Some examples of my musical influences...
The following should give some ideas of where
I'd like to go musically, along with some of the
demos on SoundCloud. This may give some idea of
whether you'd like to collaborate on this
As far as I'm concerned, they are the elder
statesmen of electronic music. Formed in 1967
during the psychedelic period, they ended up
being some of the founders of the music which
later during the 70's became known as
"krautrock" (or more politely, Berlin School
electronic music). If you've been into
electronic music for long, chances are good that
their seminal 1974 album "Phaedra" is already in
If you like Moogs, tape delays, pulsating,
warbling LFO's and filters, and dark forboding
analog soundscapes that never stop also being
melodic, like a classical piece done with tubes
and wires, you'll absolutely love pretty much
everything they've done up through the late
80's. After that, they seem to have lost their
inspiration, as seems to happen with most
artists after awhile.
Best known for her 1985 synthpop release,
"Running Up That Hill", she is proof that in the
80's, being a real artist was not the hindrance
to making the pop charts that it is now. Most
of her songs have a certain science fiction
aspect to them -- about things like a machine
that can change the weather (putting its
inventor into danger from the government); a
woman whose lover has been shot, which prompts
her to make a deal with God to exchange their
places; a bank robbery gone wrong; witches;
madmen; travels through space; seeing a
duplicate of oneself suffocating in the water
under a frozen lake, and looking back at her own
double from under the ice...etc. All of these
slightly off lyrics set to electronic tracks
done with the Fairlight CMI, the queen of
samplers in the 80's. And while ownership of a
$100,000 Fairlight was common with wealthy
musicians in the 80's as a sort of status symbol
to show they had "made it," many Fairlight
owners then really never scratched the surface
of what it could do or really learned to program
it. (Actually, let's just say it: They wanted
to show everyone they had a Fairlight.) Kate
Bush was probably one of a very few Fairlight
owners who actually took the time to understand
the machine and use it to potential.
The Art of Noise
And speaking of people who really know what to
do with a Fairlight CMI, we should not fail to
also mention Trever Horn's most interesting
project, The Art of Noise.
Of all of the various electronic groups that
came out of the new wave direction rock music
moved into in the 80's, probably none were more
electronic in the pure sense than these guys.
And whereas most of this type of music was
trying to keep a certain upbeatness for pop
radio's sake, it seems like Depeche Mode weren't
really worried about it. Their wonderful
bleakness provided the spark for much of the
industrial, gothic, and darkwave musical
splinters that came later. Today, in the
current-day neo-synthpop movement, probably no
other influence from 80's new wave and synthpop
is being more still felt and credited (and
endlessly copied) by the various groups that
have surfaced now than Depeche Mode.
Probably the quickest way to explain B!
Machine's music if you've never heard it would
be: Imagine a version of Depeche Mode that can't
be properly listened to without a subwoofer.
Yes, bass. Lots and lots of really low analog
bass. For years now, I have witnessed with
disappointment the sort of pop music that has
come out that uses sub-bass frequencies and
thought to myself, "Such potential...if only it
was real music." Well, with B! Machine...it is.
B! Machine unites the world of the second
"British Invasion" with the capabilities of
modern sound systems, and the result will crack
the plaster in your house.
The founder of B! Machine is San Francisco
keyboardist Nathaniel Nicoll, who started it
after its predecessor project Doctors With
Knives fell apart. Unlike most other
neo-synthpop bands of the 2000's, B! Machine was
active during the "dry period" of the 90's,
during which almost no music of this type was
being made. As of 2010, B! Machine seems to
have gone defunct, but has done so after having
been one of the longest-lived and most prolific
neo-synthpop groups during two decades,
releasing over a dozen CD albums. They'll be
missed, but they've earned their retirement.
The inspiration I get from Swedish neo-synthpop
project "iamamiwhoami" includes many things, but
one of the most important ones is that it
reminds me of the same thing that Devo tried to
teach us all thirty years ago, if we would
listen: In new wave, it's okay to be
weird. Really, really brilliantly weird.
