When you think of the greatest electronic musicians of all time, names like A-ha, Art of Noise, Camouflage, Depeche Mode, Erasure, Human League, Kraftwerk, Petshop Boys, and Prodigy comes to mind. When you think about musicians today who are capitalizing on electronic music, you think of Calvin Harris, La Roux, Little Boots, Rokysopp, and Transbeauce, What do all of these artists have in common? They are European. Now, I am not saying that there have not been great electronic bands from the USA (Information Society), Australian (Cut Copy), etc…, but it does seem that Europeans have always been more open to the use of technology to formulate music. We can theorize about why (but who wants to hear a discourse on colonial and post-colonial theory?). What I will say is that La Bulle Sonore Records is one of those labels that has its finger on the pulse of current 80s revival, cutting edge synthpop, and a realm of pop that has always been more popular overseas than here in the States. It would definitely take a European record label to even conceive of a synthpop compilation, let alone pull it off. Below are two reviews, the first for the compilation “Never Dreamed Night Freeze Sandwich”: an eclectic collection of synthpop songs, from established to nascent artists, that really beckons to be heard (each band’s web information is listed with the track listing). This compilation has musicians that air from Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and (yes) the United States. Then there is MFMB’s “Heat Like This EP.” Let me say upfront, this is cutting edge synthpop that may convince non-fans to take another listen, while leaving fans of synthpop more than satisfied – some might have to pick up their jaws from the floor. Enjoy!
“Never Dreamed Nigh Freeze Sandwich”
I understand that synthpop is not everyone’s cup of tea; personally I have had friends make fun of me for years for listening to it. But you really should take a listen to this collection. The music hear represents more of the synthpop that artists such as Vince Clarke (early Depeche Mode, Yazzo, Assembly, and Erasure) has created – strong pop sensibility, a healthy respect for the standards, and no gloom and doom, but rather music to smile and dance to, to party and forget the world outside. When vocalists are part of the band, or employed, they are not just singing to the melody; their voices are also employed as another layer of arranged sound, adding to the soundscape in way that conventional pop does not. But this compilation is more than just standard synthpop; tuck away in the fold is some experimental pop, nu-new wave, and shoegazing. However, the compilation flows with fluidity, as each song on the compilation seems to compliment the one that it follows.
The opening is a song that I have always felt should be covered: The Lightning Seeds’ “Pure.” (Should I admit now that I was singing this song as I walked to get my high school diploma?) Keeping the feel and arrangements intact, this cover by Masheaux adds a danceable beat and removes any tinge of melancholy that the original almost verged on. This is followed Katsen’s “Where Nobody Can Find Us.” A synthpop band out of Brighton, Katsen understands how to use electronic noise to create melody and string a song together using older models than the 80s.
There are some great surprises on this compilation, the first of which is Explodinig Schoolgirls’ “Queen of the Popular Crowd.” This fifties meets synthpop ditty really shows the diversity that is possible within the synthpop genre, and is really devoid of all the new wave clichés that so much of electropop in general falls into. “Cancer of Your Heard (Flower for the Snow)” by Mask will take you by surprise as well. Musically, the song is more sedate than its bombastic title, but the song has some of closest attentions to details that are out of there. There is nothing in the song (in terms of sounds, noise, or arrangements) that goes to waste. Of course the inclusion of Tim Ten Yen put a big smile on my face. “Your Love” is one of those songs that uses all of the clichés of the standards, but much like the master Vince Clarke, there are infusions of electronic aspects that do not detract from the song, but gives it a modern, contemporary feel. Tim Ten Yen is all about strong song writing, and this track is just more evidence to that. That brings us to the two closing songs of this twenty-one-song collection. De Portables’ “Haut Gay” and Magø’s “Fear of Falling.” De Portables have always sported out some of the most sophisticated sounding arrangements out there. Hailing from Flanders, there is a definite feel of “international” appeal to there music, and “Haut Gay” is no different. With sensual vocal arrangements and layers of sounds, the song moves pristinely, playing with tempo and instrumental arrangements (including an acoustic guitar) creating an allure to this song that is hard to resist. Then the final song, by American Matt Gøld, who employs the moniker Magø, is everything you expect from a synthpop instrumental and more. Unlike much of synthpop that consciously seeks to sound dated, this track, “Fear of Falling,” is not only urgent but also fresh. What I love about the song is that it can move you to dance without employing the same formulas that other synthpop musicians use.
Two thumbs up for La Bulle Sonore Records label for compiling this collection. Really give this one a listen. If you are in North America, you can purchase this CD at ToneVendor to purchase the disc. Check La Bulle Sonore's sites (below) for retail information internationally.
1. Marsheaux: “Pure” – homepage, MySpace, and Facebook
2. Katsen: “Where Nobody Can Find Us” – homepage, MySpace, and Facebook
3. Bal Pare: “Palais D’Armour” – Myspace
4. Fiendish Fib: “Les Garcons Invisibles” – MySpace
5. Egyptian Eyes: “Strike Me Down” – MySpace
6. Hemstad: “Mitt Hijarta Brinner for Dig” – MySpace
7. Hidrogenesse: “Stock Aitken Waterman and Me” – Facebook
8. Exploding Schoolgirls: “Queen of the Popular Crowd” – MySpace
9. DONDoLO: “Shimera” – MySpace
10. Clap Machine: “Troublez Moie ce Soir”
11. Rudebot: “Hello Floppy” – MySpace
12. Soft Priest: “Human Bauble Status” – MySpace
13. Denim: “Summer Smash”
14. Silver Screen: “When You Don’t See Me”
15. MasK: “Cancer of Your Heart (Flowers for the Snow)” – MySpace
16. Fiber Study: “My Padded Cell” – MySpace
17. Ruth Uve: “Une Reve”
18. Coldgate: “Supermarket Romantic Pop”
19. Tim Ten Yen: “Your Love” – MySpace and Facebook
20. De Portables: “Haute Gay” – MySpace
21. Magø: “Fear of Falling” - MySpace
Keep up with La Bulle Sonore Records at their homepage and MySpace. Also, the compilation itself has a presence at MySpace: nightfreezesandwich.
Here is the video for Marsheaux’s “Pure” from the ggeran YouTubeChannel.
Here is Katsen’s video for “Where Nobody Can Find Us” from their YouTube Channel: katsenbeeps.
MFMB: “Heat Like This EP”
Many nascent bands rely on the mighty EP to release their music, though many established bands have employed them for many different reasons. Even Muse had thought at one place of not releasing a new album, but rather a series of EPs. What will blow you away about this EP, MFMB’s “Heat Like This,” is that band has produced a sound that most veterans in their genre would be jealous of. Sporting out some interesting influences, they cite “(old) new wave.” But there are elements of their music that really are shoegaze and even dream pop.
The six-track EP (divided into Face A, Face B – oh, the old days of vinyl for the kiddies who do not get the allusion) is power-packed. Face A first. The opening track, “Antihill Man” inches its way through noise until the guitar comes in and the beat drops; the song has no clue if it is dance or rock, but that is the beauty of the song: MFMB are able to create perfect hybrids that many bands just fail at. “Control” moves closer to new wave, while “The Fine Detail” is very reminiscent of early post-punk, such as the Associates and Joy Division. Face B is ever as seductive as Face A – these are not b-sides (for the kiddies, the term for previously unreleased songs that were not placed on the album). “Tune On” really shows that this band has great pop sensibility. But when you hear “I Would Give It To Anyone” you are secretly glad that they do not pursue the “standard pop” sensibility. This number is ambient, dream pop-ish, and luscious, even though there is an ethereal feel to it. That is how good this band is, that they can bring a “luscious” sound to such an airy song. The final song follows this: the titular track. As schizophrenic as “Anthill Man” in trying to usurp an identity in genre, the song is really the most experimental on the EP in terms of recording style, the interplay between sounds and arrangements, and the singing style. Why? Because this song has so many elements of the (old) new wave running through it that you would think it would overwhelm the song; instead, MFMB tames the song in to what can easily be called a future classic of the new new wave.
Again, Sweden gives birth to another amazing band!
1. Anthill Man
3. The Fine Detail
4. Tune On
5. I Would Give It to Anyone”
6. Heat Like This
Keep up with MFMB at their homepage and MySpace.
Check out this live performance of “Anthill Man” from the AxmanproductionsFilm YouTube Channel.