Mix

MIX: Sophisti-Pop Summer

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YOUTUBE / 8TRACKS

It was way past midnight
and she still couldn’t fall asleep.
This night the dream was leaving
she tried so hard to keep.
And with the new day’s morning
she felt it drift away.
Not only for a cruise, not only for a day.

– Double, “The Captain Of Her Heart”

A summer mix invoking the romance, mystery, scenery and varying emotions of a lavish cruise as it begins a long journey overseas. Think sipping a cocktail as you watch the sunset, a romantic embrace by the docks or a suited pianist enchanting the crowd during their buffet.

This naturally doubles as a spotlight for the sophisti-pop genre best known for Sade and Prefab Sprout. Its cross of slick production and synths with elegant piano, strings, clean guitars, sax and/or brass has close ties to this imagery. Many songs take influence from lounge and jazz; others are simply eighties pop with a swanky attitude.

Track listing

  1. DOUBLE – the captain of her heart
  2. VIKTOR LAZLO – balade de lisa
  3. JEANNE MAS – lisa
  4. GAZEBO – lunatic
  5. ABC – confessions of a fool
  6. MURIEL DACQ – tropique
  7. STYLE COUNCIL – the boy who cried wolf
  8. ALASKA Y DINARAMA – un hombre de verdad
  9. LUXURY ELITE – blush
  10. A.V. WALKER – night silk
  11. MOODOID – kasbah
  12. KIM WILDE deep in the european soul
  13. MIAMI SOUND MACHINE – surrender paradise
  14. PRESUNTOS IMPLICADOS – no hay palabras
  15. YUKIHIRO TAKAHASHI – brand new day
  16. SERI ISHIKAWA – quantity of love
  17. ANNA DOMINO – bonds of love
  18. GEORGE MICHAELthe strangest thing
  19. BRYAN FERRY – windswept
  20. DEBBIE HARRY – strike me pink
  21. BEATA KOZIDRAKzal my tamtych noci i dni
  22. THE PAINTED WORD  night after night
  23. ENZO ENZO – pacifico
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Artists you should know · Playlist

Artists you should know: Claude Larson

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Claude Larson (AKA Carlos Futura, Klaus Netzle) was a frequent contributor to the German music libraries Sonoton and Selected Sound. Many of his albums focused on cinematic backdrops with a tech slant (plants, space, snow, fantasy) and early experiments with digital synths, being one of the first to make extensive use of the Fairlight CMI. As with a lot of 80s library music, his songs were an earlier example of the polished synth-pop/electronic sounds now popular with modern vaporwave/synthwave producers.

Several CL songs have resurfaced on Youtube in the past ten years. Aside from a Fiat LX reissue in 2018, though, they haven’t attracted the same attention as most of Youtube’s other revitalized 70s-80s favorites.

Youtube playlist

I’ve gathered my favorite Larson songs on Youtube with this playlist. Of course, the limits of Youtube’s selection means I can’t make aim for something ‘definitive’, but it make be a good sampler for the curious listener.

Note: I focused on his Sonoton history as most of his Selected Sound albums are rare jingle collections or full of 10+min songs that could disrupt the flow.

1. Sand-Dunes / Environment, 1978

2. Industrial Plants / Surroundings, 1979

3. Helicopter / Synthesis, 1980

4. Marshy Ground / Scenic Sequences, 1980

5. Panorama / Panorama, 1980

6. Biopulse 2 / Scenes And Images – Developing Underlays Vol. 1, 1981

7. Machine Language 2 / Industrial Future, 1981

8. Wolga / Rivers, 1981

9. Harpsi 1 / Digital Patterns, 1982

10. Hardware / High Tech, 198?

11. Blossom / Plantlife, 1983

12. Transformation / Digital Landscape, 1983

13. Dramatic Impact / Dramatic Impact, 1984

14. Autumn Mist Drama / Soundscapes Vol. 1, 1984

15. Wings In The Sky / Wings In The Sky, 1986

16. Aurora / Soundscapes Vol. 2, 1986

17. Synchrosonic / Synchrosonic Patterns, 1987

18. Haunted Clockwork / Synchrosonic Patterns, 1987

19. Alpha-Dream / Euphonia, 1988

 

hidden treasure

Alan Hawkshaw & Trevor Bastow – Kinetics/Vision, 1980 (Bruton)

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library music / progressive electronic

More like thisCurios From The Background Vol. 1, Alan Shearer’s “Isis For Osiris”, early Oneohtrix, Geoff Bastow’s Tomorrow’s World

While there’s some issues with consistency and a few too many reprises, this library oddity is definitely worth hearing if you’re interested in eighties analog synth music. I’ve wondered if this was one of the Bruton albums to influence Oneohtrix Point Never as it’s one of their closest in style (OPN referenced their cover art with Drawn And Quartered). Like his early albums, the synths of Kinetics/Vision are cold and warm all at once, forming lots of foggy/metallic arpeggios and a feeling of futuristic isolation.

Side 1 (Kinetics) begins on a cheerful note, with busy and scientific rhythms recalling a tech facility. The first six or seven tracks largely repeat the same melodies, all variations on the same tune. It gets redundant after a certain point, but later highlights like “Kinetic Strength” and “Kinetic Research” add welcome twists to this theme via thrilling slow-burn suspense and a complete mood shift before Bastow’s side ends. Here I picture a protagonist investigating the same facility late at night as they unveil it’s dark secrets.

The renowned Alan Hawkshaw’s B-side adds more variation and a deeper dive into “Kinetic Strength”’s shadowy sci-fi. With the intimidating “Vision 1″, I imagine a dystopian-ish eighties film scenario where they’ve locked up a building after a crime, leaving everyone on edge. “Crystal Vision” is the prettiest moment on the album with the sort of aquatic synth-bell gleam that became popular years beyond 1980. “Visionary” is all weightless and empty hums: non-threatening, but the paranoia lingers. In stark opposition to how the album began, “Dark Vision” ends it all with sinister droning.

If you’re curious to hear more from Bruton Music’s analog synth phase, I highly recommend this 22-minute compilation.

♥︎ – “Kinetic Strength”, “Kinetic Research”, “Crystal Vision”, “Vision 1″, “Visionary”

Favorite new wave-inspired albums

Javiera Mena – Mena, 2010

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synth pop / dance-pop

More like this – Prissa’s Ni tú ni yo, Bertine Zetlitz’ “Girl Like You”; Annie’s “Greatest Hit” + Endless Summer EP; Sally Shapiro’s ”I’ll Be By Your Side

Thanks to a lack of English information, I knew little beyond the title of ‘Chilean queen of electro-pop’ the evening I first heard Javiera Mena, but I was right to trust the album’s shower of acclaim. “No Te Questa Nada” (a divine cross between sophisti-pop and Cocteau Twins) proved the perfect match for the fading sunlight outside my window that day, and the grandiose energy of the album’s second half kept me engrossed until the end.

Other highlights include the fierce climax of strings in “Hasta la Verdad”, the endlessly soaring choruses of “Luz de Piedra de Luna” and an A+ Miami-freestyle resurrection in “Aca Entera”. The latter is adorably kitsch but topped with affirming light and sincerity.

As “Aca Entera” demonstrates, there’s something genuine about Mena that sets it apart; like Nite Jewel and Twin Shadow, I get the impression Javiera’s approach comes more from respect for her synth-pop roots than any kind of mockery. Her strong ear for melodies and glittery synths make this a satisfying album.

♥︎ – “Hasta la Verdad”, “No Te Questa Nada”, “Luz de Piedra de Luna”, “Sufrir”, “Aca Entera”

Favorite new wave-inspired albums

Ice Choir – Afar, 2012

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synth pop / new romantic / synthwave / sophisti-pop

More like this – Ice Choir’s “Unprepared”; early Depeche Mode, Roxy Music’s Avalon, ABC’s Lexicon of Love, Duran Duran’s Rio

Part of a new column on the highlights of my search through the oceans of 80s synth pop-inspired modern music. I give special focus to albums with a creative or genuine approach, along with hidden gems.

Kurt Feldman’s Ice Choir project is one of the most accurate recreations of the original new romantic/synth pop sound I’ve heard, one with a refreshing lack of irony. The synths have a glittery, almost pastel sheen to match the pink of the cover – complete with hints of  fretless bass and Cocteau guitar, Afar’s sound design should be a treat for anyone fond of romantic 80s pop. To top it off, Kurt Feldman’s vocals resemble Martin from Depeche Mode, if having a more refined tone.

 

The resulting songs are incredibly blissful in such a way that fits well with the grandiose luxury of hit albums like Lexicon of Love or Avalon. With both relentless energy and soaring melodies, I’m convinced “Two Rings” is one of the most extravagant synth pop songs to come from this decade. “Peacock On The Tall Grass” brings some of those angelic yacht-like heights of sophisti-pop to mind. The chorus of “Teletrips”, meanwhile, is the musical equal of a utopian morning walk.

♥︎ – “Two Rings”, “Teletrips”, “Peacock On The Tall Grass”, “The Ice Choir
Mix

My Other Voice

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Image credit: Shusei Nagaoka, 1982.

Listen here

This mix explores vocals that blur the lines between human and machine through their use of vocoder, phasing and similar techniques.

Key themes: robots, androids/cyborgs, human-machine, retro-futurism, sci-fi, neon, technology, human/machine, 1980s, neon, unfeeling v.s. feeling

Track listing:

  1. GIORGIO MORODER – faster than the speed of love
  2. MIRAGE – lady operator
  3. PARALLELS – dry blood
  4. NUN – burn
  5. MARSHEAUX – what a lovely surprise
  6. STEVE HAUSCHILDT – constant reminders
  7. SPARKS – my other voice
  8. RENI JUSIS – w zwolnionym tempie
  9. KLAUS NOMI – i.c.u.r.o.k.
  10. D A V I C I I – skruszone serce 
  11. oOoOO ft. LAURA CLOCK – without your love
  12. KAITLYN AURELIA SMITH – to follow and lead
  13. MARGARET BERGER – robot song
  14. SANTIGOLD – walking in a circle
  15. GAZELLE TWIN – i am shell i am bone
  16. LOREEN – ’71 charger (strings version)
  17. JANELLE MONAE – cybertronic purgatory
  18. EYELINER – homo electronicus
  19. CHIKISS – dusha

Continue reading “My Other Voice”