Tuesday, 30 September 2014

BREATHING IN FUMES 17- A DEPECHE MODE PODCAST

Glen's back again, this time with the 17th Breathing In Fumes. You'll all know by now how much of a fan of this I am and, as I've said many, many times before, if you are a Depeche Mode fan either casually or in the obsessed way Glen is (he knows I'm joking), then this is a must hear for you. 


This episode contains a few cracking tracks. The tracklisting is:

Intro
Martin Gore, Direct Relief (2014)
Higher Love (Higher Mix)
Should Be Higher (DJMREX Remix)
In Your Room (Dark Vibes Mix)
Waiting For The Night (Live Paris 2001)
A Question Of Lust (Live Milan 2006)
Dave Gahan 2009
When The Body Speaks (Acoustic Version)
The Sun And The Moon And The Stars (Electronic Periodic's Microdrum Mix)
In Chains (Myer vs Wilder Deconstruction)
The Struggles Of Ultra
It's No Good (Live London 1997)
Soothe My Soul (Black Asteroid Remix)
Lilian (Pantha Du Prince Raboisen Ecke Burstah Remix)
Outro

One thing Glen would like a bit more of are listener indents for the show. Feel free to contact him on any one of the addresses I'll list below. Send him something saying who you are, where you're listening and if you have time mentioning how great a blog this is (last one strictly optional) and, if you're intelligible and don't swear too much, he may well use it.

As ever Glen, thank you very much for all your hard work.

Check out the podcast at breathinginfumes.podmatic.com 
Breathing In Fumes Facebook www.facebook.com/BreathingInFumes
Breathing In Fumes Twitter https://twitter.com/breathefumes
Breathing In Fumes Blog breathinginfumes.wordpress.com
(Note - rival blog so read this one first ;) )
And finally, for pictures of rare Depeche Mode vinyl check out @breathfumes on Instagram






Friday, 26 September 2014

APHEX TWIN - SYRO

This review first appeared on XSNOIZE on 25 September 2014

Has there been a more anticipated release this year? It’s unlikely. The news that the Aphex Twin was returning was greeted by all fans of electronica with unconfined joy and rightly so.  Richard D James is a master of his craft and is peerless in the field of electronic music. From the post rave genius of Selected Ambient Works 85-92, through to the landmark Selected Ambient Works Volume 2 to the frankly terrifying in places Druqks, Aphex Twin has always been a unique artist, forging entire genres through his music



But what of the new music? Will he still be able to stand out from the crowd given the remarkable change in electronic music since Druqks was released? Happily, the answer is yes. Syro does away with the drill and bass terror of Druqks and instead leans more towards the AFX Analord 12” singles released in the early 2000’s. As you would expect, the vast majority of tracks on this album are a blizzard of noise with acid like squelching basslines clashing with seemingly random drum patterns whilst sampled vocals (from Richard, his parents, his wife and his children apparently) float in and out over analogue synth lines beamed in from other planets. 



That, however is a very good thing. There are spectacular moments of beauty to be found within the chaos. CIRCLONT6A [141.98] [syrobonkus mix] sounds like a distant relative of Kraftwerk’s Dentaku for example and is all the better for it. Minipops 67 [120.2] [source field mix] is a bubbling electro classic that essentially revisits every genre of electronica that has popped up since Druqks came out, remixes it all and delivers it up on one big platter for you to enjoy. 11 out of the album’s 12 tracks are at times baffling but magical electronic soups so it’s something of a surprise when aisatsana [102] closes the album as it is not a flurry of bass and drums but instead a Brian Eno Music For Airports like ambient piano piece awash with bird song and general loveliness.


So is the Aphex Twin still relevant in 2014? Very much so. Always imitated, never bettered. Syro is an exceptional album.


Tuesday, 23 September 2014

CASSETTE STORE DAY - 27 SEPTEMBER 2014

Record Store Day's upstart younger sibling, Cassette Store Day is back this coming Saturday and features a whole host of exclusive cassette only releases from the likes of Karen O, Best Coast, The Wedding Present (a personal favourite of mine) and Olive Grove Records' Jo Mango. Independent record shops up and down the land will be selling cassettes and if you're in Glasgow there's no better place to be than the city's premiere record shop Love Music who will be hosting three live bands on the day itself - Boygirlanimalcolour, Gone Wishing and Behold, The Old Bear.



All three of those artists will be releasing Cassette Store Day exclusives too through Scottish Fiction which, you should all know by now, is the best Scottish music blog out there. Boygirlanimalcolour are releasing their debut single Jupiter Fist backed with Cable Tie on a limited edition run of 50 cassettes. Jupiter Fist is a cracking song, blasting along in a riot of squalling guitars and it's well worth seeking out one of the 50 cassettes. 



Gone Wishing and Behold, The Old Bear split the other release with three tracks each; The Watchers, Hoist Your Head Into The Light and Nothing & Nowhere from Gone Wishing and Restless Days, Demons In Love and Seven, Maybe Eight from Behold, The Old Bear. Both sets of songs are really interesting, displaying both bands' unique talents perfectly.


Cassette Store Day is a cool, quirky thing and deserves support. I used to love buying tapes when I was younger and basically kept One Up in Aberdeen in business in the 90's by constantly raiding their second hand tape stash. Get yourselves along to Love Music or your local shop on Saturday and enjoy the day.

LINKS


Monday, 22 September 2014

ERASURE - THE VIOLET FLAME

ERASURE – THE VIOLET FLAME

For most people of my age (39 plus 15 months), Erasure hold a special place in their childhood hearts. Along with the Pet Shop Boys, Erasure dominated the charts in the late 80’s and into the early 90’s with hit after hit, and each one was a pop gem from A Little Respect to Love To Hate You. The band took more of a back seat in the 90’s by not touring I Say I Say I Say or the outstanding Erasure and then, occasional singles aside, tailed off a bit through Cowboy, Loveboat and later albums. Whilst the odd gem would appear (Don’t Say Your Love Is Killing Me, In My Arms, Breathe, No Doubt), the band’s output did dip in quality although their live shows continued to get stronger and stronger making them a must see live band.

Last year’s Christmas album Snowglobe was a fine album and did point to the band regaining some form. Like The Violet Flame, it was produced by Richard X and his production really seems to sit well with Erasure. The music was less cluttered than say on Tomorrow’s World and Andy’s lyrics more to the point than on previous ventures. Happily, that has carried on with The Violet Flame and with this album, Erasure have re-announced themselves and rediscovered their mojo.

Album opener, Dead of Night, isn't a Depeche Mode cover, but instead is a great opening track which sounds fresher than Erasure have in many a year and straightaway gets the pulse racing. In the main, The Violet Flame is an album that has one eye on the dancefloor, in the same way that Pet Shop Boy’s Electric did. Unlike, PSB however, Erasure don’t feel the need to try and make a full on club style album; instead they rightly play to their strengths (and what strengths) and never lose sight of what made them the brilliant band they are in the first place – pop music. Dead of Night is a great pop song and a great opener.



First single Elevation is up next and if you've heard it already you’ll know how good it is. The first single back of any Erasure campaign is always an exciting prospect given that it has meant the likes of Chorus, Always or the still beautiful Breathe in the last few years. Elevation goes back to Chorus days in that it’s fast, bleepy and, frankly, really, really good. It’s also hugely catchy so don’t expect to listen to it once then forget it. You won’t be able to.

Reason and Promises follow next, with the former being a stronger song than the latter. Reason is another track that harks back to classic era Erasure but still keeps the sound modern. Vince stands out here with some fantastic noises but the addition of a piano line over the main synth parts makes the song stronger and overall it’s a great track. Promises shows off my theory about the music having more room to breathe than on previous albums. It is a little Euro trancey in places for my tastes but in the context of the album it works. That is very much a good thing by the way. Since Erasure last went thematic on an album (Vince’s concept masterpiece Erasure) their albums have sometimes seemed to be 3 or 4 singles and a few other tracks added in. The Violet Flame has a focus throughout and that is to be welcomed.

Be The One slows the pace down and comes over like those weirder tracks Erasure used to stick on albums like Yahoo, Love The Way You do So or even The Circus which let’s face it was never the most obvious choice for a single but was brilliant. I get a feeling of experimentation on this track which kicks of with a single synth noise that I am sure is meant to put you in mind of Sometimes. It’s a ballad of sorts and has one of those melodies that Vince and Andy excel at. Sacred follows and, again, isn’t a Depeche Mode cover although when you think about it, that would be an excellent choice of Depeche song for Erasure to cover, if you’ll forgive the aside. The song starts off along the lines of Rock Me Gently or Sono Luminus but then wanders through the doors of a club and hits the dancefloor which, I am pleased to say, really works.

Under The Wave appears at track 7 and begins almost like a Vince home demo. The track beeps and bleeps in all the right places and is immediately redolent of the band’s Chorus era highpoint. It certainly has a classic Erasure feel to it. Smoke and Mirrors comes next and here we see the influence of Vince’s side project with Martin Gore, VCMG. It’s a fascinating track. Musically it’s a lot darker than most of the rest of the album and, like Be The One, it’s one of those slightly odder Erasure tracks that I personally love. At first, it feels like the song never changes gear or goes anywhere particularly, but on the next listen you’re hooked.



The album’s penultimate track is Paradise. I’ve joked about Depeche covers above but could this be Erasure covering themselves by rebooting Drama’s lost classic b-side? No, that’s not the case but this isn’t a bad song at all. For me , this one shows Richard X’s involvement most obviously and whilst that’s ok, I prefer it if I can only hear Vince and Andy.

The album ends with the lovely Stayed A Little Late Though, a forlorn look back at the end of a relationship (“I just wanted everything top be perfect”) and it’s the perfect song to end the album.


So, is The Violet Flame worth getting excited about? Yes it is. After a few recent false starts, Erasure have relaxed and got back to doing what they do best – pop music. Perhaps the duo’s recent side projects have allowed them to refocus and even re-energised them and if that is the case, then well done Erasure. Simply put, this is Erasure’s finest album since Chorus. Bring on the tour!


Monday, 8 September 2014

BUT B-SIDES THAT, WHAT HAVE DEPECHE MODE EVER GIVEN US?

Ah, the b-side. Back when singles were singles and not just digital downloads, bands were pretty much morally obliged to give away an additional song as the b-side of the single. Some bands took this seriously (The Smiths for example) and others tried their best (REM for one). Just like those two bands, Depeche Mode had a crack at it too. So what of Depeche's b-sides? How good are they really?

For the avoidance of doubt, this looks at 7" or cassette single/CD1 b-sides only, meaning no hard hitting analysis of Black Day and the likes. Also, given that single formats have gone crazy in the last few years, I'll get slightly selective towards the end. Here we go.

Part 1: The Singles B-Sides 1981-85

DM got off to a flying start with their first ever b-side. Debut single Dreaming Of Me was backed by the Vince Clarke written gloomy electro classic Ice Machine, which is possibly so named because other standard pieces of hotel equipment didn't sound synthpop enough. "Corby Trouser Press" or "Complimentary Apple" just wouldn't have worked. Ice Machine is a cracking song, combining powerful music with Vince's standard, puzzling lyrics ("A letter/Once composed/7 years long/And as tall as a tree") and was played by the band live up until the end of the Some Great Reward tour. The band's first hit single, New Life also boasted a Vince written track that would be played live until 1984, Shout! It's a wonderful track and the version on the 1984 live video The World We Live In and Live In Hamburg, is a must see,  Little known single, Just Can't Ge Enough followed New Life and it featured the third and final of Vince's b-sides, Any Second Now, which is an instrumental and is rather lovely. 

Vince soon abandoned ship, meaning Martin not only had to write the a-sides, but he had to write the b-sides too. His first attempt was Now, This Is Fun which backed See You. A good effort but it's no Ice Machine. Next single, The Meaning Of Love, had a wonderful b-side called Oberkorn (It's A Small Town) which is an instrumental filled to the brim with spooky synth sounds and it's a track that I still love today. It's named after, would you believe it, a small town in Luxembourg which the band had driven through on tour. It's also the first time that a b-side was arguably better than the a-side. Leave In Silence came next, and was backed with a very odd track called Excerpt From : My Secret Garden which is an odd take on the A Broken Frame track. A point to note is that the b-side can be played at either 45rpm or 33rpm, so in effect, you kind of get two b-sides. If you know what a vinyl record is, own this record and have a record player, try it at home.

No doubt sensing Martin was buckling under the pressure of writing a follow up to Now, This Is Fun, Alan stepped in and co-wrote the b-side of Get The Balance Right which is the, well, odd instrumental The Great Outdoors. It sounds like something from a bad East German children's cartoon and is very much one for collectors only. Thankfully, things improved with the release of Everything Counts where we find Work Hard on the b-side. Ok, it's not a classic but it contains plenty of period metal bashing and exhortations to, well work hard. Love, In Itself then featured Alan's writing prowess again, where he was the sole author of b-side Fools,  a really good song and, for me, the equal of the a-side itself.

"You think Fools was good," Alan no doubt said in Berlin in 1984, continuing "well try this for a b-side," pressing play on the tape revealing In Your Memory for the first time. He was right too, though history will always remember the a-side, People Are People more fondly. It's a good track though, so well played Slick. Master & Servant saw Martin return to b-side duty, where he gave us the average (Set Me Free) Remotivate Me which could only ever be a b-side. It's a bit of cheat I guess, but the next b-side was Somebody (Remix) which was technically a double a-side but it DOES feature on the AA side of the 7" and that isn't an a-side as such, so there you go. This being a Depeche blog, means I have to cover all types of potential pedantry. 

The last two singles of the arbitrary era the first part of the blog comprises both had Martin penned b-sides. First up was Flexible on the flip of Shake The Disease which is in the same league as (Set Me Free) Remotivate Me.The still baffling choice of a single, It's Called A Heart, was, however, backed with a classic b-side Fly On The Windscreen which is 1000 times the song it's a-side chum ever will be. I'll never know what they were thinking here. Perhaps they wanted to focus on pop rather than doom and gloom? It's not as if the next period in their career would focus on the dark side of life at all. Oh wait....

Part 2: From Black Celebration to Devotion

The first single of this era was the glorious Stripped and it was backed by the fluffy but decent enough But Not Tonight. The band's American label made an It's Called A Heart of things by making But Not Tonight the a-side instead of Stripped because it featured in an underwhelming film called Modern Girls. Things improved somewhat with the release of A Question Of Lust which featured Martin and Alan combining again with the rather lovely instrumental Christmas Island on the alternative side. That was the last time Alan would receive a writing credit. The last single from Black Celebration, A Question of Time had a live version Black Celebration as the b-side from the Birmingham NEC gig of the tour which was the first time a live track formed a b-side. Yes, there are the L12's from 1983 and, yes the Blasphemous Rumours 7" ep has live tracks, but I'm right and that's that.

We next heard from Depeche with Strangelove which featured an ace b-side but a bit of a cheat in Pimpf. Yes, it's a glorious track, but it also featured on Music For The Masses. B-sides featuring on albums will always puzzle me. Strangelove was followed up by the mighty Never Let Me Down Again which gave us the rather smashing Pleasure, Little Treasure on side 2. It's a great tune and, random fact for you all, it is my Mum's favourite Depeche song. Martin tired of writing tunes as good as this however, so for Behind The Wheel we were treated to our first ever Depeche Mode cover version b-side. Taking the motoring theme further than was perhaps necessary, the band covered Route 66 with Martin on lead vocals. It's not too shabby and was later covered by them on the World Violation tour with Dave singing lead. Little 15 may or may not have been a single depending on what you believe, but I say it was and its instrumental b-side Stjarna is a lovely thing. It is also the Swedish word for "star." This blog: fascinating AND educational. Everything Counts was released in its live guise to promote 101 and was back by Nothing (live) from the Rosebowl show. This version of Nothing is far better than the album version. It has metal bashing which is all any song ever really needs.

The Violator era is, as we all know by now, the best era of any music ever, so it's no surprise that the b-sides were outstanding too. Personal Jesus was backed by Dangerous, a song good enough to have been a single in its own right. Greatest piece of music in the history of music, Enjoy The Silence came next and, whilst it could be said to be an insult to have that song forced to share a 7" circle of vinyl with anything other than the same song repeated again, it had a b-side and that was the nice piano led track Memphisto which is based on a film where Elvis is the devil. That film only exists in Martin's mind however, so it'll only be the real hardcore fans that have seen it. Policy of Truth continued the b-side instrumental theme with one of my favourites, Kaleid and the Violator era b-sides were rounded off with not one but TWO new songs on the World In My Eyes single; Happiest Girl (Tonal Mix) and Sea of Sin (Jack Mix). Both songs are great, and prove that in 1990 Depeche Mode were the best thing that had ever happened, has ever happened and will happen to music.

As I've said above, I don't like album tracks as b-sides, so One Caress as b-side of I Feel You is a poor show, despite the near tear inducing glory of the song. Walking In My Shoes put things right, with the fantastic My Joy which surely must have been challenging for a place on the Songs Of Faith And Devotion album itself. There was, of course no official 7" single this time, which would remain the case until Precious, but My Joy was track two on the cassette single and is, let's face it, what we'd all call the b-side here. Condemnation was then backed with Death's Door (Jazz Mix) which had previously only been available on a fan club 7" flexi disc or shady 12" claiming to be a promo. The first three minutes are good, the rest is relatively pointless quasi jazz gibberish. Finally from SOFAD, the nowhere near as good as the album version remix of In Your Room was back with a nowhere near as good as the album version remix  of Higher Love - the Adrenaline Mix Edit.

Part 3: Ultra Machine

Ultra started off with no 7" and no cassette single, but track 2 of a cd single counts as a b-side for my purposes, so Barrel Of A Gun's b-side is the huge sounding Painkiller. It's an instrumental, but it's a fine thing. It's No Good did have a cassette single release, but it had a pointless b-side instrumental in the shape of Slowblow. Home's cassette b-side was a live version of It's No Good from one of the Ultra Parties and then Useless finished off the 1997 campaign with no b-side at all but instead a series of remixes. I've covered all the remixes before and, to be perfectly frank, I don't count them as b-sides so there you go.

Only When I Lose Myself popped up next in support of The Singles 86-98 and featured two b-sides. This is the risk of cd single releases. I can't say Surrender was any more of an additional track than Headstar, so I'm counting both. Surrender is pretty cool and Headstar, an instrumental, is decent, especially when you consider the likes of Slowblow.

Dream On has a cd track 2 of Easy Tiger which is a wholly pointless thing so we'll pass over that and move to I Feel Loved's cd1, track 2, Dirt, which is a cover of a Iggy and the Stooges song, It's pretty good and works in a sleazy kind of way. Freelove brings us back down to earth with the dull instrumental Zenstation, and then Goodnight Lovers doesn't help my structure by not really being a single and having remixes of When The Body Speaks, The Dead of Night and Goodnight Lovers as the other tracks it's backed with. For completeness' sake, let's say When The Body Speaks (Acoustic) is the b-side and leave it at that. 

The next release was Enjoy The Silence 04 and cd1 of that was a simple two track affair adding the Goldfrapp remix of Halo so it's the b-side and it's a very lovely thing indeed.

I don't know what they'd put in the water in the studio, but it was very good indeed, because the Playing The Angel campaign came littered with b-sides which were actual songs and were actually ace. There were also (belatedly in Precious' case) 7" singles! Picture discs at that! They clearly knew I'd be writing this. Anyhow, Precious' b-side was the brilliant Free which could easily have slotted onto the album instead of the weaker tracks towards the end, as could A Pain That I'm Used To's b-side Newborn which is something of a lost Depeche classic. Pedants should note at this point that I am using the original versions of the b-sides as the nominated b-side here. Suffer Well was next and it was backed by the rowdy but lovable Better Days. Only the John The Revelator/Lilian double a-side let the side down, by featuring a remix of Lilian on the flip. Martyr was next and was released to promote the Best Of campaign. The b-side is brilliant Digitalism remix of Never Let Me Down Again.

Wrong not only has a 7" but it is also a coloured vinyl piece of loveliness. Its b-side Oh Well (7" edit) is also a very good thing too and is a collaboration between Dave and Martin. Peace, as well as being an odd choice for a single, was also a 7" coloured vinyl, with a b-side featuring a remix of Come Back by Jonsi from Sigur Ros. The double 12" and cd single for Fragile Tension and Hole To Feed had no b-sides, forsaking a b-side for a collection of unmemorable remixes.

Personal Jesus 2011 didn't have anything other than Personal Jesus remixes all over its gorgeous purple vinyl, so we hasten on to Heaven which was backed by the Dave written album bonus track All That's Mine. It's a great song. Soothe My Soul's cd1 track 2 was the Gesaffelstein remix of Goodbye and to bring us bang up to date, Should Be Higher had no b-side at all; it just had dreadful remixes of Should Be Higher.

So what have we learned? Not much anyone who is a Depeche fan didn't already know I guess but I think we can say that, overall, Depeche haven't treated us too badly b-side wise. For every Slowblow, there's been a Dangerous so on balance, I think we can be happy.



Sunday, 7 September 2014

BLOOD BLOOD - SUNDAY/WORSHIP

Blood blood is Davey Gwynne who is one third of blog favourites Machines In Heaven and his new solo release sunday/worship is something that fans of electronic music really have to get their hands on. The album, which was released on 24 August, is available free from the band's bandcamp page right here - http://bloodblood.bandcamp.com/album/sunday-worship
 
 

This really is a fascinating and, at times, brilliant album. At various times, you could be listening to Kraftwerk, Recoil, Ghosts era Nine Inch Nails and even Tangerine Dream. Lo-fi electronics clash with full on huge sounding productions, vocals occasionally float in and out, bleeps bleep and when it's all done you want to hear it again. Standouts for me are the Kraftwerk like korzybski, the Eno like leeloo and tribe-hell. The latter sounds in places like a remix of Depeche Mode's Stripped and has a mesmerising lead synth part running all the way through it.
 
For fans of electronic music, this really is a must. A hugely impressive release.