Artist of the Week – Everything But The Girl

Time now for the last of our old artists of the week. As always, please accept my apologies for errors, plagiarism, laziness, greed, or anything else that might annoy you!

Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn formed Everything But The Girl way back in 1984, after each releasing a solo album. Throughout the 1980s, they scored numerous minor hit singles and albums, but their biggest hits were always cover versions, including 1988’s I Don’t Want to Talk About It. In 1992, Ben Watt famously came very close to death, suffering for over a year from a near-fatal illness.

Their return in 1994 with Amplified Heart saw them carefully examining different musical directions, but it was at the end of the year when they worked with Massive Attack on the Protection album, and this saw them head into the world of dance music. Todd Terry‘s 1995 remix of Missing propelled them to the top end of the charts, providing them with their biggest hit, and the following year they returned with the Walking Wounded album, with numerous substantial hits.

In 1998 they wored with Deep Dish on The Future of the Future, and this saw them heading deeper and darker into house and drum and bass territory. 1999’s Temperamental album was a deep and dark affair, with extensive exploratory tracks but a few accessible moments.

Since then they seem to have faltered somewhat as a band, but of course they are now married with children. Ben Watt spent three years running the Lazy Dog club in London, and continues to put out individual deep house tracks on small independent labels including his own Buzzin’ Fly label. They’ve also put out their third singles compilation Like the Deserts Miss the Rain, and, more recently, an astoundingly good remix album, Adapt or Die.

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Artist of the Week – The Shamen

In the penultimate artist of the week slot back in 2005, we covered The Shamen. As always, apologies for any unintended inaccuracies, plagiarism, or hyperbole.

The story of The Shamen goes back to the early 1980s, when Colin AngusPeter StephensonKeith McKenzie and Derek McKenzie formed the group Alone Again Or. In 1986, they metamorphosed into The Shamen, and released the debut album Drop, a groundbreaking and decidedly early Madchester-style fusion of guitar riffs and dance rhythms, shortly after the release of which they were joined by Will Sinnott.

Two members down, the second album In Gorbachev We Trust saw them move more into dance territory, but only a year after its release, Will Sinnott drowned off the Canary Islands. Angus, now calling himself Mr. C, reformed the group, and they moved truly into the mainstream with 1991’s En-Tact album, heralded by such huge hits as Move Any Mountain and Make it Mine.

In 1993 their Boss Drum album saw them turn almost entirely pop, releasing drug-inspired hit after drug-inspired hit, but it also saw their long-term fans deserting them in droves, so their return in 1995, Axis Mutatis, was a much more sombre affair. Fusing new age idealism with deep dance rhythms, it truly is a much  overlooked mid-90s masterpiece.

The follow-up Hempton Manor came out the following year, and saw them dramatically split with their record company after no singles were released. The follow-up best of album The Shamen Collection was a minor hit, but is essentially made up of tracks off the Boss Drum album.

Their last album UV followed in 1998, and was a very deep and dark house-filled affair, with dark beats and the occasional lighter moment. Following very little interest for this project, the group disappeared into cyberspace, leaving very little trace behind except a legacy of late 80s and early 90s dance hits. These days Mr. C continues to DJ and release solo material.

Artist of the Week – Apollo 440

This is almost the last of our old Artist of the Week reprints. This one dates back to 2005, and as usual, is full or errors, omissions, and hyperbole.

Liverpool has long been known as a hotbed of inventive and eccentric new music. Apollo 440 may not be a widely known name on this scene, but their tracks are considerably better known than their name. They started recording and remixing at the start of the 1990s, shooting to fame with their 1993 single Astral America, which brought them a huge hit single. The brilliant album Millennium Fever followed the subsequent year, but failed to break them into the mainstream.

It was with the second album Electro Glide in Blue that they truly entered the mainstream, with the singles Krupa and Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Dub shooting them into the upper end of the charts. The following year their updated theme for the film Lost in Space brought them another huge hit. ·

One of their greatest strengths, however has always been their haunting soundtrack music. Some of the score to Lost in Space was their work, they also composed the soundtrack for the game Rapid Racer, and following the third album High on Your Own Supply, released in 1999, they scored another huge hit with the theme to the first Charlie’s Angels film.

