Stowaway World Cup – Group Stages – Games 41-44

Game 41: Delerium / Front Line Assembly / Conjure One versus Madonna and Yazoo

  1. 6+5. Goal for funniest band picture. 0-1.
  2. 5+5. No goal.
  3. 1+1. No goal.
  4. 6+4. Goal for highest number of search engine results. 0-2.
  5. 3+3. No goal.
  6. 2+3. Goal for quality of first album. Easy goal for Yazoo. 0-3.
  7. 2+1. Goal for most charismatic performer(s). Madonna. 0-4.
  8. 6+4. Re-roll. 3+4. No goal.
  9. 1+5. No goal.
  10. 3+6. No goal. The odd pairing of Madonna and Yazoo win 0-4.

Game 42: Sparks versus Everything But The Girl

  1. 3+2. No goal.
  2. 3+5. No goal.
  3. 4+5. Goal for number of UK hit albums. Everything But The Girl take an early lead. 0-1.
  4. 3+2. No goal.
  5. 5+1. No goal.
  6. 1+6. No goal.
  7. 1+4. No goal.
  8. 4+5. Re-roll. 5+2. No goal.
  9. 2+5. Goal for best artwork. Could go either way, but Walking Wounded and Temperamental are particularly great. 0-2.
  10. 5+5. No goal, and a shocker! Everything But The Girl win 0-2, sadly pushing Sparks to the bottom of this tough group.

Game 43: Saint Etienne versus Massive Attack

  1. 6+2. Goal for highest estimated total sales. Difficult to know for sure, so no goal.
  2. 2+6. Goal for number of permanent members. Saint Etienne score. 1-0.
  3. 1+3. No goal.
  4. 1+3. No goal.
  5. 6+4. Goal for highest number of search engine results. 1-1.
  6. 2+6. Re-roll. 6+3. Goal for highest number of mentions on blog. 2-1.
  7. 3+5. No goal.
  8. 1+1. No goal.
  9. 4+2. Goal for most years between first and last hit. Very close, but Massive Attack just have it. 2-2.
  10. 5+2. No goal. Draw! 2-2.

Game 44: Kraftwerk versus Hot Chip

  1. 6+3. Goal for highest number of mentions on blog. 1-0.
  2. 2+2. Goal for number of studio albums to date. 2-0.
  3. 5+5. No goal.
  4. 3+1. No goal.
  5. 4+5. Goal for number of UK hit albums. 3-0.
  6. 2+1. Goal for most charismatic performer(s). 3-1.
  7. 5+5. No goal.
  8. 2+5. Goal for best artwork. 4-1.
  9. 6+6. Foul. 2+4. One of Hot Chip gets sent off.
  10. 1+5. No goal. Kraftwerk win 4-1.

Stowaway World Cup – Week 1

So we reach the half way point of the group stages, and we’ve already had a lot of surprises. I’m sure you won’t have missed them in all the excitement, but just in case, here’s a recap.

Group A

The group is currently firmly led by Jean-Michel Jarre, with the Delerium / Front Line Assembly / Conjure One supergroup as runners-up, but any of the teams could still qualify.

Group B

Depeche Mode are well ahead, and after two disappointing losses for Sparks and a surprise win for Kylie Minogue, the latter currently looks likely to sneak into the group of sixteen.

Group C

Erasure have a strong lead, with Saint Etienne just holding onto second place, but with a game in hand.

Group D

Kraftwerk lead with two strong wins, and Hot Chip are currently holding onto second place after drawing against Goldfrapp in their first game.

Group E

Pet Shop Boys are leading, and after two dirty games from The Beloved, I Monster currently hold the runner-up spot.

Group F

Big surprises here. The favourites are currently right at the bottom of the table, with Enigma in first place, Air in second, and Röyksopp and OMD in third and fourth.

Group G

David Bowie is comfortably leading, with The Human League in second place.

Group H

New Order lead, with The Future Sound of London in second.

Stowaway World Cup – Group Stages – Games 17-20

Game 17: Jean-Michel Jarre versus Delerium / Front Line Assembly / Conjure One

  1. 1+2. No goal.
  2. 4+5. Goal for number of UK hit albums. Easy goal for Jarre. 1-0.
  3. 5+3. No goal.
  4. 3+2. No goal.
  5. 4+6. Goal for total weeks on UK album chart. Jarre again. 2-0.
  6. 4+1. Goal for highest debut position on UK singles chart. Surprising goal for Delerium, who peaked at number 3 with Silence. 2-1.
  7. 5+3. No goal.
  8. 3+6. No goal.
  9. 3+2. No goal.
  10. 5+2. No goal. Win for Jean-Michel Jarre, 2-1.

Game 18: Depeche Mode versus Sparks

  1. 1+5. No goal.
  2. 4+5. Goal for number of UK hit albums. Sparks have a lot more albums, but a big gap in their chart history. 1-0.
  3. 5+4. No goal.
  4. 5+4. No goal.
  5. 3+5. No goal.
  6. 4+1. Goal for highest debut position on UK singles chart. Wow, Sparks equalise, having started their career at number 48. 1-1.
  7. 3+6. No goal.
  8. 4+6. Goal for total weeks on UK album chart. 2-1.
  9. 6+2. Goal for highest estimated total sales. Has to be the Mode. 3-1.
  10. 2+5. Goal for best artwork. Tricky, as both have some epic wins and some epic fails. I’ll award it to Depeche Mode, for Violator. 4-1.

Game 19: Erasure versus Saint Etienne

  1. 1+6. No goal.
  2. 3+2. No goal.
  3. 4+4. Goal for number of UK top ten hits. Goal for Erasure. 1-0.
  4. 6+2. Goal for highest estimated total sales. Goal for Erasure. 2-0.
  5. 6+3. Goal for highest number of mentions on blog. Another for Erasure. 3-0.
  6. 6+2. We’ve had that before, so let’s throw again. 3+2. No goal.
  7. 3+6. No goal.
  8. 6+5. Goal for funniest band picture. Another goal for Erasure. 4-0.
  9. 3+4. No goal.
  10. 4+5. Goal for number of UK hit albums. An outstanding win for Erasure. 5-0.

Game 20: Goldfrapp versus Kraftwerk

  1. 2+4. Goal for quality of last album. Kraftwerk‘s last wasn’t a fan favourite, but I think it was easily better than Goldfrapp‘s. 0-1.
  2. 6+1. Goal for number of BRIT Award wins. Goldfrapp were nominated once, but no goal.
  3. 6+4. Goal for highest number of search engine results. Easy goal for Kraftwerk. 0-2.
  4. 4+4. Goal for number of UK top ten hits. Goldfrapp have three. 1-2.
  5. 1+2. No goal.
  6. 2+4. We’ve had before, so re-roll. 2+4. Same. 3+1. No goal.
  7. 3+2. No goal.
  8. 5+3. No goal.
  9. 1+3. No goal.
  10. 1+1. No goal. Kraftwerk win 1-2.

Stowaway World Cup – Group Stages – Games 9-12

Game 9: Delerium / Front Line Assembly / Conjure One versus Little Boots

  1. 4+1. Goal for debut position on UK singles chart. Little Boots only entered at 97, so Delerium et al score. 1-0.
  2. 6+4. Goal for highest number of search engine results. I tried them all, and got the most for Little Boots. 1-1.
  3. 1+5. No goal.
  4. 2+6. Goal for number of permanent members. Probably a goal for Delerium and friends. 2-1.
  5. 5+2. No goal.
  6. 2+1. Goal for most charismatic performer(s). Easy goal for Little Boots. 2-2.
  7. 3+6. No goal.
  8. 2+1. Goal for most charismatic performer(s). She’s so much more charismatic that she deserves another. Goal for Little Boots. 2-3.
  9. 2+2. Goal for number of studio albums to date. Easy goal for Delerium and gang. 3-3.
  10. 4+6. Goal for total weeks on UK album chart. Delerium win the category and match with a single song. 4-3.

Game 10: Sparks versus Kylie Minogue

  1. 4+3. Goal for highest number of remixes of another artist. Sparks only have a couple, but that’s enough to put them ahead. 1-0.
  2. 3+3. No goal.
  3. 4+6. Goal for total weeks on UK album chart. Easy goal for Kylie. 1-1.
  4. 5+2. No goal.
  5. 1+2. No goal.
  6. 3+1. No goal.
  7. 6+1. Goal for number of BRIT Award wins. Easy goal for Kylie. 1-2.
  8. 1+4. No goal.
  9. 3+3. No goal.
  10. 1+3. No goal. Tough game for Sparks there, losing 1-2.

Game 11: Saint Etienne versus Shit Robot

  1. 3+1. No goal.
  2. 5+1. No goal.
  3. 5+4. No goal.
  4. 3+6. No goal.
  5. 4+1. Goal for highest debut position on UK singles chart. Well, Shit Robot have/has no hits, so 1-0.
  6. 1+2. No goal.
  7. 1+3. No goal.
  8. 4+4. Goal for number of UK top ten hits. Same. 2-0.
  9. 6+5. Goal for funniest band picture. Late goal for Shit Robot. 2-1.
  10. 4+4. Referee’s decision is to be nice to the underdog and throw again. 6+2. Goal for highest estimated total sales. Another goal for Saint Etienne. 3-1.

