Fader – First Light (Blanc Check Records album, 2017)

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Fader is a duo of Blancmange’s Neil Arthur – whose collaboration with Mute stalwarts Fortran 5 on ‘Persian Blues’ remains, in my humble opinion, an overlooked classic – and Benge from John Foxx & The Maths.

First Light is their first album and is released by Blanc Check next week. Here you’ll find Arthur at his elliptical best, backed by some varied and truly ingenious electronic backdrops.

I reviewed the album for This Is Not Reto. My thoughts can be read here.

(c) 2017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for This Is Not Retro

Can – The Singles (Spoon / Mute compilation, 2017)

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Last week Spoon / Mute released The Singles, a collection of all of Can‘s singles and selected B-sides, which serves as a great entry point into the musical genius of this band.

I reviewed the compilation for Clash – read my thoughts here.

(c) 2017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for Clash

Electronic Sound – Issue 29 – New Order / Erasure

The latest issue of Electronic Sound includes a major new interview with New Order ahead of their new live album for Mute, NOMC15. The magazine has also landed a major coup by bundling an exclusive clear vinyl 7″ with special copies of the new issue which includes a previously-unreleased remix of New Order’s ‘Academic’.

I contributed a handful of reviews to the latest issue covering the eclectic fields of pop, electronic jazz, electronic grunge and cinematic soundtrack-friendly material in the form of write-ups of new releases by Slackk, Stuff, The Mark Lanegan Band, Kilchhofer / Hainbach and Erasure. I was proud to achieve another career first this month when a quote from my Erasure review made it to the posters promoting their new album World Be Gone across London’s Underground network.

To buy the special New Order edition of issue 29 of Electronic Sound, head here.

(c) 2017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

iEuropean – Into The Unknown (The People’s Electric album, 2017)

I wrote the following press release for iEuropean’s debut album on The People’s Electric.

The People’s Electric are proud to announce the release of iEuropean’s debut album Into The Unknown, which will be released worldwide on April 21st.

Into The Unknown is just that – an unplanned journey made on utterly unchartered waters, by two of the most unlikely of musical collaborators. That partnership has produced a bold, original musical statement full of unexpected moments, sudden shifts and towering pop songs.

After leaving his former group Empire State Human, iEuropean founder and electronic music stalwart Seán Barron found himself lost at sea and considering a voyage which he intended to take with numerous guest passengers delivering vocals. The project began with an auspicious pairing with Kraftwerk’s Wolfgang Flür (2014’s ‘Activity Of Sound’ EP), but Barron soon found himself drawn increasingly to the siren-like a cappella vocal he’d been sent of a song called ‘Sweet Paranoia’ by an actress and singer friend, Ruth Lalor. The iEuropean ship was taken hastily back to port, fully refitted and then set sail once more, this time as a fully-fledged duo.

Recorded between 2013 and 2016 in Barron’s studio in Dublin and then after its relocation to Kildare, the stylish production of Into The Unknown takes in prowling synths reminiscent of Alan Wilder’s Recoil releases and Depeche Mode albums, disco-era strings, crisp electronic rhythms and occasional unanticipated nods to techno and dance music. This is modern electronic pop music which is both forward-looking and reverential, unafraid to experiment but entirely sensitive to history.

The consistent thread running through this album is Ruth Lalor’s voice, full of bluesy angst and anguished emotional outpourings. Hers is a voice that belongs in smoky underground speakeasies and dimly-lit jazz clubs, all rich soulfulness and molasses-smooth tenderness. On paper, setting that voice to an electronic template would sound as treacherous and ill-advised as deciding to put to sea in the midst of a violent storm, but one listen to tracks like the rapturous nod to dance music on ‘Don’t Lose Control’ or the unpredictable switches of ‘Fire Out’ and you realise that this is a calculated risk that has absolutely paid off.

Into The Unknown was released on April 21st on CD and digital download. The CD can be ordered at www.thepeopleselectric.com/shop.

Track Listing:
1. Sweet Paranoia
2. Falling
3. Fire Out
4. Don’t Lose Control
5. I Will Follow
6. Requiem
7. Sweet Dreams
8. Bring On The Rain
9. We Are Brothers (feat. Clive Pierce from Hard Corps)
10.World Of Fantasy

About The People’s Electric

The People’s Electric is an electronic music community where everyone is welcome. Our artists like to release on physical formats, but our little community will just as readily embrace those who love to download too. We exist to bring great electronic music to your discerning ears, wherever your listening preference. We were founded in 2016 by Jon ‘Jonteknik’ Russell in Shoreham-on-Sea, England.

