. Once again, Rob Harvey will be on DJ duties for the event, spinning up classic and contemporary electropop tunes between bands.
Here’s a brief primer on what to expect from this event.
Brutalist Architecture in the Sun
Describing themselves as a coldwave project that boasts “analogue synths and post-punk beats”, Brutalist Architecture in the Sun combines the talents of Dean Clarke and Cye Thomas.
Hailing from Rochester, Brutalist Architecture in the Sun have carved out a sound that often boasts a hard, concrete foundation that could double as a soundtrack for a dystopian future. But there’s also a generous selection of analogue-driven electropop lurking in their extensive catalogue built up from a number of single and EP releases and two albums.
With the release of their new album Monochrome Beach, Brutalist Architecture in the Sun present frenetic electronic beats and stark percussion. There’s more of a nod to darkwave on the compositions here, augmented by Cye Tomas’ mesmerising vocal style.
The Livelong June
The Livelong June hail from Sweden and consists of Benny Gustavsson and Marcus Rejnevik.
There’s a gritty quality to their music which is drawn from a broad range of influences, including Placebo, Mesh, Depeche Mode, Editors, Kite, New Order, Joy Division and The Cure.
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 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. The band has supported acts such as PINS, Samaris, Avec Sans and Outlya and begin 2019 with tours of the UK and Spain in support of their latest release.
Subject:2 are Gary Starky & Sandra Tully, a UK based electronic music act with a genuine Basildon heritage.
The outfit originally formed as a trio (with Gareth Hughes) in 1991 and had big plans going forward, including interest from Polydor. However, the music scene’s ever-changing tastes brought the project to an end.
Gary Starky, who has since collaborated with Robert Marlow, later revived Subject:2 in 2016 with Sandra back onboard for vocals.
Originally hailing from Italy, songwriter, producer, performer and writer, Dimitri Niccolai now lives and works in Holland. Part of electronic outfit Laughing Silence in the 1980s, Niccolai embarked on a solo project which he christened Tenedle.
Releasing his first album Psicfreakblusbus in 2003, Tenedle has since released seven albums, including his latest titled Traumsender.
Much of Tenedle’s live performances take on aspects of multimedia combing both sound and visuals.
The Distant Minds
Music written/performed/produced by Alan B and Vocals written and performed Darren B
Featuring big and bold synth-pop. The Distant Minds is a collaboration featuring music written/performed/produced by Alan B and Vocals written and performed by Darren B.
Emerging from the Netherlands, Heliophile is a synthpop project masterminded by Gijs van Ouwerkerk (who also performs in dark electro outfit Schwarzblut). Based in Enschede, Heliophile formed in 2010 and crafted two self-released EPs before more signing to the Russian label ScentAir Records.
The band chalked up a selection of live performances, augmented by a live band consisting of Maarten (keys) and Bernard (keys and vocals). These live outings, which included an appearance at the I-Synth III festival, helped Heliophile to build a fanbase.
Their debut album Permeate shows Heliophile swinging to the darker end of the synthpop palette, something that fans of outfits such as De/Vision, Tenek and Diorama will appreciate. As an album, Permeate features accomplished synthpop melodies, but it’s perhaps van Ouwerkerk’s voice that gives Heliophile its distinctive sound. His emphatic delivery lends a more weighty feel to the tunes on Permeate, particularly the album’s leading track ‘Towers So Tall’. The Electricity Club summed up the album: “…a collection of dark synthpop that will certainly find favour in the broad scope of electronic music circles.”
The Rude Awakening ft Bridget Gray
At its heart a British Electronic music project, The Rude Awakening – led by musician , promoter and radio presenter Johnny Normal- expands on the substratum that synth andpPost-punk pioneers Gary Numan, PiL, Soft Cell and OMD began building circa 1981.
The Rude Awakening is a vehicle for Normal to create songs that explore emotions, relationships, taboos fantasies and fears and to challenge common perceptions and convention, presenting such subjects in an entertaining and enjoyable aural package.
In 2018 Normal enlisted the charming vocal talents of Scottish songstress Bridget Gray and the duo have immediately made an impact within the indie synth scene with modern classics ‘To Say Goodbye’, ‘Fuck Puppet’, ‘Emerald Dancer’ and ‘Your Wetness Is My Weakness’… infectious and anthemic synth tunes for adult ears.
Their debut album Kaleidoscope was released earlier this year. The Electricity Club summed it up as “the music gives a feel of selective motion pictures, driving definitive imagery sequences; a sensuous exploration that is haunting, tantalising, energetic, timely and ultimately, well told.”
Consisting of songwriting duo Hal St John and Cherrie Anderson, Ooberfuse offer up ethereal electropop that engages the heart as well as the mind.
The London-based outfit describe their music as “audio footprints left behind by people impelled towards invisible things”. There’s certainly an icy pop appeal to tunes such as ‘On My Knees’ that’s subtle, yet also boasts some wonderful melodies and arrangement.
Synthetic City 2019 takes place on Saturday 23rd March 2019 at Water Rats, Kings Cross, London WC1X 8BZ. 2pm-1am.
Publications that have featured his contributions include Electronic Sound, Metro, Japan Update Weekly, J-Pop Go, Wavegirl and OMD Messages.