Game 12: Kraftwerk versus Bent

  1. 5+5. No goal.
  2. 3+3. No goal.
  3. 5+1. No goal.
  4. 5+2. No goal.
  5. 4+3. Goal for highest number of remixes of another artist. Another slow game to get started, and an easy opening goal for Bent. 0-1.
  6. 2+1. Goal for most charismatic performer(s). Very tricky. Kraftwerk are hardly charismatic, but they have a certain Teutonic charm. 1-1.
  7. 5+6. No goal.
  8. 4+6. Goal for total weeks on UK album chart. Easy goal for Kraftwerk. 2-1.
  9. 1+2. No goal.
  10. 2+5. Goal for best artwork. Has to be Kraftwerk, even if they have been busy George Lucassing them in recent years. 3-1.

Stowaway World Cup – The Draw

OK, time for the all-important draw. Pot A consists of the top 8 artists by mentions on this blog:

  • Pet Shop Boys
  • Depeche Mode
  • Jean-Michel Jarre
  • Röyksopp
  • Erasure
  • New Order
  • David Bowie
  • Goldfrapp

Pot B consists of the next eight, except that Moby is busy getting vegan tattoos, so won’t be taking part this year. Delerium, Front Line Assembly, and Conjure One are pretty much the same people anyway, so they have formed a single team together.

  • Saint Etienne
  • Kraftwerk
  • Sparks
  • Delerium / Front Line Assembly / Conjure One
  • The Human League
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
  • The Future Sound of London
  • The Beloved

Pot C sees a few disqualifications, with Vince Clarke taking part as part of Erasure, and Martin L. Gore playing for Depeche Mode:

  • Air
  • Little Boots
  • Massive Attack
  • Kylie Minogue
  • I Monster
  • William Orbit
  • Ladytron
  • Hot Chip

Finally, Pot D sees Dave Gahan disqualified for being part of Depeche Mode, plus U2 and Coldplay disqualified for not being very good. Yazoo formed a team with Madonna, for no particularly good reason.

  • Madonna and Yazoo
  • The Radiophonic Workshop
  • Leftfield
  • Everything But The Girl
  • Shit Robot
  • Client
  • Enigma
  • Bent

After the draw, the eight groups look like this:

  • Group A: Jean-Michel Jarre, Delerium / Front Line Assembly / Conjure One, Little Boots, Madonna and Yazoo
  • Group B: Depeche Mode, Sparks, Kylie Minogue, Everything But The Girl
  • Group C: Erasure, Saint Etienne, Massive Attack, Shit Robot
  • Group D: Goldfrapp, Kraftwerk, Hot Chip, Bent
  • Group E: Pet Shop Boys, The Beloved, I Monster, Client
  • Group F: Röyksopp, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Air, Enigma
  • Group G: David Bowie, The Human League, Ladytron, Leftfield
  • Group H: New Order, The Future Sound of London, William Orbit, The Radiophonic Workshop

So the first game will be Jean-Michel Jarre versus Madonna and Yazoo, in a couple of days’ time.

Chart for stowaways – March 2021

March saw limited movement on the charts, with The Future Sound of London close to claiming half a year at the top spot on the album chart. Hopefully as the lockdown ends, things will start to liven up again, but here are the albums from the last week in March:

  1. The Future Sound of London – Cascade 2020
  2. Front Line Assembly – WarMech
  3. Goldfrapp – Seventh Tree
  4. Pet Shop Boys – Battleship Potemkin (OST)
  5. Étienne de Crécy – Super Discount 3
  6. Deep Forest – Essence of the Forest
  7. The Radiophonic Workshop – Burials in Several Earths
  8. Apollo 440 – Millennium Fever
  9. Sarah Nixey – Night Walks
  10. Olive – Trickle

Chart for stowaways – January 2021

This may change soon, but the charts were a little slow during 2020, probably due to the seemingly never-ending lockdowns. Since January is always slow, so it was at the start of this year, but the albums are still a little different to how they looked the last time you saw them:

  1. The Future Sound of London – Cascade 2020
  2. Sarah Nixey – Night Walks
  3. Front Line Assembly – WarMech
  4. Pet Shop Boys – Hotspot
  5. Jean Michel Jarre – Welcome to the Other Side
  6. Camouflage – Relocated
  7. Goldfrapp – Black Cherry
  8. Air – Pocket Symphony
  9. Honeyroot – Sound Echo Location
  10. Röyksopp – Melody am

Chart for stowaways – Albums 2020

Here are the top albums for last year:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Hotspot
  2. The Beloved – Where it Is
  3. The Future Sound of London – Cascade 2020
  4. Sparks – Past Tense – The Best Of (climbing from number 5 in 2019)
  5. The Beloved – Happiness
  6. Sparks – Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins (climbing from number 7 in 2019)
  7. Sparks – A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip
  8. Erasure – The Neon
  9. Caribou – Suddenly
  10. Sarah Nixey – Night Walks
  11. Depeche Mode – Spirits In The Forest
  12. Kraftwerk – 3-D Der Katalog (number 5 in 2017)
  13. Hot Chip – A Bath Full Of Ecstasy (falling from number 1 in 2019)
  14. Front Line Assembly – WarMech
  15. The Human League – The Essential
  16. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Ghosteen (falling from number 12 in 2019)
  17. Joy Division – Closer
  18. Pet Shop Boys – PopArt
  19. The Orb – Abolition Of The Royal Familia
  20. David Bowie – I’m Only Dancing (The Soul Tour ’74)

Delerium – Spheres II

Reviewing early Delerium is always a bit of a challenge. Prior to Silence, the vast majority of their work was dark, spacious, instrumental, a little industrial, and very different indeed from everything that came after.

Morphology is a case in point – among the long pad swells and growling acid bass line are periodic industrial beats and obscure spoken word samples, and just generally nine and a half minutes of musical space. It isn’t beautiful, exactly, but it is very good.

What’s interesting, in a way, is how similar it is to the later material, though. The big change was the addition of vocalists – firstly just on a couple of tracks with Semantic Spaces (released an astonishing two weeks earlier), and by Karma (1997) and Poem (2001) on pretty much every track. But other than that, the sounds and style on Spheres II is actually very similar.

It’s easy to forget that Delerium was, for those first five years, pretty much just a side project of the much more successful industrial, almost electro-metal act Front Line Assembly. By the end of 1994, Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber already had eight albums to their name under that moniker – but they had also released as many albums again as Delerium, and were showing no sign of slowing.

Lacking the vocals, though, makes this all seem a bit more lacking in direction. Transhumanist is driven by a slow, churning acid bass line. You can see how this outlet for broader, longer, tracks would have appealed to Leeb and Fulber, and so the change that came next is all the odder, in a way.

Having started out with two albums in 1989, one in 1990, another two plus a huge EP / mini-album in 1991, they were already pretty prolific right from the start. Oddly, they had then disappeared for three years, one assumes working hard on writing and recording what would become Spheres (February 1994) and Spheres II (September 1994). Then in the meantime, they also recorded Semantic Spaces (August 1994), which added their first vocalist and paved the way for Karma, and ultimately the mega-hit Silence.

That would be, for anybody, a pretty odd release schedule, and quite why they didn’t decide to hold Semantic Spaces back a few months is a bit of a mystery to me. You can only assume that they decided they liked the new direction better, and decided to rush-release the remaining old stuff before launching in too deeply. But either way, I think it’s safe to see Spheres II as the closing piece of that early era – even if it actually appeared a little after the new one started.

Shockwave is an oddly titled piece – you want it to be huge and explosive, but it’s a gentle, tentative, and drifting piece with weird glitchy vocal samples and hard stereo mixing.Four minutes or so in, it grows into a beautiful, pad-filled, glitchy analogue piece. Some of Delerium‘s early material is so vague that it’s pretty much inaccessible to most listeners, but this is an exception.

It never really stops being pleasant, though – Dimensional Space, one of the shortest tracks on here, clocking in at a mere five and a half minutes, is broad, expansive, and populated mainly by pads. It’s almost orchestral in the way it plays out, although I’m not sure quite how this would play out if an orchestra tried to repeat it.

Hypoxia is great – probably my favourite track on here, actually – it has a wonderfully analogue eighties feel at times, with plinky plonky sounds and softer, less industrial sounding drums. It grows into a huge, Blue Monday-esque choral pad. It’s brilliant – in fact, the only thing I’d change would be the name – as I understand it, hypoxia is a state of panic and anxiety caused by oxygen deficiency. That’s an industrial title – this track feels neither panicked nor anxious to me.