And that's something worth remembering. It seems
that now that new wave and synthpop are
attempting, via the path of neo-synthpop, to be
reborn like the phoenix from their own ashes,
they've often commited the cardinal sin of all
art forms that live long enough to call
themselves veterans -- they're now taking
themselves very, very seriously. We may all
suffocate from all this self-serious reflection
and self-adoration that neo-synthpop is going
iamamiwhoami has come to save us from all that.
With their video visions of men with beards made
of duct tape who have sex with trees, and giant
dust-bunny monsters seven feet tall, there's no
danger that Jonna Lee is going to let us be
Jonna Lee was already a known musician under her
own name, who had produced lots of good material
of a much more acoustic nature, on conventional
album CD's. But in 2010, she mysteriously
debuted on YouTube under the login
"iamamiwhoami", without revealing who she was.
Over the next year, her project released one new
song (with video) every few months, in the form
of an online-only "album" titled "To Whom It May
Concern." The next year she did another virtual
album the same way. The videos were far more
weird and visually creative than almost
everything MTV ever showed us even in their
heyday, even compared to when they still played
music videos. This was finally what it
meant to be a real star in the post-MTV era.
iamamiwhoami showed us that the death of MTV did
not have to really matter for us if we take the
opportunity the Internet is giving us now.
And weird it was. She showed visions of men
with beards made of duct tape who have sex with
trees, seven-foot dust-bunnies made of hair, and
the king who lives inside the trees and gets
killed by an arrow shot by a knight in shining
armor. We saw a funeral ceremony held in the
woods in winter, performed by a men with
tape-beards who dance to her music in 7/4 time.
All the weird was back. And her song
titled "O" is not to be missed.
The fact that Trisomie 21 even exists as a band
is both frustrating and inspiring to me as a
musician, because they have already accomplished
what I have always wished to do. There is
something disappointing in knowing that someone
else beat you to it, but it's also reassuring to
know there's proof that it's possible.
Trisomie 21 is a French group who are one of the
few rare bands that are long-lived enough to say
they are both an actual 80's new wave group and
a current-day neo-synthpop group as well. Yes,
there are a few bands from the 80's that are
still around in some semblance of their former
selves, but it'd be very hard to call most of
them real neo-synthpop. Trisomie 21 is a true
long-term survivor. And that's not all.
For pretty much the whole time I've been working
on music, since 1986, I've tried to employ the
entire style range of new wave, synthpop,
techno, industrial, ambient, and everything else
that's come out of that particular thread of
rock music as a pallete to work with, rather
than being tied down into one particular sound.
That is, I have always strived to be the exact
opposite of those bands you always hear where
every song they do sounds like variations on the
same song. Marketing people (back in the age of
when there really was a music market) generally
hate groups like that, because they say it's
harder to sell the music of someone whose style
is all over the map.
Well, Trisomie 21 has accomplished this, so
their label must be in hysterics. I don't think
there's a style or derivitive of new wave and
its various cousin styles that they haven't
carried off with a sense of art and dignity, and
it's amazing to listen to, all coming from one
group...everything from material that goes in
the general direction of Joy Division to other
stuff that's in the general direction of Front
242. Still other stuff from them sounds like
Boards of Canada
It's doubtful that they would ever consider
themselves neo-synthpop, and yet stylistically,
it's hard not to see the connection anyway.
Rich-toned analog synthesizers, big drum tracks,
hypnotic sounds that are what you might get in
your head if you stared into the distance too
long... Boards of Canada are so named because
of the old 70's film reels (which were naturally
full of analog synth scores, warbly tape sounds,
etc.) that used to be put out long ago by the
Film Boards of Canada, which seem to be the
aesthetic their music manages to capture. They
are actually Scottish, not Canadian, by the way.
How to describe them... Have you ever found a
sound on a synthesizer that was so hypnotic, so
comforting in a trance-inducing sort of way,
that you just wanted to keep on hearing it as it
morphed into other things and took you places?
It's like that, all with lots of analog warmth
and tape effects...just beautiful.