The Weekly LP & Singles Platter, Please!

This is the weekly installment where we recap what we’ve been spinning at The Synthesizer Book headquarters during the week. If it’s on this list, it got played more than once!

I learned a hard lesson these past couple of weeks. You should keep things simple in the studio. Complex routing and lack of knowledge for recording gear can kill a session dead in its tracks. That was my punishment this week. Always at the moment when the drums are hitting hard and you’ve gotten all the synths tuned up too. Keeping things simple was the theme this week in most of these selections. It was a theme I grappled with this week. Time for some change there.

1.John Foxx, The Maths-Interplay
This is the album that has received the most attention this week. It’s easily my favorite album of 2011. Getting this in the mail made for one very happy afternoon. The copy I got from Townsend Records has track by track notes as to which synthesizers were used for each track on the CD sleeve inlay. There are lyrics too. How is that for fanatics! While reading the sleeve we learn that Interplay was written and recorded by John Foxx and Benge. Both of whom are well known for their adoration of analog synthesizers and frequently discussed topics around here. Watching a Building On Fire is the one track written in collaboration with Mira Aroyo (Ladytron) on Korg MS20 synthesizer and vocals. This is going to get a lot of airplay, I bet. Interplay creates a delicious blend of audio candy for the connoisseur synth lover in all of us. John Foxx still sounds amazing. His voice defines a generation of music. So, the fact that Foxx is still involved in defining all of that, coupled with a loyalty to analog synthesizers today, makes for a great story even today. Watching A Building On Fire is a catchy ditty featuring strings from a Korg Lambda string synthesizer, ARP Odyssey and a Crumar Multiman.

One other thing that you find on the sleeve notes of Interplay is the list of FX on Foxx’s vocals. The Digitech Vocalist is one among a few used throughout the LP. Interplay is synthesizers galore, great pop melodies and pure style. Gentlemen, any chance you can give us some performances over here on this side of the pond? Get this album now.

2.Imaginary Cities-Temporary Resident
My Northern friends are producing some very good music in recent years. Or at least, more so! Imaginary Cities are Manitoba residents Marti Sarbit and Rusty Matyas. Sarbit has a very unique voice. I mean, I knew right away I was going to like this album. FromSay You, the albums opening track, you know that you are in for a tasty morsel of a singing specimen. Up against the multi-instrumentals of Rusty Matyas, this combination offers up a most delicious blend of melody rich tracks and a truly noteworthy production. You are going to hear some big things from this band.

The thing is, there are lots of electronics on Temporary Resident too, but the focus is evidently in the songwriting and the choice of instrumentation in each track only serves to add to the songs’ structure. The Pixies have chosen Imaginary Cities to tour with them for the upcoming Pixies Doolittle Tour. So, if you are one of those that shows up late to a show, you just might want to reconsider. Very nice album.

3.Lowfish-Frozen & Broken
Lowfish aka Gregory De Rocher keeps things simple. Upon reading most of the liner-notes, you realize quite quickly that Lowfish doesn’t have a room full of gear. Or maybe he does, but he seems to rely on a choice set of synthesizers. Frozen and Broken was an instant favorite for me. Only overshadowed by Foxx’s Interplay. Though, I binged on Lowfish too. De Rocher uses a wide range of analog kick drums and hi-hat’s and snares on this album which come mostly from a combination of a Roland TR 808 drum machine and a Vermona VRM-1 analog drum machine. It is clear analog drums are still vital to the Lowfish sound and that’s the way I like it. Voltage Controlled Oscillators (VCO’s) are in vogue again. It’s only a matter of time before Fashionistas make the DCO’s fashionable again. For some though, analog synthesizers have always been the instruments of choice. Some artist make connections with their instruments over years of using them. There is truth to that. It makes sense. When you read De Rocher’s liner notes, they show the same. I get the idea that the instruments were like band members. Like they become characters in the script of the album. Lowfish is also not a Luddite or a technophobe. He still relies on his Macbook. However, it is clear when listening to this album that it is transistor based instruments that make Frozen & Broken complete.