Press release by Mat Smith for The People’s Electric. (c) 2017 The People’s Electric

© 2017 The People’s Electric

Rupert Lally / Espen J. Jörgensen – Øde (No Studio album, 2017)


The work of Rupert Lally and Espen J. Jörgensen is a lot like a tabloid-friendly romance. The duo have consciously uncoupled more than once, only to reform again each time. There’s no animosity, no conflict, just a compulsion to continue pushing out albums and to keep collaborating whenever they feel like it, typically followed by mutterings that each will be their last project together.

The result of this on-off-on again approach is a series of interconnected albums where the only connection is a firm willingness to do whatever feels right at that particular time. The pair have traded in ambient soundscapes, touched on pop and even mucked around with guitars. From a distance, being so outwardly inconsistent in terms of style could be decried as an incoherent vanity or therapy project never intended to be heard outside of the duo themselves; the reality is instead a rich seam of new ideas and new approaches, largely arising as a result of never physically working together in the same place as one another.

The 25-track Øde’s precedent lies in Lally’s last two solo albums, Day One and Scenes From A High Rise, both of which made heavy use of modular synthesis in their rich sound design, and both of which found Lally’s music taking on a somewhat uncharacteristically dark hue. Øde pushes that darkness to an extreme, the result being a nervous, edgy, tense affair full of cloying atmospheres and a panic-inducing analogue buzz about the sequences.

It would be tempting to view Øde as being a sonic representation of the parlous state of the world right now. Lots of such albums have begun to emerge as musicians variously attempt to direct their anger and resentment through their music; being mostly instrumental, Øde can’t rely on lyrical gestures to make its point. Instead, the album does a commendable job of encapsulating what it feels like to be living through all of this: the feeling that there’s something in the air, something restless, something not quite right that could develop into something far worse if not kept in check. Not for nothing does the album open with a tone-setting piece of sound design – echoes, muffled feedback, a tired voice – called ‘Getting Darker’.

While a lot of Øde relies on modular synth work, the album’s construction from lots of short pieces allows for a multitude of brief ideas to flourish, ranging from orchestral arrangements to wonky hip-hop, filled out by glitchy static and borrowed atmospheres. The pair have always traded voraciously in the markets of eclecticism, but never quite so liberally as they do here. No idea is allowed to develop into repetition, and yet each idea is developed just enough to avoid feeling like a collection of unfinished sketches. The approach feels highly democratic, as if each idea is afforded equal airtime in the album’s debate with itself.

Whether this represents another final album among final albums remains to be seen. If it is, Lally and Jörgensen may have just delivered their definitive statement; if not, what you are listening to here is surely part one of the soundtrack to the end of the world, as realised by its self-appointed resident composers.

Øde is released via Bandcamp – rupertandespen.com

(c) Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

People Are People – The Politics Of Depeche Mode (Clash feature, 2017)

“If ‘Where’s The RevolutIon?’ is any sort of bellwether of what Spirit will sound like, it suggests that Depeche Mode are ready to stop dealing in vagueness, the cryptic and the shrouded, and instead feel inclined to go for a more direct approach to the message they’re trying to get across.”

Clash, 2017

Ahead of the release of the new Depeche Mode album Spirit, I wrote a feature for Clash that explores the political messages within first single ‘Where’s The Revolution?’.

As a rule, I try to steer clear of politics if I can help it, but in the last twelve months that’s been pretty hard to do. And rightly so; to say we live in interesting times is a huge understatenent, and if there’s ever been a time to take notice of politics, amid the chaos and uncertainty in the wake of the votes against the status quo represented by Brexit and Donald Trump, now is most definitely that time.

Even so, this was a piece that I felt ill-equipped to write, until I got started. The piece was written in the second week of a fortnight spent working in the US, initially on the East Coast, then in the Mid-West, then from the East Coast ahead of returning to the UK, and maybe a sense of proximity to what’s going on over there allowed the piece to come together slightly easier. That and taking the opportunity to trawl back through the entire Depeche Mode catalogue in a bid to see whether the political dimension the band were showcasing with new single ‘Where’s The Revolution?’ was really that new after all.

My feature for Clash can be found here.

(c) 2017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for Clash

Laibach – Nova Akropola (Cherry Red album, 1985)


Recorded in London in 1985 with, among others, Mute regular Richard ‘Rico’ Conning, the 2002 reissue of Nova Akropola is an excellently-presented special edition gatefold digipak from Cherry Red Records, and captures Laibach just prior to their Mute releases.

