Archive for Ashbury Heights

Review: Chaos All Stars – I Need It All

Posted in Review with tags , on March 17, 2012 by softsynth

Kari Berg had a brief moment in the sun as co-lead vocalist of Ashbury Heights (who, as we predicted at the time of the Great Snit, are about to “unretire” with the announcement of a new vocalist, more on that in a future post), but has since moved on to a new act, the Swedish EBMish Chaos All Stars. They were featured on the Side-line compilation Face The Beat a couple of years ago and their track “Forget Them” was one of the standouts. But seeing and hearing nothing else about the act led one to believe this was more of a one-off partnership between Berg and the band than a new project. Continue reading

The Softsynth 2010 playlist

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2010 by softsynth

Daunting is the idea of having to single out singles.

a) What do singles even mean in 2010? The digital age, the era of the pre-release leak, the lack of any physical “release” for all intents and purposes, the absence of any television presence where videos are played in any meaningful way – all have lead to a music world where a so-called “single” means no more than any other stand-out track on an album.

b) If breaking down the best albums in a particular genre is as daunting as it was in 2010, the idea of having to attack the mountain of meaningful electronic songs and somehow rank them in a consequential way is beyond the mental capacity of this blogger.

That said, each year there rises an honour roll of sorts, in absolutely no particular order at all, no “first”, no “last” . just those songs (yes, usually singles, but not always) that were constantly on the Softsynth playlist this year; those songs that resonated and rose above the conclave, the 30 “best” electronic songs of 2010. Continue reading

The Best Electronic Albums of 2010

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 11, 2010 by softsynth

Is it that time already? Hard to fathom a year has passed since we crowned IAMX as having had the best electronic album of ’09, but here we are. It’s been a very different year for electronic music than last. In 2009 we saw a handful of albums (four at least) that were spectacular, and opened up a wormhole in the genre that led us to incredible new places. For balance we also had a great number of albums that were simply “great” to round out our ten. This year is markedly different. There wasn’t a single release that would qualify as transcendent in the way that handful were last year. What we had instead were a much larger pool of “really good, really enjoyable albums”. That makes the art of building a best-of list that much more challenging. A whole lot of good instead of a select few greats makes for a big pot of soup and that’s a harder thing to differentiate. Still there were a number that floated to the top.

When we build a list such as this we are looking for quality lyrics, well-constructed songs and above all, a sense of true resonance – songs that stay with us and stay fresh. There were albums we gave strong, positive reviews to that within months felt stale, and others that received luke-warm reviews that grew stronger with each listen. This made for a very different list than we might have predicted in the summer or early fall.

Need to say it up front: people love lists. Softsynth is no exception, and accordingly a lot of thought goes into ours. Last year at chart time our readership quadrupled and we’ve had emails and tweets asking when the top 10 is due this year, so we know there’s interest in these posts more than any other through the year. Accordingly we get more debate and even the occasional angry post questioning our choices. How could you choose that, how could you exclude this, and the ever-popular, I can’t believe you consider that to be an electronic album!! It needs saying: this is subjective, as are all of our posts. Debate is awesome and most utterly welcome, but the caveat still needs stating.

It was a big enough challenge breaking it down to a top 25. Going deeper to a top ten harder still. There were a number of great, enjoyable albums that we celebrate outside our top ten from across the genre including Nitzer Ebb, Kant Kino, Hot Chip, Tikkle Me, Cindergarden, Ellie Goulding, Psy’Aviah, Goldfrapp, Ego Likeness, tenek, Hungry Lucy, Ambra Red, Android Lust, The Golden Filter, Alice in Videoland, Diorama, Edge of Dawn, How to Destroy Angels (which was such brilliant work, but after going back and forth we decided a five-song EP shouldn’t be in the mix as the best of the best, but we look forward to a full-length very much), De/Vision and our toughest drop, Parralox (and we know full well with the passage of time this is one we may regret not including in the 10, as its recent release may just have not given us enough time to sit with and properly get to know it over a glass of wine in front of the fire, learning each other’s deepest secrets). Each one of the above albums was terrific and made 2010 a solid, enjoyable year for electronic music, they stayed fresh, and displayed songwriting and performance chops and would have been on a longer list. But this is about the best of the year, the best of the best, the top 10 best electronic albums of 2010. To whit… Continue reading

