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Two Albums, Four Singles: Everything you need to know about cult electronic synth band Yazoo

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Thirty-five years ago a band called Yazoo (Yaz in the US for legal reasons) released their debut single “Only You.” It was a big hit reaching #2 in the UK charts. The song could be heard everywhere that spring. Unfortunately, I first heard it being tunelessly whistled by a friend over breakfast at a local cafe. Still, his lack of musical ability didn’t disguise the song’s immediate hook and I asked him the title of the tune he was murdering? He wasn’t sure, but whatever it was, he liked it. He liked it a lot. Then when I heard it on the radio an hour later, I understood why. Here was an utterly compelling mix of a powerful blues singer with a synthpop backbeat. It should never have worked—but somehow it did, it did exceedingly well.

Yazoo/Yaz consisted of Alison “Alf” Moyet on vocals and Vince Clarke on synthesizer. The band formed in late 1981 after Clarke replied to an advert Moyet posted in Melody Maker looking for a “rootsy blues band.” Clarke had been the founder and chief songwriter at Depeche Mode. He quit that band because he was “fed up.” What with isn’t clear. What’s probable is that Clarke wanted to spend more time in the studio and develop his own unique electronic sound. For whatever reason, Clarke left Depeche Mode after writing most of the band’s first album and their first three hits “Dreaming of Me,” “New Life,” and “I Just Can’t Get Enough.”

It’s a good PR story that Moyet and Clarke didn’t know each other until that fateful ad in Melody Maker, but the truth was they had known of knew each other for quite some time. They both lived in Basildon and had both attended the same weekend music school as kids. Clarke had heard Moyet sing. He was more than impressed. Moyet has an incredible voice. And he was the keyboard wizard who wanted to do something different.

Clarke had the song “Only You.” He had offered it Depeche Mode as a farewell present but his ex-bandmates thought it wasn’t quite right as it sounded like something they’d already heard. They were wrong but it didn’t hamper their meteoric career. Moyet didn’t really like synthpop. Clarke was undeterred. He played her the track. Moyet sang the lyrics. Yazoo was formed.

According to Clarke, when they played “Only You” to Daniel Miller, the head of Mute Records, he seemed disinterested. But when the publishing company gave it a listen, they knew they had a hit. Yazoo was signed. Now a B-side was required. The only track Clarke and Moyet had was “Don’t Go” which was too good a song to fill out a B-side. They quickly recorded “Situation,” which was the first club hit by which Yaz/Yazoo became known in America.

“Only You” was released in spring 1982. It was the first of four singles released by the band over two years. Thousands of doe-eyed lovers swooned. Nightclubbers grooved. Friends tunelessly whistled it. “Don’t Go” followed and then their classic debut album Upstairs at Eric’s which is still one of the best albums of the decade.

Yazoo became Yaz in the States after Blues label Yazoo Records threatened a multi-million dollar lawsuit. They toured North America where they became better known after their 1983 split.

In an interview with Smash Hits in 1982, Moyet said she didn’t really know Clarke. He was uncommunicative and spent most of his time with his girlfriend or in the studio.

“We don’t really see each other until five minutes before the gig…Vincent and I are just basically different people, but we’re very alike in a way. We’re both very set in our ways, in our own beliefs. We get on fine but that doesn’t warrant an out-of-work relationship. He wouldn’t choose me as a friend if we weren’t working together, and I wouldn’t choose him as a friend. We’ve just got different likes and dislikes.”

More on synthpop’s ‘Odd Couple,’ after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
This is ‘What the Future Sounded Like’: Meet the pioneers of ‘music without frontiers’

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If you’re British and of a certain age then Doctor Who was most likely your first introduction to the sounds of electronic music. Apart from its famous theme tune, Doctor Who used an electronic soundtrack composed by Tristram Cary to underscore the arrival of the Daleks onto TV screens in 1963. At the time, most people considered electronic music as weird, alienating noise. Using it in a primetime TV series like Doctor Who was—as one commentator explains in the fascinating documentary What the Future Sounded Like—a rather subversive act.

