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.