Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Synthetic X-mas 2015: Johnny Normal, Shelter, Future Perfect, The Department, Blott

12.12.2015 Actress & Bishop, Birmingham

Birmingham is not a city that can boast about electronic music much but radio show host Johnny Normal did it anyway and brought 5 fine acts to pre-Christmas Birmingham, upstairs at the actress & bishop.

The stage was rather small and littered with equipment of the performing acts gave opener BLOTT (Geoff Martin) and his two fellow musicians little room to maneuver and to put on a show. As it turns out, BLOTT didn’t need to as the music spoke for itself with its cool rhythms and electronic bleeps.


What really made the night for me were the ever brilliant ‘Shelter’ and the duo  FUTURE PERFECT

Using a cliched line here: they truly were perfect. Playing many a tune from their new album ‘After the fall’ and its predecessor ‘Escape’ Simon and Rebecca Owen aka Future Perfect were in sync with one another, the music was dance-able and the melodies catchy and many of the lyrics were quite deep-ish, which made for an interesting performance. 

Rebecca dedicated the performance to her mum who passed away in October and everything about this gig was heartfelt and freshly unpretentious. Highly enjoyable


THE DEPARTMENT brought moodier, darker pieces to the night and, although good, weren’t necessarily my cup of tea. Their Waldorf Blofeld on stage was what caught my attention during their segment of the night, though


Shortly after  it was time for the 2014 Erasure Violet Flame tour support act SHELTER, who also performed their brandnew single ‘This must be love’ for the first time ever. 

Seeing them live for the third time it was noticeable that they are getting better and better at their game and the audience responded very well to them. The gig offered many songs from their current album ‘Emerge’ and some from their forthcoming second offering ‘Ascend’ and their encore consisted of a brilliant rendition of the Vince Clarke penned Depeche Mode classic: ‘Photographic’


JOHNNY NORMAL and his mate ‘Psycho Pete’ were on next and they didn’t skip a beat with their driving material. Unfortunately I had to leave about 15 minutes into their gig, so I can’t really rate them and I totally missed DJ Rob Harvey and still had an amazing night out

Fantastic night, thanks to Johnny and all the bands he brought to the Midlands

Sunday, October 4, 2015

30 years Erasure party: Shelter, Neil Francis, Destination and a special appearance by Andy Bell

September 26th 2015, Bournbrook Social Club, Selly Oak, Birmingham £10

Sometimes it feels hard to relate to when people refer to events as magical, but this night was not only epic in every sense of the word but purely magical, too.

Depeche Mode and Yazoo – founding member Vince Clarke and the ever flamboyant Andy Bell’s epic musical journey started three decades ago with the release of their first single “Who needs love like that”.Millions of record sales and releases later, some hitting the upper regions of the global charts while others went almost unnoticed or even slowed down the band’s career, a crowd of die hard fans came together, organised by the amazing Rory Jones and wonderful behind-the-scenes people, to celebrate the British institution that is Erasure.

2014s release ‘The Violet Flame’ and the tour saw Erasure’s star on the rise once more and Classic Pop magazine named the album ‘album of the year’.

It was on that tour that Shelter garnered a large fanbase of their own while supporting Erasure for eight nights. And it was after a gig of that tour that Erasure fan Neil Francis sang ‘A little respect’ at a London tube station which turned him into a 20 million + views youtube – sensation.

And both Shelter as well as Neil Francis (who have since collaborated on a song) were part of the lineup of this special evening. Another band known for performing unique versions of Erasure – penned tunes (and yazoo ones as well) are Destination who were also on the bill followed by an amazing DJ set to round off the night – and all that for a tenner (including cake and buffet) AMAZING.

And if that doesn’t sound magical enough the unannounced visit of Erasure’s own Andy Bell who then even sang with Neil Francis and patiently allowed himself to be photographed with his fans clearly highlighted how much of a fan/band relationship and bond there is.

Apart from their own material there were also plenty of Erasure covers by the artists who mingled with the crowd after their respective performances and danced along to the ever-amazing tunes of Erasure.

Friday, June 12, 2015

11.06.2015 Will Gregory’s MOOG Ensemble

11.06.2015 Town Hall Birmingham, £15, Support act: Fairns

In the 32 years of my going to gigs (I was 16 when I went to see Udo Lindenberg in my native Germany back in 1983) and especially regarding my fondness of going to synthesizer/electronic music related gigs THIS event ranks among the finest examples of AWESOMENESS I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

The town hall itself has an impressive past as she played hostess to the likes of Buddy Holly (in 1958), Ravi Shankar (1956), Simon & Garfunkel (1968), Black Sabbath (in 1972) and many more over the decades.

Fully refurbished the hall now allowed for the 2015 Super Sonic Festival to be officially opened by Will Gregory’s MOOG Ensemble. 

For synthesizer freaks (and I mean that in a nice way) that was a feast but for any music lover the high musicianship displayed during the concert itself must have felt like a treat and, of course, the MOOG Ensemble incorporated quite a number of classical musical moments into their performance.

This event also marked the 10th anniversary of inventor Robert ‘Bob’ Moog’s (Mogue/Moog/Moch with a soft CH but pronounced in Klingon) passing. Listening to the stunning array of sounds and the tonal depth of these machines served as a reminder of the high quality musical instruments used to have.

On stage there were many Moogs such as the Minimoog and the Micromoog and I believe some Moog Phatties (was a bit hard to see from afar) but one could also see and hear a Minikorg 700  S, Korg Delta, some Rolands and even well preserved and quite hissy 1950s univox’s. Will Gregory (whose day job is to be awesome in Mute records signed GOLDFRAPP) himself played a lot of flute parts with a Yamaha WX 7 attached via CV/Gate box to his Moog. 

So from a ‘nerds point of view’ that alone was amazing but musically and sonically the ensemble didn’t let us down either.

With 10 people on stage, all well capable to read music, and including Portishead’s very own Adrian Utley as well as composer Graham Fitkin, the evening offered many well known pieces such as the 1968 ‘Switched on Bach’ Moog showcase of a Bach piece, The ‘Escape from New York’ theme tune made famous by film director and musician John Carpenter and even a Burt Bacharach song from the ‘Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid’ movie from 1969 starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

But most impressively the Moog Ensemble performed many brand new tracks on their vintage gear and all well synced up thanks to an especially built clocking device. All the instruments on stage were built way before MIDI was established and once synced up became a force to be reckoned with.

There were songs oddly titled ‘Pipe Box’ and ‘Noise Box’ that were at times Kraftwerky and extraordinary. ‘Pipe Box’ was all these machines creating a dense rhythmical song by using just white noise for which these old machines are well loved and feared for.

The show came with an interval during which we were aloud to change seats from one in a far away row to a much better one right by the stage and looking at it from above while David Bowie's ‘Low’ was played over the house P.A. with all the wonderful Eno-esque synthesizer parts that are now so well known.

Before the Ensemble started Nottingham based duo FAIRNS played a three song set, two of the three songs as of yet not even titled on just an electric guitar and a violin and although enjoyable didn’t feel all that well rehearsed and coherent to me.

In any case this was not only a very very enjoyable night out but an educational and entertaining musical journey with great musicians in a great venue with gear on stage that reminds the aspiring synthesist to keep on saving up and to keep playing their beloved keys.

TOP entertainment for a very reasonable price

Sunday, April 12, 2015

11.04.2015 Mark & Chris Jenkins – Edgar Froese Tribute Concert

The Big Chill House, London

“There is no death – just a change of cosmic address” (Edgar Froese).

In January 2015 Tangerine Dream founder Edgae Froese passed away aged 70.

Mark Jenkins (who we recently interviewed) is an electronic music conveyor who has also worked with ex – Tangerine Dream members in the past.

When his brother Chris had the idea to record a tribute album with Edgar Froese inspired new electronic material Mark got onboard and tonight the brothers performed their tribute album “Change Of Cosmic Address” at the Big Chill House, near Kings Cross in London, FREE of charge.

The evening consisted of two sets: For roughly 50 minutes Mark played semi – improvised songs with the odd Klaus Schulze song thrown in before Chris joined him for the second set, the entire new album.

With a Moog Theremini and rack versions of the Korg MS2000B and the Kraftzwerg and many other great little machines on stage including a modern iPod, the brothers got into the groove and their eight-tracks CD went down well.

With sunglasses and funny T-shirts their humour was delightful and so were the songs that were, in typical Edgar Froese style, very sequencer-driven indeed.

It was all over by 9 pm and it was time for us to head back to Birmingham with great memories and a signed CD by the Jenkins brothers.

What more can one ask for!!