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.

Onetwo – Instead

In a parallel universe, Onetwo would have been an enormous electronic supergroup. The duo of Claudia Brücken, formerly of Propaganda, and Paul Humphreys from Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, and a collaboration with Martin L. Gore of Depeche Mode, really should have been enough alone to guarantee a couple of number one hits. But this is the twenty-first century, and anyone above the age of 25 who who keeps their clothes on is considered “cult”.

So Onetwo‘s brief career began in 2004, with an EP entitled Item, and three years later came the one and only album, Instead. It opens with the glorious two-part The Theory of Everything. A great introduction to the warm synth and simple vocals that characterise the duo, it is however somewhat overshadowed by Sequential, a beautifully evocative piece that must be one of the finest pop songs never to make the charts.

Home (Tonight) continues the theme, and while for the most part this is an album where the tracks work together to form something brilliant, rather than always trying to stand out on their own, there’s plenty to enjoy here too. Similarly Signals, one of just two tracks on here from the original 2004 EP, is another gentle and beautiful song.

The really unexpected moment comes with a cover of Pink Floyd‘s Have a Cigar, which works well and sounds great, but you are left wondering somewhat how on earth it came to be recorded and included here. There’s a certain logic when it mixes into another cover, this time of Cat Power‘s I Don’t Blame You, with Humphreys on lead vocals, a voice barely heard since, but just about recognisable from OMD‘s Souvenir.

Then comes Cloud Nine, definitely the best moment on here – in fact, it’s probably one of the finest songs of the decade, in spite of the opening “shalalalalala” from Brücken. Featuring the writing talents and guitar work of Martin L. Gore, somehow the chords and warm synth sounds come together perfectly. Also worth mentioning is that it features the synth work of friend of this blog Jon Russell, also known as Jonteknik.

If there was any doubt that Onetwo were in fact a synthpop supergroup, Andy McCluskey gets a writing credit on the lovely Anonymous, and perhaps unsurprisingly, there is a bit of an OMD feel to it, particularly in the chorus. Then Heaven has a bit of an end-of-album feel, even though there’s still plenty to come after it. There’s a pleasant ethereal other-worldliness to it, and while there’s not been anything particularly dark or violent up to this point, it still makes for a welcome change of pace.

It’s always nice to hear singers using their native language, and so it is with Kein Anschluß (which, interestingly, by 2007, was actually a misspelling). I suspect it’s partially intended as a nod to some of the duo’s influences from Brücken’s homeland, with its rhythmic electronic beats and almost Gregorian sounds. It’s easily one of the best songs on here.

After another downtempo moment with The Weakness in Me, you finally have to accept that it’s time for the closing track A Vision in the Sky, a sweet and memorable pop song with a gentle swing pattern and an enormous choral pad backing. This is entirely how this album should end – with something epic and unforgettable. If only it had sold a few more copies.

But ultimately Onetwo‘s downfall was that the seventeen year romantic partnership of Brücken and Humphreys meant an inevitable end to their combined musical career, but the 2006 reformation of the original line-up of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark had already put paid to most of Humphreys’s time commitments. So sadly, we’re left with just one album from Onetwo, completely forgotten but entirely brilliant, Instead.

You can still find Instead at all major retailers.

More bizarre search engine terms

The “holiday” period (Christmas and New Year) presents us with another ideal opportunity to look at the daft searches which brought people to this blog over the last couple of years. Part one can be viewed here.

alison moyet on kylie minogue

Well, I tried searching too, but I couldn’t find any information either. Does she like her or not? I suspect we will never really know… or care.

review of toto concert in atlanta

Well, they seem to have played a few times. You’re probably looking for this article, in which Music News Nashville cover their 2013 concert.

exactly komputer

No idea. I do have a soft spot for Komputer though.

alexandra quinn cannibal

Ahm… I don’t think this is the blog you’re looking for…

what kind of world with jonteknik

Probably quite a nice one. We talked to Jonteknik in the Unsigned section a while back, and then caught up with him again more recently.

“sperm of worms into”

Yes…

meatloaf brit awards 1994

He was nominated for Best International Male Solo Artist but lost out to Lenny Kravitz. He did however receive a special award for having had the best selling single and album of 1993 for I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That) and Bat Out of Hell II: Back to Hell respectively. He also performed his hit single at the awards.

