Retro chart for stowaways – 28 April 2012

Just a couple of months before this blog launched, Gotye had just grabbed his first hit, entering at number 8 with Somebody That I Used to Know, and the album chart looked like this:

  1. Shit Robot – From the Cradle to the Rave
  2. Vince Clarke – Deeptronica
  3. Family Fantastic – Nice!
  4. Computer Magic – Kitsuné: Orion – EP
  5. VCMG – Ssss
  6. Gotye – Making Mirrors
  7. Various Artists – Electroclash
  8. Keep Shelly in Athens – Our Own Dream – EP
  9. Keep Shelly in Athens – In Love with Dusk – EP
  10. 808 State – Web Build

Skywatchers – Poyekhali!

As you may recall, 2010 saw the appearance of an I Monster side-project of which I was inordinately fond, a collaboration with Kevin Pearce by the name of Skywatchers. The original ten-track album The Skywatchers Handbook, which I reviewed previously, came with no fewer than four bonus tracks on the digital release, which were reissued last year as part of an EP with a couple of extras on the end.

The EP was entitled Poyekhali! (“Off we go!”) which was apparently what Yuri Gagarin had to say for himself as he headed off on the first manned orbit of earth in 1961. As with the original album, this appeared to relatively little fanfare, but it’s definitely worth hearing.

These bonus tracks are, perhaps inevitably, not quite up to the standard of the original album. Tie You to Me is pleasant, but it’s not quite a fully fledged song. The Sirens of Scopuli is, but perhaps the lack of obsessiveness about space and the slightly less dreamy quality makes it stand out a little as something different.

The eight minute epic When Up Falls Down is more what Skywatchers are good at – it’s ethereal and dreamlike, mixing acoustic folk music with subtle electronics, full of atmosphere and just a little bit of obsessing about astronomy. It also packs something of a punch – after listening to it float by for five minutes or so, the drums suddenly appear, accompanied by a punchy synth arpeggio and a lot of bounce. It’s totally brilliant, and definitely the highlight of this collection.

The fourth track – the last of the bonuses on the original album – is a cover. Licked by Love was originally performed by The Penelope[s] and Morpheus on their 2009 album Priceless Concrete Echoes. Here, it’s one of the shortest of Skywatchers‘ tracks, and made for a pleasant closing track on The Skywatchers Handbook.

This release presented two new tracks – the miniature Night of the Crabs, which although perhaps not the most exciting thing this collaboration had ever yielded is definitely worth a listen, as is the closer Yours Sincerely, Freeman Lowell.

After just one album, Skywatchers seem, at least in their original form, to have ceased to be, which is truly a shame, as when they were at their best, they were truly exceptional. Let’s all collectively cross our fingers for another release very soon.

The EP Poyekhali! can, like all of their releases, be downloaded for a modest fee from their Bandcamp page here.

Preview – Morten Harket

One new release which we missed a couple of weeks ago was the new album Brother from former a-ha frontman Morten Harket, by my calculation his sixth. He still seems to have the knack for writing great songs. And singing while being washed away by floodwaters, apparently, which is probably not something you should try at home. Here’s the title track:

Chart for stowaways – 1 March 2014

Let’s jump forward a couple of weeks for the top ten singles:

  1. Röyksopp feat. Susanne Sundfør – Running to the Sea
  2. Depeche Mode – Soothe My Soul
  3. I Monster / People Soup – Devils on Horseback
  4. Goldfrapp – Yes Sir
  5. Madness feat. Ian Dury – Drip Fed Fred
  6. U2 – Invisible
  7. Depeche Mode – I Feel Loved
  8. Napoleon – You Could ❤ This
  9. Kevin Pearce – Weevil Ven Bone
  10. I Monster / People Soup – Flavours

Beginner’s guide to making a bit of a mess of things

Due to an administrative error, the Beginner’s guide to Goldfrapp seems to have gone out last week, a week early, and next week’s isn’t quite ready yet, so here’s a quick chance to catch up on what we’ve had so far for those of you who weren’t completely paying attention:

More next week, assuming I don’t mess up the timing again…

Countdown to Eurovision – Sonia

The 1993 UK entry for the Eurovision Song Contest was slightly unpredictably Sonia, with Better the Devil You Know. Before you ask yourself what on earth she thinks she’s wearing, it’s worth taking a moment to realise that the song isn’t actually all that bad. It ended up in second place too!