Tristram Cary struck upon the potential of tape and electronic music while serving in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. The son of the Irish novelist Joyce Cary (The Horse’s Mouth), Tristram was one of the earliest pioneers of electronic music during the 1950s. A classically-trained composer, he had scored such movies as The Ladykillers and Town on Trial but found traditional music inhibiting. Reasoning that music was just the organization of sound, Cary began to experiment with electronic sounds, tape recordings and musique concrète, in a bid to create “music without frontiers.”
 
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At the same, two other electronic music pioneers, the aristocratic Peter Zinovieff and engineer David Cockerell were separately testing out their own ideas. The three eventually came together to form the Electronic Music Studios in 1969. Their intention was to produce a versatile monophonic synthesiser, which could be cheaply produced for public use. While this proved tricky, Cockerell did manage to design one of the first British portable commercially available synthesizer—or Voltage Controlled Studio—the EMS VCS3. This once futuristic-looking “suitcase synth” is what Brian Eno was seen using during his tenure in Roxy Music.

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Logic, inspiration and luck’: How The Human League became one of the biggest groups of the 80s
11.13.2015
09:15 am

Topics:
Music
Television

Tags:
electronica
The Human League
Phil Oakey

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I was working as a porter in hospital doesn’t have quite the same ring as “I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar…” but that’s exactly what Phil Oakey was doing when he was asked by ex-schoolmate Iain Craig Marsh to join him and Martyn Ware as singer with their band—The Human League.

Logic: Marsh was in his early twenties and beginning to make good money working when he decided to put his extra moolah towards buying one of the cheap commercial synthesizers that were coming onto the market. Inspired by Kraftwerk, science fiction (J. G. Ballard) and the industrial landscape of their hometown Sheffield, Ware and Marsh began creating an ambient soundtrack. It quickly became apparent to the pair they needed a lead singer to make the music work. That’s when Marsh remembered his classmate Oakey—as he looked like a pop star.

Inspiration: With the arrival of hospital porter Oakey, The Human League were now ready for phase one of their career—as an influential, semi-avant garde, electronic band.

In 1977, they issued a group (slightly tongue-in-cheek) manifesto:

SCENARIO: In the summer of 1977 The Human League was formed due to the members finding no conventional channels for their immense talents.

BACKGROUND: None of The Human League have any orthodox musical training, but prefer to regard compositions as an extension of logic, inspiration and luck. Therefore, unlike conventional musicians their influences are not so obvious.

CONCLUSION/MANIFESTO: Interested in combining the best of all worlds, The League would like to positively affect the future by close attention to the present, allying technology with humanity and humour.

Gradually building up a young predominantly male fan base at college campuses and small venues, the band were signed to Virgin Records where they released two critically acclaimed albums Reproduction (1979) and Travelogue (1980). But the success the group hoped for did not follow. The band split with Marsh and Ware going off to form Heaven 17, leaving Oakey and Adrian Wright to carry on as The Human League.

Luck: With a European concert tour imminent, and the reality of Oakey and Wright being sued for failing to fulfil their tour commitments, Oakey decided to bring in two random girls he had seen one night dancing in a club—Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley. Both girls knew Oakey and The Human League, and had planned to see the band at their forthcoming gig in Doncaster. Oakey’s bright idea of bringing in Joanne and Susan changed The Human League from a nerdy boy’s favorite to everyone’s favorite.

With the arrival of ex-Rezillos guitarist Jo Callis in 1981 and the release of their generation defining album Dare the same year, the greatest phase of The Human League had begun.
 
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Young Guns Go For It was an godawful title for a rather good series about eighties pop bands—from Culture Club to The Smiths, Bananarama and Soft Cell. The 30 minutes on The Human League was arguably the best of the series as it brought together all the band members and took them on a literal journey through their hometown of Sheffield and their classic pop history.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Music has the right to broadcast: Boards of Canada cuts loose on Paris radio

Boards of Canaduh
 
Thirty years on from the emergence of Chicago house and Detroit techno, electronic dance music has been pretty well integrated into the mainstream entertainment industry. Now we don’t just have superstar types like Skrillex and Steve Aoki, but also a whole tier of underground stars DJing and playing live regularly to massive club and festival crowds. For many who’ve been involved in aspects of the genre for a while, both the star system and the lack of innovation in the consumed canon can get a bit distressing. 

