Review: Love and Radiation – You Will Know Me

Posted in Review with tags on April 20, 2013 by softsynth

While we loved the first two singles we heard from this Chicago duo, we were nervous that they wouldn’t be able to sustain a full album’s worth of material and keep the songs distinct or interesting. We needn’t have worried. The whole thing kicks serious, genuine ass.

What sounds at first listen like pretty standard synthpop is actually so much more. Members Lakshmi Ramgopal and Adele Nicholas have crafted something with a lot of layers and something strangely original while still drawing the best from the familiar tropes.  Continue reading

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Review: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – English Electric

Posted in Review with tags , on April 20, 2013 by softsynth

This is more like it. When the “classic” OMD lineup reunited a couple of years ago to record new material for the first time since 1988 it was with bated breath fans of olde waited for the inevitable genius therein but instead we were treated to a lukewarm collection that felt more like the late-era McCluskey-only projects instead of what we remembered. But this time Paul Humphries seems to have been given more reign and this one is a keeper.

So, this out of the way first, it ain’t perfect. Not enough of the songs really pop and the memorable hooks could be in greater supply, but on the whole, this is the album we’ve been waiting for. There are so many delightful quirks and crannies it’s hard to know where to start.  Continue reading

“Electronic Sound” gives new voice to electronic music

Posted in News with tags on April 17, 2013 by softsynth

Reborn from a one-issue print version, “Electronic Sound” is now a tablet-publication highlighting the best of electronic music.  It looks great and covers a wide swath of our genre and is a much-needed resource. Very exciting mag and needs your support. Now it’s available all over, not just in the European confines that limited distribution of the print version.

Check out details at www.electronicsound.co.uk. The first issue of this incarnation features Karl Bartos, Depeche Mode, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Gary Numan, Dave Clarke, Marsheaux and Mesh.

In praise (and memory) of the synth riff

Posted in Observations with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 30, 2013 by softsynth

Was just listening to Book of Love’s “Enchanted” which came up on the iPhone shuffle and was struck by how cool the riff is. Book of Love were great at the synth riff, and employed it regularly throughout their all-too-short career. Not surprising as they were so brazenly modelled on Depeche Mode, as DM were as of 1985 when BoL made their debut. The Mode were champions of the synth riff. Think of the moments – “Just Can’t Get Enough” (or for that matter, every single song from Speak & Spell), “Get the Balance Right”, “Everything Counts”, “Master and Servant”, “People are People”, “Shake the Disease”, and many many more – some classics, most pretty special in their own way, and that just in the band’s first five years.

They were far from alone, think of the defining sounds of early synth pop from the golden era – O.M.D.’s “Enola Gay”, Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love”, aha’s “Take On Me”, Men Without Hats’ “Safety Dance”, Gary Numan’s “Cars”, Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me”, Yazoo’s “Don’t Go”…or “Situation”…or “Nobody’s Diary”…or you know, just any song from Yazoo. The list is far too long to write. One can reflect back to some of the finest moments of the genre and the riff was dominant. Some were particularly good at it – New Order did ’em great, few were better at it than Vince Clarke, Numan was terrific at it and of course Kraftwerk pioneered the trick. It was the stuff of iconic music moments.  Continue reading

Review: MESH – Automation Baby

Posted in Review with tags on March 29, 2013 by softsynth

We were pretty hard on MESH’s last album back in the day. As we wrote at the time, the bar is higher for a band that has produced so much terrific music over a long period of time and when they don’t reach it, even if their stuff would be considered great by another artist, it will receive a lukewarm review. When that band exceeds that admittedly high bar however, well, then we’re into the good shit.

On Automation Baby, MESH are into the good shit. Continue reading

Review: IAMX – The Unified Field

Posted in Review with tags on March 28, 2013 by softsynth

Chris Corner never makes it easy on his listeners, one needs to earn their place at the IAMX table. Listening to a new IAMX album requires patience, time and a keen attention to detail. Rarely does he bring forth straight ahead pop or accessible rock, instead a typical IAMX album is replete with thematically complicated anthems, dirges and operatic calls to action. And when it works it’s just this side of brilliant. On The Unified Field, it works.

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Review: Depeche Mode – Delta Machine

Posted in Review with tags on March 27, 2013 by softsynth

Crafty bastards, lowering the bar like that and then producing an album not half as bad as many were starting to anticipate.

Signs were not good. A mediocre-at-best fallow period for the band that ran from the dispirited, and ironically-named Exciter to the dull and forgettable Sounds of the Universe, seemed to continue with the four minutes of anticlimax that was “Heaven” and chatter was everywhere that we were in store for another dud. Yet this long time fan of the band (going back to 1984) can report that this newest effort is…not as dire as was expected. Faint praise? Maybe. But given the recent state of affairs, it’s not  a little thing.

Perhaps the most influential electronic band of all time, DM wrote many of the rules the genre follows to this day. For decades they were the epitome of cool. Martin Gore was an unequaled songwriter, Dave Gahan, as smooth a frontman as they come, Andy Fletcher, a hand-clapper extraordinaire. The list of brilliant, unforgettable songs too long to fit in the bandwidth we can access. Yet recently we’ve seen tired production and weak songwriting and a stale attempt to be a “rawk band” with increasing helpings of guitar and an ever-growing drum kit front and centre at concerts. What they’ve managed to do on Delta Machine is dilute some of their more recent judgement lapses and excesses with some of what reminds us of what once made them so great.
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