Archive for Blancmange

Review: Ultravox – Brilliant

Posted in Review with tags , on June 13, 2012 by softsynth

We’ve come to approach “reunion” or “comeback” albums with a great deal of trepidation. So many times we’ve built ourselves into a frenzy of expectation waiting for new albums from re-assembled lineups from great days of yore (and yore was such an awesome time. Loves us some yore…) only to be disappointed when the release fell flat. The big exception was the tremendous return from Blancmange last year, an album that was one of our picks for the top ten of the year, and well deserved, that.

So what made the Blancmange effort work so successfully? It was a perfect bland of two qualities: remembering and bringing forward the sound that made them special back in the day and a necessary updating of their sound for this day and time. Other reunions leaned too far to the extreme in one direction or another and suffered for it. So where does this one fall? Continue reading

The 2011 Softsynth playlist

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 18, 2011 by softsynth

So, as we do every year, we have assembled the individual songs that made up the soundtrack for Softsynth this year. We are generally more about albums than singles but there are individual songs that stand on their own as outstanding. Some of these come from albums we found underwhelming as a whole, some were one-off singles, or standouts from excellent EPs.

We don’t do a singles list because as often as not it’s album tracks that get us all hot and bothered but the song collection that truly moved us, our “top 25 songs” to go with our albums of the year, starts with the following: Continue reading

The Best Electronic Albums of 2011

Posted in Commentary, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 10, 2011 by softsynth

This has been something of a peculiar year for electronic music. Some of the most compelling music from the genre has come from unsigned or yet-to-record-an-album bands. Discoveries like Curxes, Vile Electrodes and Nightlife provided some of the most alive, exciting and dynamic electronic music of the year. It was a year where EPs, instead of full albums, which we measure here today, brought us some of the most interesting glimpses of how good electronic music can be from the likes of Softsynth mainstay Miss FD, The Golden Filter, Tenek, or the three aforementioned bands (perhaps the latest example of how differently we now consume music in the digital age). And it was a year when many of the bands that make up the very foundation of this blog and this blogger’s bedrock musical interests, released new albums only to fall flat. In a year when Erasure, Ladytron, VNV Nation, M83, She Wants Revenge, And One and The Human League released new work it felt like assembling this year’s chart would be a pre-ordained affair, and yet it was surprises, resurfaces and new discoveries that provided the real fodder for our best of the year list in 2011. It was a year when Amy Lee of Evanescence, of all people would give us one of our most compelling electronic songs of the year, covering a Muppets song no less. There were curve balls but ultimately, as is the case every year, the best of the best rises to the top… Continue reading

On reunions

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , on September 15, 2011 by softsynth

Softsynth made a total spectacle of itself in the lead-up to the release of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s reunion album, History of Modern, last year. We talked about it in such giddy anticipation that “History of Modern” still ranks in the cloud next to this post as one of the most used keywords on the blog in all three years of our existence. See, O.M.D. was so crazy-influential on a young Softsynth and such a gateway drug to the hard stuff in the world of electronic music that their back catalogue isn’t just loved in memorium, it’s downright revered. Such is what happens with the passage of time after the demise of a much-loved band. Our “Bands We Miss” series speaks directly to this nostalgic longing (and also points to just how badly this blogger lives in the past).

But we digress. Continue reading

Review: Blancmange – Blanc Burn

Posted in Review, Uncategorized with tags , on March 21, 2011 by softsynth

It seems like every band we’ve written about in our Bands We Miss series over the past few years have reunited and returned to the scene. Too often these reunion efforts, while entirely welcome, are also underwhelming as compared to the built up anticipation. Rare is the “come-back album” that actually manages to capture what made the artist great in the first place let alone actually improve on the older work.

Rare but not unknown as it turns out. Continue reading

Bands we miss – Blancmange

Posted in Commentary with tags , on May 9, 2009 by softsynth

British duo Blancmange never got the appreciation they deserved in their day. They got their start with an instrumental track on Some Bizzare Album, which also featured the first work from Soft Cell, The The and Depeche Mode, but never quite broke through in a meaningful way. Neil Arthur and Stephen Luscombe released three albums between 1982 and 1986 – Happy Families, Mange Tout and Believe You Me, each a little more rich and complicated than the previous. They never really enjoyed much in the way of mainstream success but each album sported a single that ended up getting some airplay, “Living on the Ceiling”, “Don’t Tell Me”, and Lose Your Love”, respectively. A 1984 opening slot for Depeche Mode was the highlight of the band’s exposure to the masses, but it was short-lived.

What was unique about the band was their willingness to embrace unusual musical styles, particularly Indian motifs (which Luscombe continued with his short lived post-Blancmange project West India Company, which also briefly featured Vince Clarke of DMode/Yazoo/Erasure fame). They made a number of left turns that surprised and made the band stand apart from the rest of the electronic bands that populated the Golden Era. Baroque stylings, a capella tracks, ABBA covers, nerd-smart lyrics, across the board they continually surprised and were a welcome addition to the movement, and today, sorely missed. 

Watch: Don’t tell Me:

Ten essential electronic albums – Part III and IV

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2009 by softsynth

And on we go. We arrive at the 80’s. There were many more great albums that saw us through the tail end of the 70’s from Can, Throbbing Gristle, DAF, Neu, Einsturzen Neubauten, even at very end the Silicon Teens, but while all made an indelible impact on different aspects of the genre it would be some time before the more industrial acts, in particular, felt their true resonance (Neubauten in particular were ridiculously influential, and yes, important to the growth of the genre, but their influence owed more to a movement, to a sound, to a general sense of pushing boundaries and experimentation than to a particular album in my opinion. I’ll revisit Neubauten in a separate post before long, because frankly, they deserve it.). The next major waves were in the synthpop vein. For it was this subgenre that opened the doors to mainstream audiences finally embracing music made by machines in conjunction with their humans. Their influence is still felt today.

Continue reading