Archive for Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

Review: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – English Electric

Posted in Review with tags , on April 20, 2013 by softsynth

This is more like it. When the “classic” OMD lineup reunited a couple of years ago to record new material for the first time since 1988 it was with bated breath fans of olde waited for the inevitable genius therein but instead we were treated to a lukewarm collection that felt more like the late-era McCluskey-only projects instead of what we remembered. But this time Paul Humphries seems to have been given more reign and this one is a keeper.

So, this out of the way first, it ain’t perfect. Not enough of the songs really pop and the memorable hooks could be in greater supply, but on the whole, this is the album we’ve been waiting for. There are so many delightful quirks and crannies it’s hard to know where to start.  Continue reading


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

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

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

Review: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – History of Modern

Posted in Review with tags , on September 28, 2010 by softsynth

Perhaps we built up expectations a little too much. When word came down that the heyday lineup of O.M.D. were reuniting for their first album together in 24 years our little hearts went a-pitter. Few bands influenced us more. While many who grew up during the golden age of electronic music point to the Human League as their main influence we were all about the O.M.D. (while both paled as compared to the Mode…). Our excitement was unbending and the teasers, so beautifully ladled out, so perfectly calibrated in an exercise of perfect instinctual promotion, made us that much more twitterpated.

No matter what the band delivered it could never have lived up to the anticipation. And History of Modern doesn’t. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t work on some level, just that the O.M.D. album we pictured in our heads couldn’t have been made in 2010, and we should have realized that. See, the basic conundrum for the band is they were always – at least at their most relevant – innovators. they experimented with sound, using lo-fi techniques if that was the best instrument needed to create the sound they imagined and through 1985 produced compelling, cutting-edge electronic albums that moved the pieces on the electronic game board ever forward. In 2010, to be true to that mission would have meant pushing forward into new realms, something no one was all that jazzed to hear. We wanted a band that revisited its roots. But looking back rarely pays real dividends. Continue reading

Another new O.M.D. track

Posted in News with tags , on August 20, 2010 by softsynth

Okay, we’re not going to obsess over the forthcoming release by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (seriously. Shut up.), however we feel like we’ve been pretty hard on the bits and pieces we’ve heard to date so it’s only fair to share a track that’s gotten us excited about History of Modern again. Spin magazine provides not only a neat new song from the album (“New Babies, New Toys”) but an illuminating interview with Andy McCluskey. Check out the track and see why the album could end up being better than the sum of it’s parts after all…

O.M.D. release first video from History of Modern

Posted in News with tags , , on August 16, 2010 by softsynth
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark have released their first video from History of Modern. And maybe it’s a case of too much anticipation, too much lionizing, too much pedestaling, but we’re not really feeling it yet. It’s a fine, serviceable track with some vintage O.M.D. sounds and one definitely feels the influence of Paul Humphries’ return but we’re missing something. Maybe it’s the experimental side of the band we’re yearning for (and we remain hopeful that the album will reveal some of this once again), and this is more like latter-day O.M.D. than we’d like in an ideal world though this remains our most anticipated release of 2010.
The video itself is nice. Pretty people doing pretty things with each other whilst doing pretty interpretive dance with less pretty Humphries and McCluskey rather creepily watching them from on high.
Watch: If You Want It