This various artists set is a collaboration between Mexican club night YuYu, and the very reliable Infinite Machine label. It serves several purposes, including to showcase the health and quality of the club and electronic scene acrossMexico, and also act as a fundraiser for the people whose livelihood is in trouble whilst that club scene is closed thanks to coronavirus.
After kicking off in purposeful fashion with the chanting techno of Er Irreal Veintiuno’s “Demagogia”, it quickly twists towards the darker, more sinister electronic sounds I associate with Infinite Machine. I can’t imagine any dancefloors throbbing to the awkward time signature and metallic pulses of Turning Turso’s “Los Dos”, but as a piece of home-listening EDM (and isn’t every piece of music home-listening music at the moment?), it’s got some excellent detailing. A throbbing, sub-bass-heavy techno with above-average rhythm complexity is the home ground here, though Tomas Urquieta’s “Midake”, Undefined Pattern’s “En Contra” and more.
It’s cleverly sequenced. Benfika’s “Torrente” contrasts nicely its plinky, trap-like top end with gutpunching and aggressive rhythms. In turn this plays well against AAAA (not Jimmy Cauty)’s initially lighter and breaksier “Phased Flashing On A Building”, and Microhm’s beautiful and trancey “Kyoke”.
Within the broad umbrella of EDM, it’s generally very consistent in vision, with no real odd-ones-out. It’s dominated by instrumentals so Camila Fuchs’ “Settle Down”, with its “oh it scares me” refrain that’s somewhere inbetween Siouxsie, Yoko Ono and Bjork, comes as a bit of a surprise- but generally, the surprises are few.
Other highlights include OMAAR’s deceptively simple but effective house-acid crossover “Sabe”, the skittish, glitchy “Leitmotiv” from CNDSD, and the nicely meaty brooding progressive of Nico’s “Walk”.
Like most compilations, there’s a sense of a large buffet rather than a full meal. With the majority of these tracks under five minutes, there are points where you’re left wanting more, forced to resort to Googling whether those artists have got full albums out. But there isn’t a single duff one in the pack, and ambitious and very open-minded DJ’s will find a lot to work with (or at least to practice with, at the moment) in this pack.
The duo of Columbo were one of the quirkier, funkier things to come out of the commercial success phase of big beat indie pop in the late ‘90s. With a video starring legendary (and anachronistic) TV celebrity Lionel Blair, the “Rockabilly Bob” single could’ve been massive. But back in the days when your first single had to be a smash hit otherwise you were dropped, it somehow failed to hit the mark, second single “Made In The UK” (which was even stronger) was quietly parked without promotion. The planned album was shelved and Columbo disappeared- although the two members, Jules Bromley and Rajan Datar, have had successful careers since.
In 2016 a casual inquiry and a randomly fired-off email from one of the people behind the small Banoffeesound label managed to unearth the fact that an album was buried under all the dust. It was exhumed, remastered and released, and the album “We Know Who You Are” was unleashed on the public, just sixteen years late. Sadly, it too managed to not roll the right number on the dice to get wide attention.
This Bad Behaviour EP is a mopping up of some leftover tracks that were remastered as part of that process, but not released as part of the 2016 bundle. They’ve been slipped out as the sixth installment in Banoffeesound’s gloriously inconsistent 2020 Singles Club series, where they put out a release each month for the year- a conceit planned, it happens, before lockdown came along and changed everything.
Finally getting to the point- this is brilliant jazzy pop music, that got seriously overlooked back in the day. Bad Behaviour showcases Bromley’s indie-tinged vocals over a rolling pop beat that in its alternative mix, subtly different from the album version, emphasises the more Propellerheads-ish elements. Twangy guitar melody lines are catchy as hell, and a slight bitterness in the vocals plays nicely against the cheery, almost party-like music vibe.
The track is backed by previously unreleased instrumental versions of the two back-in-the-day singles “Rockabilly Bob” and “Made In The UK”. These really showcase the big-budget production quality. “Made In The UK”’s brass is glorious. If only “Match Of The Day” had picked up on the perfect match these might have made with their goal-of-the-month montages, it might have been a different ballgame (but, erm, still football).
It’s Banoffeesound’s final attempt (unless they can unearth any more) to draw attention to an isolated and wrongly abandoned bit of former pop glory. This is indie-pop at its best.
