Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Here in Le Car

Weirdo spur-of-the-moment second hand CD buy of the day award goes to this particular recording I bought around 2003 but which actually dates back to 2000 and is a kind of 'best of' US electronic duo Le Car who quite frankly I had never heard of and have never heard of since.
According to rym the duo, made up of Ian Clark and Adam Lee Miller (who they?) got together in 1995 although apparently disbanded in 1998.
The music here is fairly standard all minimalist electronic fayre which takes much from Foxx's Metamatic style with bits of Kraftwerk, early OMD and Depeche Mode thrown in here and there. Some tracks (nearly all instrumental) work better than others, Aluminum Rectangles and Motorway Sparks are sound enough (the latter also getting the remix treatment) although others such as Seventeenpointfive, Audiofile Five etc are tedious and unimgainative both in theit titles and in their substance. Short tracks such as Warm Humans and Beau Ideal may be nothing less than byte-size electro-doodlings but are now quite frankly dated and lack any kind of 'vintage' appeal.
But still, give it a spin and perhaps the more acute listener will find interesting both the electro-pop citations as well as sounds just crying out to be sampled and taken a few steps further. Drive on...

Le Car: sometimes they go to pull the blinds.

More info on Le Car

Download auto-biography

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Gripes and Whingers

..that's a pun on 'Cries & Whispers' one of the many tracks on the 5 x 2 NewOrder remastered 'factory years' albums issued a few weeks back. Much griping and whingeing in fact by the punters who have shelled out loadsa cash for these artefacts which quite frankly, at least going on their various complaints, are just not up to scratch, oops no sorry , standard, many apparently having been remastered from vinyl records!
Perhaps your passing common-or-garden NewOrder fan like myself would never have noticed the missing initial beats on Blue Monday or Senses (this one still to be confirmed..) or even traces of 'rumble' 'pops' and 'crackles' at various points, but I can well understand these hard-core fans being annoyed at "300 confirmed errors..and counting.." and not just in sound but also poor sleeve notes, missing information in CD text info and overall shoddy workmanship by the record company Warner - for it is they of course to blame for all of this...

Says bassist Peter Hook:
“They don’t have half the staff they used to have so everything becomes quite a trial...you get a lot of masters of old songs - they are mastered from the record because nobody can find the tape.” (source BBC)

Warner have 'responded' to complaints saying that if any of the fans want to contact them about the quality of the New Order re-issues, then they can email this address:
Neworder.d2c@warnermusic.com .... Pah!

I don't think any fans of Ultravox and John Foxx will be experiencing the same kind of disappointment as their recent remasters were the fruits of the hard labours of hard core fans liaising with the artists and the record compay in order to ensure a first class product that will not disappoint.
Power to the people!

NewOrder's Peter Hook..."this has nothing to do with us.."

Thanks to RadioBeach for the info sources and for prompting me to write this post.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Transmission / Control

Well nothing ever happens by chance, as someone once said, although it is only this morning that I read that on 17th November 1979 Joy Division released their still amazing debut single 'Transmission', and it was on 17th November 2008 (last night) that I finally got to see Control the Anton Corbijn film on the brief life of Joy Division's singer Ian Curtis.
The film itself holds no surprises - we know the story: strange Manchester lad meets mates, forms a band, sign to Factory, issue two albums, become a cult in their own time and then in May 1980, on the eve of a US tour Curtis hangs himself and becomes even more cult.
Perhaps we do learn more about the non-musical aspects of the man - the early marriage, the jos in the Employmen Exchange the birth of daughter Natalie and affair with Belgian 'bird' Aneke (Alexandra Maria Lara), the epilepsy and panic attacks all of which contribute to Curtis' demise and ultimate suicide.
Corbijn's photography is, of course, pretty much perfect all in black and white with quite a few 'moody' shots although perhaps could've been a bit more 'grainy' in places. Excellent Sam Riley as Curtis, and full marks to the rest of the band not only for looking like the other three (see pic) but also playing a crackin' version of Transmission, among others. Very convincing also Samantha Morton as wife Deborah, whose book Touching From a Distance forms the basis of the film itself.
The best lines go of course to Rob Gretton witty, sarky band manager played by Toby Kebbel who I see won an award for best supporting actor, quite right too. The occasional reference to The Buzzcocks throughout is a nice touch and a wonderful cameo by John Cooper Clarke who looks like he was beamed straight in from 1978.
My only criticism is that Curtis' final agonising months were a little too drawn out and tend to slow down the pace of the film well before the end...you keep wondering when he is actually going to top himself....but no matter I suppose in this way we get to share Curtis' agony in part.
Excellent soundtrack of course with various JD tracks reproduced by the acting band throughout plus nice little 'incidental' period pieces, e.g. Autobahn, Jean Genie, slotted in here and there. Pity they leave The Killers version of Shadowplay till well into the closing credits when everybody has up and left...

