Archive for Mute Records


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


Bands we miss – Pink Grease

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

Sometimes we discuss a band that causes some to moan, “hey, that’s not an electronic artist”. Well, this is likely to be one of those cases, but there is reason behind everything we do here.

Pink Grease are one of the more interesting bands to have crosses our path in a very long time. They came to out attention around the time of the release of their first album, This is For Real in 2004 because they were on our favourite record label, Mute Records and that’s been a starting point of many a long, beautiful relationship for us. It wasn’t what we were expecting, hard to describe musically, but the best we can come up with very authentically old-school punk (though British it’s more of a New York Dolls-style punk than Sex Pistols) with a strange, shouldn’t-work-but-it-does strong electro element.

So what makes that a band for discussion on Softsynth. Well, as we’ve discussed before, we make a distinction between a band that simply “uses a synthesizer” and one that considers synths central to their sound both sonically and attitudinally. Pink Grease is absolutely such a band, and indeed their vintage, home-made synths defined the band’s sound beyond anything else. Continue reading

Bands we miss – Renegade Soundwave

Posted in Commentary with tags , on May 6, 2010 by softsynth

Despite being one of our very favorite bands of the day – we spent more on their 12″ single vinyl imports than we care to remember – we were never able to accurately say what Renegade Soundwave actually were. A little bit trip-hop, a little bit drum and bass a little dub, a little electropop – they were a messy pastiche of different subgenres rolled into one wholly original package.

With early singles “Kray Twins” and “Cocane Sex” they established a pattern of hard-edged, heavily percussive tunes with proto-rap shouted vocals that burrowed into your head like a jackhammer and caused involuntary motions resembling dance-like moves. It was crazy-catchy with lyrics that made you may attention. Continue reading

Goldfrapp spill details of new album

Posted in News with tags , , on December 2, 2009 by softsynth

Goldfrapp are now sharing details of their fifth studio album.

Head First,  will be released March 22, it will be preceded by a new single titled “Rocket”, which will be released two weeks earlier.

Mute Records describe the sound of Head First as “a speedy rush of synth optimism, euphoria, fantasy and romance with life-affirming lyrics and stellar production”.

Sounds very, very promising to us…

Bands we miss – I Start Counting

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on November 25, 2009 by softsynth

We’ve written before about the enormous influence discovering the Mute Records catalogue in a mid-80s Depeche Mode 12″ import had on shaping Softsynth’s musical boundaries. Never has this been more true than in discovering I Start Counting. As obscure as any Mute band, this UK duo sounded interesting from their band name to the song titles, to the photos that made them look like the prototype synth-nerds. We were intrigued. On first listen to their 1984 single “Letters to a Friend” and their 1985 single “Still Smiling” we were hooked. It was straight-ahead synthpop with an eclectic edge. Kraftwerk influences were apparent but they were oh, so British in their manner and vocal delivery.  On b-sides like “There is Always the Unexpected” we saw their more experimental side, and while it wasn’t always pretty to listen to, you heard a band pushing at its outer edges, trying to find its way. Continue reading

Bands we miss – Peach (Union)

Posted in Commentary with tags , , on May 17, 2009 by softsynth

This one is more a matter of a band who’s potential could have been really interesting more than what actually was. Peach (known as Peach Union in North America due to the frustrating Beat/English Beat, Bush/BushX, Yazoo/Yaz proprietory rule) was a UK electropop trio (Lisa Lamb, Paul Statham, and former member of Bomb the Bass and S’Express, Pascal Gabriel that produced one album, Audiopeach in 1997 on Mute Records (so often the way I discovered electronic music before the internet became so ubiquidous). It as a hard time to release this style of throwback synth pop what with the (re)rise of boy bands and their like during this time. It as one of the darkest periods for electronic music of any kind to be accepted by the masses. That said the lead-off single “On My Own”, a note-perfect confection was a hit, even in the US where it received some radio play before fading into the rafters. The album was more than this great song though. “Made in Vain”, the dance track “Sorrow Town”, and the lovely, languid ballad, “Hush” were touchpoints on this underrated album. 

Sadly the band broke up within a year of the album’s release and listening to it now makes me yearn for what could have been. They could have grown into a strong leader of the electronic scene once they had the chance to shake of some of the cliches that popped up a few times too often on the record and subsequent releases could have added much to the movement. A great loss that they didn’t last.

Watch: On My Own

Blogging here now

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on December 23, 2008 by softsynth

I previous blogged for about five years through my writing web site, but my goal to keep matters focused on my various writing projects meant it was hard to talk (write) about those things that interest me most these days, namely, music, or more specifically electronic music.

I follow many forms of music but none so passionately as electronic music in its many (many) forms. I first became conscious of this style of music in 1984 when I was listening to Dick Clark’s syndicated Top 40 countdown show (hey, I was a 13 year old kid in Halifax, Nova Scotia, what the hell else was I going to listen to?). ‘ol Dick made a throw before going into commercial and said breathlessly, “The next band…doesn’t have a drummer!” Then – bam. Commercial. What the hell? How could a band not have a drummer? How would they have kept time? I had to hear what kind of freak-band this was. Was it some kind of baroque chanting? I was fascinated. As it turned out it was Depeche Mode’s “People are People”. Sounded like they had drums to me. I liked the song but not In a life-changing way. I got on with my busy 13 year old life (I expect said busy-ness had something to do with Star Wars or perhaps television. The odds were good). Over the next year I bought some DM albums (cassettes to be precise) and came to love the band but thought little of their instrumentation. Then I picked up Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark’s self-titled debut album and the programmed sounds were so unmistakable (listen to “Almost” and there’s no doubt it’s a drum machine, and a cheap one at that), that I realized I was listening to something different. Over the next couple of years I came across a catalogue from Mute records and started ordering every electronic-sounding artist I could through my local alternative record shop, and then I would browse seedy record stores and poke through the 7″ single racks looking for that artwork that unmistakenly meant synthesizers were used here. Before I knew it was a total electro-geek. The sound spoke to me of an era, but more importantly, conjured a mood, an emotion that captivated me as no other music had before. I started to study the roots of the music (got acquainted with Mr Moog, learned my Kraftwerk, got into my late-70s Bowie, dug into the German and Belgian scenes, got my Ultravox on, learned that the first pop band to use a synth on a record was the Monkees (!) in ’67, and even got my hands on an original 7″ of “Popcorn”). It’s nearly 25 years on and my passion for electronic music has only grown. The growth of the internet meant that I no longer needed the Mute catalogue or the 7″ bins to find my stuff. It meant that I could dig into the staggeringly prolific Swedish synth scene, to discover underground electro bands across the US, it meant that I could bookmark about 250 MySpace pages of various electronic bands in all forms.

I don’t enjoy it all. Some of the harsher industrial scene is lost on me; trance sometimes puts me to sleep and I find techno very, very hit-or-miss. But all-in-all, it keeps calling me back. And I want to talk about it here. New releases, new artists, trends in the business, whatever, I will vent the spleen, as it were on all things electronic, EBM, darkwave, ambient, industrial, synthpop, hybrid, drum-and-bass, and yes, even techno. And everything in between. There’s a huge world of electronic music out there waiting to be discovered, so let’s chat…