The album begins with ‘Vier Personen’ (‘Four People’), a veritable shot to the head comprising barked, parade ground orders and militaristic drumming, over which an electro-industrial drum machine pattern is repeated, slowly developing as additional banged pipes and other sonic detritus is introduced. A grim and slightly sinister track, this opener adequately sets the tone for the remainder of the album.

‘Nova Akropola’ (‘The New Acropolis’) takes the dark tone of the opener, but deploys strings (keyboards, judging by the repeat points) as the main carrier of its emotion. Horn refrains and a slow, reverberating drum pattern create a filmic atmosphere, with the trademark ‘devil voice’ vocals making their first appearance; the track feels mournful, funereal, conveying plenty of rage and sadness in its minimal sonic palette. Pounding Nitzer Ebb-style drums introduce ‘Krava Gruda – Plodna Zemlja’ (‘Bloody Ground – Fertile Land’), a percussive electronic and machinery-driven vocal track conjuring up memories of Einstürzende Neubauten‘s earliest experiments with air cylinders and heavy construction equipment. Unlike the previous two pieces ‘Krava Gruda…’ has several different themes, rather than a central, developed refrain.

Beginning with some organ discord, ‘Vojna Poema’ (‘War Poem’) quickly develops into an operatic piano song extremely reminiscent of some of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s compositions. Baritone vocals are mixed with what sounds like a full orchestra towards the end of this 1920s-styled piece of avant-cabaret. If ‘Vojna Poema’ was a departure from the earlier tracks on this album, ‘Ti, Ki Izzivas (outro)’ quickly returns us there – layers of stark percussion stalk through this short piece, fading out into ‘Die Liebe’ (‘The Love’), perhaps the closest to some of Laibach’s later Mute output: faster-paced and more aggressive, with those sinister vocals casting a dark shadow on the repeated phrase of the title. The track also features a wider array of electronic sounds, with one of the central melodies recalling Monty Norman’s James Bond theme, once again reinforcing the ‘extreme soundtrack’ atmosphere of this album.

‘Drzava’ (‘The State’) sounds like a twisted take on the electro genre, wherein Mantronix-esque drum programming is mixed with horn flourishes and orchestral-style loops (sampled, I presume), and also features some vocal samples that appear to be of political speeches. The track is one of the liveliest on this album; certainly not euphoric, the track is just one or two shades lighter on the colour chart than the black of the previous material. The accompanying promotional video with dancer and some-time Wire collaborator Michael Clark is fantastically bleak, perfectly rendered in monochrome colours. ‘Vade Retro’ is positively terrifying, its rhythm recalling some sort of alternative version of the Terminator soundtrack as conceived by Throbbing Gristle. The ‘vocals’ here are otherworldly, alternately wheezing and ghostly and scratchy and insistent; the ‘melody’, on the other hand, appears to be church bells mangled and heavily-processed to near oblivion. Perhaps the most aggressive and extreme track here, ‘Vade Retro’ is an exciting collage of sounds that pushes Laibach into electroacoustic territory.

‘Panorama’ ushers in on kick drums that appear to have been borrowed from New Order’s seminal ‘Blue Monday’. Extensive use of synths and percussive samples make this one of the more accessible tracks on the album – the rhythm is tight and the sounds are less obviously harsh. At around three minutes, the track pares back to some percussion loops and spoken word English reportage, before quickly reassembling itself. The final track (‘Decree’) once again begins with some sampled marching band drums, over which another electro break is layered. With the exception of some fairly random atmospherics and the odd sample, the track seems to be nothing more than a stop-start percussive experiment or remix of a more complete work. Despite its absence of more concrete ideas, the track is strangely captivating, although you do feel that this represents something of a filler, a space that would have been better filled with a track more in keeping with the extreme sonic soundscapes elsewhere on the album.

Originally posted 2003; edited 2017

Notes: this was a pretty important review for me, as it represented one of the first times I’d been sent a free CD just to be able to review it. I was amazed at the time that Cherry Red responded to my email at all, let alone that they would part company with a batch of catalogue stuff just so that I could write about it for a website – my own – that was just launching and which was so niche it was never going to attract any readers. Whenever I take the notion of receiving music in my inbox every day via various PR firms for granted, I think back to how fortunate I was that Cherry Red sent me this and other CDs, even though this one has now been sold out of my collection.

(c) 20017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence