Archive for December, 2008

Unter Null fire

Posted in News with tags on December 31, 2008 by softsynth

Some sad post-holiday news. Erica Dunham, otherwise known as industrial act Unter Null, saw a fire consume part of her house and her entire recording studio on Boxing Day. Lost in the fire were the recordings for the new Utter Null album which she had just completed the day before. Dunham is not badly hurt and is living in a hotel but needless to say the album is a no-go. 

Read more about her experience here.


On “best ofs” and yet-to-comes

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 29, 2008 by softsynth

I have had a few questions regarding my “best of ’08” list, and yes it’s ridiculously subjective. As are all such lists. I like lists, they play to my anal retentive side. But while fun to contemplate, they are still based on the varying tastes of its particular authors. Among the “big five or six” of the music papers I saw Duffy’s album on two “best of the year” lists” and on one “worst of the year”. I saw the Jonas Brothers on one of each. Same with Chinese Democracy What does any of it mean? Not a whole lot. Unless you are T.V. on the Radio, in which case you are universally beloved by mainstream music press and those who fashion themselves as more of the alternative variety. (Now I like TVotR too, but the collective hysteria over this album is disproportionate to how good the album actually is. It’s good. It is. It’s a fine, clever, well written, well produced album but except for a few stand out tracks it still strikes me as quite ordinary. Good-ordinary to be sure, but still ordinary. Nothing wrong with that but the “It’s as good as Pet Sounds/The While Album/Let it Bleed all rolled into one” wankfest has gone to a silly place. But there again, you have it. It’s so stupidly subjective that what means one thing to one listener means something altogether different to the next.) 

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Best of 2008

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 26, 2008 by softsynth

I’m reprinting this from my lastFM account as it seems relevant to this blog. Not all the albums on this list are electronic but not all the best albums of the year are electronic (though I think most were). (and that said, only R.E.M. and The Breeders can be absolutely said to be wholly organic, The Kills and Maple Bee, some case could be made for a hybrid.)

While 2008 left a lot to be desired on the part of mainstream music (Kanye West, Keane, Pink and even Britney had some interesting stuff out these year but these were exceptions), alternative music had another bang-up year. I’m an album guy so I tend to focus on the “best” albums (knowing full well how stupidly subjective something like this is; look at someone’s playlist and you’ll be able to guess their best of list, which would be markedly different than anyone else’s), but there were some singles (and a few album tracks) that stood out in a big way like Weezer’s awesome “Pork and Beans”, Tricky’s fantastic take on the Kylie Monogue track “Slow”, Ra Ra Riot’s “Ghost Under Rocks” (an album that, along with Humanizer by Thermostatic, would be in my “top 12”), Lily Allen’s great new track “The Fear” and “The Best Revenge” by Fischerspooner, among many more. Continue reading

Merry whatever you celebrate

Posted in Uncategorized on December 24, 2008 by softsynth

Looking forward to Xmas with the kids. They have made me look at the holiday with new, less jaded eyes. Hoping to do a little actual relaxing (ha!). 

Putting together song mixes for the holidays is always challenging. While there are some alternative artists who do their token holiday song (or in the case of a band like Weezer, many such songs), and I am able to get by with My Morning Jacket doing “O Holy Night” or Death C ab’s “Merry Christmas Baby”, electronic artists who have recorded holiday material is rare. There’s Erasure’s “She Won’t be Home” which is marginally a Xmas song and (only) a couple of key albums that come to mind. Continue reading

Röyksopp – free anniversary track

Posted in News on December 23, 2008 by softsynth

Norway’s Röyksopp celebrates ten years as a band with a free track, “Happy Birthday”. Download it here

Blind Faith and Envy

Posted in Review with tags , , , , on December 23, 2008 by softsynth


I was alerted to this Tucson, Arizona-based band at the announcement of their new album Media Motel. In the meantime I picked up their previous albums, The Charming Factor and Murder of a Girl, each of which is brilliant. They bill themselves as darkwave, which I find amusing as they are more traditional synthpop than almost anyone on the scene right now. Singer Charlene April has a lovely voice that lends itself beautifully to electronic music (see also: her appearance on Edge of Dawn’s “Kiss or Kill”), but this is hardly edgy stuff. It doesn’t need to be. They do what they do very, very well. Continue reading

Blogging here now

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on December 23, 2008 by softsynth

I previous blogged for about five years through my writing web site, but my goal to keep matters focused on my various writing projects meant it was hard to talk (write) about those things that interest me most these days, namely, music, or more specifically electronic music.

I follow many forms of music but none so passionately as electronic music in its many (many) forms. I first became conscious of this style of music in 1984 when I was listening to Dick Clark’s syndicated Top 40 countdown show (hey, I was a 13 year old kid in Halifax, Nova Scotia, what the hell else was I going to listen to?). ‘ol Dick made a throw before going into commercial and said breathlessly, “The next band…doesn’t have a drummer!” Then – bam. Commercial. What the hell? How could a band not have a drummer? How would they have kept time? I had to hear what kind of freak-band this was. Was it some kind of baroque chanting? I was fascinated. As it turned out it was Depeche Mode’s “People are People”. Sounded like they had drums to me. I liked the song but not In a life-changing way. I got on with my busy 13 year old life (I expect said busy-ness had something to do with Star Wars or perhaps television. The odds were good). Over the next year I bought some DM albums (cassettes to be precise) and came to love the band but thought little of their instrumentation. Then I picked up Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark’s self-titled debut album and the programmed sounds were so unmistakable (listen to “Almost” and there’s no doubt it’s a drum machine, and a cheap one at that), that I realized I was listening to something different. Over the next couple of years I came across a catalogue from Mute records and started ordering every electronic-sounding artist I could through my local alternative record shop, and then I would browse seedy record stores and poke through the 7″ single racks looking for that artwork that unmistakenly meant synthesizers were used here. Before I knew it was a total electro-geek. The sound spoke to me of an era, but more importantly, conjured a mood, an emotion that captivated me as no other music had before. I started to study the roots of the music (got acquainted with Mr Moog, learned my Kraftwerk, got into my late-70s Bowie, dug into the German and Belgian scenes, got my Ultravox on, learned that the first pop band to use a synth on a record was the Monkees (!) in ’67, and even got my hands on an original 7″ of “Popcorn”). It’s nearly 25 years on and my passion for electronic music has only grown. The growth of the internet meant that I no longer needed the Mute catalogue or the 7″ bins to find my stuff. It meant that I could dig into the staggeringly prolific Swedish synth scene, to discover underground electro bands across the US, it meant that I could bookmark about 250 MySpace pages of various electronic bands in all forms.

I don’t enjoy it all. Some of the harsher industrial scene is lost on me; trance sometimes puts me to sleep and I find techno very, very hit-or-miss. But all-in-all, it keeps calling me back. And I want to talk about it here. New releases, new artists, trends in the business, whatever, I will vent the spleen, as it were on all things electronic, EBM, darkwave, ambient, industrial, synthpop, hybrid, drum-and-bass, and yes, even techno. And everything in between. There’s a huge world of electronic music out there waiting to be discovered, so let’s chat…