Thankfully, some EDM artists have managed to scrupulously avoid the limelight—eschewing most live opportunities and even interviews—and let their music speak for themselves. Along with Burial, Warp label duo Boards of Canada—comprising Edinburgh musicians and siblings Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin—has worked almost facelessly in a scene filled with fame-hungry clowns. BoC’s blend of substantive synth sounds, emotive ambience, and electro- and hip-hop-referencing beats has enchanted a fan-base that’s only grown since they released their debut EP Twoism in 1995.

Now their new album Tomorrow’s Harvest—their fourth studio set and first release in eight years—has become one of the more anticipated album releases of the year. So it’s as good a time as any to note the recent posting on Mixcloud of this 2002 mix that BoC did for the Helter Skelter radio show on Paris-based community station Aligre FM. Broadcast just as the band released their claustrophobic second album Geogaddi, the mix features lots of rare bits from their early-‘90s era, along with remixes of electronica peers like Meat Beat Manifesto, and R&B stalwarts Colonel Abrams and Midnight Star. Although it’s been dispersed via MP3 amongst BoC fanatics, it’s good to see this excellent broadcast finally on stream.

Here’s the tracklist:

PART1
01:20 - 05:30 - “1969” (Geogaddi)
05:30 - 09:30 - “Chinook” [Extended] (Aquarius) [WITH CHAT]
09:30 - 13:11 - “M9” (Boc Maxima)
13:11 - 18:45 - “Korona” (Mask100)
18:53 - 21:55 - “Smokes Quantity” (Twoism / MHTRTC)
21:55 - 24:59 - “Soylent Night” [Hell Interface] (Whine & Missingtoe)
24:45 - 29:28 - Colonel Abrams “Trapped” [Hell Interface Remix] (Mask200)
29:25 - 32:50 - “Music Is Math” (Geogaddi) [WITH CHAT]

PART 2
32:46 - 37:52 - “Turquoise Hexagon Sun” (Hi Scores / MHTRTC)
37:52 - 44:28 - “Chinook” [Extended] (Aquarius)
44:28 - 49:45 - “Sixtyten” (MHTRTC)
49:45 - 54:22 - “Orange Romeda” (WAP100 - We Are Reasonable People)
54:22 - 58:00 - “Music Is Math” (Geogaddi) [WITH CHAT]

PART 3
57:58 - 65:00 - “XYZ” (Peel Session - not on CD)
64:42 - 69:18 - Midnight Star “Midas Touch” [Hell Interface Remix] (Mask500)
69:18 - 70:22 - “A is to B as B is to C” (Geogaddi)
70:22 - 74:20 - Bubbah’s Tum “Dirty Great Mable” [BOC MIX] (Dirty Great Mable) [WITH CHAT]
74:20 - 76:13 - “Music Is Math” (Geogaddi) [WITH CHAT]
76:36 - 82:25 - Michael Fakesch “Surfaise” (Trade Winds Mix by BOC) [PLAYED TOO SLOWLY]
82:15 - 85:43 - Meat Beat Manifesto “Prime Audio Soup” [Vegetarian Soup by BOC] (Prime Audio Soup) [PLAYED TOO SLOWLY]
85:13 - 86:41 - “From One Source All Things Depend” (Geogaddi - Japanese Bonus Track)
86:40 - END - “Poppy Seed” [BOC Remix] (Slag Boom Van Loon - So Soon) [WITH CHAT]
 

Boards of Canada the legendary Helter Skelter Radio Show 2002 by Abstractmovies on Mixcloud

 

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
Download the new album by Detroit techno legend Moodymann for free

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In the worlds of deep house and techno, artists don’t come more revered than Detroit’s Kenny Dixon Jr, aka Moodymann. Releasing records for almost two decades now, his music has attracted a devoted, almost cult-like fan base.

This is due largely to his unique sound, a blend of minimalist Detroit soul with spaced out disco, jazz and abstract electronics, not to mention the lashings of found sound, disembodied voices and crowd noise he weaves in and out of his hypnotic and, yes, moody tracks.