Nice touch at the end when the surving members are sat round a pub table and they are joined by Gillian...... the rest is history.

Control's Joy Division:
l-r: James Pearson (Barney), Sam Riley (Ian Curtis), Joe Anderson (Hooky), Harry Treadaway (Steve Morris).

"shurrup Hooky and look at the camera will ya.."

Monday, 17 November 2008

Leckie League

I keep forgetting about this rather excellent Human League fan site The Black Hit of Space which has been going for some years now and seems to be updated regularly with some excellent features, perhaps putting Electronically Yours a little to shame on th HL front.
However among many other interesting things I see there's an interview with Holiday 80 producer John Leckie who was obviously so important to shaping the HL sound at the time. Says Leckie: "It was a long, long time ago.." although quaintly recalls:

"It was very cold and I stayed in a cheap bed and breakfast and met Phil at bus stop every morning to get to the studio. Phil had the hair and peacock feather ear ring! It was strange cos at that time in late morning the bus was full of old lady shoppers so he was quite a sight but forever the gentleman giving up his seat for ladies etc.!.."

The Black Hit of Space: The John Leckie interview

The Human League's Devonshire Lane studio circa 1980 ..... perhaps

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Electric biscuit

Never thought I'd write a post about them but it's nice to see Merseyside mavericks Half Man Half Biscuit are still going strong, at least on the live circuit. I never much cared for their music, championed and much revered by the late, great John Peel, but always found they had the best song and album titles back then, e.g. Back in the DHSS (indie album chart topper), Trumpton Riots, I Hate Nerys Hughes, All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit etc.

The band has now been newly brought to my attention thanks to a live cover version of fellow-scousers OMD's Electricity ("nu-clear and H-E-P!") which is actually not half bad with some nifty guitar work replacing the tinkling keyboard lines of the McCluskey/Humphreys debut single.
Download here.

For those interested full Half Man Half Biscuit gig available from Burning World.

OMD: half Humphreys half McCluskey

Friday, 14 November 2008

John Foxx and his big Mac

Translation of interview with John Foxx in the November 2008 issue of Italian Apple Mac Users' magazine 'Applicando'.
This is a rough translation of the original interview by Luigi Milani and has not been authorised by the author or by the magazine Applicando, so don't copy or distribute it or I'll end up in jail or something...

He is a true legend of electronic rock, and founder and singer in Ultravox. As a solo artist he has produced and continues to produce cult musical projects. He has also been involved in graphic design for some time, and using guess which tools..?

This month Applicando crossed the channel - don't worry not swimming - to meet a real legend of 80's electronic rock: the elusive Dennis Leigh, alias John Foxx. After going through various important bands of the London underground scene in the 70s (like London SS, later The Clash with Joe Strummer) Foxx became the vocalist of Ultravox's first incarnation, cult British electronic band of the 80s. After that experience he undertook an interesting solo career dealing with experimentation and continual search for new themes and means of expression. It's no coincidence that John Foxx apart from being one of the pioneers of synthesiser music also started a successful parallel career as graphic designer - designing for example album covers for another cult band Porcupine Tree - and as a teacher. Applicando, being well aware of John's passion for Mac, chased him up for over a year, until thanks to the help of colleague and the artist'smanager, Steve Malins, we finally reached our goal.

Applicando: It's an honour to talk to you….etc etc. Many here in Italy consider you a "Salinger" of rock: some even criticise how you distance yourself from typical show business mechanisms. But you’re is a very precise decision isn't it?

Foxx: Yes, it also depends on my own personal inadequacy: I can't stand too much attention. I need privacy otherwise I can't work. Being anonymous is essential otherwise it's impossible to look around and watch what's going on. Periodically I also need to withdraw myself completely in search of refuge.

A: An inevitable question: you left Ultravox immediately before they became successful. Any regrets?

F: No, we were all very happy about how things went, they had their hits I had my synths.

A: You very clearly explained to many artists about how to use electronics. Depeche Mode for example. What do you think about the contemporary music scene? Are there any artists you find really interesting?

F: Of course, there are many new names such as Lowfish, Pram, lemon Jelly, Klaxons, Ladytron, the Knife. Plus of course the usual survivors Harold Budd, Ruben Garcia, Robin Guthrie, Steve Jansen, and that little devil Iggy Pop who animated electronic music from Neu! onwards without playing electronic music.