Further huge hits followed, with Stop the Rock and Heart Go Boom both gracing the upper end of the charts, as well as their duet with Jean Michel Jarre on Rendez-Vous 98.

Their return in 2003 was sadly rather less of a success. After nearly four years working on the fourth album, the double CD epic Dude Descending a Staircase was released, but failed to make any impact on the charts whatsoever. The single of the same name was a minor hit, but in many ways lacked the impact of their earlier works.

Artist of the Week – Delerium

As you probably know by now, a long time ago, I had a radio show, on which I had a weekly Artist of the Week feature. For some reason I never threw away my notes, and they’re vaguely fun to look back on and see what was going on in 2004-ish. The major downside is that they’re not especially accurate – sorry about that.

This week’s Artist of the Week is one of my personal favourite groups, but remain something of a mystery to most music fans. In the UK, they are known almost exclusively for one song, a song which has impressively spent over a year on the Top 200 charts. And they are… Delerium. Now, I warn you the story gets rather complicated, so I will be glossing over large parts of it in the interest of everybody’s sanity!

Originally formed in 1987, they have gone through numerous lineup changes, and now consist of canadian Germans Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber. They work simultaneously on the Delerium project and also release as Front Line Assembly. Rhys has a side-project called Conjure One, he’s about to release his second solo album; and Bill works as producer to numerous groups as well as making music of his own elsewhere.

But back to the Delerium story. After several years making low-key ambient albums, they parted with their original record company in the early 1990s. They signed to Nettwerk; and released Semantic Spaces. The following year, they put out Karma, which across the world would become their best selling album, Including numerous minor hits such as the original version of their biggest hit: Silence.

Over the following three years, they slowly started notching up hits in the UK, and at the end of 2000 Silence was reissued, propelled to the top of the charts by Airscape and Tiesto remixes. The subsequent album Poem was a minor hit, and also managed a couple of hit singles, followed by a remix album and compilations of their early material.

Their most recent album Chimera came out in 2003, and in many ways is one of their best to date, and following further minor hit singles, they remixed Silence at the end of last year, to promote their best of album. It’s a bit of an odd collection but it includes most of their better tracks, so is definitely an essential purchase…

Artist of the Week – New Order

My radio show Music for the Masses ran for a couple of years in total around fifteen years ago, and in its second incarnation I ran an Artist of the week section, which I’ve been trying to digitise recently just so we’ve got it as a vaguely interesting archive of where our favourite artists were back then. It’s full of errors and hyperbole, so once again, please accept my apologies for that.

This week’s artist of the week doesn’t need any introduction – in fact, I hardly need to say anything about them at all, as the story is already very widely known. They are New Order.

They formed in 1980 out of the remains of Joy Division, and initially continued in much the same vein. The debut album Movement was in many ways overshadowed by Ian Curtis‘s death, and was not especially successful.

The second album Power, Corruption and Lies followed in 1983, and was the first to see them experimenting with industrial electronic sounds, it was the first of many classic albums, and followed hot on the heels of the best selling 12″ single ever, Blue Monday, which sold well over a million copies.

They were always best known for their refusal to accept standard music industry practices, such as playing Top of the Pops and releasing singles that appeared on albums. The following albums Low-Life and Brotherhood are still some of their best, containing many groundbreaking tracks, and their almost universal compilation Substance added True Faith to their astonishing list of hit singles.

At the end of the 1980s they released Technique; which is arguably their finest album to date, which was followed by their first and only number one with the football hit World in Motion.

In 1993 they made their return with Republic. These days most fans regard it as a mistake, and it’s true that the album tracks have lost the exploratory feel of earlier albums – however, the hits Regret and World in Motion [sic.] are more of New Order‘s best tracks to date, so it should not be forgotten.

Against all odds, after spending most of the 1990s concentrating on other projects, they returned once more with 2001 ‘s Get Ready album, a much harder and darker offering which is still entirely listenable, and now, four years on, they are back again with a new album Waiting for the Sirens’ Call, due next week. Judging by the first single Krafty, it sees them return to their electronic roots, and looks extremely promising.

Well, of course as I mentioned at the beginning, their roots weren’t really electronic, but hey, I’ve already apologised for the errors in here – of which there are definitely many – so I won’t repeat myself again.

Artist of the Week – Sparks

The Artist of the Week feature on my old radio show Music for the Masses has proved a vaguely interesting source of features for this blog, although it does seem to contain some errors, hyperbole, and possibly plagiarism. This week, Sparks.

This week’s Artist of the Week is the ever-wonderful and ever-evolving Sparks. Now, unfortunately we can’t really afford to go into too much detail, otherwise we’ll be here all night, but anyway, the story goes like this… Ron Mael and Russell Mael formed their first band Halfnelson back in 1971, releasing their first (and only) album that year. The following year they crossed the Atlantic and started recording with a new line-up, now known as Sparks.

They first saw UK success with the seminal but not overly electronic This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us, which peaked at number two in 1974. Slowly the hits began to die away, and by 1976 they were once more failing to reach the chart – however, they resolutely refused to give up.

In 1979, they managed a comeback when they travelled to Germany to work with Giorgio Moroder on the essential Number 1 in Heaven album. This brought them two further substantial hits, but unfortunately they failed once again to hold onto their success, as the follow-up album Terminal Jive flopped. However, it brought them hits in France, and in the early 1980s they finally managed to break their homeland, America.

In 1989, they began one of their most interesting chapters to date. After fifteen albums and countless singles on an almost infinite number of record companies, they decided to give up and make films instead. Sadly, the constant delays and broken promises of the film world led to them abandoning their new career after four years and returning to music instead.

Their comeback in 1994 brought them success across Europe, as they embraced the swiftly growing genre of Europop. The classics When Do I Get to Sing “My Way” and When I Kiss You both reached the top forty, as did a reissue of This Town released in 1997 with additions from rockers Faith No More.

Recent years have seen them once more failing to make the charts, but continuing to release album after album. Their most recent, their nineteenth album L’il Beethoven, was convincingly given five-star ratings across the board, and they even scraped a minor hit single with Suburban Homeboy, but the album itself failed to chart.

Rumour has it they are now working on a new album, as it’s now nearly three years since L’il Beethoven

Artist of the Week – William Orbit

Time now for another of our archive Artist of the Week features, dating back to early 2005. Some of these do contain errors, and probably contain some plagiarism too. Apologies in advance…

This week’s Artist of the Week was born William Wainwright, and would ultimately go on to become one of the most important musicians in the world of electronic ambient and dance music.

He began his musical career in the early 1980s in the new wave group Torch Song, and while recording with the band started to learn studio techniques, and by the end of the eighties was making a name for himself by remixing and producing the likes of Kraftwerk, The Human League, Erasure, and Madonna.

His first solo album Orbit was released in 1987, but it was with the Strange Cargo project that he started to make a name for himself. The first part of the four-album epic also came out in 1987, and was followed by parts two and three at three-year intervals. It was with these that he kick-started the career of folk singer Beth Orton, who first featured on 1993’s minor hit single Water from a Vine Leaf. The fourth album in the set, Strange Cargo Hinterland, followed in 1995, and features some of his best material to date.

It was at this time he first recorded his legendary Pieces in a Modern Style album, featuring inventive new interpretations of classical pieces, but it initially attracted very strong protests from some of the composers involved, so he re-entered the world of production, apparently never to be seen again.

However, it was with his production work that he truly made a name for himself, being responsible for some of All Saints‘ later material, as well as Ray of Light, one of Madonna‘s best albums to date, and also Blur‘s acclaimed album 13. On the back of this, he returned to the studio to re-record Pieces in a Modern Style, which swiftly made its name as a modern classic thanks to remixes by Ferry Corsten and ATB.

As rumours of a new album continue, he continues to work with the likes of Pink and Eagle-Eye Cherry on production work, and we await his return with baited breath.