But it also has a lot to do with Moodymann the character. Staying true to his Detroit techno roots, Dixon tends to shy away from the press and the music industry at large, and on the rare occasions he does make a pronouncement, his Afro-centric and iconoclastic views can draw criticism. His releases follow the same ideological path, with regular 12"s and albums coming out independently through his umbrella organisation Mahogani Music. Often the only marking to distinguish these releases from an anonymous white label is the recognisable afro-and-shades Moodymann logo.

So it’s a surprise to see him releasing a new 8 track album digitally and for free through the website Scion A/V. Not that these guys don’t know their shit, with past free releases from the likes of Dam Funk, Skream & Benga and The Melvins, but more that Dixon has decided to persue this avenue of free digital releasing at all. Well, the times they are a’changin’. 

If you are new to Moodymann and his work, this might not be the best place to start (I would recommend starting by checking out the sinlge “Joy Pt II” and the album A Silent Introduction) but at the very least this release gives you a taste of his work, and you can always ask for your money back. For the Moodymann fan who has not yet downloaded Picture This, well, what are you waiting for? The download widget for the free release is below, and here is the video for the album’s opening track:

Moodymann “9 Nites 2 Nowhere”
 

 

 

 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
‘My Love Grows In The Dark:’ SSION’s springtime pop perfection
03.02.2012
11:05 am

Topics:
Dance
Music
Queer

Tags:
electronica
Videos
pop music
Ssion

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Another act who featured on My Awesome Best of 2011 Mixtape and who deserve special mention for the little beauty: ‘My Love Grows In The Dark’ is the new video by SSION (aka Cody Critchloe) and it is simply gorgeous.

SSION’s excellent 2011 long player Bent was my second favourite album of last year, only being pipped at the post for the title “best of” by John Maus’ extraordinary We Must Become The Pitiless Censors of Ourselves. Bent was released as a free download for just one month, but if you didn’t get it (and why not?! I told you so!) fear not, it will be getting a physical re-release soon on Dovecote Records with an accompanying tour.

As well as performing, writing and recording as the floating collective SSION since the late 90s, Cody Critcheloe is a video director who has recently helmed clips for both Santigold and Peaches. It shows: he is an artist with real vision, talent and skill and I’m glad to report I will be posting an interview with Cody in the very near future.

Musically “My Love…” is classy, catchy and excellently produced dance-pop (it’s how I always really wanted the Scissor Sisters to sound, no mean feat that) and in the ace video he rocks a look that’s a bizarre hybrid of Boy George, Andrew WK and Snoop Dogg. Spring is in the air, so let some aural sunshine in:

SSION “My Love Grows In The Dark”
 

 
SSION (the band) will be performing live in New York tonight at the Highline Ballroom. More details for this (highly recommended) gig here.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Enter the ‘Pleasure Palaces’ with Errors

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Here’s a little something by Glasgow purveyors of rocktronica Errors, in the run up to the January 30 release of their new album Have Some Faith In Magic on Rock Action Records. Taking as much influence from modern and classic electro as they do from shoegaze and kosmiche, Errors genuinely bring something fresh to the table, and have been steadily building up momentum over the last five years. From the Rokbun website:

A group who emerged at the tale end of a period when anything purely-instrumental and guitar- based became lazily tagged “post-rock,” Errors have now distanced themselves from that loose genre so much that any fleeting comparison to it is now completely redundant.

Have Some Faith In Magic is an LP of sprawling pop, with delicious hooks applied liberally across post-electro scatterings; a complete turn away from previously lauded albums It’s Not Something But It Is Like Whatever, and last year’s Come Down With Me - not least with vocals now being included prominently for the first time.

“It was just something that naturally happened,” comments the group’s Steev Livingstone, “we had the idea to put vocals in the music a while ago but we always intended that they should be treated as another instrument.

“We’ve used them in a way that sits really naturally so the music and the vocals don’t feel like separate entities.”

Judging by the simultaneously wistful-yet-pumping sounds of “Pleasure Palaces,” the new album could be very special indeed. As for the video… well, I don’t really understand it, but I do like it. A lot. Directed by Rachel Maclean, and coming across like New Order by way of Tim & Eric, there is a whole host of strange and humorous imagery to digest here:

Errors “Pleasure Palaces”
 

 
You can pre-order Have Some Faith In Magic from iTunes or physically from the Errors webiste, and for more info visit www.havesomefaithinmusic.com.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Niallist meets Age Of Consent (Uptown 83 Style)


 
More synth-doom goodness. Age Of Consent are one half of the now defunct Glasgow-based dance-punk party starters Shitdisco. Ex-members Joe Reeves and Darren Cullen have thankfully put away the glowsticks have turned their hands to making electronic pop influenced by The Knife, Yeasayer, Japan and as the name would suggest, New Order.
 

 
“The Beach” is the band’s debut single, and is self-released on 7 inch on September 5th. You can pre-order the vinyl at their bandcamp site, or if you prefer you can buy the tracks digitally. And what would you know - on the digital release someone called The Niallist has turned in a remix that takes the English fops out on the dancefloor of an imaginary 1983 New York and spanks their asses ‘til the break of dawn:
 

  AGE OF CONSENT The Beach (Niallist BakerMixx) by theniallist 

 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Techno don Legowelt releases new album for free


 
Fans of electronica might recognise the name Legowelt. Danny Wolfers has been releasing quality analog techno and electro since 1996 on respected labels like Ghostly International and Clone. His sound is heavily influenced by Detroit techno and Chicago house, as well as early 80s Italo disco and 70s electronic horror soundtracks, and his studio set-up puts live sequencing and classic synths above digital trickery. On the Legowelt Wikipedia page, he describes his sound as “a hybrid form of slam jack combined with deep Chicago house, romantic ghetto technofunk and EuroHorror Soundtrack.”

Now Wolfers has just released his new album, The Teac Life, for free through his own website. He has this to say about it, and the state of modern techno - it’s definitely Not Safe For Work:

Ok people here it is the new Legowelt album which is free to download for u all.
Its got a hella lot [of] deep tape saturated forest-techno tracks on it and when I say Techno i don’t mean that boooooooooooring contemporary shit they call techno nowadays with overrated talentless pretentious douchebag cunt DJs playing a few half-assed dumb mongo beats and being all arty fartsy about it.

F*ck that, I am talking about: Raw as fuck autistic Star Trek 1987 - Misty Forests- X-FILES - DETROIT unicorn futurism made on cheap-ass digital & analog crap synthesizers recorded in a ragtag bedroom studio on a TEAC VHX cassettedeck in DOLBY C with an unintelligible yet soulfull vivacity.

Electronic music fans and analog synth freaks, this is a must. Wolfers is the real deal. If you’re a fan of John Carpenter soundtracks and the pre-pop Human League, the early output of labels like Warp and Rephlex, or even just strange homemade lo-fi music, there is much to enjoy here. You can listen to The Teac Life exclusively on the Legowelt website, or you can download the album from this link. In the meantime, here’s a great fan video of Legowelt’s “Into The Storm” (not on the album) featuring footage from 1967 Soviet horror flick Viy:

Legowelt - “Into The Storm”
 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Guest Editorial: Enter The Witch House


 
Bram E. Gieben (aka Texture) is the editor of the Edinburgh-based fiction/non-fiction website Weaponizer, and also co-founder of the net label Black Lantern Music. I asked him to write DM a primer on the genre “witch house”:

The Niallist (aka Niall O’Conghaile) asked me to write something about witch house, summing it up, providing a genre overview, and talking about some of the artists I’ve discovered over the last year or so. The problem is witch house is nothing like a traditional genre. It is not defined by a tempo, a style of production, a specific group of artists, a region or country or city, or any of the things one could use to pigeonhole, say, shoegaze, dubstep or hip-hop. Even the pool of influences from which it draws are so diverse as to stagger the mind of even the most ardent avant garde completist: witch house can (and does) sound like everything from experimental noise and drone to EBM and darkwave and aggrotech, from hip-hop to punk rock and black metal, often all at the same time.

Witch house is perhaps the first anti-genre, in that it has always actively resisted not just definition, but also detection. Much mockery has been made of artists spelling their band names with strange typographic symbols, but in the early days of witch house this had a specific intent: namely to create a ‘lexical darknet’ (to quote Warren Ellis, the comics writer and novelist whose blog posts led me to my first discoveries in the field), whereby fans had to use the specific symbols in the band names to locate their music online.

Witch house has incubated and mutated on free music sharing platforms such as Soundcloud and Bandcamp, and survives and breeds on private forums like www.witch-house.com, and on invite-only Facebook groups like Witchbook and Dior Nights, which use Facebook to run miniature secret societies and covens. These technologies (or services, however you want to define them) are core to the distribution of the music, but equally important have been the Tumblr and Vimeo platforms. The cut-and-paste ethos behind many witch house projects extends to their visuals, and the gifs, music videos and photo collages that populate artists’ feeds and channels are as much a part of the aesthetic of witch house as the music is.

The equal importance of visual and audio material helps us get closer to a definition of witch house: it is a mood or a feeling, the kind of atmosphere generated by the seminal Goblin’s soundtrack for ‘Suspiria,’ the creeping, schizophrenic suspense of the Laura Palmer mystery, or the Red Room at the heart of Twin Peaks, the final twenty minutes of The Wicker Man, or a basement rave in the house at the end of The Blair Witch Project. In repose, it generates an aura of ritual, darkness and suspense. In motion, it combines the glamour of fetish clubs and serial murder and hard drugs into an amoral dystopia of sound and vision.

Excited yet? You should be. Witch house is almost completely free from the constraints of mainstream hype - aside perhaps from the majestic witch pop of S4LEM, the mysterious feedback glyphs of WU LYF, and the luxurious electronic experimentation of Balam Acab, the three artists closest to crossing over into mainstream consciousness.
 

 
After the jump, the bands including Gummy Bear, Ritualz, Skeleton Kids, Fostercare, Gvcci Hvcci, Mater Suspiria Vision, oOoOO and many, many more.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Yacht: From Utopia to Dystopia via ‘Shangri-La’
07.26.2011
11:15 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
rock
electronica
dance
dystopia
indie
Yacht
utopia


 
Fans of forward thinking pop music and alternative/electonica, here’s something that’s definitely worth checking out - it’s the new video (and album Shangri-La) from DFA’s Yacht.

A little bit arty, a little bit metrosexual, Yacht have been round in some form or other for nearly a decade, so while their aesthetic might seem achingly hip and oh-so-now, it helps to remember that they’ve been doing it longer than most. Centred around the core duo of Jona Bechtolot and Claire Evans (Evans joining Brechtolot in what was previously a solo act in 2008), their live show expands the ranks to become a fuller five piece band.

Although having released albums on smaller independent labels in the past, Yacht are now part of the DFA stable, and fit very neatly into that label’s bracket of electronic rock, wearing those particular disco-meets-punk and electronica influences on their sleeve. Their recent live shows have seen them cover both the B-52’s “Mesopotamia” and Judas Priest’s “Breaking The Law” both of which make sense for different reasons. I gotta admit that I was not much of a fan of Yacht in the past, but this new album has taken me by surprise. It’s pretty damn good, and contains a few really cracking tunes, such as “Love In The Dark”, “Beam Me Up” and “Tripped And Fell In Love”. 

Worthy of particular mention though are the album’s two opening tracks, “Utopia” and “Dystopia (The Earth Is On Fire)”, which lay out Shangri-La‘s themes of dualism from the get go. Although they are two separate tracks, they have been both comped into one video, which is quite the novel idea and makes me wonder if it has been done before? Either way the video is great and definitely worth a watch - it may be cheap but it is very well done. However, if you are not a fan of triangles, you might want to look away…

Yacht - “Utopia” / “Dystopia (The Earth Is On Fire)”
 

 
Yacht - “Love In The Dark”
 

 
Yacht - “Tripped And Fell in Love”
 

 
Shangri-La is available to buy here.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Get Ssion’s new album ‘Bent’ free for a month


 
Meet Ssion, the gender bending electro-punk dance band from Kansas City, led by front person Cody Critcheloe. Is Cody a man or a woman? I’m not completely sure, but it’s not important - s/he can be whatever you want hir to be. And as with other current queer artists like JD Samson, Cody likes to play with people’s traditional perceptions of style and beauty - witness the trademark combo monobrow and mustache, a pretty risqué fashion move in these anti-hair-biased times

Ssion (pronounced “shun”) are a full on audio/visual/performance-troupe well known for their live shows and support slots for the likes of Gossip and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Critcheloe has been making a respectable career as a video director on the side, working with Peaches, Liars and Scream Club. Ssion formed in Kansas in 1996 and released their first material in 2003. The band released their last album Fools Gold in 2007 and with it the full length feature film Boy which compiled all their music videos and has been described as a “gay, punk rock equivalent of Forest Gump.” Ssion have taken the step of releasing their new album Bent as a free download for a limited time, and it’s definitely worth downloading. As with Tyler the Creator’s first album Bastard, it’s surprising to hear music released for free that is of this high quality.

Make no mistake though - Bent is pop music. It’s party music, it’s designed for dancing - for those moments at a friend’s house when the sun is coming up, you’ve had a ball, but you’ve got that melancholic feeling that to quit now as it’s can’t get any better. There are shades of very early Madonna here, coupled with the classic mid-80s synth driven sound of the Pet Shop Boys and Eurodisco, all refracted through early 90s NY dance pop like Deee-Lite. Bent is basically the album the Scissor Sisters should have made by now, classy dance music stripped of the chintz (and Elton bloody John references) and honed to a sharp electro-pop point. It’s pretty damn good. So my advice to you dear readers is to let a little bit of Ssion into your life - get Bent.

Ssion - “Clown”
 

 
Ssion - “Psy-Chic”
 

 
Ssion - “Luvvbazaar”
 

 
Ssion - “Credit In The Straight World” Excellent cover of

Hole

Young Marble Giants.
 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Destroyer ‘Kaputt’: The Sound of the Summer


 
Destroyer is a Canadian band, but it’s also principally the work of singer/songrwiter Dan Bejar. Earlier this year Destroyer released their 11th album, called Kaputt, to a mixed reception. I kind of get why - this is an album that smells of sun tan lotion, so a mid-January release date seems a bit odd.

Ok, first off I have to admit that I am new to this band. This is worth mentioning at the start because Destroyer have been around for over a decade, have released ten albums already, and Bejar has worked with the acts Swan Lake and New Pronographers. The response to this album from the Destroyer fanbase has been mixed, as it is quite a departure from their better known sound. Some have been turned clean off it by the musical reference points (Avalon-era Roxy Music, Don Henley, Prefab Sprout, mainstream 80s soft rock, I even detect a smidgen of Enya in there). But this hasn’t put me off at all - not just because I admit to having a soft spot for that kind of thing, but because Bejar infuses the album with such a strong personality and sense of musicality that he makes it work, especially over the two final tracks that combined last more than half an hour.

If there was one word I would use to describe this record, it’s “Balearic”. The longest-running myth about the British dance scene is that in 1987 a group of DJs went on holiday to Ibiza, discovered ecstasy, and returned to London to start the acid house revolution. The problem with that is that the renowned DJs in Ibiza at the time were not really playing acid house - they played a mixture of different genres that all tended to fall under the British umbrella term “Balearic” (after the group of islands of which Ibiza is a part). In essence “Balearic” was anything that sounded good on a beach, and in practise this could include some music that dance snobs and music purists would find reprehensible (Chris Rea, The Blow Monkeys, etc).

To me Kaputt captures the essence of those musics perfectly. It’s music for lazing around on sunny summer holidays, for playing on the drive to the beach, or after the barbecue. It’s a perfect post-club record too, as the tracks blend seamlessly into one another bringing to mind a more 80s sounding Air, all held together by Bejar’s unique songwriting and delivery. If there is any justice, this will get picked up by dance fans as their new classic comedown soundtrack.

Destroyer - “Kaputt”
 

 
Destroyer - “Song For America”
 

 
Destroyer - “Savage Night At The Opera”
 

 
Destroyer - “Suicide Demo For Kara Walker”
 

 
You can get Kaputt (on double vinyl) here.

