Archive for Gary Numan

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: Maison Vague – Synthpop’s Alive

Posted in Review with tags , , , on March 12, 2011 by softsynth

At first we really weren’t sure what to make of this peculiar project, the brainchild of US-born/Germany-based Clark Stiefel. It seemed like a gimmick, a bit of a laugh, a de facto response to the clever “Synthpop is Dead” YouTube meme. The video for the title track was funny, odd, and completely un-self conscious in it’s stereotypical electro geek finery. It was cute and that seemed to be that.

But hold on…this is, as it turns out, a whole hell of a lot more. This is something almost subversively brilliant in it’s nakedly retro throwback vibe. Stiefel has created in a backhanded way, one of the most intriguing electronic albums in recent memory. Continue reading

Coachella looks sweet for the electronic fan

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , on January 19, 2010 by softsynth

The new Coachella lineup has been officially announced and it’s killing Softsynth at our inability to attend this year (next year is planned but that was before this killer line up materialized). Lots of our favourite artists from all genres are on tap but in the electronic vibe our community is particularly well represented, not least of which by Gary Numan and Little Boots who appear on the same day (and we would imagine will revisit their awesome collaboration on the Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs”, see below).

Also: La Roux, LCD Soundsystem, Hot Chip, MGMT, Devo (freaking DEVO!), The Big Pink, Phoenix, and a slew of smaller, less well known genre bands. (And beyond electronic music the chance to see Muse, The Dead Weather, Public Image Ltd, Gorillaz, Dirty Projectors, Thom Yorke and Pavement all on one bill is enough to give us a case of the vapors.)

Killing. Softynth. Want to go so very much.

If you’re in Southern California April 16-18 so very worth checking out…

Watch: Venus in Furs

Gary Numan + NIN = Perfection

Posted in News with tags , on September 11, 2009 by softsynth

Quick link, but so worth it. Gary Numan, one our favourite artists of all time, joins Nine Inch Nails, one of our favourite bands of all time performing Softsynths very, very favourite song of all time, the one that started the electro-love, “Cars”. Kick ass version too.

Check it out:

Ten essential electronic albums – Part V and VI

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , on February 21, 2009 by softsynth

The birth of the Golden Age of electronic music began with our next entry. 1980 was an awkward year of transition as technology was tentatively embraced with childlike flutters of uncertain expectation. But the next album marked the emergence of a more confident approach using the technology as a tool to make better and better music as opposed to some exotic novelty. As 1980 gave way to 1981 (the year, I posit, that was the high water mark for electronic music, the watershed year, if you will), things were a’changin’. For a time there, electronic music would become the mainstream, the norm, the gold standard of music. It was brief but it was memorable.

Continue reading

What exactly constitutes “electronic” music?

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2009 by softsynth

I have been asked following my posted review of Lily Allen’s great new album, what do I consider electronic music? Where does the line get drawn? Why is it that many bands lumped in as part of the electro universe only possess a tentative link at best? There are obvious rock bands that some consider part of that universe and other artists that clearly find themselves driven by electronic soundscapes but would never be considered part of the electronic scene. What gives? Continue reading