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Synth You Been Gone

12 Apr

ARP+Oddesy
With labels like Wierd and Captured Tracks trotting out bands like Xeno & Oaklander and The Soft Moon, that early '80s synthpop sound is back in a major way. Which also means the original bands are back in a more-or-less major way too. Even ones you didn't know were back…well, they are! Here's five to prove it.

The Human League – Credo
The+Human+League+2010
Late-'70s post punk industrialists turned genuine '80s megastars thanks to hits like "Love Action," "Mirror Man," "The Lebanon" and now karaoke favorite "Don't You Want Me." The Human League actually never broke up and have released albums in the '90s and '00s.

Does it Sound like The Human League: Phil Oakey, Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley are working within the template the band created for Dare!, right down to the synth sounds and boy-girl vocals. 

An eye to the future: Apart from some prominent use of Autotune on a few tracks, 

Should it exist? Not bad. lyrically a little dull (or in the case of "Night People," annoying), The Human League still know how to write a catchy tune. But you won't be putting away your copy of Dare! any time soon. 

Then: These Are the Things Dreams Are Made Of
Now:  Get Together
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Orchestral Manoeuvers in the DarkHistory of Modern
Omd_march2011
One of the great synthpop bands and certainly one of the best live ones.The "classic line-up" that gave us OMD classics like "Enola Gay," "So In Love" and "If You Leave" reformed in 2007. The US just got it's first tour in 25 years.

Does it Sound Like OMD: Yes! "New Babies, New Toys" owes more than a little, melodically, to "If You Leave." Andy McLuskey's voice is still in fine form.

An eye to the future: Classic synths, but modern production and drum sounds. 

Any good? You know… pretty good actually. Hard-pressed to call it vital, but History of Modern was definitely not phoned-in. The title track (pt. 1) is especially nice.

Then: So In Love
Now: History of Modern Pt. I 
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BlancmangeBlanc Burn
Blancmange
Named after either a dessert or a Monty Python sketch, this semi-obscure UK duo was best know for melodramatic single "Living on the Ceiling." Never really did much in the U.S. outside of college radio or KROQ. Neil Arthur and Stephen Luscombe got back together last year and released Blanc Burn in March.

Does it Sound Like Blancmange: Lead single "The Western" seems written to remind people who remember Blancmange of "Living on the Ceiling" to the point it's almost a re-write. 

An eye to the future: Apart from "The Western" you'd never guess this Blancmange. The singing is relatively subdued. It's still synthpop, but this sounds like a modern album without trying too hard.

Any good? Listening to Blanc Burn, you'd be hard-pressed to accuse Arthur and Luscombe of making this for the money. The two are still highly idiosyncratic — with a nice sense of humor — but not trying to pretend it's still 1984 and they're still 25. 

Then: Don't Tell Me
Now:  Drive Me 
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John Foxx & the MathsInterplay
John_foxx_benge_1295977866_
Original singer for Ultravoxx when they were good, before Midge Ure took over and turned them into histrionic bombast. Foxx released some classic synthpop singles as a solo artist in the '80s before hanging up music for graphic design and teaching. He returned to recording in the late '90s and has been prolific ever since

In touch with the past: Made entirely with analogue synthesizers, Interplay album sounds like it was made in 1981.

An eye to the future: Made entirely with analogue synthesizers, Interplay album sounds like it was made in 1981.

Any good? Quite good, actually. It may sound like it was made in 1981, but take that as a big plus. Anyone who's into minimal wave or the Wierd or Captured Tracks labels should give Interplay a spin. If you buy only one record from this list, this is it. Do read on, though.

Then: Underpass
Now:  Evergreen
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ShriekbackLife in the Loading Bay
Shriekback
Formed by Barry Andrews (XTC), Dave Allen (Gang of Four) and Carl Marsh, Shriekback were a high-concept post punk supergroup, slithery, atmospheric, funky and unlike anything else out there in 1982. Line-up changes were frequent with Andrews the only real constant. Apart from a period in the mid-'90s, Shriekback have existed in one form or another. 

Does it Sound Like Shriekback: Barry Andrews is one weird cat, with a distinctive, menacing baritone. Even when it's on an uninspired album, Shriekback always sound like Shriekback. Life in the Loading Bay is no exception.

An eye to the futureShriekback may sound like Shriekback, but Andrews and Marsh are no slaves to the past. But maybe because they've always been ahead of their time.

Any good? There may not be any of the manic funk the band were known for on classic singles "My Spine is the Bassline" or "Nemesis," it's seeped with that off-kilter atmosphere Shriekback are known for. Andrews seems genuinely inspired here, making for one of Shriekback's best-ever albums.

Then: Lined Up
Now: Another Day Above Ground 
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Up in Your Grill: Summer Fridays 3.3

11 Jun

SF3.3_sm
Usually when I make these mixes, I'm either making the artwork the night before they're supposed to go up or waiting on whichever friend I've conned into doing the artwork for me. Either way, the actual mix is done. Not so this time. My friend Greg sent this to me last week and I built the mix around it. Pretty killer art, I think, clever, and not only screams Summer Fridays but also Sound Bites' food-and-music modus operandi. Definitely one of my favorite covers ever and a call for future mix cover designers to step up their game. This one's definitely on the dancey side, perfect for your next BBQ disco.

DOWNLOAD SUMMER FRIDAYS 3.3

TRACKLISTING:

  1. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – So In Love
  2. LCD Soundsystem – I Can Change
  3. WhoMadeWho – Keep Me in My Plane
  4. Big Audio Dynamite – Hollywood Blvd
  5. Can - I'm So Green
  6. Field Music – Let's Write a Book
  7. The Hundred in the Hands – Sleepwalking
  8. Soft Moon – Breathe the Fire
  9. Grace Jones – She's Lost Control
  10. Heaven 17 – (We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang
  11. Grovesnor - Taxi from the Airport
  12. No Kids – I Want to Be Around
  13. CFCF – Half Dreaming
  14. Edwyn Collins – 20 Years Too Late
  15. Orchester Werner Mueller – Bodybuilding

And here's where I remind you about no shuffling. The songs are mixed together, despite being separate tracks, blah blah blah. Liner notes after the jump.

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