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Black Devil Disco Club returns with Nancy Sinatra, Afrika Bambaataa, Jon Spencer & more


 
Seminal electronic disco pioneer Bernard Fevre, aka Black Devil Disco Club, has returned with an album of all new material featuring a stellar cast list of guest vocalists. Lending their dulcet pipes to the spectral four-four funk are Nancy Sinatra, Afrika Bambaataa, Jon Spencer, The Horrors’ Faris Badwan, YACHT, Cocknbullkid and more.

Black Devil Disco Club was one of the first European acts to record disco using mainly synthesisers in the late 70s, finding a unique sound that was both darker and druggier than the popular electronic symphonies of Giorgio Moroder. Though never finding a great amount of success or acknowledgement at the time, the act has had a major revival over the last few years due to their influence on the techno, nu-disco and Italo scenes. The original 1978 Disco Club LP release was re-issued in 2004 by Rephlex, and Fevre has returned to recording new music for the electronic label Lo Recordings.

The new album Circus maintains the core insistent dancefloor groove married to a spine-tingling creepiness that made the act stand out. The sound has not progressed very much but really doesn’t need to - it was singular at the time and remains that way to this day. And rather than being the usual roster of big names with little to offer, the guest vocalists are well chosen and work within the context. Worth special mention are the contributions of with the rock singers Jon Spencer and Faris Badwan of the Horrors and Cat’s Eyes, who lend the music a gothic timbre, while Afrika Bambaataa forgoes the rapping to deliver a menacing cackle worthy of an urban witch doctor. Nobody else does Black Forest disco quite as good as this. The first single from the album is the track “To Ardent” which features the legendary Nancy Sinatra, which may seem like an odd choice on paper but works beautifully:

Black Devil Disco Club ft Nancy Sinatra - “To Ardent”
 

 
Black Devil Disco Club ft Faris Badwan - “Distrust”
 

 
Black Devil Disco Club ft Jon Spencer - “Fuzzy Dream”
 

 
You can hear (and buy) Black Devil Disco Club’s Circus album in full on the Lo Recordings website, while over at Menergy we are giving away a download of the Grosvenor remix of “To Ardent”.

Previously on DM:
Black Devil: Pioneering electronica from the 1970s

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Formed For Fantasy: Ben Butler & The Niallist’s ‘Infinite Capacity (For Love)’ free download


 
I have written about Ben Butler and his magical Mouse Pad on DM before, calling Joe Howe (who is in effect Ben Butler) the “Herbie Hancock of the Scott Pilgrim generation” and “Bernie Worrell jamming a Gameboy”. I stand by that because Joe is a brilliant producer. His lo-fi synthtastic noodlefunk is not to everyone’s liking, but if you dug some of the skwee sounds I posted a wee while back, if you like some 80s MOR pop but think it’s just too slick, or even if you just have a general interest in leftfield electronica, then BB&MP are worth checking out.

Having released their debut album Formed For Fantasy earlier this year, BB&MP’s record label LOAF are now giving away as a free download the first single, “Infinite Capacity (For Love)”, which features The Niallist on lead vocals. Who is that I hear you ask? Yes, it is me, and I know that makes me open to accusations of nepotism, but I would post about BB&MP even if I didn’t know Joe. There’s a reason I worked with him and that is because he is really good, and I am very happy with our collaboration. But you can judge for yourself - to have “Infinite Capacity (For Love)” sent to your inbox, enter your email address into this widget:
 

 

 
Other guest vocalists on the album include San Francisco’s Vice Cooler (aka Hawnay Troof), LA’s Bobby Birdman and the brilliant Scottish oddbod Momus. Formed For Fantasy is being streamed in full on the LOAF Records website. For more info (and free tracks) check out the Ben Butler & Mouse Pad Bandcamp site, and for general shits and giggles they also have a Tumblr. LOAF have also just released a new video for the track “Design” featuring Bobby Birdman. It’s the wigged out animated tale of a psychedelic Jesus-meets-Vishnu character:
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Supermotion: The sound of Ben Butler & Mouse Pad

 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
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