Unsigned, but not forgotten

One of the things I really wanted to do when I started this blog five years ago was to try to do anything I could to help unsigned artists. I had tried previously, actually, on a radio show, and had found that a lot of unsigned acts couldn’t get their, um, “act” together to make it work as a cohesive feature, and so it only really ran three of four times before falling in flames.

The unsigned feature on this blog lasted a little longer, and did showcase some interesting acts, but it also opened me up to a lot of artists who for one reason or another weren’t appropriate for the blog, and one or two people who didn’t take that news too well. These are the perils of doing anything on the internet.

But let’s take a look at those who did make it, and see what they have been up to!

Blue Swan

First covered on my radio show in February 2005, and then subsequently looked at in detail on this blog in November 2012, this Danish duo seem to have entered a quiet phase in their career. Looking at their Soundcloud, their last new tracks were the ones we covered here five years ago, and there have been a few DJ mixes since then, but not a lot of activity.

Hugh Doolan

We covered this Irish acoustic act back in November 2012, and looking at his Soundcloud account he’s been very busy recently. His Bandcamp page includes ten releases since we last spoke to him, including acoustic tracks and film soundtracks.

Rance Garrison

Covered back in August 2013, when he was between albums, he seems to have released three new albums in the last few years, all of which are available on his Bandcamp page.

Jonteknik

We first covered Jon’s debut album in November 2012, and when we visited him again the following year, he had just released another album. He’s now part of a label that I need to look into further called The People’s Electric, and recently released an album called Skylines.

Kyma

Introduced to this blog back in November 2012, this UK-based act was still busy a year or so later, including proudly posting one of his songs that was played on BBC Essex, but he hasn’t pushed much to his Soundcloud recently.

mindXpander

An old favourite of mine from the mp3.com days of the early internet, I first covered them here back in 2013. Things seem to have been quiet for them for a couple of decades now, but you can still enjoy their back catalogue at Soundcloud.

Movement Ten

This Brighton-based duo were first covered here back in December 2012 when they had just released their debut album. The following year when we looked again, they had just released another album, but things seem to have been quieter since then.

Subculture

Featured on my radio show in 2005, unfortunately I don’t have any record any more of who they were, how they got in touch, or where they are now. If you know, please ask them to get in touch!

Devin Tait

First covered in August 2013, then revisited later that year when he was in the middle of touring, this flamboyant LA-based artist is now working on his next solo album The White Tomato. More at his official website.

Finally, I think a few more people had filled in the form on the website and asked for coverage. I’ll sit down and actually read those messages and do a feature on them very soon – apologies for the lack of responses if you’re feeling impatient.

Unsigned Act – Blue Swan (and Subculture)

With this blog and the radio shows that came before it, I have always tried to keep some space available for unsigned artists, but honestly giving them the chance to be written about or to appear on an actual radio station yields surprisingly poor results. In the end, I only ever covered two unsigned acts on my old radio show Music for the Masses (2004-2005), one of whom was Blue Swan.

I must have contacted them via email, and wrote the following…

The duo consists of Henrik Jürgensen, 31, the vocalist and a soon-to-be qualified accountant, and Kasper Lauest, 30, who is the producer and also a psychologist (in the band?) They have been producing music since late 1999, when they met on the first Pet Shop Boys internet forum at Dotmusic, discovering by chance that they had gone to the same high school, one class apart, so they decided to meet up.

They listened to each other’s music, and both liked what they heard. When they heard about the Pet Shop Boys fan tribute project Attribute, they decided to record a cover of A New Life. They liked the result, so continued working together. They continue the story:

Last August, we released our first “virtual” album Sinister But Fragile. The track Black Widow was supposed to have been recorded by a famous Danish artist for her international debut album, but the deal fell through.

They are situated around Copenhagen, Denmark. All of their songs are recorded in their home studio in Kasper’s house. They write their songs together, sometimes in collaboration with Kasper’s younger brother Jakob.

The track Black Widow was done as an instrumental entitled Brutal, written by Kasper and his brother. When Henrik heard it, he absolutely loved it and wrote the lyrics and melody line on top of it. All synth sounds on Black Widow were made using an Access Virus C, while the beat was programmed using Reason 2.5.

Their virtual album Sinister But Fragile can be heard and downloaded in its entirety for free at (a website which no longer exists).

Their favourite band is the Pet Shop Boys, and Kasper’s favourite TV show is 24.

If you’re wondering, the other unsigned act we featured on the show was Subculture, but my only notes for them read as follows:

  • “Trash pop”
  • New Order
  • The Human League
  • David Bowie
  • OMD
  • Suede
  • Ladytron

Ross (vocals), Mace (synth), Matt (guitar), and Julia (bass).

You can read our most recent feature on Blue Swan here. If you’re unsigned and want some coverage, please get in touch using the form on the “Are You Unsigned” page.