'Dead Calm and Zero Degrees' is the most recent album from synthesist/composer Lars Meijer, and I see that Hunter Complex has a new label - Burning Witches Records based in the U.K. If you're at all familiar with Hunter Complex, you might know to some degree what to expect- instrumental synths and drum machine, often in a sort of retro '80s synthpop vein with a fair amount of cinematic potential and a familiar romantic bent to it. The stand-alone stringish synth chords of opening track "Dead Calm" are enough to evoke some Tangerine Dream movie soundtrack (and God knows they did enough of them back then) but there are nods to so many others along the way - Giorgio Moroder, Vangelis, Kraftwerk (sans the man-machine sterility), and other similar artists. This is a perfect example of "Synthwave," a music genre that seems to have had a resurgent revival of late. While Hunter Complex's previous effort, 'Open Sea' was good, 'Dead Calm and Zero Degrees' is much better exhibiting a confidence and complexity I think was a bit lacking on the last album. The recording quality also seems to have been kicked up a notch which adds to the album's potency. There is also an unabashed charm that digs into the emotional core of the listening experience that will actually make you feel something. The majority of the compositions (ten in all, and nothing over 5 minutes) are uplifting, bright and hopeful, something sorely needed for these troubling times. I could easily hear some of these tracks used as part of a soundtrack (hey Netflix, are you reading me?) A worthy purchase especially on vinyl, but at the time of this writing, there aren’t many of the limited edition left.
After previous release “Heart To Heart” collected together some existing releases, And Then represents the first ‘proper’ album release from Maurizio Pustianaz’s A New Life alias. All the tracks were recorded between 2011 and 2015 though, so in that sense it’s not a ‘new’ album, but it’s all previously unreleased and new to the world.
It’s ten new pieces of synthpop that blends some very retro sounds with more up-to-date production touches. It’s not synthwave in the stereotypical sense though, as while in my experience synthwave tends to focus on the brighter and brasher side of the sound, these sounds feel like they are drawn more from the thinner, more fragile and introspective sounds of the era. There are shades of Ultravox or Japan here. Maurizio cites his divorce as an influence during that period, and emotion is certainly on display in and around the synths. Not just negative emotions though, for sure. The point behind the A New Life alias, it seems, was about looking forward, and you can hear positivity and optimism infused into tracks like “Set Me Up”, albeit sometimes in complex and less obvious ways.
The publicity material references The Human League’s League Unlimited Orchestra project and it’s an interesting comparison for trying to describe or pigeonhole the sounds of this album. At times this really does sound like instrumental or experimental remixes of early 80’s synthpop, particularly in tracks like “Neural Link 2”. Four of the songs have vocals, but several of those that don’t, have a space where the vocals could be- or in the case of “She Said” and “Another Day”, keyboard melodies that do sound a little like placeholders.
The vocals have a husky quality to them that sound like a young, less smoky Dave Gahan. Some interesting vocal layering effects in “All The Lies”, where backing vocals and lead vocals are seemingly mixed and matched, give a distinctive quality, though at times it’s guilty of muddying the lyrics somewhat.
Highlights include the very catchy “Lucky You”, with its singalong ‘disappointing’ chorus, and the interestingly off-kilter “Every Day We Die” where some interesting pronunciation and bouncy, wobbly melodies give a strange sort of abject cheeriness to the miserable subject matter, before a near-euphoric synth lead line arrives for something that’s like a hands-in-the-air moment, but sideways. A strong sense of melody is clear in tracks like “Another Day”.
Once you know the story behind it, there is the slight sense that this was an album 90% finished then abandoned, and which is still a vocal or two short of what might have been. Nevertheless, fans of synthpop old and new, looking for something expressive and fresh, should certainly check this out.
As part of a Singles Club series with a new 2- or 3-track release coming out every month throughout 2020, Banoffeesound have reached release number 5. It’s an interesting piece of character-laden house-pop that blends Jonathan’s distinctive rich operatic vocal style with an absurdly catchy sax riff and a stepping, almost jazzy clapping house groove. It’s a well-polished bit of pop with dancefloor potential.
With just an edit, extended mix and instrumental included, remixes are sadly absent, though there’s promise of remixes to follow on later- and those have great potential, based on the source material.
After some deeper and darker tunes, Singles Club seems to have taken a turn for the cheery here, perhaps to lift up lockdown-trapped spirits, or maybe just because it’s feel-good fun.