A: Crash and Burn is a very innovative album. How did your collaboration with L.Gordon begin?

F: I went to an event in a country house. there was a room full of lights, smoke and non stop music. After four hours the smoke faded and Louis appeared. he had been playing everything with a synth he had just bought, a broken drum machine and a guitar. He told me he’d bought my records as a youngster. So we went to Manchester to start recording and we still haven't finished. Crash and Burn was a result of those first sessions. Louis knows my early work better than I do.

A: Tiny Colour Movies is a very high quality product which seems to testify your wish to push into new artistic territories. Generally speaking what kind of relation is there between your music and visual art?

F: The two fields work together, and their meeting means that one feeds off the other: visual images assume the form of songs and vice versa. I grew up watching films in a small local cinema and that's where I get my visual language roots: as a child I didn't understand very much of what I saw, everything seemed quite surreal. Today every time I write a song or piece of music it really is the soundtrack to some film I have inside, generated form the fragments of those experiences.

A: After the Cathedral Oceans DVD do you think you will produce other multimedia projects?

F: We are working on a film based on Tiny Colour Movies and editing some old Super 8 films: they show friends who walk around the streets of London dressed as business men in grey suits. The intention is that it should all become another film inspired by the Quiet Man (ed: a novel still to published from which Foxx has already done several multimedia readings)

A: You are not just a established musician but also a talented graphic designer. Would you like to tell us something about this equally interesting side of your artistic life?

F: I began with graphic design as a teenager at art school and quite simply I have continued with it. At one point I took a break from music and was dedicated completely to graphic design. I didn't want to use the name John Foxx, so I used another one; I wanted to prove to myself that my work could be valid in its own right. It seems that it went well and it is very gratifying to be able to move from one field to another successfully.

A: I imagine you use Mac for your graphic work?

F: of course, I use Mac for editing digitalised film and for creating images and music. I've always wanted a laboratory (workshop) I could carry around with me in a bag!

A: Which Mac model are you using at the moment and with which programs (applications)?

F: Mac Book Pro - the latest model - and Logic, Final Cut pro, iMovie HD, Photoshop. Plus a load of old analogue equipment and digitalised Super 8 films.

A. Concerning the musical field you were a pioneer in the use of synthesisers. How has the advent of computers influenced you in your approach to music?

F: I like the absolute control of digital and physiologically incorrectness of analogue. But the two things together become something very exciting. At the moment I am trying to make digital become 'incorrect'..

A: What's your view of selling music online?

F: It's simply another vehicle.

A: Do you think there is a way of escaping the serious crisis which has hit the record industry?

F: Everything is being redefined and rethought, and there is also a big delay. Apple really is dominating the market at the moment and I think that it could give out a more generous portion of the royalties they receive and maybe make sure these go direct to the artist. In the near future Apple will be managing films in the same way and therefore the same thing might happen in the world of film. Once the financial base has gone the whole sector will have to change shape in order to survive. More time might be necessary for the process to become totally functional. At the point everything becomes collateral. We live in exceptionally interesting times, to make and to listen to music is a biological necessity and it's diffusion is growing enormously ("exponentially").


80s revival of the day no. 2:
Well we mentioned it over eight months ago in here and now the song has finally made it...And thankfully,a s if we were in any doubt, it is done in exceedingly good taste.

Ladies and Gentleman.....Pet Shop Boys and Sam Taylor Wood cover the Passions 'I'm in Love with a German Film Star ' :

The naked 80s band

80s revival of the day:
New album announced on Heaven 17's official site and on Electronically Yours. thus the official blurb:

‘Naked as Advertised’ is a newly recorded album by Heaven 17, featuring tracks derived from their live set as well as a few real collectors items of oddities and rarities
There is even one brand new, never heard before Heaven 17 song ‘Don’t Fall’.

Some of these tracks reach back into the very earliest days of Heaven 17. Re-visited and re-worked they sound as fresh today as they ever did.

A beautiful version of The Associates ‘Party Fears Two’, originally performed at the Billy Mackenzie memorial concert, makes you take a second look at this classic and beautiful song.

There are even tracks that pre-date Heaven 17 with covers of the original Human League songs ‘Being Boiled and ‘Empire State Human’, the latter sounding as if it would be quite at home in the soundtrack of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ the film from which Heaven 17 took their name.

There is also a version of their classic hit ‘Temptation’ featuring Billie Godfrey on vocals, and as anyone that has ever seen them play live will testify this just has to be heard. Billie takes this always-classic diva moment to a brand new high.

Originally recorded to go along side the forthcoming ‘Steel City’ tour ‘Naked as Advertised’ stands proudly alongside any previous Heaven 17 album, beautiful crafted quirky and eccentric and completely listenable. This album is a must for any Heaven 17 fan and will probably create quite a few more fans along its way.

Naked as Advertised available to pre-order now at:

Meantime enjoy H17's 1998 remix bonanza Retox/Detox at New Romantic Rules

Steel City tour dates - also featuring The Human League and ABC ( but sadly no Cabaret Voltaire...)

Glasgow Carling Academy SUN 30/11/2008

Newcastle Carling Academy MON 01/12/2008
Nottingham Royal Concert Hall WED 03/12/2008
Brighton Centre FRI 05/12/2008
Bournemouth Int'nl Centre SAT 06/12/2008
London Hammersmith Apollo MON 08/12/2008
Wolverhampton The Civic Hall THU 11/12/2008
Liverpool Echo Arena THU 04/12/2008
Manchester Apollo WED 10/12/2008
Newport Friday 12/12/2008
Sheffield Arena SAT 13/12/2008

Gregory, Fry, Oakey - how men of steel are:

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Yes Ure Cann! (and Currie and Cross..)

After much gossip, rumours and speculation the news if finally official...an ULTRAVOX reunion has been confirmed. The 80s band line-up of Ure, Currie, Cann & Cross will be playing a series of concerts in the UK next year. The tour will take in 14 dates across the length and breadth of the nation starting in Edinburgh on 14th April and ending up in Portsmouth on the 28th.

Can't say I'm particulalry excited about this one, but credit for all this must surely go to the die-hard fans who have stuck with them over the past 25 years or more, also thanks to a very fine 'official' website and forum.

The band have also jumped on the 'remasters' bandwagon with the release of double disc 'definitive' versions of classic albums Vienna and Rage In Eden. Again much merit goes to the fans for making these possible.

Ultravox official site

The Land of Nod - inducing the sleep sphere

Here's one I bought second hand some time ago and dig out occasionally. I knew nothing about the band or the album when I forked out five euros or so, but this CD turned out to be possible one of my better buys this century.

From the group's myspace page:

The Land of Nod What's The Story? The Land of Nod, who consist of Ant Walker on guitar and Dave Battersby on bass, hail from Cheltenham in the UK and have had six full-length albums released to date, four of them on Cheltenham based indie Ochre Records. ‘Translucent’ (February 1999), ‘Timeless Point’ (September 2000) ‘Inducing The Sleep Sphere’ (December 2002) as well as the ‘Archive:02’ collection (March 2002) plus also the mini-album ‘Mont Ventoux’ on USA label Silber (May 2001) and the ‘Reality Channel’- Introduction To The Land Of Nod (April 2003) on Elephant Stone Records . 2001’s ‘Mont Ventoux’ release saw Edwin Pouncey state in The Wire “The group have been compared to Neu! But here they owe more to the hanging mists of Popul Vuh during the latters golden Herzog soundtrack period”, going on to add “Stripped of frills and posturing, their music gently breathes in your ear, urging you to dream”. The ‘Mont Ventoux’ release saw the group experiment with sound collages and loops and the title track was written about one of the highest summit's in cycling's Tour De France. The release featured a cycling theme throughout, ‘Anquetil’ was named after five times Tour De France winner Jacques Anquetil whilst ‘Sommet’ featured the voice of the great Eddy Merckx. The Land Of Nod’s recent performances have been backed by film of Merckx. The Land Of Nod continue this theme on the new Ochre album ‘Inducing The Sleep Sphere’ with the inclusion of the live favourite ‘Eddy’ and a re-working of the ‘Mont Ventoux’ track titled in this case, ‘Le Sommet A Mont Ventoux’. The track ‘Eddy’ is in fact taken from the Radio Session the band recorded and was aired on the legendary Serbian Radio Station B-92 in May in 2002.

The following is the press release for the hugely succesful INDUCING THE SLEEP SPHERE Ochre album. ‘Inducing The Sleep Sphere’ is the eagerly anticipated new studio album from Cheltenham duo THE LAND OF NOD. ‘Inducing The Sleep Sphere’ sees The Land Of Nod conjure up once again those dreamy soundscapes so reminiscent in the sounds of their contemporaries such as the Spaceman 3, Windy & Carl and The Durutti Column. Music that takes’s the listener off to that indescribable other-wordly place. Surreal, ethereal and blissed-out, where time stands still! Several tracks on the new album however possess music with a kraut-psych feel that can only be described as a mixture of Neu!, Can, Cluster and even the 13th Floor Elevators and The Seeds!

The Land of Nod - myspace

The Land of Nod - on Ochre Records

Inducing the Sleep Sphere