4.Skinny Puppy-Puppy Gristle
Legend has it that a fire burned down the location in which this Skinny Puppy recording was conceived. The location in question housed a certain “Thee Gristleizer” the very same Gristleizer that was used by Throbbing Gristle on many of their now classic albums. Genesis P. Orridge was featured on this recording and so too was Chris Carter’s chemistry lessons by way of his custom made effects processors. Puppy Gristle is a little over a 40 minute jam. It’s often dense and off kilter, but somehow it captures an energy that is very Skinny Puppy and most definitely Throbbing Gristle. Some have said this album never takes off. “Why does it have to?”, is my response. It’s a moment in time, a vibe, an intoxication, who knows, but for a jam with electronics, it works for me. Recorded in Shangri-La Studios in Malibu California. If you are a casual fan, perhaps you might start elsewhere in the Skinny Puppy saga, but for the completest of either Throbbing Gristle or SP, this is a must.

5.Shudder To Think-Hot One (Velvet Goldmine)
Remember this soundtrack? Remember the flick? I seem to remember watching it on a VHS tape. Yikes! Shudder To Think is a glam rock treat and I remember playing it quite a bit. Actually, I like the whole soundtrack. Especially, the tracks by Jonny Greenwood and Thom Yorke of Radiohead as the fictitious, The Venus In Furs. Check it out if you missed it the first time.

6.The The-The Beat (en) Generation & August & September (Mind Bomb)
It must be known that I believe Matt Johnson goes down as one of the best songwriters to come out of London of our generation. He was one of the many great artists to be featured on the Steveo’ Some Bizarre compilation and he has consistently produced some great albums. Mind Bomb is one of my favorites because it was the one I played repeatedly in university. These tracks just put me in a great mood. You see, with Matt Johnson you can’t count on lyrics that bring out the bitter truth, but always offers up some optimism.

7.Thom Yorke-The Eraser Remixes
$1.99 for a CD is too hard to pass up. So, it was this CD I purchased earlier in the week. Obviously, Thom Yorke is going to be on the mind especially with all of the stir with his recent Radiohead album, The King of Limbs and his recent DJ appearance at Low End Theory in Los Angeles. You can see more about that DJ set here. The Eraser Remixes are taken from tracks from Yorke’s, The Eraser solo albums from a couple of years back. The Remixes features tracks by Burial, Christian Vogel, Modeselektor, The Bug and Four Tet. If you are a fan of Radiohead and also like the remix treatments, check this out.

8.The Chemical Brothers-Hanna (Motion Picture Soundtrack)

I was listening to Client featuring Martin Gore of Depeche Mode and somehow The Chemical Brothers popped into my head. I’m not one of those who believes you should wait to hear the soundtrack until you’ve seen it with the film. Then again, some of these tracks would’ve made more sense. Really though, who can wait that long when it’s some of your favorite artists releasing it. I remember seeing The Chemical Brothers in Seattle a few years back. They were one of the first bands, I can safely say, made my ears hurt for days. It was an aural assault. I was mad, but also impressed. Hanna is the score for the film of the same name. Many passages yearn for a visual. That is true. Still, it’s nice to see The Chemical Brothers expanding into other areas with their sound.

9.Client-Overdrive (City LP) featuring Martin L. Gore
CLIEИT was an Andy Fletcher (Depeche Mode) discovery. Fletcher released some the early albums from this London duo on his label, Toast Hawaii. Client is a duo of sexy looking Stasi women, with synthesizers. I like the combination of airline hostess uniform meets shiny fetish fashion outfits. If I ever had to deal with the Stasi, I would hope they all looked this. On this one though, they feature the vocals of Martin L. Gore (Depeche Mode). Client was distributed by Mute Records in North America. The band has changed labels and members, but I still like the idea, sound and aesthetics of this band and this track is among one of my favorites of theirs.

10.Colin Hay-I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You (Garden State Soundtrack)
If you thought the best thing about Colin Hay was his daughter Sia (Zero 7), well this song will show you that Colin Hay has a soul. Good to know he has done more with life after Men At Work. This song is perhaps, one of my favorite ballads in a very long time. It’s a sad song told in the first person, and by the end of it, you just can’t help but admire the song and the artist. This is a very nice piece of songwriting that I enjoy playing.


The Weekly LP & Singles Platter, Please!

This is the weekly installment where we recap what we’ve been spinning at The Synthesizer Book headquarters during the week. If it’s on this list, it got played more than once!

1.Hot Panda-Volcano…Bloody Volcano
I stayed at home with my 3 year old earlier this week. He was running a fever and looking rather sad most of the morning. As a parent, you start to worry. Late that morning the doorbell rang and it was the mailman with my Hot Panda album. A few seconds later I hear “was dat?” and I replied that it was a record. He asked if he could have it. I obliged. He made his way down to the studio, turned on the turntable, asked for some help and hit the start button. From that moment on it was as if he had breathed new life. Let me be honest, I don’t know if it was entirely the music that cheered him up. It could have been a bunch of things really, but when you’re worrying about their well being and something, anything, cheers them up, you take note. I saw this band last week and have been really interested to learn more about them. You know I’m going to tell you it’s a good album. Whether they intend to make rock and roll is still not immediately obvious, but the mixture of tracks here is a reminder that this band will do well in the coming years and I wish them well and will say it again, keep your eye on this band.

2.Solvent-Apples & Synthesizers
This is a good album that I am glad I got back into again. This originally came out on Ghostly International. It got some much deserved press in several magazines I read back then. Using step sequencers, vocoders and his vast collection of analog synthesizers, he put this album together. I haven’t asked him yet, but I wonder if the Apples title has anything to do with Morton Subotnick’s Silver Apples of the Moon. I’ve always liked Solvent records and this is the one that set it all off for me. One thing that makes Jason Amm aka Solvent so appealing to folks like me is, he’s not afraid to show us all what he uses on his albums. Just read his record sleeves or go to his website here, and you will get the 411 on what is good. Stay tuned as we will be interviewing Solvent and some of the other artists on Suction Records very soon. We will be asking him about lots of synthesizer goodness.

3.Solvent-Loss For Words
For some reason I just love the intensity of the kick drum on this track. The intro has a filtered drum machine sound…as if someone squeezed out all of the low end. However, all of a sudden the kick drum just booms right in your face and I like that very much. It is followed by some good analog string sounds and Solvent’s vocals. Subject To Shift has been on my turntable for most of the week, but this track is one of my favorites and I can see why it was released as a single as well. If you’re wondering where to start with his latest LP, I would suggest to check here first. It’s a good indication about just how far he has come over the last few years. We’re fans. That’s our story and that’s what we’re sticking to.

4.Apparat-DJ Kicks
The track list on this album reads like an all-star list. In all there are 24 tracks on offer. Some of the artists include, Burial, Four Tet, Thom Yorke, Joy Orbison, Tim Hecker and lots, lots more. My favorite though, is still the one done by Joshua Eustis of Telefon Tel Aviv. You can read more about it here if you so desire.

5.John Foxx-Ghost On Water & Like A Miracle
These 2 tracks are off of an album called The Golden Section. The LP was originally released in 1983. I picked this record up in a local record shop last Fall. It was in the bargain bin. “It’s John Foxx,” is what I thought when I first purchased it. I think John Foxx was right to go back to the electronic sound with his upcoming album, Interplay. It’s where I think he sounds best… singing over analog beats and lots of synthesizers. Of all the tracks on The Golden Section it is Ghost On Water and Like A Miracle that sound closest to that Metamatic sound. Gareth Jones is credited as engineer on these tracks and on a few others too, but I was left wondering if his involvement had something to do with the sound that is the completed product. Either way, I played this LP quite a bit, but it was these 2 that stuck out for me. They have those echo filled signature John Foxx vocals and there is a bit more synthesizer on these than some of the other tracks on the album. This came out around the time when everyone quit calling them synthesizers and went with the mass accepted keyword “Keyboard”. On this record too, JJ Jeczalik is credited as Fairlight programmer, but I don’t hear much after the first few bars that sound programmed on Someone. Twilight’s Last Gleaming, the albums closer, also is worth a few spins too.

6.David Byrne & Brian Eno-Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
With Brian Eno you can always expect some artsy name to be associated to his work. Whether its an album, song or art installation. So, if everything that happens will happen today, Mr. Eno, what can we expect? Or has most of it happened today and I’m just catching up. This was released in 2008 and since David Byrne has been on my mind for a while, I thought I’d give it a spin. I also saw Brian Eno give one of his talks a couple of months back. I like these artists and this is a good album with some good tracks. Of course nothing will beat the work they did together on the Talking Heads albums, or even My Life In The Bush With Ghost, but this is good and I recommend it. There are some synthesizers sprinkled throughout, but these guys are legends and this is a good album too. I’ve reviewed this before, but I played it a few times and so, here it is again.

7.Erceus Exit-Compensation For The Sound of Silence
Richard Duggan is behind this recording and responsible for most all of the output contained within this album. The whole time while I was listening to this album, I just kept thinking about when electronic music had developed into a much harder sound. Like at the start of the 1990’s to be a bit more specific. Synth-pop had reached its saturation point and top 40 charts had exploited the formulas of the previous years and left anyone with a non-conformist attitude seeking to find something else. To me it seemed like no one wanted the softness of synthesizers mixed in with pop anymore. Bands like Nine Inch Nails, Skinny Puppy, Front 242 and even Ministry were using synthesizers and electronics to produce harder and much darker music. I gotta say, this isn’t a bad thing in this present time or looking back on it retrospectively. Richard was also my Logic instructor. We had some good conversations about dynamic range which seems to be missing from much of what is out there right now. That said, there are lots of artists not cranking up the compression and overwhelming us with side-chaining walls of noise too. Some are presenting another side to the aural assault. Duggan is one them. There are 12 tracks on the this album and there is another CD with different remixes of the tracks. I like this album’s intensity, vocals and the nod back to a time when electronic tracks were getting harder and darker. To learn more about this artist go here.

8.The Chemical Brothers-Container Park(Hanna Motion Picture Soundtrack)
I’m surprised at all the recent electronic soundtracks. Actually, maybe not surprised, but rather extremely happy that some of the artists I admire are making scores for movies. I guess you can’t be a touring and club musician your entire life. If you could, why would you!? The makers of this movie are saying the The Chemical Brothers score will rival the ones for Social Network and Tron Legacy. Yes, they went there and I appreciate the bravado. My only question is when are they going to make an album that sounds like this? Although I’ve only heard bits a pieces of the score done by Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons, already I’m looking forward to its release in a couple of weeks.

French producers Pilooski and Pentile have produced one very good synthesizer filled album. The French have really been leading the way over the past decade with electronic music, in my opinion. It’s not that they’re making revolutionizing electronic music, it’s just they’ve taken the best elements of the past and mix it well with the present, and I like that. There are some good dark moments mixed in throughout this album. There is even a little bit of what sounds like Calypso on Falkenberg. There are some minimal Disco elements, but what I like most is that it’s not that contrived or overdone as has been the recent trend. There are some robust synthesizer textures throughout . As you would expect, there are some great drums throughout too. It’s become a necessity, right? Antiphonie starts out with what sounds like a plucked stringed instrument. It sounds kind of like some eastern koto or something. Then it builds into a dark masse of sound. Right in the middle of the album is when I think they start sounding really good, especially with Ring Mutilation, Depression Skit and Grace. Homo Compatible sounds like the intro to a suspense or even a horror movie. In a previous platter I reviewed Synchronize. This is the track that features the former Pulp frontman, Jarvis Cocker. What you need to know is that this album has a little bit of everything and please, for the love what is good, do not pigeonhole this album. It’s electronic, it’s got lots of synthesizers and it sounds damn good.

10.Billie Ray Martin-Sweet Suburban Disco (Vince Clarke Remix)
I was checking out some Chris Carter favorites on Soundcloud and stumbled onto this track. I like what Vince Clarke has been up to in his Cabin studio lately and this is no exception. It’s a club track that I am quite certain is getting some spins. I wouldn’t know, but I’d be willing to bet. It’s a tasty track featuring the very wonderful voice of Billie Ray Martin. It’s got a stomping 4 on the floor kick too and some good synthesizer swells throughout and those electronic high pitched toms made me smile. Great stuff. Give it a listen right now.