White Town – Women in Technology

I’ve often wondered what most people made of White Town‘s 1997 album Women in Technology. Released in haste after the sudden success of Your Woman, it almost made the charts but sold respectably. This week, it celebrates the twentieth anniversary of its brief fling with fame, which seems a good time to give it another listen.

It opens with second single Undressed, a good opener, as it showcases White Town‘s lo-fi charms with a particularly good song. If you came to this expecting twelve clones of Your Woman, you probably would have been disappointed, although contemporary reviews for the album were actually fairly complimentary, and this single did make the lower ends of the chart, meaning White Town don’t (doesn’t?) quite go down in history as a one-hit wonder.

Next is the more uptempo Thursday at The Blue Note, and while it does come a little closer to cloning Your Woman, by now you probably should have got that idea out of your mind. It’s a great indie party track, the highlight of which surely has to be the Derby-accented lady who speaks the title towards the end.

There’s an impressive variety of styles at play here, with the acoustic sound of A Week Next June coming next, and then the moment that you could probably be forgiven for waiting for, the number one hit single Your Woman.

It still blows my mind slightly whenever this turns up on the radio – in context, on the album, it makes some degree of sense as a song – you can accept that Women in Technology is an album for misfits, and that a man telling someone he could never be their woman is OK. Randomly heard on the radio in amongst early 1990s rock (as it often is), you might be left a little confused. The computer pips in the middle section are, of course, the finest moment of the song.

An updated version of debut eponymous single White Town follows, before some warped electronics introduce The Shape of Love. One of the more interesting things done on the album sleeve was to scatter the songs around a discreet image of a lady’s body. The Shape of Love is somewhere just above the left knee. The song is actually largely acoustic and fairly simple, with the grimy electronics just creating background atmosphere.

Wanted comes next, a grimy production which uses a female vocal sample as part of the rhythm track, and featuring a great lead vocal from Ann Pearson. This was at one point planned as the second single, but for some reason never appeared, which is a shame, because Vince Clarke‘s remix on the promo CD is great (actually I think it’s probably fair to say that it’s better than the original, although it definitely wouldn’t have worked as an album track). There’s also a very rare promo 12″ which includes remixes by various other synth legends, and is probably worth buying if you’re ever lucky enough to find a copy.

For every more forgettable moment on here (The Function of the Orgasm is fine, but nobody was going to buy this album purely for this), there’s another great track – Going Nowhere Somehow could have easily been another hit single if White Town had been destined for stardom. Theme for an Early Evening American Sitcom is a slightly daft instrumental, but The Death of My Desire is another indie/rock crossover for misfits.

That’s very much the theme of this album – it was clearly never intended to be the biggest seller ever, but there’s plenty to enjoy if you like honest, home produced but professional sounding music. And ultimately what more can anyone ask for? Women in Technology closes much the same way it opened, with a sweet song with enormous drumming, Once I Flew, then a matter of months later White Town and the record company parted company, and everyone got on with their lives again. But for a brief, fleeting moment, this was an album that offered a lot to it audience, and I suspect those who haven’t heard it might still find something to enjoy.

You can find Women in Technology at all major retailers.

Stowaway Awards 2017

Finally! We kick Awards Season off in earnest with the Important Announcement of the winners of the 2017 Stowaways.

Best Track

Winner: Jean-Michel Jarre with Pet Shop Boys, for Brick England.

Best Album

These were the nominees:

  • The Avalanches – Wildflower
  • David Bowie – Blackstar
  • Clarke Hartnoll – 2Square
  • C Duncan – The Midnight Sun
  • I Monster – Bright Sparks
  • Jean-Michel Jarre – Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise
  • Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène 3
  • Pet Shop Boys – Super
  • Shit Robot – What Follows
  • Yello – Toy

Winner: Jean-Michel Jarre, who had a particularly good year and stood a better chance of winning than most, with Oxygène 3.

Best Reissue / Compilation

The nominees:

  • Air – Twentyears
  • Cicero – Future Boy
  • The Human League – Anthology – A Very British Synthesizer Group
  • New Order – Complete Music
  • Dusty Springfield – Reputation

Winner: The Human League

Best Artist

Winner: Jean-Michel Jarre

Best Live Act

Winner: Pet Shop Boys

Best Ambient Track

Nominated were:

  • Air – Adis Abebah
  • Delerium – Ghost Requiem
  • Enigma – Sadeness (Part II)
  • I Monster – Alan R Pearlman and the ARPiological exploration of the cosmos
  • Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène (Part 17)

Winner: Delerium, for Ghost Requiem

Best Dance Act / Remixer

Potential winners included:

  • The Avalanches
  • Clarke Hartnoll
  • Stuart Price
  • Röyksopp
  • Shit Robot

Winner: Shit Robot

Best Newcomer

Winner: C Duncan

Innovation Award

Winner: Jean-Michel Jarre

Outstanding Contribution

Could have been any of the following:

  • David Bowie
  • Vince Clarke
  • Delerium
  • Enigma
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

Winner: Delerium

That’s an unprecedented four out of ten for Jean-Michel Jarre. All being well, we’ll do the BRIT and Grammy Awards over the next couple of weeks.

Jean-Michel Jarre – Electronica 1: The Time Machine

I don’t know, you wait eight years for a new Jean-Michel Jarre album, and then three turn up at once. Sorry, I know that’s an obvious thing to say, but it is amusingly apposite. The fun but definitely questionable Téo & Téa (2007) left a slightly iffy taste in a lot of people’s mouths, and apart from the re-recorded and questionably legal version of Oxygène that followed the same year, there was then an extended silence until 2015.

What he was doing, it turns out, was working with every other electronic musician under the sun to create a two volume album, Electronica. The first opens with the sweet title track The Time Machine, with Boys Noize, and then comes one of the opening singles, Glory, with M83. So far, so pleasant.

Both of these albums have been criticised for being a bit disjointed, which, while not entirely unfair, seems a bit of an odd thing to say – of course they are, they’re effectively compilations of collaborations. But the sequence is generally logical, and there isn’t really anything particularly bad on here, so it’s hard to be too critical.

Fellow French musicians Air turn up next, for Close Your Eyes. Some tracks seem to have a lot more of Jarre, and others have a lot more of his collaborators on them, and in general, this one ends up sounding like Air might if they employed Jarre as a producer. That is to say, pretty good.

The first time you can really call something here “brilliant” is on the two parts of Automatic, both collaborations with Vince Clarke. For Clarke, this sounds a lot like his recent solo and collaborative electronic projects, but Jarre’s influence is clearly audible here too, particularly in Part 2, and both halves of the track really are excellent.

The increasingly great Little Boots turns up next, pretty much the only musician other than Jarre to make the laser harp part of their live show, and their collaboration is If..! (yes, two dots). While it’s certainly true that Jarre did something on this one, it’s difficult to know exactly what, but it’s a great song nonetheless.

They keep coming – Immortals, with Fuck Buttons, is an excellent meeting of minds, and while Suns Have Gone with Moby may not be the high point of either artist’s career, you have to be glad that it happened.

It is undeniably an odd list of collaborators though – which is not to say that Gesaffelstein shouldn’t be here – after all, why not? Few might put him in their top thirty living artists of all time list, but the resulting track Conquistador is pretty good. This isn’t so true of Travelator (Part 2) (there doesn’t appear to be a part 1), with Pete Townshend, which I’m not convinced does the legacy of either great musician any particular favours.

That isn’t true of what is apparently Edgar Froese‘s last recorded work, Zero Gravity, which after so many decades finally brings us the joint credit of Jean-Michel Jarre and Tangerine Dream, and it’s ever bit as excellent as it should be. It’s also nice to see Jarre revisiting his earlier musical partner Laurie Anderson for the decidedly odd Rely on Me.

Where these two albums both go a little astray for me is with the number of tracks – they’re varied, but after thirteen pieces of music and with no end in sight, you’re always going to be a little weary. Towards the end of the first volume, we get a fun trance excursion with  Armin van BuurenStardust, followed by the weirdly dubby Watching You, with 3D from Massive Attack.

Right at the end, John Carpenter turns up for the appropriately creepy A Question of Blood, and finally pianist Lang Lang accompanies an atmospheric piece on album closer The Train & The River. It’s a long, varied, and complex album, but in general it stands well on its own, and if you consider yourself a fan of any sort of electronic music, you should probably be a fan of this.

You can find part 1 of the Electronica project at all major retailers.

Stowaway Awards 2017 – Nominations

Now for the moment that you have, of course, all been waiting for: the announcement of the nominees for the 2017 Stowaway Awards. As always in recent years, there will be exactly ten awards, one of which (Best Track) you know already from the countdown a couple of weeks ago. Here are five more key nominations!

Best Album

  • The Avalanches – Wildflower
  • David Bowie – Blackstar
  • Clarke Hartnoll – 2Square
  • C Duncan – The Midnight Sun
  • I Monster – Bright Sparks
  • Jean-Michel Jarre – Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise
  • Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène 3
  • Pet Shop Boys – Super
  • Shit Robot – What Follows
  • Yello – Toy

Best Reissue / Compilation

  • Air – Twentyears
  • Cicero – Future Boy
  • The Human League – Anthology – A Very British Synthesizer Group
  • New Order – Complete Music
  • Dusty Springfield – Reputation

Best Ambient Track

  • Air – Adis Abebah
  • Delerium – Ghost Requiem
  • Enigma – Sadeness (Part II)
  • I Monster – Alan R Pearlman and the ARPiological exploration of the cosmos
  • Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène (Part 17)

Best Dance Act / Remixer

  • The Avalanches
  • Clarke Hartnoll
  • Stuart Price
  • Röyksopp
  • Shit Robot

Outstanding Contribution

  • David Bowie
  • Vince Clarke
  • Delerium
  • Enigma
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

Albums chart of the year 2016

Here are the top albums of last year, for stowaways:

  1. Jean-Michel Jarre – Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise
  2. New Order – Music Complete [number 1 in 2015]
  3. Jean-Michel Jarre – Electronica 1: The Time Machine [number 6 in 2015]
  4. David Bowie – Best Of Bowie
  5. Pet Shop Boys – Super
  6. David Bowie – Blackstar
  7. Conjure One – Holoscenic [released in 2015]
  8. Clarke Hartnoll – 2Square
  9. David Bowie – Nothing Has Changed [number 25 in 2015]
  10. Shit Robot – What Follows
  11. Róisín Murphy – Hairless Toys [number 26 in 2015]
  12. C Duncan – The Midnight Sun
  13. Air – Twentyears
  14. I Monster – Bright Sparks
  15. Delerium – Mythologie
  16. David Bowie – The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
  17. Yello – Toy
  18. Little Boots – Working Girl [number 4 in 2015]
  19. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
  20. David Bowie – Hunky Dory

More in a year or so…

Singles chart of the year 2016

Here are the top singles for stowaways in 2016:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – The Pop Kids
  2. Jean-Michel Jarre & Pet Shop Boys – Brick England
  3. Massive Attack – Ritual Spirit EP
  4. Pet Shop Boys – Twenty-Something
  5. Röyksopp feat. Susanne Sundfør – Never Ever
  6. Shit Robot – End of the Trail
  7. C Duncan – Wanted to Want It Too
  8. Delerium with Phildel – Ritual
  9. Pet Shop Boys – Say It to Me
  10. New Order feat. Elly Jackson (La Roux) – Tutti Frutti [number 5 in 2015]
  11. Clarke Hartnoll – Better Have a Drink to Think
  12. Jean-Michel Jarre – Remix EP (II)
  13. Pet Shop Boys – Inner Sanctum
  14. Goldfrapp – Stranger [number 42 in 2013]
  15. Conjure One feat. Hannah Ray – Kill the Fear [released in 2015]
  16. I Monster – The Bradley Brothers realise the transmutation of the Chamberlin to the MELLOTRON
  17. Róisín Murphy – Exploitation [released in 2015]
  18. Massive Attack – The Spoils / Come Near Me
  19. Jean-Michel Jarre – The Heart of Noise
  20. Clarke Hartnoll – Single Function

We’ll look at the albums next week!