You can read more about the 1994 BRITs here.

alison moyet and howard jones band

No, you’re thinking of Yazoo (or, if you’re American, Yaz). In fact, that was Alison Moyet and Vince Clarke.

caleb followill stowaways

Apparently Caleb Followill is the name of a member of a band called The Stowaways. Which was a bit of a disappointment to me, as I was pretty close to renaming the blog…

“freddie mercury” “size of his mouth”

This one is definitely my favourite question! Unfortunately I don’t have the answer…

Where are they now?

We’ve covered eight unsigned acts to date, and since I’ve heard more good things from a couple of them recently, let’s take a quick look at what they’ve been up to!

The first act we covered last year was Jonteknik, who has just released another album The Satellites of Substance. It sounds a bit like Kraftwerk, and is really, really good. Check it out on his official website.

Movement Ten have just done another album too, entitled Build Them and They Will Come. A couple of tracks on Movement Ten were very good indeed, as I said when we listened to them together previously. More information at their website.

And finally – for now – Devin Tait is still touring in the Los Angeles region – read what we learnt about him before here, and visit his website there.

Do you want to be covered on this blog? Take a look at the guidelines in the Are you unsigned? section.

Introducing Jonteknik

A few weeks back, as you may recall, I put out a call for unsigned acts to get in touch. By way of a quick introduction, I don’t think it would be fair of me to put too much of my opinion in these pieces, as I’m not the kind of person who’s very good at making his mind up quickly, so they will be compiled primarily from information given to me by the artists.

Anyway, since he was the first to contact me, I decided it was only fair to start with Jonteknik, who has a new album out called Giants Under the Microscope.

Giants Under the Microscope

In a way it’s a bit of a mystery that Jonteknik is unsigned, actually, as he is no stranger to the music business. He started making music around 1988, and quickly picked up accolades from Music Technology magazine, The Mix, Melody Maker and Future Music. After a couple of singles in 1993, his major breakthrough came in 1996 when he met producer Pascal Gabriel, who introduced him to Claudia Brücken, with whom he would ultimately collaborate on the Onetwo project (which I’ll review here in full one of these days as it’s one of my favourite albums ever).

His first full solo album was Sounds from the Electronic Garden, released in 2009, from which we’ll listen to the Kraftwerk-inspired King of the Mountains in just a moment. Giants Under the Microscope is his new instrumental follow-up.

I asked Jon to gather together a quick “demo” of three tracks for us to share, so the first track we’ll listen to today is Manoeuvres:

It’s hard not to like this gentle beats-driven instrumental taken from the new album, but more compelling still is the beautiful northern imagery in the video, with its deserted roads and wind turbines.

Second up is King of the Mountains:

You’d be a fool if you didn’t spot the influence of Tour de France here, and as a tribute to the Düsseldorf pioneers and their musical importance, it’s excellent. I will add that as a cyclist myself I’m not sure this quite captures the spirit of the road in the way that Kraftwerk did, but that could just be the lack of “oooh” and “aaah” sounds.

Third for this set is his collaboration with Martin Philip Pride in Your Pocket:

Apparently Vince Clarke likes it, which is good enough for me. This one is pop, with slightly dark undertones in the background. A great and very varied trio, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Just for a fun bit of background, I compiled a few really obscure questions for all the acts featured in this series. Here are some highlights from the world of Jonteknik:

What’s your favourite synth, and why? 

Arturia Oberheim SEM-V soft synth, it has a brilliant fat sound and I find the arpegiator so infectious.

If I forced you to do an exclusive cover version, what would it be?

Electricity by OMD.

Nobody really listens to music any more. Discuss.

Life has become a full time job in itself. People seem to have left time to relax and chill so music becomes a soundtrack to doing ‘stuff’. I also think the advent of portable devices such as mobile phones and ipods have given music the job of helping to pass the time while on the move. You will also notice at gigs that more and more people are just talking to their mates, it is so infuriating! I just want to say “Shut up and listen to the music!”

It’s not all bad. Music is instantly accessible these days so there is more chance of us audiophiles being able to find new acts that we wouldn’t have discovered before, I’ve found online music magazines and blogs are great for the discovery of new music. Open your eyes and your ears will follow, rewarding your mind with new sonic adventures.

The latter, in particular, I thought was a rather wonderful response. Jon was actually kind enough to send me his full album too, and while it would be unfair to review it in full in this piece, I can tell you that I really enjoyed it. Highlights for me were Robot Music and Muckle Flugga.

If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve heard today, Jonteknik‘s Bandcamp page is here: http://jonteknik.bandcamp.com/