Last month saw the return of my Needs Must column after a gap of 18 years. And it was a blast. If that was a toe-dipping exercise to ease me back in, this time the aim is take the full plunge. So without further ado…
‘Lost In Translation’
Why not start with the best electronic pop album of 2015? Obviously the shallow, grating racket which trades under that banner today uses technology to camouflage flimsily derivative desperation, but transatlantic boy-girl duo Lola Dutronic grab similar ingredients then strip them down and sex them up to present a riveting, orgasmic vision of how pop music should really bombard the 21st century. The pair’s previous album, 2012’s ‘Everyone’s A Star’, was the last personal mission of legendary Red Star label honcho Marty Thau, who saw the band as a logical step in a musical journey that started with 60s bubblegum pop and also included the New York Dolls and Suicide.
Expat British producer-composer-multi-instrumentalist Richard Citroen recorded the music for ‘Lost In Translation’ in Toronto then sent it to Stephanie B in Dusseldorf, who recorded her vocals for him to edit and mix. With influences such as Jane Birkin, Giorgio Moroder, St Etienne, Goldfrapp and Suicide, Lola Dutronic produce pure pop lightning bolts which they infest with gutter sleaze, street attitude and sexy playfulness. Their unique combinations of electro-ballad desolation, eurodisco allure and classic French stylings, as found on tracks like ‘Harley Davidson’, ‘Go Fuck Yourself’ and ‘Modern Suicide’, spawn unspeakably gorgeous neon-pop skyline serenades, perfectly complemented by their lustrous post-apocalyptic take on Skeeter Davis’ ‘The End of The World’.
(Seraglio Point Productions)
From Lola’s futuristic sex-pop to the subterranean south London latrine where Metamono splash merrily surrounded by their arsenal of hand-built vintage analogue synths, ring modulators and theremins. The Crystal Palace trio of Jono Podmore, Paul Conboy and Mark Hill are shortly to follow 2013’s towering ‘With The Compliments Of Modern Physics’ with a second album, ‘Creative Listening’. It’s trailered here with a delicious out-take slab of their mischievous, wired-to-the-gills urban clatter, which can appreciate that Sun Ra was the first modern electronic musician but imagine him jamming with Can. Midway through, an aggressive invading rooster drops his keks and breaks wind. Metamono’s uniquely crafted sonic sparks are flying again and flaying the lazy scrotum of the laptop brigade with idiosyncratic defiance.
‘Stunned (97 Mix) / Decay’
I first met Mark Broom in a Nottingham studio in 1992 when he was a young techno-head who’d just released his first records on GPR. Since then, he’s carved a relentless path as one of the UK’s most creative, uncompromising electronic producers. It’s a mark of the regard in which he’s held that his latest single – a tweaked-up live mix of a track originally released on his Pure Plastic label in 1997 – is here on Detroit legend Robert Hood’s M-Plant imprint. ’Stunned (97 Mix)’ is stark and dark on the surface, but laced with subtly shifting riffs and gauzy sounds which come and go under the propellant kick, like ghosts in a colossal future ruin, while the flip is a glowering new missile.
(Love How You Feel)
Since 1990, the revolutionary spirit of electronic music has rarely been so passionately expressed than in the bunkers of Detroit’s Underground Resistance, who hijacked rave, deep techno and jazz soul to present a defiant message against the inevitable corporate stifling of clubland. UR’s ethos was always about affiliates and messengers such as Santiago Salazar, who released UR tunes and performed with Los Hermanos before returning to his home in LA in 2006 and later launching Ican Productions as well as recording tracks for a list of respected electronic labels.
‘Chicanismo’ is Santiago’s debut album and it shows a wide-ranging sensibility, producing deliriously euphoric Detroit techno on ‘Varrio 2 Varrio’ while the title track burrows deep as the unfathomable mole’s stiffie. Another highlight is the percolating tone poem ‘The Farce’, which delivers a message about the US government’s treatment of Latin Americans, showing that conscious electronic music is alive and kicking.
‘Rich Prick Poor Dick’
After the far-flung foraging of his recent album, ‘In The Wild’, the Brooklyn producer returns to the dancefloor with an energised 147 bpm turbo-scorcher, peppered with strange frequencies and melon-massaging satellite emissions. On the B-side, ‘Bookaloo’ adds bongo underpants and further machine flatulence throws familiar motifs off-balance.
A lovely little EP here from Irish duo Dave Hargadon and Phil Long. First of all, Phil uncorks his fearsome ‘Nat909’. While the top layers mate soaring Detroit strings with the plinky lone piano sound found on early Strictly Rhythm tunes, down below the drum machine of the track title rumbles and crunches like Godzilla’s bollocks cut loose from their monster-pants, demolishing tall buildings and, especially, dancefloors. In contrast, Dave’s Hargadon’s ‘Solace’ is a poignant brew of wistful early Sven Vath strings and flickering melodies. The EP rounds off with two lush deep house knees-ups from the pair together, showing a fabulous grasp of the time-stopping early 90s Nu Groove sound, Detroit funk sensibility and old school Chicago stealth, which they blend with style and an essential sense of space.
‘Depth Charge EP’
I’m a sucker for the inimitable magic of the Roland 303, the little silver box that started so much. As technology throws new tones into the synthesised arena, it’s easy to overlook that humble bass synth, which is one reason why Bay Area producer Worker/Parasite’s new five-track squelchathon comes as such a welcome burst of fetid alien air. The likes of ‘Alam al-Mithal’ and ‘Bene Gesserit’ follow the time-honoured template of whipping up a lethal acid riff then letting fly, but thanks to Ben Versluis’ knack for killer dynamics and subtle groove embroidery, the man comes out with a winner, drop-kicking the old school firmly into the 21st century, screaming only occasionally.
‘The Scorched Earth EP’
Meander are on a mission to release records influenced by the universe, deep space and consciousness. Inspired by recent meteorite events, Berlin-based Konrad Black makes his debut fully kitted out for that task, unfurling otherworldly textures and cavernous melodies over concise breaks on the skeleton-fusing ‘Silene Dust’, the eerily weightless ‘Chelyabinsk Afterglow’ and the whisperingly Can-like floatation funk epic that is ‘Sycho Te Alyn’, which becomes something of a modern masterpiece as it unfolds inside its own black hole. Suitably pressed on 180g wax, this marvellous EP might be how Drexciya would have sounded if they had looked to the skies instead of their snorkels.