Music for the Masses 32 – 16 February 2005

Always keen to try new features on the show, the Spring term had seen my try out the Unsigned Act feature, where I would try to give a new or unsigned artist a bit of free airtime, with no strings attached (well, except they had to be good). In the end, it was a bit of a failure, as pretty much everyone who showed an interest failed to submit anything on time. One of the few exceptions was Blue Swan, whom we also covered here on the blog.

webcamc4webcamc1 webcamc2 webcamc3

Show 32: Wed 16 Feb 2005, from 6:05pm-8:00pm

Broadcast on LSR FM, online only. Artist of the week: Faithless.

  • BT – Love, Peace and Grease
  • Conjure One – Centre of the Sun (29 Palms Remix)
  • Dave Gahan – I Need You
  • Mirwais – Naïve Song
  • Leftfield – Afro-Left
  • Faithless – Don’t Leave
  • Bomb the Bass – Winter in July
  • Echoboy – Lately Lonely
  • Groove Armada – At the River (Live)
  • Blue Swan – Black Widow [Unsigned Act]
  • Jollymusic feat. Erlend Øye – Talco Uno
  • Faithless feat. Dido – One Step Too Far
  • Electribe 101 – Talkin’ with Myself 98 (Beloved Mix)
  • Vic Twenty – Sugar Me
  • Moby – Left Me Up
  • Étienne de Crécy – Am I Wrong?
  • Yazoo – Don’t Go
  • Faithless – Mass Destruction
  • Deep Dish – Stranded
  • Goldfrapp – Utopia

Introducing Blue Swan

The second unsigned act in this mini-series is Danish duo Kasper Lauest and Henrik Jürgensen, who prefer to be known as Blue Swan. Formed thanks to the Pet Shop Boys forums on the internet in 1999, they started making music with covers of PSB b-sides Your Funny Uncle and A New Life.

Fire and Flames

They have recorded three “demo albums”: Sinister But Fragile (2004), Intentionally Miserable (2005), and Fire and Flames (2008), and are planning to record together again soon.

As before, we’ve got three tracks to taste from them, and I’m consciously not going to sully them with too many of my opinions! The first of the tracks in their Music for stowaways demo is Black Widow (2004):

By way of warning, you have to make sure you love both autotune and 303 acid sounds if you’re going to sign up to this one! They describe it as dark and haunting, yet melodic, which I think is fair.

Next up, Chief of the Tribe (2008):

One of the comments describes the bass as “slumpy,” which is about right. The melody is definitely reminiscent of Pet Shop Boys.

Finally, we have Everyone I Know (2008):

Again, you can hear the ghost of Neil Tennant haunting this one! They’ve also tagged it with StockAitken, and Waterman, which I can see too.

Kasper’s answers to my daft questions are particularly intriguing…

What’s your favourite synth, and why?

The synth that had the biggest importance to the Blue Swan project was probably the Access Virus C, which I got in 2003 and really got us going. That synth is used on almost everything on our 2004 Sinister But Fragile album.

These days I don’t really use hardware synths anymore, because software synths are so much more handy to use. I generally try to use a lot of different synths, but the most used are probably Lennar Digital Sylenth1, which is very easy to program and good for huge sawtooth based sounds, and refx Nexus 2, which has a lot of nice presets if you’re in quick need of a nice patch.

I like Spectrasonics Triton or Rob Papen Subboombass for bass sounds. I suppose a good approach to synths is to limit oneself and really learn a synth in depth. I’ve never been able to do that though, and prefer to use lots of different synths, flicking through presets until I find something I like and then alter it a bit. I will probably never have the patience to fully learn proper synth programming.

Which (existing) movie would have benefitted your music on the soundtrack?

Maybe some 80’s influenced movie like Drive, but that already had great music. I could see a song like Black Widow, Montague & Capulet or Solitude go with a movie like that. Otherwise I don’t really think we do movie-esque music, although I guess that our mini-album Intentionally Miserable is a movie within itself.

Nobody really listens to music any more. Discuss.

I would argue that people listen to music more than ever before, but arguably less focused that before, which is primarily a result of an enourmously wide range of music being so easily accessible. In the past, a kid would buy a CD and then listen to it religiously. These days we crave new sounds all of the time. I do it myself, I listen to hundreds of new songs every month, constantly looking for new great tunes.

Perhaps it makes me appreciate good tunes a bit less, and it certainly doesn’t allow much time for a track to grow on you, but I wouldn’t say that it was better before. I’m exposed to far greater amounts of great music than in the past and this can’t be a bad thing.

I’ve also noticed that teenagers today don’t just listen to music from the last 18 months, like my generation did when we were teens. They listen to music from every era, which I think is very interesting. There is really something out there for everyone. The internet has allowed for communities of subcultures to worship a particular niche of music, that in the past simply would never have gotten released.

He concludes, “I think the internet has been a huge plus for musicians and people who love music. The only ones it hasn’t been good for is music companies and distributors,” which I would agree with on every level. We also learnt the punishments to which Justin Bieber should be subjected for Eenie Meenie (“cruel and unusual”), which seems fair.

Blue Swan‘s Soundcloud site can be found here: http://soundcloud.com/blueswan