The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'electropop'
Japanese electropop band YMCK are known for making catchy pop songs with instrumentation sounding like 8-bit Nintendo game music. And now you can do the same: they've just released a software synthesiser plug-in that emulates primitive 8-bit sound chips like the one in the Nintendo Famicom. Named the Magical 8-bit Plug, it is free-as-in-beer and available for MacOS X (in AudioUnit format; sorry, Cubase users) and Windows (in VSTi format); it even comes with a demo MIDI file.
Two CDs I picked up in the past week or so and have been listening to a fair bit:
- West End Girls, West End Girls Go Petshopping. West End Girls are a Pet Shop Boys cover band consisting of two teenaged Swedish girls. And they don't only perform covers of PSB's songs, they actually pretend to be Neil and Chris, emulating their respective personalities in their public appearances and posing in videos and photos looking bored with dogs and architecture and such. Goes Petshopping is an album of their covers of various songs from PSB's career, from early ones (West End Girls and Love Comes Quickly appear) to later ones (there is a rather good version of You Only Say You Love Me When You're Drunk). The music itself is vaguely eurodancey in production, though not excessively cheesy (though the version of It's A Sin does sound slightly too reminiscent of the Crazy Frog to be entirely comfortable with; the rest, however, is better). Standout tracks: Domino Dancing, Being Boring.
- CSS, Cansei de Ser Sexy. CSS (whose name translates as "I'm tired of being sexy") are a bunch of Brazilian kids who look like American Apparel models and/or Vice Magazine "Do's" and make a sort of edgy electro-tinged fashionpunk with a touch of Peaches-style rap, and tongue firmly in cheek. In a sense, this is to the whole electrocoolsie milieu what Wolfmother is to cock-rock: it takes its glamour and shallowness and name-dropping and hypersexuality and coked-up over-it attitude, exaggerates it, takes the piss out of it, and has a damn good dance whilst doing so. (Sample song titles: "Music Is My Hot Hot Sex", "Meeting Paris Hilton" (which probably merits a discussion of its own, for the way it sends up and comments on the celebrity-obsessed media culture through the combination of sexual desire, sneering contempt and consumeristic excitement in its lyrics), and the classic "Let's Make Love And Listen To Death From Above", which is perhaps an anthem for our times.) Standout tracks: a lot of them; the ones mentioned above, for three, and This Month, Day 10.
Irony of the day: the anthem of Communism, The Internationale is copyrighted; a filmmaker in France is being shaken down for US$1,283 for having someone whistle the song without permission in one of his films.
Under French law, "The Internationale" won't fall into the public domain until 2014 70 years of post-mortem protection plus extra time to cover the world war. Degeyter died in 1932.
(Via bOING bOING, who point out that there's (a fragment of) a decent electropop version of The Internationale here. Funnily enough, a while ago, I thought that a happy-hardcore/doof/indie-dance version, with some dude rapping about dialectic materialism in the middle, would work well at the numerous anti-capitalism rallies the lefties kept having before 9/11.)
(via bOING bOING)
Your Humble Narrator went to see (a reconstituted version of) 1980s new-romantics Visage play in Soho.
The first support band was Suzerain, already mentioned on these pages. Suffice it to say that they were very good; somewhere between Duran Duran and David Bowie, only with more guitar solos. They have the pop sensibility down pat and the rock-star stage presence, and should go far. It's somewhat surprising that they haven't been signed yet.
Trademark were amusing; three spoddy-looking chaps in raincoats (and later fairy-light-festooned lab coats) playing a warm and somewhat geeky electropop (think something like Barcelona without the guitars, or perhaps Baxendale meets Casionova). The front man looked ever so much like Jack Morgan from Look Around You, and they did a love song with the words "simple harmonic motion" in the lyrics, so where can you go wrong?
Visage (or, more accurately, Visage Mk. II) came on and did a ~20-minute set, a preview of their main gig this Saturday. Steve Strange had hair like a less flamboyant Robert Smith and was wearing something that looked like a torn, paint-splattered military uniform of some sort, and his mascara seemed somewhat smeared. In performance, he wasn't quite the ice queen I expected; he danced around with a slightly goofy grin, and interacted with the audience, laying on hands. At one stage, he took a glow stick from a gaggle of goths near the stage and made their day. Anyway, Visage Mk. II did all old songs (The Damned Don't Cry, Love Glove, We Move, The Anvil and, of course, their genre-defining classic of existentialist disco, Fade To Grey). The songs sounded somewhat different than the old records, being played on modern digital-modelling synths. (Most of the songs had a standard post-90s 4/4 dance beat, for one).
The music played by the DJ between sets was a mix of 80s synthpop/electronic pop (Human League, A-Ha, Dead Or Alive, Bananarama), with small amounts of glam (Transvision Vamp and Electric Six both got a play) and a few goth-club crowd-pleasers (some Depeche Mode, NIN, and an EBM/darkwave/futurepop/power-electronics/whatever they call it version of Purcell's Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary, a.k.a. the theme from A Clockwork Orange). Your Humble Narrator left sometime before the DJ got around to playing Headhunter (which he surely must have; it seems to be the "Gotta Be Startin' Something" of people who wear a lot of black).
Anyway, there are photos here. My camera battery ran down towards the end, requiring me to shoot without the screen, which is why quality and quantity drop off a bit.
Tonight, Your Humble Narrator went back to the Water Rats, to see three bands.
First up was Lifestyle. Basically electropop, with some live synths, live bass (played by a hipster in a rather flash hat), and vocals by a chap in a long pinstripe jacket. The elements were promising, though the singer's vocal style didn't seem to suit the music; at times he sounded reminiscent of Jimmy Barnes as he strained and belted out the notes.
The second band, Schmoof, were awesome. An electropop duo with great stage presence; the guy (dressed all in white, and looking just a bit Eurovision) started off playing two synths, while the girl sang and danced around; then they strapped on two SH-101s and moved and played. They were a little like a more pop Mink Engine. They did songs about the Northern Line, choosing between chocolate and boyfriends, and backseat drivers, and an electropop cover of Guns'n'Roses' Sweet Child O'Mine, which absolutely rocked. Oh, and did I mention that projected on the rear of the stage were visuals generated by a Sinclair Spectrum? I.e., the guy in white had spent ages writing BASIC programs to do blocky animations in time to the music. Which all was cooler than cool.
Finally up came Freezepop, a US synthpop act. They sounded somewhere between Ladytron and Barcelona. One of their number moved around the stage playing a Yamaha QY-70 (that's a handheld synth/sequencer). They had somewhat of a hard act to follow with Schmoof, IMHO, though they were fun, especially their last song (with its synthesised/sampled rock/metal riffs and posturing to match).
Between sets, the DJ played tracks like The Postal Service and The Flaming Lips (a Japanese version of Yoshimi). Then, between the next two sets, the "DJ" turned out to be a preprepared mix CD.
At the beginning of the night, there seemed to be a lot of goths about; almost half the room seemed to be of that persuasion. Perhaps they misread the flyer as "Futurepop"? They either filtered out or were diluted by new arrivals by the end of the night.
Anyway, there are photos here.
YMCK are a Japanese pop group who make all their music (other than the vocals, of course) with a Nintendo Famicom. And the MP3s they have online sound pretty good. Unfortunately, their label's web site doesn't have ordering information in English. (via bOING bOING)
Band discovery of the day: Remington Super 60. They're a Norwegian electronic/indiepop outfit, and sound somewhere between Spearmint, the Beach Boys and Lacto-Ovo, with perhaps a bit of Röyksopp in the mix somewhere. Lots of nice 7th chords, warbly synths, vocal harmonies and the occasional 1980s-video-game bleeps. They also have an album out as Nice System, and a remix EP with some unusual remixers (gothtekkno heavy-hitters Apoptygma Berzerk are one, and Solex is another).
Manchester-based expatriate Australian electropop duo Cartwheel now have a new website, that's not hosted on Geocities or wherever. No MP3s there yet, though they have just recorded a new EP, which will be coming out in the UK soon.
I finally got around to seeing CasioNova, a local musician who plays songs on 80s Casiotone keyboards, 8-bit computers and such. He played at the Kent St. Café in Smith St., getting up on stage attired in white shirt, knee-length pants and knee-high socks, and proceeding to sing and play a number of pop ditties and throw shapes as he played his keyboards. The kit he used consisted of a bunch of Casiotone and Yamaha home keyboards, as well as a Commodore 64 with the Music Machine cartridge and keyboard overlay, and, at one stage, a GameBoy.
So what was the music like? Somewhere between electropop and outsider music. Parts of it were a bit like electroclash, only without the distressed denim and designer trucker caps, perhaps sounding like The Emergency with lyrics, or a more 1980s-retro Talkshow Boy. There was a definite geeky quality to it; you could tell that this is someone who would rather stay at home and tinker with his gadgets than do cocaine with the coolsies on Chapel St. There was something sincere, improvised and passionately unhip in CasioNova's act, and that's a good thing.
CasioNova's going to an electronic art conference in Helsinki soon (and is raising funds to do so); he announced that he has made a pact to not return if John Howard wins the next election, and if he doesn't get a girlfriend. Before he leaves, he is playing again next week, at the Pink Spunk electro night at Loop, along with some folks named Mink Engine.
Formerly local electropop outfit Cartwheel, now based in Manchester (arguably Ground Zero of the entire phenomenon of rock/drugmusic fusion) have released two MP3s, which sound suspiciously like the last bit of their brilliant, never-to-be-repeated performance at their going-away party last year. Anyway, here they are: Fall Apart To Stay Together, and Man, In Love With Machine. And did I mention how good they are?
Update: the files appear to have exceeded their AtroCities bandwidth limit, so they've been mirrored here.
Tonight I went up to Good Morning Captain to see Qua, a local electropop act. It turned out that Qua is one guy with an iBook and that he was doing more of a DJ set sort of thing, playing and mixing tracks from his album and unreleased works. Nonetheless, it was quite good; in places like some of the German/Austrian laptop music you find at Synæsthesia, though not as sterile as some. He played a new track of his, which featured acoustic guitars and a vocal from Jason Sweeney (of Other People's Children, Simpático et al.), which sounded like the laptop equivalent of Northern Picture Library or something. (Given Sweeney's Bobby Wrattenesque delivery and Field Mice fandom, that's hardly surprising.)
There were a number of people from the local indie electro-pop scene; I ran into Cailan from PBXO, and ended up talking with him about the cultural significance of Slowdive. And thus I found out that Other People's Children may be releasing their own Slowdive cover (I think they're doing Catch The Breeze or somesuch.
Anyway, Qua is playing on Thursday at the Rob Roy, I believe. If I'm not dead tired, I may well rock up.
Tonight I went down to the Empress Hotel, to see Letraset, Sister Cities and Jeremy Dower. It was quite a good night, in an electro-pop/ambient sort of way (and connected, promisingly enough, to the Chapter Music label). When I got there, the room was quite full, with people sitting on the floor. Letraset were doing their set with a bunch of modular synths, a Casio keyboard (run through one of them), an old Yamaha organ (also seen in Minimum Chips sets) and a trombone, and played much the same sort of music as on their Snowy Room CD.
Next up were Sister Cities, who were very good. They started with some ambient noodling on an iBook (apparently mostly applying effects/mixing in ProTools), and then went on to play some quite pretty pop with toy keyboards, jangly guitar chords and ba-ba-ba vocals. Apparently they're recording now, and I look forward to their CD when it does come out.
Finally, Jeremy Dower went on, playing some synths and a mixing deck, launching his CD "Music For Retirement Villages circa 2050". It was much as the title sounded like; glitchy easy-listening ambience with fragments of recorded birdsong and the occasional slightly familiar-sounding riff. Needless to say, I picked up the CD.
It's interesting to see the convergence of electronica and garage/indie pop, with computer music software and cheap synths lowering the entry barrier, and electronics having lost the stigma of MOR overproduction that led the yoof into the arms of three-chord grunge. It's about time someone took electronic music away from the twin realms of pill-popping, mindlessly muscular dance music and more-obtuse-than-thou experimentalism, defetishised it and reclaimed it as an equally organic approach to making music. Not that that's a new idea, mind you.