Erlend Øye / Various Artists – DJ-Kicks

From Kings of Convenience to The Whitest Boy Alive to his own solo work, with vocals for Röyksopp and many others, Erlend Øye is a very busy man indeed. The year after his brilliant solo album Unrest, he released a mix compilation which is quite unlike any other, one which deserves the right to be regarded as an album in its own right.

Erlend Øye‘s DJ-Kicks compilation kicks off with the warm crackle of vinyl and the sound of Jürgen Paape‘s So Weit Wie Noch Nie, a lovely gentle piece of electronic music with a touch of acoustic guitar and a vocal from way back when. The first signs of anything being amiss come at the end, as Øye mixes in the backing from his own Sheltered Life with an acapella version of It’s a Fine Day. Clearly his DJ style is eccentric to say the least.

This mixes into the Kings of Convenience remix of Cornelius‘s Drop, which sounds entirely like a Kings of Convenience track but sung in foreign, with its rhythmic acoustic guitars and gentle vocals. It’s got some extra beats and water noises too, but it’s altogether fantastic.

Next is the brilliant If I Ever Feel Better by Phoenix, mixed ingeniously by a vocal from Øye. I don’t often talk about Phoenix, because I’m never quite sure whether I actually like them, but this track is great. We then take a side step via Jolly Music‘s Radio Jolly mixed into Øye’s own Prego Amore, and then the quite incredible Rubicon by Alan Braxe and Fred Falke.

You might find it difficult to know what to make of Avenue D‘s 2D2F. I can’t help but think it’s brilliant, but it is just a touch on the vulgar side. Maybe you just need to make your own mind up on this one.

With a duration of little more than fifty minutes, the tracks come thick and fast, with The Rapture‘s brilliant I Need Your Love mixing via Lattialla Taas by Uusi Fantasia with a new rendition of Venus as its vocal into Justus Köhncke‘s 2 After 909, and finally Erlend Øye‘s then new single The Black Keys Work. If at any point you feel the need to breathe, you’ll just have to press pause for yourself.

With the dark backing of something from the early 1990s, Jackmate‘s Airraid turns up, sounding totally brilliant, and taking the album into slightly deeper house territory. Then Silicone Soul‘s remix of Poor Leno by Röyksopp meets There is a Light That Never Goes Out for an odd, if compelling soundclash.

The last few tracks steadily bring the tempo back down – Skateboard‘s Metal Chix (augmented with a vocal of Always on My Mind) is full of flanged synths and driving beats, but it mixes into Villalobos‘s extremely chilled (and largely backwards) Dexter, which in turn leads into Minizza‘s inventive pop sound with their version of Winning a Battle, Losing the War.

Finally, the mix comes to a close with Morgan Geist‘s Lullaby, now with another added vocal from Erlend Øye, this time singing A Place in My Heart. It’s much more laid back than some of its predecessors, but like every live performance it leaves you slightly with the feeling that the night will last forever. Quite exceptional.

This edition of DJ-Kicks seems to have become somewhat difficult to find, but there are still copies floating around second hand, such as from here.

Live – April 2014

Here are your live highlights for April:

The Presets

Back on the road, starting at the touring Groovin the Moo festival in Australia, and then followed by individual dates next month.

Full list of dates at Songkick

Booka Shade

Coming up with festivals and individual dates in London, Dublin, Nürburg, Nuremberg, Liège, and Cuxhaven.

Full list of dates at Songkick

Kosheen

Playing this week in Zürich, with more dates no doubt to follow.

Full list of dates at Songkick

Chromeo

Following the shows at Coachella over the last couple of weeks, future dates are taking place over the coming months in the USA, Canada, Spain, France, the Netherlands, the UK, Portugal, Germany, and then the USA again.

Full list of dates at Songkick

Boys Noize

With shows coming up at the Counterpoint festival in Georgia (the state), the Hangout festival in Alabama (the state), the Sasquatch festival in Washington (the state), the Movement festival in Michigan (the state), a one-off date in Stockholm (the city), and finally the Melt festival in Germany (the country).

Full list of dates at Songkick

 

Electronic – Electronic (Reissue)

Sometimes you have to wonder whether remastered reissues are entirely necessary – even for a relatively old album, if the original sounded good, do you really need to hear a cleaned up version?

Electronic, the debut album from Electronic, is not one of those cases. The original 1991 release sounds absolutely awful. It’s so bad, in fact, in its sub-FM radio fidelity, that it’s almost surprising this album is as well loved as it is. The 2013 remastered reissue was, therefore, very welcome indeed.

To me, Idiot Country has always seemed an odd choice of album opener. It sounds so completely unlike anything that Bernard Sumner or Johnny Marr had ever released previously that it must have come as a bit of a surprise to listeners. And with that in mind, it’s a rather clever album opener too.

Reality should sound a little more familiar, but this album was never without its surprises. There are less good moments, such as third track Tighten Up, but even they sound considerably better now than they ever did before – somehow a whole load of orchestral hits sound a lot better remastered than they did the first time around. And then there are exceptional moments such as The Patience of a Saint.

The Patience of a Saint is, of course, the moment where Pet Shop Boys appear without warning. The collaboration is pretty much perfect, and is definitely one of the best tracks on this album – if you had to guess what a cross between Chris Lowe, Bernard Sumner, Neil Tennant, and Johnny Marr might sound like, you probably wouldn’t be too far off.

The original 1991 release on Factory Records even omitted the debut single Getting Away with It, and so it was left to subsequent reissues to put it back at the halfway point where it definitely belongs. Without it, this is still a good album, but somehow it feels as though it’s missing its soul. And Getting Away with It is also one of the tracks to really benefit from the remaster – it sounds infinitely better than it ever would have sounded on its original release in 1989.

The orchestral hits return with Gangster, no longer sounding tinny and empty, but now full of dark FM synth sounds – it still sounds very dated, but it’s a much more mournful and meaningful piece thanks to the remaster. Similarly Soviet, which you could easily be forgiven for dismissing as a silly little filler track, is now transformed into one of the most atmospheric and moving pieces on the entire album.

Next up is the killer single Get the Message, which always sounded brilliant, so its inclusion here is less essential. It’s still one of the best singles of the early 1990s, and really deserved to spend several months at number one.

Later tracks Try All You Want and Some Distant Memory still start to feel a little more like filler, but it’s difficult to overstate just how much better this album sounds thanks to having been revisited. The closing track, the final single Feel Every Beat, is totally brilliant though. With little more than a minute to go at the end of the album, it collapses into a whirl of piano chords, and makes for a perfect album closer.

The other thing that Electronic is lacking is their finest moment, 1992’s Disappointed, which on this release kicks off the bonus disc. That’s an acceptable compromise, but on this reissue it’s among slightly strange company. The new bonus disc is now a collection of instrumental versions and exclusive edits of b-sides and later album tracks. It’s a welcome collection, even if some of the inclusions are a little incongruous, and if nothing else it’s a timely reminder that Electronic was more than just a brief side project for New Order and The Smiths.

Some remasters may be pointless means for record companies to shift more copies, but this is far from being one of those. It’s a great album, and for the first time it sounds truly exceptional. This is, without a doubt, the essential version of Electronic, and every home should have one.

You can find the new reissue of Electronic at all major retailers.

Preview – Dieter Meier

Following on from his first two singles Jim for Tango and Cry for Fame, both released in 1978, Yello frontman Dieter Meier has just released his debut album Out of Chaos, which if this sample is to be believed has allowed him to explore some very different vocal directions. Here’s Loveblind: