Jonteknik – Alternative Arrangements (The People’s Electric album, 2018)

Jonteknik will release Alternative Arrangements via his own label The People’s Electric on 16 March 2018. The album will be Jon Russell’s eighth album as Jonteknik.

Listen to a teaser of Jonteknik’s version of the Depeche Mode track ‘Nothing’ here.

Consisting of ten versions of ten songs by ten different artists, each of these alternative arrangements represents something highly personal for Russell. “I’ve been making music for 30 years,” says Russell of the origins of this project. “The songs featured on this album are just a few that have moved me in some way. They’re songs that have kept me striving to capture even the slightest hint of the magic that they possess in my own work.”

The result is a collection of songs that are immediately familiar, yet presented in a way that feels entirely original. From the funereal electronics of a new interpretation of Joy Division’s ‘Decades’ to the obscure Jeff Wayne music for ‘Gordons Gin’ (previously interpreted by Human League), Alternative Arrangements has a rare quality among covers albums – balancing the reverence with which Russell has toward these formative influences, while also emphasising qualities previously overlooked in the original song. In the case of a stunning re-imagination of The Smiths’ ‘Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want’, you can almost imagine that Morrissey and Marr always envisaged this song being fully realised by electronics.

Alternative Arrangements saw Russell working with a number of vocalists and musicians across the album – Martin Philip, Tom Sanderson (The Propolis), Stephen Newton (GLYDA), Peter Fitzpatrick (Circuit3), Bear Feathers, Jimm Kjelgaard, Sr (Eminent Sol), Tris Learmouth and Bob McCulloch. Together, Russell and his acquaintances take material by Soft Cell, Depeche Mode, The Smiths, OMD, The Doors, The Police – songs and artists that mean so much to a whole generation of listeners – and sensitively reposition their importance all over again.

Alternative Arrangements will be available on LP, CD and through digital / streaming services. Physical formats of the album can be preordered at [link]. The album will be released worldwide on 16 March 2018.

Russell’s notes for each track included on Alternative Arrangements can be found below.

Track listing:

1. Suffer The Children (vocal by Bear Feathers / guitar by Tris Learmouth)
2. Nothing (vocal by Jimm Kjelgaard,Sr. / guitar by Tris Learmouth)
3. Rent (vocal by Martin Philip)
4. Torch (vocal by Tom Sanderson / flugelhorn by Sam Sallon)
5. Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want
6. Decades (vocal by Stephen Newton)
7. Of All The Things We’ve Made (vocal by Peter Fitzpatrick)
8. People Are Strange (vocal by Peter Fitzpatrick)
9. Gordon’s Gin
10. Invisible Sun (guitar by Rob McCulloch)

All production / programming / mixing / vocals by Jonteknik unless otherwise stated. Mastering by Frank Arkwright at Abbey Road Studios.

About Jonteknik

Jon Russell is a programmer / writer / producer / remixer who has been making electronic music since 1988. His credits include co-producing and writing with Paul Humphreys (Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark) and Claudia Brücken (Propaganda), remixing artists such as Le Cliché, Nature Of Wires, Metroland, iEuropean (feat. Wolfgang Flür) and OMD.

About The People’s Electric

The People’s Electric is an electronic music community where everyone is welcome. Our artists like to release music 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, whatever your listening preferences. The People’s Electric was founded in 2016 by Jon ‘Jonteknik’ Russell in Shoreham-by-Sea, England.

Track notes by Jon Russell

‘Suffer The Children’ was the first single by Tears For Fears. Their debut album, The Hurting, is one of my favourite albums of all time. I could have chosen any track from it but this song really touches me. It conjures up hope in some way, although on the surface it appears to be about emotional neglect.

‘Nothing’ by Depeche Mode. I was late getting into DM, It was in 1988. I collected so much vinyl and CDs of theirs. I remember the ‘Zip Hop’ mix of Nothing on a US 12” I had. I loved it. It made me see the song in a completely different way. I always felt there was somewhere else I could take it.

‘Rent’ was the first song I tried to cover, using a Commodore Amiga computer and tracker program at the end of the 1980s. The Pet Shop Boys gave me so many iconic tracks as my thirst for good pop songs grew. This is just a great song that tells a story – remember when songs did that?

‘Torch’ is my favourite song by Soft Cell. The flugelhorn melody is sublime and the added ingredients of Dave Ball’s minimal electronic pop matched with the unmistakable beautifully stylish vocals of Marc Almond make this an insatiable pop song.

‘Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want’ is one of the tenderest songs I know. The Smiths always made the best edgy music and this song demonstrates their diversity as premier song writers.

‘Decades’ by Joy Division. The song illustrates the poetical vulnerability of Ian Curtis so blatantly. His words sit magnificently upon the moody soundtrack, and it’s forever a thing of beauty.

‘Of All The Things We’ve Made’. Having been extremely lucky enough to write with Paul Humphreys of Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, I wanted to choose a song of OMD’s that might not be an obvious choice. Luckily for me, they professed to have wanted to be both ABBA and Kraftwerk at one time. The album ‘Dazzle Ships’, their most ‘experimental’, features this song. I imagined it the way I’ve presented it on this album in a dream I had.

‘People Are Strange’ by The Doors. This is one of those songs that appeals to oddballs like me. You can’t help but sing along after a few listens. It’s one of my guilty pleasures.

‘Gordon’s Gin’ is an instrumental track by Jeff Wayne, originally written for an advertisement for that brand of gin. My version is inspired by a cover by the early Human League line-up which can be found on their Travelogue album. I found that keeping the tempo the same throughout the song, unlike the Human League version, it takes on an interesting life of its own. The melody is so addictive – I love it.

‘Invisible Sun’ is by my favourite childhood band The Police. The tour to support Ghost In The Machine, the album this is from, was the first concert I ever attended back in 1981. I was only nine years old and it was probably the first time I understood a meaningful song. When they performed it, they played the ‘controversial’ video about the troubles in Northern Ireland on a large screen. I then realised that music had a visual dimension too.

© 2018 Mat Smith for The People’s Electric

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Documentary Evidence 2017 Top 10 Albums: 6. Depeche Mode ‘Spirit’

“Not an album to listen to if you are remotely worried about the state of the world right now… The kind of album that is necessary for shining a light on our basest traits and for encouraging us to think differently all over again; in that sense, for the first time in a long time, Depeche Mode have judged this just right.”
– Clash

Honestly, I couldn’t bring myself to get excited about Depeche Mode‘s Spirit album. Partly it was because it was billed as being political, and I’m not an outwardly political person and nor do I especially gravitate toward albums with obvious political content. I was asked by Clash to write a piece explaining that Depeche Mode had always been political on some level, which seemed like utter nonsense until I started writing it. That piece can be found here; I won’t rehash it again but it’s a piece of mature analysis that I am particularly proud of.

‘Where’s The Revolution?’ did nothing for me when it was released, and I didn’t hold out much hope for the album. Being political had become trendy, with bands using music as a platform to make a political point, and I couldn’t get on board with it at all. But spending time with the album to write a review, also for Clash, unlocked something that I hadn’t especially expected to find.

My earliest drafts for the review were uniformly negative. I couldn’t reconcile lyrics about impoverished members of society with a band whose members variously live in Manhattan apartments and Californian mansions; it somehow seemed hypocritical on a very obvious level. But as I spent time time with Spirit I began to hear parallels with a very different album – Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On – and a certain similarity of poise began to emerge, especially in Martin Gore‘s lyrics for ‘Fail’ at the very end of the album.

Spirit did much to allow me to reconcile issues that I didn’t even know I harboured toward Depeche Mode, a band that have been part of my life since my teens. Consequently, I’m convinced that when, in decades to come, writers like me are asked to assess Depeche Mode’s legacy, Spirit will stand out as the band’s surprising yet defining late period statement.

Listen to Spirithere.

My review for Clash can be found here.

(c) 2017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Depeche Mode – The O2 Arena, London 22.11.2017 – photos by Andy Sturmey

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(c) 2017 Andy Sturmey for Documentary Evidence & This Is Not Retro

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

MG – Europa Hymn (Mute Records single, 2015) – Official Video

Mute Records today revealed the animated video for ‘Europa Hymn’, the first single taken from the forthcoming Martin Gore album MG which is released in April.

I had the great pleasure of getting to interview Martin earlier this month; that interview will be published online ahead of MG‘s release.

(c) 2015 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Depeche Mode Photo

Depeche Mode photoI was wandering through our Edinburgh office last month when I came upon this collage of Eighties celebrities, presumably as part of some sort of guilty pleasure thing. Depeche Mode and Carl from Neighbours anyone?

(c) 2014 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Gwen Stefani – Wonderful World (Interscope, 2006)

Gwen Stefani 'The Sweet Escape' CD artwork

The Sweet Escape album | Interscope | 2006

Mute alumni Martin Gore and Richard Hawley appeared on this upbeat closer to Gwen Stefani’s The Sweet Escape, both adding their guitar talents to a song which sounds suspiciously like Stefani trying to cover Depeche Mode‘s ‘Enjoy The Silence’ via Black’s song of the same name. Hawley and Gore’s contributions are quiet and not exactly distinctive: Hawley seems to offer ruminative slide guitar wheras Gore’s playing seems to be the kind of simple but devastating melodies he’s made his own. Unfortunately, they’re both just drowned out by the garish high energy pop of this Linda Perry-penned tune.

First posted 2013; re-posted 2014.

(c) 2014 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence