Hard-Wired Synthpop Reviews
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Artist
Implant
Title
The Productive Citizen
Format/Cat
CD
Label
Alfa Matrix
Style
Synthpop
Date of review
1st July 2015
Reviewer
Carl Jenkinson
Rating
7.0/10
Implant are one of those bands who have managed to make their sound more accessible in comparison to their earliest releases, whilst still maintaining the inventive qualities that mean they're always able to keep things interesting. This latest album from the duo of Len Lemire & Jan D'Hooge is further evidence of their talent, even if it does seem to be a clear homage towards 80s synthpop & with some very explicit influences in the case of the opening 'Lord Knows I Tried' which resembles Being Boiled while 'Biodigital Nightmare' evokes Kraftwerk circa Computer World, albeit with a harder edge & a less minimal, more full-sounding outlook in both cases. For all that, their skills mean this is far more than a simple homage to the past & there's plenty to whet the appetite of the electro fan, be it the strings that bring an additionally infectious element to C.C.C.P.C.C.T.V' or the deep sequencing that adds depth to 'I'm In Control' while the climax of the album is one to be savoured as the dynamic 'The Product' is boosted further by the harder sounds that lay down a more definitive version of the robust mood that the rest of the album hints at while the pitch-bending effects that crop up during the closing 'I Am The Teacher' bring a rave-like touch to what is an already infectious affair. That they are able to mix these influences while avoiding sounding derivative is an undoubted strength in that they're able to add something of their own to virtually every track, even sounding like Lemire's 'other' project 32Crash in the case of the almost mechanical-sounding 'Scanned'. One link to past releases is in the participation of various guest vocalists, in this case the ultra-cool Bonni of Krystal System who lends her unmistakeable spoken voice to the electroclash-flavoured 'Jour Nucleaire' while 'Johnny' features a mix of male & female vocals atop a musical base that again recalls the old-school synthpop styles to good effect & which again sees Implant bringing their inventive nature to bear on established electronic music styles


 

Artist
Noblesse Oblige
Title
Affair Of The Heart
Format/Cat
CD
Label
Repo Records
Style
Synthpop
Date of review
1st July 2015
Reviewer
Carl Jenkinson
Rating
8.0/10
Noblesse Oblige originally made their mark on the London electro-punk circuit so this latest album is a testament to how far theyve come since as pretty much everything about it screams class; from the cover art as well as the glamorous band members Valerie Renay & Sebastian Lee Philipp, theres an air of sophistication around the whole thing. The music follows in this vein, too, with Renays sultry & exotic spoken vocals on the opening Mata Hari evoking the titular spy to perfection, sitting atop an equally exotic melodic carpet & a surprisingly assertive rhythmic base. The more up-tempo Runaway which follows it proves that Philipp is no slouch in the voice department, either as he accompanies Renay on a track that once again states the melodic expertise that hereafter becomes the albums hallmark, complimenting the 80s vibe that is especially evident during Burn & Chasing Shadows in a manner that is slick & polished but never superficial or an example of style over substance; the music is engaging, dynamic, sultry & full of feeling throughout, particularly during The Seventh Wave & In The Heat Of The Night, the latter of which further benefits from another quite superb vocal performance from Renay. Moreover, the odd unexpected touch such as the preacher sample that crops up during the typically sultry Break Your Heart proves that theyre not afraid to stretch the boundaries just a tad. Similarly, the more analogue feel that graces Vagabonde does add a touch of rawness although this is offset somewhat by the French lyrics (on an album like this, there just had to be some somewhere!) while the closing Voices In My Head is the most overtly modern-sounding track on here with a light electronica-type feel with treated voice that bears a resemblance to Mind In A Box. All of which leaves the cover of Hotel California which is a dangerous thing to attempt & although they make a decent fist of it, its hard to get past the baggage such a track carries (surely everyone who doesnt really like music has a copy of The Eagles Greatest Hits in their collection!). It doesnt help that the tinkly opening brings a Christmas song to mind although the 8-minute plus duration does recall the instrumental noodling of the original; its undoubtedly a controversial choice but one which doesnt take the gloss off this fine album that will appeal to lovers of synthpop, glamorous cabaret & sophisticated music of any style..


 

Artist
Munich Syndrome
Title
Robotika Expanded
Format/Cat
CD SS006
Label
Syndrome Sounds
Style
Synthpop
Date of review
1st March 2013
Reviewer
Carl Jenkinson
Rating
8/10
While previous Munich Syndrome releases have provided ideal listening for the futuristic playboy in his high-rise penthouse flat, this latest album sees US musician David Roundsley incorporating, in many places, a more powerful & solid sound that moves closer to more traditional synthpop styles. This is particularly true during the opening exchanges with 'Robotika (Technology Seduces)' which is one of three versions of this track to be found here & which impresses with a powerful rhythmic backing providing the backbone for the assertive melodies which soon impose themselves in no uncertain terms. These quickly prove an important part of the album's appeal, giving a nicely cutting edge to 'Assassins (Take The Hit Mix)' & the slightly darker 'Industry (Hostile Takeover Mix) as well as the action-packed 'Tonight' while some bombastic brass fanfares ensure that you are certain to follow the instruction given in the title to 'Dance Again'! The vocodered vocals, which are another constant facet, do succeed in maintaining the slightly fantastic edge that has always been part of the MS sound, adding an almost 'space-pop' appeal to 'The Future' & a sense of fun to the ultra-infectious (I Do) The Robot', a track you can't help but listen to with a smile on your face although this is later contrasted by 'Just A Lonely Robot', the heart-rending feel of which is embellished further by some emotive sax voices. This is one of a quartet of tracks that utilise analogue rhythms for the full-on old-school experience, the others being the short 'Medicated' which lays a mellow mood with its ethereal floating chords, the upbeat-sounding 'Perfect Day' (no, not the Lou Reed one!) & the excellent remix of 'Android Dreams' where more faux-saxophone voice give the piece a smokey, electro-blues-like mood. This is the closest the album comes to the MS styles of yore but it's good to see Roundsley progressing while never losing track of what makes his music stand out from the synthpop crowd & he even manages to avoid the cheese factor that Christmas songs usually abound in during 'Memories Drift (It's Christmas)', where the bells at the beginning are the only real indication of what the song is about, the track laying down a nicely laid-back feel, probably ideal for relaxing to after a big crimbo dinner! The remaining mixes of 'Robotik' & three-part 'Robot Parts' which resemble Kraftwerk & which bring up the tail end of the album feel more like (not unwelcome) trimmings whereas the main course which makes up the rest of the album provides plenty of satisfying offerings for the synthpop lover to get their teeth into & at over 70 minutes duration, you certainly won't be going hungry afterwards!


 

Artist
Mixe1
Title
Module 01 & Module 02
Format/Cat
CD
Label
Static Distortion Records
Style
Synthpop
Date of review
30th January 2013
Reviewer
Carl Jenkinson
Rating
7/10
This release brings together the first two releases from the UK-based artist Mixe1 (pronounced Mike's 1) AKA Mike Evans & adds some exclusive content for good measure. The music is a combination of pop, rock, metal & a touch of 80s synthpop occasionally infused with some harsher elements that border on industrial. This is true of both the music & the vocals, where Evans' auto-tuned voice, which makes up the lion's share of the album & which could easily be mistaken for a pretty decent female singer, are given added spice in places by some untreated harsh voice which add a more jagged edge to such tracks as 'You Saved My Life' & which complement the strong guitar riffs which in themselves give this otherwise poppy track some teeth & the rather more frantic 'This Is Not Goodbye' which is itself contrasted by the 'Epic Piano Mix' that does what it says on the tin & a whole lot more as the eponymous instrument forms just a part of the sound pool of strings & percussion that emphasises the emotional potential of the track in a manner which makes it one of the album's highlights. Elsewhere 'Never Been Gone' possesses a similarly emotive mood, albeit a more plaintive one while the album's variety is further proven by the raunchy & dynamic 'A Spark In The Air' where sampled guitar riffs & strong rhythms make for a rip-roaring penultimate number. For all that, there is a nicely cohesive feel here even as Mixe1 plunder a number of rich musical fields, from the straightforward pop of 'Breathe' & 'Your Heart's The Beat', the latter of which is given some added grit by some potent guitar licks, through to the atmospheric 'ThatMovesMe' which evokes the shoegazing style of the 90s & on to the almost classic rock-like chorus of 'Waking Up Angels'. There's even a touch of old school goth on 'Do You Know' but, rather than being the main ingredients of the dish, these varied influences provide extra inspiration which means the music is always likely to spring a surprise or two although the electronica style 'exhale mix' of 'Breathe' might be pushing it a bit. It's as if it were tacked on to the end solely to widen the album's appeal to some trendies in Shoreditch or somewhere similar &, for all its variety, it does feel somewhat out of place but it's easy enough to ignore, given where it is & so doesn't spoil the accessible but appealingly offbeat listen that Mixe1 deliver.


 

Artist
Provision
Title
Paradigm Shift
Format/Cat
CD KR001
Label
Provision Bandcamp
Style
Synthpop
Date of review
30th January 2013
Reviewer
Carl Jenkinson
Rating
7/10
The past few years have seen some upheaval for Provision, with the band actually disbanding at one point. Luckily, they are back with a new line-up of stalwarts Breye & Jenn Kizer & new keyboardist Matt Willis (from The Splendour Project). Their muscular synthpop style is still very much in evidence here& there's clearly still plenty of mileage to be had from it as this is well up to their usual high standards with the opening 'Into The Fray' getting straight down to business with Breye's recognisable vocals proving as distinctive as ever & maintaining a strong presence throughout, although the contrast that Jenn's voice provides on the chorus of 'Broken' & the closing 'The Persistent Rhythm of Before' must never be overlooked, not least as she proves herself a most talented vocalist in her own right. Equally as important is their talent for knocking out some pretty infectious riffs & this skill hasn't deserted them with 'Paradigm Shift' making an immediate impact as does 'I Thought You Knew', the backing of which contains the same mix of robust electronics & uplifting mood that VNV circa Matter + Form specialised & it's good to know that their 80s influences haven't been forgotten, coming once again to the fore during 'I Lose Myself' & 'Symmetry', the latter of which resembles the Hi-NRG style, in particular Shannon's Let The Music Play & is one of the most infectious tracks on the album. But if that is their lighter side then things get a whole lot darker on 'Crossline' where the action-packed riffs & melodies provide a fitting accompaniment to some pretty hard-hitting lyrics of unfaithfulness & betrayal. That their music still isn't all sweetness & light has always been another of their strengths & it's good to know that this is still the case & that they still have what it takes; it's good to have them back!


 

Artist
Delica-M
Title
The Edge Of Reach
Format/Cat
CD
Label
Self-released
Style
Synthpop
Date of review
11th November 2012
Reviewer
Carl Jenkinson
Rating
7.5/10
The continued survival of bands like this Canadian trio, who might never become the darlings of the synthpop scene but soldier on continually releasing solidly enjoyable music, is always a cause for satisfaction; it's even more satisfying that they're still releasing proper CDs, albeit in the form of mini-albums such as this seven-tracker to full-length releases. Right from the off it's clear that they're back with a bang with a spikey, sassy sound although it's a shame that the power of these new tracks is diluted slightly by the production which isn't as powerful as it could have been, like listening to the songs on the radio; not that this is a massive problem but a stronger sound would likely have been the finishing touch on what are some of their finest songs to date. Truth be told, this one glitch is only really noticeable because otherwise the band are on top form here, starting with Herman Wang's vocals which sound better than ever, especially on the superb opener 'Life In Pictures' which is given additional power by Richard Sung's excellent guitar work which compliments the spikey feel which is at the heart of the album & which pays dividends throughout, adding an additionally gritty feel to 'Trouble With You' & the closing 'Thief' as well as the 2012 version of 'Mean Something' which is further embellished by Al-x Murray's pitch-bending synths which is always a cool move, especially when they almost resemble sirens at one point &, as the track progresses, the memorable instrumental break makes for another winner. The vintage-styled 'Erase Me' with its analogue rhythms, authentic bass & gothic-styled guitars sees the band bringing their love of the 80s to the fore & is another facet of the album, as is 'We Are Fire', the more sporadic feel of which doesn't quite hit the spot in the same manner that the more full-on tracks achieve but does at least bring a touch of variety, which is no bad thing & it adds another flavour to a typically solid offering from a band that deserve a lot more attention than they currently get so don't let this unjust state of affairs continue & check them out pronto!


 

Artist
Electro Spectre
Title
Dangerous Game
Format/Cat
CD
Label
Self-release
Style
Synthpop
Date of review
11th November 2012
Reviewer
Carl Jenkinson
Rating
7/10
If you remember fondly the days of Iris' Annie Would I Lie To You et al then you will want to check out this, the second album from Norwegian duo of Isak Rypdal & Alexander Bjornebo AKA Electro Spectre as their sound follows a similar template that recalls the best of the synthpop bands that broke through during the second half of the 90s. That's not to say they are total sound-alikes although they do manage to resurrect Iris' expansive sound in places to add an extra dynamic edge to their smooth but exciting sound. That they have such a versatile vocalist in Bjornebo is another factor here as he is well able to match the music's expressive powers with 'Love Thief' opening proceedings in a solid, enjoyable fashion before the album really takes off with 'Dancing Girl' which develops from its deceptively happy opening into an exciting & expansive number that should gain the band many admirers as should 'Tokyo Shuffle'. As the album progresses, the duo finally manage to make real their ambitious aim to 'compete with albums such as Violator' & 'Songs Of Faith & Devotion' by you-know-who in the form of 'America' which could almost be DM &, to a lesser extent, the closing 'Fallen', both of which are given a decidedly dirtier edge by some effective guitar riffs. That they feel the need to proclaim this need might lead to them being labelled as 'DM Wannabes' which would be a shame as they do have more than that to offer, as proven by 'Tokyo Shuffle', where they keep that grit without aping their influences so clearly. Not that it all matters too much in the end, this is just a solidly enjoyable synthpop album that has enough highlights to make itself worth a listen.


 

Artist
Foretaste
Title
Love On Demand
Format/Cat
CD
Label
Boredom Product
Style
Synth pop
Date of review
4th October 2012
Reviewer
Carl Jenkinson
Rating
8/10
Maintaining their habit of changing their names on every album to tie in with that release's theme, the French duo of Lover XX & Lover XY AKA Foretaste deliver another round of analogue electropop in their unmistakeable style. It's not a massive progression by any means, more a gentle nudge with the album's theme of non-communication within a relationship allowing the duo to produce a more dramatic & expansive sound in places although the duo's greatest strength remains that there is something so quintessentially right about their sound that they don't really need to change too much &, as 'Alone With People Around' kicks proceedings off in fine style, it's immediately clear that they've still got plenty of ideas in their musical armoury. It helps enormously that Lover XX's voice is no less mouth-wateringly exotic than in the past, like a reincarnation of Edith Piaf with an expressive delivery that is passionate, sultry or melancholic as the song demands & which suits the increased Gallic flair that is a trademark of this album, most notably during the up-tempo duo of 'Automatic Love Response' & 'What About Me' as well as 'Superstar' where the sultry verses are contrasted by a more urgent chorus that resembles Jean Michel Jarre while also adding the finishing touch in making 'What If' a most emotive number that fully evokes its title with soaring melodies atop a rich musical landscape. Likewise the melodramatic edge she adds to the grandiose 'Save Me' is little short of masterful as it builds from its dream-like opening into a most expansive number that wouldn't sound out of place at a Parisian masked ball. In fact, the only time it doesn't really fit is on the closing 'X Me', the title of which suggests this is supposed to be a pretty saucy number but the girly delivery, which is no doubt supposed to sound cheeky & wanton just sounds false, especially when her natural voice could have raised temperatures quite sufficiently. Not that it seriously impedes the track as a whole & it ends the album on a nicely strident note while, elsewhere 'Do What You Can' again boasts a startling contrast between the melancholic verses & a chorus that resembles Mesh in its plaintive urgency while the slightly atonal flavours of 'Today' fit perfectly with the overall emotional mood & when a band combines such disparate effects so well then that's a sure fire sign of quality & quality electropop is exactly what you get with this band, no ifs & no buts.


 

Artist
Head Mounted Display
Title
Safe In The Dark
Format/Cat
Digital Release
Label
Self-released
Style
Synthpop
Date of review
4th October 2012
Reviewer
Carl Jenkinson
Rating
7.5/10
While a number of Spanish EBM/dark electro bands have made the grade in recent years, the country's synthpoppers have not been quite so well served, a situation that the Alicante-based duo of Felipe L Navarro & Cristina Llamas are here to put right. And the eight tracks on offer here see them making a pretty good fist of it too with their polished, lively synthpop sound which mixes analogue rhythms, funky synths & smooth melodics & vocals into one enjoyable whole that unashamedly homages the 80s albeit with a decidedly modern sheen that gives the music an almost mellow overtone that, in some respects, edges the spirit of the music closer to the more affluent mainstream styles that characterised the second half of that decade rather than the really good stuff although the manner in which 'Ash & Dust' initially resembles The Normals' Warm Leatherette proves that the spirit is still there &, besides, such is the inventiveness & infectious qualities of such tracks as the lively 'Synesthesia' as well as 'Stabs & Drums' & 'Do It Again', the latter of which sees Cristina proving her vocal competence, render any such concerns superfluous. These are simply fine tracks that are the equal of anything that any better-known analogue practitioners could ever offer. That said, by casting their net of influences further afield they transform 'Suburban Citizen' into another highlight as it builds from its funky, minimalistic opening with phased motifs & munchkin-like voices into a lush melodic chorus that gets better & better as it progresses onto each new level, proving once again that they're able to add a more imaginative edge to their infectious sound, something which future releases will hopefully see them doing further still whilst retaining the essential elements of their music (it would be very sad were they to be lost); for now, though, this is a very enjoyable release which, who knows, might bring them to the attention of sympathetic labels either in their homeland or elsewhere, on this showing they certainly deserve it.


 

Artist
Metroland
Title
Mind The Gap
Format/Cat
CD
Label
Alfa Matrix
Style
Synthpop
Date of review
19th September 2012
Reviewer
Carl Jenkinson
Rating
8/10
OK, this might not have the breadth of the 'Trans Europe Express' or a 'TGV' but, inspired by commuting daily on the underground (mainly the Brussels Metro but the London Central Line & the Moscow Metro also get a look in) the Belgian duo of Passenger A & Passenger S have put together a fine album that resembles Karl Bartos' electropop work with its almost delicate analogue stylings & melodics that are by turns utterly infectious or, in the case of the opening 'Enjoying The View' possessing an almost innocent charm, as if recalling a fondly remembered childhood day out. Even the computerised voices don't detract from this feel & it all makes for a most beguiling opener & while the repetitive 'Mind The Gap', which might raise a smile to London Underground users with the familiar samples but is otherwise is pretty dull with nothing to show for it, might imply that this was no more than a flash in the pan, any such fears are soon put to rest by the excellent 'Inner City Transport' which follows. It's a surprisingly long track but the plethora of ideas which the track contains mean that it's not one second too long & is an outstanding piece of electropop as is 'Theme For Metroland' with its sassy sequences that make for a self-celebratory feel that is more than justified. There's actually a slightly dreamy mood to the album, as if painting the metro as some kind of idealistic dreamland which isn't quite the case, of course, particularly on the closing 't.f.l' (I can only think this means Transport For London & this is nothing like dealing with them!) although it closes this superb album in fine style. That this is a trip back to the 80s is made clear by the Speak 'n' Spell voices that pop up on the lively 'M-E-T-R-O' while, travelling further afield 'Moscow Main' proves to be an equally lively number with all their usual attributes as is 'Harry Beck' which pays tribute to the fellow who designed the iconic London Underground map; bet he never thought he'd end up the subject of a Belgian electropop song & on what is easily one of the best examples of its kind, too. So, if the retro style still stirs your heart then don't hesitate to add this to your shopping list & don't forget to check out the excellent 'The Passenger' single while you're at it!


 

Artist
She's Got Claws
Title
She's Got Claws
Format/Cat
CD
Label
Self-released
Style
Synthpop
Date of review
15th July 2012
Reviewer
Carl Jenkinson
Rating
7/10
By taking the title of a Gary Numan song as her name, Micci Lou proclaims her love for the 80s for all to hear & the music shows that she knows exactly what made the music of the 80s tick, as well, none of this half-hearted nonsense a la Little Boots & the like for her, oh no, this is real synthpop &, as such, is most welcome. The nine tracks on this debut album were all recorded in her home studio & this doubtless accounts for the raw feel that is a hallmark of the album & which is an important factor in the way that she so ably resurrects the spirit of the 80s although it proves far more successful on such rhythmic tracks as 'Fake', 'Blind' & the gutsy closer that is 'Dreams In Cold Storage', which resembles both Ladytron & Heaven 17 than it does on the more melodic ones such as 'Forbidden', which, with its combination of piano & darkwave-like moods & chanteuse-like vocals seemed an odd track to open with anyway (plus it bears a resemblance to the Flake advert theme from years ago!) although it is enjoyable enough while the piano-based 'Tell Me' would definitely have benefitted from more expert production work to really bring out the full grandeur of the melodic textures. As it is, it does sound a tad flat & lacking any real depth although this will hopefully be something she can sort out as she gains more experience. For all that, there are plenty of worthwhile tracks to get your teeth into, notably 'My Siren' which soon proves to be another highlight with its strong synthetic strings setting the scene for another rhythmically beefy track while the mix of the solid bass line & Kraftwerk-like rhythms that form the basis of 'Louder Than Bombs' contribute towards another stand-out track, its thematic diversity showing what she's really capable of & it's to be hoped that she will pursue & develop this side of her music in future & attain the heights that she is undoubtedly capable of. For now, though, this is an enjoyable release that marks the emergence of a promising talent.


 

Artist
Cylix
Title
Alpha
Format/Cat
CD
Label
Life Is Painful Records
Style
Synthpop
Date of review
26th March 2012
Reviewer
Carl Jenkinson
Rating
7.5/10
Of late, all we've heard from Greece is bad news, what with their economy being well & truly up Shit Creek & all but this album from the duo of plasmaG (alias George Lampiris-synth, guitar, programming & arrangements) & vocalist & programmer Harry (Grypaios) proves that it's not all bad news over there as this is a very capable debut from a duo that has the talent to go far with a slick likeable synthpop sound that feels almost like a cross between the melodic side of future pop & a less overtly analogue version of such bands as Celluloide etc. It's an album full of engaging, infectious & memorable songs where Harry, for the most part, proves himself to be a capable vocalist, who's more than able to match the music's expressive facets throughout. The one exception to this is 'In My Veins' which suffers from a curiously flat performance & while enough bands get by without ever bettering this standard Cylix suffer through having risen the bar much higher elsewhere. And there's plenty to enjoy here, too, starting with 'So Much For Love' which, following the intro-like 'Enter', kicks proceedings off in earnest; boasting a sequence line that lodges into your head first time of asking & is a slick, likeable track. However, as the chunky bass line that forms the basis of the following 'Miles Divide' proves, they're not afraid to throw some edgier motifs into the mix although this is contrasted by the vocals which sees Harry seemingly trying to impersonate Steffen from De/Vision singing a pretty decent Depeche Mode track! And this isn't the only place where DM come to mind, either, as the standout track that is 'Deepest Fear' bears a passing resemblance, too, particularly on the excellent chorus which gives the track the edge over the rest of the album. Not that there's any lack of competition for that crown as 'Heal Me' mixes strong synth leads with another fine vocal performance as does 'Keine Zeit' although why they sang English lyrics on a German-titled song is something of a mystery while 'Exit' shows their instrumental skills to a tee with intertwining lead lines sat atop a rich backing that is good enough to survive the seemingly jarring voice samples at the end (what are they all about, eh?) which just leaves the remixes from Lights Of Euphoria & Psyche to rounds things off, the former emphasising the rhythmic edge (though it's not the dancefloor-filler I was expecting from them) & the latter being a richly-textured offering that brings the duo's melodic side to the fore which shows that they're also making friends with the right people! Their second album is about to be released, so I'm told & I'll certainly look forward to hearing that but, for now, you could do much worse than lend this fine album an ear, you'll be glad you did.


 

Artist
Halovox
Title
Everybody Lies
Format/Cat
CD
Label
Self-released
Style
Synthpop
Date of review
26th March 2012
Reviewer
Carl Jenkinson
Rating
8/10
On his eponymous debut released back in 2004 Frank J. Freda Covered a Depeche Mode track ('Fly On The Windscreen', in case you were wondering) & it's fair to say that if you're a DM fan then you should enjoy Halovox but that shouldn't be taken to mean that this new album is in any way a soundalike of them. Mind you, it's not for the want of trying in certain cases, so it seems, particularly early on as a couple of tracks do bear a strong resemblance, namely the punchy but downbeat 'Mask' while 'Mr. Wrong' initially appears to be inspired by Enjoy The Silence until Freda's distinctive voice imposes itself onto proceedings & making the music very much his own throughout, combining with his powerful synthpop sound that's full of invention & infectious tracks & which marks Freda out as a gifted songwriter & performer. The album sets its stall out straight away as the opening title track gets into its stride with its jaunty rhythms being complimented by strong sequencing as well as some excellent synth leads in the middle eight. It's the sort of track you can't help but get swept up in although it's clear he's got a pretty cynical view of people, something that's also true of the aforementioned tracks & it's also tempting to wonder who inspired the lyrics to 'Miss Wrong' which is another jaunty number that is delivered with something approaching a swagger. This cynicism does change as the album progresses with 'It's Not Me It's You' having a nicely defiant mood thanks to the confident lyrics, again delivered with some conviction & another jaunty backing before mellowing noticeably towards the end with 'Bowman's Odyssey' almost seeming to be a homage to Bowie with a touch of ET thrown in! Elsewhere, 'Stalker' shows that he's not afraid to get a bit creepy, as the mechanical backing & sassy melodics compliment the chilling lyrics, not the explicit stuff some EBM bands come up with but enough to make it a bad first date song although, depending on the situation either the sweetly romantic 'Always Around You' or the saucy 'Grind' might be a better bet in this respect. The latter makes its mark with some orgasmic groans with electronica-like rhythms that build towards an appropriately grinding chorus & the fact that Freda is able to pull off the sexual lyrics without sounding like a tit is a definite plus! Another plus is the excellent 'igod' which makes some fine points on the whole social networking thing whilst having a superb chorus that sticks in your head long after it's finished as well as some clever 80s song titles worked into the lyrics for a bonus while 'We Are Alone' rounds things off on a downbeat but nicely reflective mood although the memorable big finish makes for a fitting climax to an excellent album that no synthpop lovers will want to miss.


 

Artist
Dreams Divide
Title
Puppet Love
Format/Cat
CD GH1011
Label
Glory & Honour
Style
synthpop
Date of review
26th September 2011
Reviewer
Carl Jenkinson
Rating
8.5/10
Released initially as a download-only album (although it was only a matter of time before that changed as it did, of course!), the duo of Dave Crout & Gem Davison here prove they have what it takes to be the next UK synthpop heroes with a debut album full of strong songs which are delivered with confidence & conviction. The advantage of debut albums is that the tracks involved are usually composed over a long period of time which means the artists involved have a large pool to choose from & are thus able to include only their very best pieces; this certainly seems to be the case here as pretty much every track makes its mark & while it's not exactly a unique album it's not easy to spot any similarities with other artists, a touch of And One-style mechanical quirkiness on the pacey 'Complex' being the one possible exception. Elsewhere the slower tracks such as 'John' which kicks off proceedings in fine style, 'Faces' & 'Leaving' all benefit from a very human feel, partly down to the myriad of melodic ideas that show a good ear for complex compositions that keep the pieces flowing, but also due to the fact that both Dave & Gemma are extremely competent vocalists, both possessing versatile voices with plenty of expression & range as they trade phrases throughout & breathe life into these fine songs. The closing 'Fly' is another prime example of this, the epic-sounding chorus being embellished by Dave's equally soaring voice while Gemma makes her mark during the chorus of the aforementioned 'Complex', which is a pacey, surging & inspirational track that really surges along. Indeed the pace picks up noticeably as the album progresses with 'Desire' proving their best bet for dancefloor exposure (although an experienced mixer could no doubt make this even more of a dead cert-just an idea!) with Dave's gritty vocals being contrasted by Gemma's ethereal interjections while the highlight that is 'Wise' is one of those tracks that's so damned catchy you can't help but instantly fall in love with it as the addictive main riff is complimented by some pretty beefy rhythms; all of which makes for a future classic if ever I heard one!! It's always exciting when a new band comes along with a debut as good as this & the fact that their recent appearance supporting Covenant in London has attracted so much praise proves that it's only a matter of time before they become a well-loved part of the British electronic music scene, it would certainly be no less than they deserve!


 

Artist
Erotic Elk
Title
Design With Circuitry
Format/Cat
CD
Label
Major Records
Style
Synthpop
Date of review
6th February 2011
Reviewer
Carl Jenkinson
Rating
7/10
And the award for the worse-named band of 2010 goes to.....this lot! I mean, Erotic Elk? Pur-lease, they're not going to do themselves any favours with a name like that which is a shame as there's some potential in this trio's synthpop sound that could appeal to fans of Iris or Mesh. That's not to say they really reach anything like the same heights but the promise is their & the manner in which the opening 'New Hope' builds into its exciting chorus proves their compositional skills are well up to standard; it's certainly a good way to kick off proceedings while the vocals remind me of The Charlatans' Tim Burgess, strangely enough. This is a similarity that pops up on some tracks, most notably the atmospheric offering that is 'Suffer In Silence' & the lively albeit slightly reflective version of Tears For Fears' 'Memories Fade' while elsewhere they're more of the standard European melodic style that, whilst being pleasant & not without appeal, doesn't quite have anything that makes them really stand out although there's no doubt that they work well enough on tracks such as the solidly rhythmic 'Syrinx', the stronger 'Change' which is sure to have a widespread appeal & the excellent 'Released (From Chains)' which, with its immediately memorable main hook, is a fine piece by anyone's standards. It's certainly a modern-sounding affair with the punchy rhythms of 'Reality' being the only reminder of the 80s & this is soon offset by the soaring strings that give the song a real lift while the cheerful lighter mood of 'Room Of Hearts' provides something of a lift from the rather earnest feel of the rest of the album. So, although this isn't a great album it's an enjoyable one & a promising debut to boot so if you can find room in your heart for another synthpop band then this could well fit the bill as long as you don't let that name put you off!!