Otherworld is the shortest track in here, although still nearly makes five minutes. It’s a sweet, rippling synth piece, with simple but pleasant chords played by pads, and oddly reverberating chimes. And finally comes In Four Dimensions, which starts with an almost ticking clock, before oddly growing into a weird, Amazonian piece, sampling heavily from Recoil‘s debut 1+2 EP. It’s long – so long, actually, that it’s hard to really enjoy over its full twelve and a half minute duration. It has moments that lift it, such as the rippling synth arpeggio half way through, but it’s not, on the whole, the most exciting closing track ever.

To describe Spheres II as the best of Delerium‘s early material would be a leap for me, as I simply don’t know the rest of it well enough. It does feel more like a compilation than a decisively sequenced album, which lends credence to the idea that it might have been a rushed release. It is mature, though, and well produced – this, to me, is the sound of a duo who know what they’re doing and are comfortable with their sound, but are just in a bit of a hurry to get it out of the way so they can move onto something else.

You’ll struggle to find it new, but second hand copies of Spheres II are widely available.

Front Line Assembly – Implode

Celebrating its twentieth birthday this week is Front Line Assembly‘s eleventh (roughly) album Implode.

If there’s one thing you can guarantee with Front Line Assembly, it’s that they will always be dark and industrial. So it is with opening track Retribution – it merges dark, crunchy beats with harsh electronic sounds. There are plenty of pads in the mix – this isn’t, at least at this point, some kind of electronic form of heavy metal, but it is definitely dark.

Describing Front Line Assembly‘s sound to someone who hasn’t heard it is difficult, as there’s little like this on the charts or on the radio. You could try to come up with an explanation that merges some overproduced pop star with a flamboyant rocker in black make up, but the truth is that most people will have never really heard anything like this. What you can say, with some confidence, is that this is pretty good.

Where Retribution was a bit less tuneful and more experimental, Fatalist is closer to what Front Line Assembly sound like when they’re really good. There’s a punchy acid bassline with disorientating, discordant electronic sounds mixing in and out. Until the chorus, the vocal is pretty awful, honestly – a distorted mess of shouting, but the softer chorus lead more than makes up for that.

Next comes the lead single, Prophecy, probably the best track on this album. It’s a whirlwind of grizzly, plodding beats with another punchy bass part. This is probably as close as this album gets to perfecting the idea of “electronic heavy metal” – it’s still quite shouty, but the drama, this time, is played out masterfully. If those aren’t guitars crunching along in the chorus, then they’re very well realised.

What is particularly well realised with this album, though, is the packaging – the disturbing man-beetle hybrid shapes on the cover and all over the sleeve are rather beautiful, and are complemented well by the gold and brown colouring and other design choices. But the lyrics are, as usual with Front Line Assembly, not great – the line “even angels love to fall,” in Prophecy is not, I think, a poetic statement about the death of love, but a selection of dark and grim words that have been chosen to add to the mood of the piece without necessarily meaning anything particular. Or maybe it’s just the delivery that makes it feel that way?

After a while, the tracks start to blend together somewhat. The biting, acidic instrumental Synthetic Forms works well, but does little to stand out. Falling is slower and more atmospheric, but still doesn’t make much of a mark. Similarly, Don’t Trust Anyone is fine, but doesn’t somehow quite seem to capture the feeling of the earlier tracks.

Next track Unknown Dreams is more noteworthy – there’s a problem, again, with the lyrics, as “Forever and ever / tomorrow may never come,” only really makes sense in a limited context. But this is unfair – Front Line Assembly do have good lyrics from time to time, but it’s hardly going to be the main reason that people listen to them.

Torched is pleasant too, with lots of grimy beats and blistering electronic squawks alongside a deeply atmospheric song. The static breakdown in the middle doesn’t quite seem to work, but otherwise it holds together well. Machine Slave is good, although by this point you’re probably thinking that you have definitely heard pretty much everything you’re likely to on this release.

So actually the closing instrumental Silent Ceremony is a pleasant surprise. With some of the dark, melodic charm of roughly the same duo’s work with Delerium, this is a standout track to hide right at the end. It’s no less dark than anything else on here, but it’s much more melodic, atmospheric, and frankly, beautiful.

It’s not even quite the end – a chirpy little instrumental called Stalker is what actually closes things out, and it does so in pleasant fashion. Like much of this album, it’s often exhilarating, and sometimes unpredictable – but occasionally also repetitive and somewhat dull. Implode is a very good album, and certainly a challenging listen for many audiences – but it’s not a great album.

You can still find Implode at all major retailers, although it may come at a premium in some territories.