Archive for Erasure

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

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The holiday playlist

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2012 by softsynth

So it’s December and all that and while Softsynth may seem the cynic, he still appreciates the holiday season. In fact now that the Month of Ho is upon us the Softsynth Holiday Playlist has been added to the iPod and is in full play mode. This year’s playlist will be familiar to those who have followed this blog lo these last few years, and as always, if you know of something that should be here that isn’t (yet) shout ‘er out! Continue reading

Review: Erasure – Tomorrow’s World

Posted in Review with tags on October 18, 2011 by softsynth

It’s become a broken record on this blog that the old faithful’s the stand-by’s, the go-to’s have largely fallen flat in 2011 amidst a sea of far more interesting upstarts doing far more interesting work. This album, alas is no exception.

However, we need to reiterate a little history for valuable, yummy-yet-nutritious context! This blogger cottoned to Erasure in the most passionate, excited way back at the release of their first single, “Who Needs Love Like That” in 1985. Already a huge fan of Vince Clarke (the name for the stray tabby who wondered into the family in ’85? Vince, of course in honour of the master. If Softsynth has a musical idol Clarke would wear the crown. Wonderland took the electrosoul concept to new heights and the cassette was played so much the tape wore thin and tore; The Circus was loved even more; The Innocents a constant stream of surprise and wonder; Wild was an inconsistent mess that nonetheless had so many terrific bubbly synth pop songs that played dangerously with serious genre confusion yet too suffered for the enthusiastic overplaying on the faithful Walkman. Chorus just boringly brilliant. Continue reading

Can we still properly *anticipate* a new release in the digital age?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on August 19, 2011 by softsynth

The year was 1986. The boy was a young Softsynth. Erasure’s debut Wonderland had rocked his world and he heard “Sometimes” and then “It Doesn’t Have to be Like That” via Rock Over London (so, so cheesy but so so important to his musical development), and the anticipation of the second album, The Circus had him in a veritable tizzy. Upon finally buying the album it was listened to non-stop and was declared his favourite album of all time (a status that lasted maybe six months, but still…). The countdown, the lucky catching of the lead-off single on the radio, it all added up to something so exciting, that it resembled the final weeks before Christmas, which a still-younger version of that same boy lovingly counted down by crossing off days in a pocket calendar. The routine would repeat itself over and over in the following years as the musical palette grew, waiting expectantly for new cassette releases by Nitzer Ebb, Depeche Mode, O.M.D., I Start Counting, the first sounds of a lead single were like throwing a drop or two of water to a man dying of thirst. To a hard, hard core music geek there was nothing more visceral. Continue reading

Mute

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2011 by softsynth

When we look back at the history of electronic music, and more personally Softsynth’s own journey to embrace our shared genre, Daniel Miller’s record label played a larger, more significant role than any other entity. As a young lad in a small Canadian city in the pre-internet era there were only a few ways to discover new music. Mainstream radio was the big one and we’ve waxed on about how we discovered Depeche Mode in 1984 thanks to the then-ubiquitous “People Are People” which aired on MuchMusic, daily video shows like CBC’s Video Hits, and on radio programs like Dick Clark’s op 40 Countdown which aired on Halifax’s C-100.
Continue reading

Electronic music for the holidays, 2010 edition

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on December 7, 2010 by softsynth

Tis the season and all that. Each year Softsynth, like so many, starts to slowly get into the holiday spirit and accordingly, we get the hankering for a little seasonal music. Last year we saw a few holiday-related songs get added to the pile, like Pet Shop Boys merely okay “It Doesn’t Often Snow at Christmas”, Tori Amos’ lovely seasonal album, Midwinter Graces, Liquid 360’s “Change Has Come (For Christmas)”, Rush Coil’s kind of neat 8-bit holiday album, 8-Bit Christmas and thanks to reader Michael we got our hands on a copy of the late, lamented Book of Love’s weird, and thoroughly enjoyable take on “We Three Kings”. This year we’re very much enjoying The Golden Filter’s fantastic “White Nights”, a Psychic TV cover that’s made for a lovely holiday tune (and available for free download at their web site). There’s also Hurts’ brand new seasonally-cheesy but still kind of nice “All I Want For Christmas Is New Years Day” and we’re very excited to hear Saint Etienne’s new Christmas album, A Glimpse Of Stocking. But other than the above, a handful of songs helpfully suggested by our readers last year, and stand-bys like Venus Hum’s always great Switched on Christmas, the “old faithful”, Electric Fantastic Xmas (a must-own for electronic fans), and of course Erasure’s Crackers International and Crackers International Part II, and not a whole lot more from our genre. The self-serious electronic community rarely deign to throw out holiday-themed songs – once a fan club staple for many bands in days gone by – as it is often seen to compromise the cred they’ve spent years trying to build.

So our annual holiday lament: if we want to get into the holiday spirit, whatever you celebrate, the only refuge from the traditional standards remain the small handful of tracks spun out from within our genre, and occasional dips into the South Park Christmas album and of course the umpteenth playing of “Do They Know It’s Christmas”…

(Anything else new out there in the way of electronic holiday tunes…?)

Watch: All I Want For Christmas Is New Years Day

New releases in early 2011

Posted in News with tags , , , , on November 23, 2010 by softsynth

The new year will bring its usual assortment of cool new releases. While we’re giving thought to what will make up the Softsynth best of the year list for 2010 we’ve already got our eyes on what the year-to-come will bring, rumoured or otherwise.

The big names include Erasure who will bring forth an as-yet-untitled new work. It will be interesting to see what the boys proffer this year after the highly disappointing Light at the End of the World.

Our most anticipated release of the new year is IAMX’s Volatile Times. After the peerless, near-perfect Kingdom of Welcome Addiction, our unquestioned pick as the number one electronic album of last year, we are both excited and nervous about what’s next on the docket. It will be among us in March and no other album is as yearned-for.

Covenant finally bring us the long-delayed Modern Ruin January 17th. We’re big Covenant fans so the repeated delays have frustrated us to no end. The “Lightbringer” teaser hasn’t set us afire but we’re still greatly looking forward to what our Swedish stalwarts have in store.

Greece’s Marsheaux will release Message From Mars in the early months of the new year. Consistent and utterly in the know about what makes electronic music work this duo is sure to bring us an electronic highlight for the year.

Swedish electropunk band Alice in Videoland will release their fourth album A Million Thoughts and They’re All About You January 11 in North America (but is already available in some markets). Alice in Videoland can do little wrong as far as we’re concerned so we’re all a-twitter.

There are a lot of terrific electronic releases yet to come in 2010 and we’re girding ourselves accordingly but we can’t help but cast our glance to the first few months of ’11 to remind ourselves that the electronic movement keeps on ticketing and barreling ever-forward. Much yet to come…

(What have we missed? What else in on the scene in the first quarter of the new year? Let us know!)