Ashbury Heights call it “quits”

Posted in News with tags on October 13, 2010 by softsynth

Ashbury Heights, who have given us one of the best electronic albums of 2010 thus far reportedly have called it a day. Though there is a bit of a caveat. There is a strong suggestion that this is something of a Prince-like bargaining chip.

Seems that the band have reached the end of their rope in their well-known struggle with their record company (Out of Line Music) and tired of being constrained by the company would rather walk away from it all rather than continue the Out of Line relationship.

There is a petition to “free” the band from their contract with Out of Line so that they may “reunite”. Gamesmanship aside, this is a band with a great deal of potential and Anders Hagström has been extremely loud in sharing his issues with the label, so this comes as no great surprise. Hagström has clearly been in a state for some time, judging by his MySpace blog and twitter account and the situation must have been so bad it became panic-inducing. We feel for him and the band and do hope they find a way to continue to make music.

Review: Ashbury Heights – Take Cair Paramour

Posted in Review, Uncategorized with tags , on July 7, 2010 by softsynth

When an album takes this long to make, and suffers as many delays and setbacks as this has, including the departure of one of the band’s principals, Sweden’s Ashbury Heights had a lot of factors contributing to this possibly being an album less than the sum of its parts. But we needn’t have worried as Anders Hagström has built a winner.

The opening track, “Anti Ordinary”, all full of bombastic, tiresomely misplaced guitar chords made this blogger’s blood freeze for a moment as we were experiencing an Apoptygmian sense of deja vu, but by the time the album settles into the terrific, relentless “Beautiful Scum”, we were breathing easier and by the time the train rolled into the delightfully 80s retro “Scars of a Lighthouse” we had a big stupid smile on our face.

Continue reading

Electronic music in 2010

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2009 by softsynth

While not quite the promising bounty with which we were able to look toward 2009 this time last year we can look to the year ahead at a number of very exciting new releases. Goldfrapp’s 5th album is the big deal news around these here parts but we can also look forward to new material from the liked of De/Vision, Diorama, Michigan (rumoured), Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Iris, Covenant, Ashbury Heights, Android Lust, Birthday Massacre, i:scintilla, Conjure One, LCD Soundsystem, Unter Null, Miss FD, Suicide Commando, Distain, Hot Chip, Ellie Goulding and the weirdness that is Ladytron…in the form of producers for Christina Augilara (which makes Softsynth’s virtual head ache with trying to envision the results of this collaboration).

As we look forward to the new year the wheel keeps on turning and lots of great stuff to come…

Bands we miss – Zeigeist (and what’s the deal with Sweden?)

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 10, 2009 by softsynth

“What?” you are saying, provided you have heard of this Swedish electronic band. “Didn’t they, like,*just* break up…a few months ago? How does one “miss” a band that just ceased to be? And a fair query, that.

Zeigeist were a trio, yet another emerging from Sweden, that endeavoured to be merge their musical ideas with graphic design, film, art and music, a la Fischerspooner. On that front their success rate was debatable and their ultimate output was minimal, releasing one actual album, The Jade Motel, but what an interesting album it was. Similar to the Scissor Sisters in sound but with a more committed, unabashed electronic aura, they experimented not just with sound but with lyrics that made one’s eyebrows raise, particularly on the peerless “Cuffs” which takes a forward-looking view of someone discovering the joys of a little S&M. It was the kind of album that makes one wonder what could have been had they toughed it out. Softsynth highly, highly, recommends the album while mourning the passing of the band, who disbanded this February (member, Pearl has already launched a new project, Pearl Fiction). And we miss not only this highly interesting band but all that they could have built. Continue reading