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.

Metroland – Mind the Gap

I’m clearly not going to get through this review without mentioning Komputer or Kraftwerk, so let’s get that over with now. You see, the nice thing about Metroland is that you know exactly what you’re going to get. If there was ever a better example of a band that does what it says on the tin, then I can’t think of it.

Perhaps the more interesting question is exactly why anyone would record an album inspired primarily by Komputer‘s 1998 masterpiece The World of Tomorrow. I might have to leave it up to you to work out the answer to that one.

But that’s pretty much what this is, and it is absolutely glorious for all of that.

Mind the Gap opens with the rippling synths that after a minute or so become Enjoying the View, which is a nice insight into what a public transport-inspired Kraftwerk track might sound like in the 21st century. Somehow both contemporary and retro, it kicks the album off in fine form.

The title track is less exciting, although as it draws to a close you realise that the drums have been steadily throbbing for some time. As with a few tracks on the album, this maybe would have been better as a mini filler track somewhere towards the end (at the very least, the “mind the gap” joke would have worked better!)

Inner City Transport, um, transports you back to the kind of thing you want to hear on the album, and somehow creates a sound which is actually less directly dependent on its influences. Bonus points for use of a Speak and Spell on M-E-T-R-O.

After a bit of a lull, things return to form again with Harry Beck, which of course channels Komputer‘s Bill Gates. Did I say channels? Of course I meant “rips off”. Harry Beck, of course, is the man who came up with the London Underground map, and pretty much invented the art of schematic network mapping for the whole world. He also inspired the artwork for the Mind the Gap sleeve, which shows a simple five-line transport network and should be familiar to anybody who has ever lived in or visited a city, anywhere.

With similar simplicity, Travelling is largely just a list of points of the compass (since there are only four of these, it doesn’t take too long) from the Kraftwerk school of lyric writing. Moscow Train (or Moscow Main, as it seems to be called elsewhere) is a particular highlight.

Later tracks are strong, although generally less exciting. The cover of The Passenger is worthwhile and fun, and It’s More Fun to Commute is a solid pun which closes with echoes of Radio-Aktivität. All told, as with the whole album, there’s nothing particularly new here, but if you approach it with that in mind, there’s still plenty to enjoy, and the in-jokes come thick and fast at times.

You then have the choice of just getting the album or adding a largely uninspiring remix album. If you do, you get a remix of Enjoying the View by Komputer, some good alternative versions of M-E-T-R-O (I think it’s fair to say that the remix is better than the original in that one case actually), TravellingInner City Transport and Moscow Main, as well as a typically dull set of mixes. I’m afraid my usual remix album advice applies – unless you’re a completist or a sadist, you might do best to skip these.

Your best bet is probably just to go for the download, available through iTunes here.

Albums chart of the year 2012 for stowaways

A very competitive top 20 here:

  1. Saint Etienne – Words and Music by Saint Etienne
  2. Pet Shop Boys – Elysium
  3. Shit Robot – From the Cradle to the Rave
  4. Soulsavers – The Light the Dead See
  5. Hot Chip – In Our Heads
  6. Air – Le Voyage dans la Lune
  7. Sébastien Tellier – My God is Blue
  8. Gotye – Making Mirrors
  9. Jean Michel Jarre – Essentials & Rarities
  10. Saint Etienne – Tiger Bay
  11. Delerium – Music Box Opera
  12. Apollo 440 – The Future’s What It Used to Be
  13. Erasure – Tomorrow’s World
  14. Ladytron – Gravity the Seducer
  15. Vince Clarke – Deeptronica
  16. Metroland – Mind the Gap
  17. VCMG – Ssss
  18. Saint Etienne – Tales from Turnpike House
  19. Sébastien Tellier – Sexuality
  20. The All Seeing I – Pickled Eggs & Sherbet

For the sake of clarity, I’ve excluded compilations, but if they’d been included on here, Electrospective would have snuck into the top 10, and Drive (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) would have been just off the chart.

The Stowaway Awards 2013 – Nominations

Awards season is upon us! To celebrate, here are the nominations for our own ceremony, the Stowaway Awards. You already know the results of the Best Track thanks to our countdown the other week, so we’ll just cover the exciting awards.

Best Album

Last year’s winner was Credo by The Human League. The nominees:

  • Air – Le Voyage dans la Lune
  • Apollo 440 – The Future’s What it Used to Be
  • Delerium – Music Box Opera
  • Hot Chip – In Our Heads
  • Metroland – Mind the Gap
  • Pet Shop Boys – Elysium
  • The Presets – Pacifica
  • Saint Etienne – Words and Music by Saint Etienne
  • Sébastien Tellier – My God is Blue
  • Soulsavers – The Light the Dead See

Best Remix

Last year’s winner was Personal Jesus (The Stargate Mix) by Depeche Mode. The nominees:

  • Gossip – Move in the Right Direction (CSS Remix)
  • Jean Michel Jarre – La Cage (Vitalic Rmx)
  • Ladyhawke – Blue Eyes (Ron Flieger Remix)
  • Tycho – Dive (Keep Shelly in Athens Remix)
  • Van She – Jamaica (Mad Professor Dub)

Best Live Act

Last year’s winners were Sparks. The nominees:

  • Gotye
  • Justice
  • Keep Shelly in Athens
  • M83
  • Madness

Best Newcomer

Last year’s winner was Kavinsky. The nominees:

  • Bim
  • The Good Natured
  • Gotye
  • Metroland
  • Soulsavers

Best Artist

Last year’s winners were The Human League. The nominees:

  • Apollo 440
  • Hot Chip
  • I Monster
  • Metroland
  • Pet Shop Boys
  • The Presets
  • Saint Etienne
  • Sébastien Tellier
  • Shit Robot
  • Soulsavers

The full and exciting ceremony will take place in mid-February. Next week, we’ll start looking in detail at what’s been going on at the Brit Awards.

Chart for stowaways – 17 November 2012

Lots of LCD Soundsystem on the album chart this week:

  1. Delerium – Music Box Opera
  2. Various Artists – Electrospective
  3. I Monster – Remixed
  4. I Monster – Rare
  5. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
  6. LCD Soundsystem – LCD Soundsystem
  7. LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening
  8. Pet Shop Boys – Elysium
  9. The All Seeing I – Pickled Eggs & Sherbet
  10. Metroland – Mind the Gap

Not a lot of change on the singles. Pet Shop Boys are still hanging on at the top with Leaving, and reenter near the bottom with Memory of the FutureDelerium are still at number two, and there’s not a lot else going on.

Chart for stowaways – 3 November 2012

Top albums this week:

  1. I Monster – Rare
  2. I Monster – Remixed
  3. Metroland – Mind the Gap
  4. The All Seeing I – Pickled Eggs & Sherbet
  5. Delerium – Music Box Opera
  6. 808 State – O.T.E.P.
  7. Saint Etienne – Tales from Turnpike House
  8. Various Artists – Electrospective
  9. Sébastien Tellier – Politics
  10. Heaven 17 – The Luxury Gap

A slightly cheeky chart this week!

Chart for stowaways – 27 October 2012

Usual suspects again, but with lots of bouncing up and down on the singles chart this week:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Leaving
  2. Delerium – Monarch
  3. Metroland – Inner City Transport
  4. The Good Natured – Video Voyeur
  5. The Orb feat. Lee “Scratch” Perry – Ball of Fire
  6. Cut Copy – Hearts on Fire
  7. Réplica feat. Client – Sorry
  8. VCMG – EP3 – Aftermaths
  9. Bim – Lights Out
  10. Metroland – Moscow Train

With a whole load of weird stuff going on further down the chart. On the albums, Metroland are still number one but Pet Shop Boys‘ Elysium is now descending down the chart like a bobsleigh.

Chart for stowaways – 20 October 2012

The albums this week:

  1. Metroland – Mind the Gap
  2. The All Seeing I – Pickled Eggs & Sherbet
  3. Various Artists – Electrospective
  4. Sébastien Tellier – Politics
  5. Saint Etienne – Tales from Turnpike House
  6. Apollo 440 – The Future’s What it Used to Be
  7. Pet Shop Boys – Elysium
  8. Saint Etienne – Tiger Bay
  9. 808 State – O.T.E.P.
  10. I Monster – Rare

Meanwhile on the singles, Pet Shop Boys hop back up to number one with their new single Leaving.

Chart for stowaways – 13 October 2012

Well, you know what they say – the flame that burns twice as fast burns half as long. Or something. Which Pet Shop Boys have proved this week. After a completely immobile few weeks in charge of the charts, this week they finally tumble, throwing everyone else all over the place around them and leaving a very odd set of charts…

This week’s singles:

  1. Delerium – Monarch
  2. Réplica feat. Client – Sorry
  3. Pet Shop Boys – Leaving
  4. Metroland – Moscow Train
  5. VCMG – EP3 – Aftermaths
  6. Apollo 440 – Fuzzy Logic
  7. The Orb feat. Lee “Scratch” Perry – Ball of Fire
  8. Metroland – Inner City Transport
  9. The Sound of Arrows – M.A.G.I.C.
  10. Laurie Mayer – Jagged Rain EP

Meanwhile on the albums, Metroland hop back up to the top spot and Saint Etienne sneak up to number two thanks to the deluxe reissue of Tales from Turnpike House.

Chart for stowaways – 6 October 2012

Here are some singles…

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Leaving
  2. Delerium – Monarch
  3. Réplica feat. Client – Sorry
  4. VCMG – EP3 – Aftermaths
  5. Metroland – Moscow Train

… and here are some albums…

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Elysium
  2. Apollo 440 – The Future’s What it Used to Be
  3. Metroland – Mind the Gap
  4. Saint Etienne – Tiger Bay
  5. Saint Etienne – Tales from Turnpike House

More next week!