Erasure – Pop! Remixed

Ten years ago this week saw the release of Erasure‘s slightly odd remix album/EP Pop! Remixed. Packaged as CDMUTE405, the catalogue styling normally used by Mute Records for singles, it appears that it was originally intended to be released as a four-track EP, a version which did end up being released as a download version. The CD, though, was a ten track album, with an odd mixture of new and old mixes.

It opens with the entirely pointless 2009 Mix of the lovely Always. It is slightly different from the original, with a punchier bass and some improved squawks in the background, but the only difference that the casual listener will spot is the inexplicable omission of an “and” from the first chorus. It was there in the original, and you’ll never quite get used to its absence in this version. But grab yourself a decent pair of headphones, and there’s plenty to enjoy here in its place.

Komputer turn up as the first guest remixer to tackle Victim of Love. They were, obviously and unsurprisingly, big Erasure fans, and so they have changed relatively little here. It would have been a great mix, if it had been released in 1987, and honestly it’s fine for 2009 too – it’s just a little unambitious. Komputer are the people who, most recently, were to be found experimenting with post-Kraftwerk electronics, but there’s little sign of that here.

It’s nice to hear Freedom on here, as Erasure‘s Loveboat era tends to get forgotten somewhat – perhaps justifiably so. Mark Picchiotti has clearly had a lot of fun with this version, turning it into a flamenco mix, with some added guitar work. Part of the problem is the source material, to be honest – Freedom is fine as a song, but it isn’t great. The other part is that Picchiotti isn’t a flamenco guitarist – his forte is overlong, over-repetitive, dull house, and so inevitably this mix is a bit of a mess. Not an unpleasant mess, but it would have been much better to have kept it as a short novelty on the original single rather than a full mix on this compilation.

Drama!, long overlooked by Erasure themselves, gets an overdue remix from Andy Bell himself, aided by DJ Jason Creasey. It’s a bit more contemporary than any of the tracks we’ve heard up to this point, but there’s also little new here. At this point, you could be forgiven for wondering why Erasure bothered with this release at all, but it’s worth remembering that in 2009 they were still in the throes of the creative downturn that had first hit them with the aforementioned Loveboat at the start of the decade. Just three studio albums had appeared in that time (plus Andy Bell‘s first solo effort), and, despite some brighter moments, the quality was never quite up to the standard of the preceding decade.

One-off collaboration Avantara turn up next, for a banging but somewhat dull remix of A Little Respect. The song works well to a huge Euro beat, but there just isn’t a lot of variation between each section here – it sounds a bit like Euro-by-numbers. Then Swedish producers SoundFactory turn up to tweak Fingers and Thumbs (Cold Summer’s Day), and do a slightly better job, although again, there’s little to write home about.

Finally, a mix that actually hits the mark. Soil in the Synth‘s reworking of Ship of Fools is brilliantly glitchy without being challenging to listen to, and spacious in a 1980s way, without being too long. It’s quite brilliant – if there was a reason to buy this release, this surely must be it.

Erasure‘s fascination with Manhattan Clique during this era has always been a bit of a mystery to me – they’re fine, they definitely have good taste, and they know how to jazz up an eighties or nineties classic. They’re also a bit formulaic, to say the least – they occupy a similar space in the world of music as Richard X, except because he’s always doing soundclashes, at least his tracks don’t all sound the same. As “always”, Manhattan Clique‘s take on Always is fine, even if it does sound a little too much like a chipmunk remix at times – but it does sound exactly the same as all their other mixes. Which is fine, if you like that kind of thing.

Next, Electronic Periodic take on Chorus, with a few naff handclaps added in, for some reason. Oddly, the deeply analogue sound of Chorus makes it seem a little more contemporary than most of the tracks here, but the handclaps don’t really give the retro charm that was likely intended, and the weird gaps in the vocals don’t entirely work. Some of the extra sound effects do, though, so this is really a bit of a mixed bag – like this release as a whole.

Finally, closing this release out, Vince Clarke himself turns up to remix Stop! It’s an odd candidate to take on, and I can imagine he probably enjoyed the challenge of trying to turn it into something more contemporary and modern. It just about works – I’ve never been entirely convinced by this song, but if you like it and aren’t too protective about the original, I can imagine you would enjoy this remix. For me, it just about makes the grade. If nothing else, it has a good bouncy beat and bass line.

So Pop! Remixed doesn’t exactly come with the strongest recommendation, but it’s not bad either. Unlike their Club remix EP, which was finally commercially released around the same time, I wouldn’t go out of my way to find a copy, but it’s not something I would be rushing to get rid of

You can still find Pop! Remixed at all major retailers, at a bargain price.

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Komputer – The World of Tomorrow

“Underwater cities / giant hovercraft / automated factories / trips to the stars”. There’s something about The World of Tomorrow that feels a bit like reading a space annual from the 1970s. And that’s the joke, really – Komputer brilliantly harnessed that combination of naïve futurism and scientific potential and married it with the slightly out-of-time electronic sounds of Kraftwerk to create something witty, ever-contemporary, and utterly fantastic.

Released two decades ago in the UK, as much time has passed between Kraftwerk‘s original career and this as has passed between its release and the present day. It really should sound a bit more dated than it does, but the huge swells of electronic rain that punctuate the opening title track somehow sound every bit as current now as they did all those years ago.

More Automation is gentler and less dramatic – definitely an album track, but a very good one nonetheless. What’s incredible in a way is just how natural this feels – just three years earlier, Komputer were Fortran 5, and were pulling together their third and final eccentric rave album. A decade before that, they were I Start Counting, making slightly wacky 1980s synthpop.

The common theme seems to have always been approaching their music with a slightly daft sense of humour, and so Bill Gates is entirely daft, with the Microsoft CEO’s name sung by a computer in a variety of keys and speeds to clean electronic backing. Valentina is less daft, and a very fitting tribute to Valentina Tereshkova, set against a beautiful electronic backdrop, although it does manage to entirely mispronounce her surname, which seems a bit unfair on her.

Next is the brilliant single Looking Down on London, which takes us on an auditory journey across the UK capital, including a brief pitstop in a pub, with some brilliantly authentic sound effects as accompaniment. This is absolutely excellent, and there’s no other way of looking at it.

Then comes Terminus Interminus, the centrepiece of the album, later released as a single as just Terminus. It’s an epic eight-minute electronic pop song about transport interchanges, with echoes of It’s More Fun to Compute. Which just makes Metroland‘s later It’s More Fun to Commute even more appropriate.

If you break it down, several of the songs here are just built around one or two phrases, and so Singapore really is just “Singapore / hear the tiger roar”, and while it really bears pretty much no resemblance to the island, it’s still a pretty good piece of electronic pop in the tradition of Neon Lights.

But whatever the slight flaws of some tracks might be, The Perfect Pop Band is pure perfection. The line “our songs are quite minimal” is entirely apposite, and there are plenty of other examples. It mixes into Komputer Pop, a similar track in many ways, but also another entirely brilliant one.

The lengthy instrumental Motopia rounds things out, before a short version of We Are Komputer right at the end. It’s another slightly existential track about who Komputer are, but it’s also a great album closer for a great album.

There may be little new on The World of Tomorrow, but what it does, it does exquisitely and with a wry sense of humour, and we really need more music like this in the world.

You can still find The World of Tomorrow at all major retailers.

Music for the Masses 36 – 16 March 2005

Show 36 was the last before the three week Easter break, and would see Music for the Masses in its springtime Wednesday slot for the last time. Actually, it could have even been the last outing of the show, as the post-holiday scheduling shakeup always meant a few shows dropped out. Fortunately – or unfortunately – it lived on to die another day, this week with New Order as the Artist of the Week.

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Show 36: Wed 16 Mar 2005, from 6:05pm-8:00pm

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

  • Chicane – No Ordinary Morning
  • Veto Silver – Neon Lites
  • Mory Kante – Yeke Yeke (Hardfloor Mix)
  • Sylver – Who Am I?
  • Andy Pickford – Zweifarbig Bomber (Part 2)
  • Télépopmusik – Don’t Look Back
  • New Order – Blue Monday
  • Alizée – Moi… Lolita
  • Ladytron – Seventeen
  • Daft Punk – Robot Rock
  • Vic Twenty – I Sold Your Heart on eBay
  • Black Box Recorder – The Facts of Life
  • Annie – Always Too Late
  • New Order – True Faith
  • Depeche Mode – Only When I Lose Myself
  • Dusted – Always Remember to Honour and Respect Your Mother (Part 2)
  • Basement Jaxx – Good Luck
  • Komputer – Looking Down on London
  • Marvin the Paranoid Android – Marvin
  • New Order – Krafty
  • Lemon Jelly – Come Down on Me
  • Lionrock – Rude Boy Rock

Music for the Masses 27 – 22 November 2004

Show 27 was, judging from the pictures and playlist, a blistering affair, involving lots of waving hands around in the air like I just didn’t care, and finally seeing Kraftwerk as the artist of the week.

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Show 27: Mon 22 Nov 2004, from 6:05pm-8:00pm

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

  • Gorillaz – Clint Eastwood
  • Tears for Fears – Shout
  • Röyksopp – Poor Leno
  • Utah Saints – Lost Vagueness
  • Télépopmusik – Genetic World
  • Sugababes – Too Lost in You
  • Kraftwerk – Radioactivity
  • Alpinestars – Green Raven Blonde
  • Vic Twenty – Kiss You
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Electricity
  • Heaven 17 – Dive
  • Wolfsheim – Kein Zurück
  • Dubstar – It’s Over
  • Kraftwerk – Computer Love (The Mix Version)
  • Ladytron – Blue Jeans
  • Komputer – Looking Down on London
  • Paul van Dyk feat. Vega 4 – Time of Our Lives
  • Yello – Get On
  • Wes – Alane
  • Kings of Convenience – Know-How
  • Tiga & Zyntherius – Sunglasses at Night
  • Audioweb – Into My World
  • Kraftwerk – Tour de France

Music for the Masses 22 – 17 October 2004

LSR FM, Leeds University’s student radio station, used to apply for an FM licence for a month once or twice a year, and this used to be extremely popular, as large numbers of wannabe DJs would apply to do shows. So it was that the returning Music for the Masses ended up in a graveyard slot, last thing at night on a Saturday night (or first thing on a Sunday, if you prefer to look at it that way, which nobody did, as they were all students). This had the nice effect that sometimes another presenter would forget to turn up, and your show could comfortably overrun by twenty minutes or so.

Show 22: Sun 17 Oct 2004, from 4:00am-6:20am

Broadcast on LSR FM, on FM and online. Artist of the week: Jean Michel Jarre.

  • Lemon Jelly – Space Walk
  • William Orbit (with Beth Orton) – Water from a Vine Leaf
  • Gotan Project – Época
  • Jean Michel Jarre – Équinoxe (Part III)
  • Ladytron – Light and Magic
  • Elektric Music – TV
  • Duran Duran – Come Undone
  • Andy Pickford – Oblivion
  • Jean Michel Jarre – Tout est Bleu
  • Massive Attack – Protection
  • Saint Etienne – Only Love Can Break Your Heart
  • Kings of Convenience – Know-How
  • Bomb the Bass – Darkheart
  • Dirty Vegas – Walk Into the Sun
  • The Future Sound of London – My Kingdom
  • Jean Michel Jarre – Aero
  • Robert Miles – Maresias
  • Komputer – The World of Tomorrow
  • Client – Radio (Extended)
  • Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart
  • Baxendale – Your Body Needs My Sugar
  • Paul van Dyk – Time of Our Lives
  • Moby – Porcelain
  • Manu Chao – Bongo Bong

This show was recorded, and for the most part still exists. It will be posted as a Playlist for stowaways soon.

Some recommendations (from 2004)

Another post from my personal archives, published on my old website on 24th March 2004. A decade on, I still haven’t seen The Beach, only I no longer have a video player, which is quite a good excuse.

Firstly, films. I’ve been catching up on some of the things I recorded over Christmas, so I can now officially recommend Galaxy Quest, which I’d heard absolutely nothing about before I saw it, but it’s highly enjoyable. Plunkett & Macleane is quite good too, mixing 90s gansta films with the old highwayman legends. And among others, I’ve still got The Beach to watch, which I recorded last summer some time…

I’m currently in the middle of two books: George Orwell‘s The Road to Wigan Pier, which is good and highly recommended, and a book about global warming by someone called Paul Brown (the book’s called Global Warming, rather imaginitively [sic]). How very studious…

Finally, music. The latest Air album, Talkie Walkie is wonderful, and I saw them live in February, where they were very good, even in spite of having to play in Birmingham. Also, I came across a wonderful compilation from last autumn lurking in a bargain bin, called Robopop Vol. 1, which features tracks by White TownKomputer, Client, Vic Twenty and Spray (formerly the Cuban Boys), among many others. Additionally, the last Sparks album Lil’ Beethoven is out again with extra tracks on it, and it’s really rather good.

There’s not been a lot of decent TV recently, except an interesting docu-drama on the Stephen Downing case, from which I learnt that Bakewell is a hotbed of criminal activity, where everyone talks with a Yorkshire accent. Interesting.