Plant Plants debut EP blur boundaries between electronica, indie & synth pop

Plant Plants - Stuart Francis & Howard Whatley
Plant Plants

Plant Plants self-titled debut EP includes 4 tracks, each exploring different soundscapes.

Plant Plants are friends, Stuart Francis and Howard Whatley. They formed the group through their mutual love of film scores, weird guitar tunings & heavy beats, theirs is a sound which effortlessly combines the rare blend of electronica and eclectic imagery that sets them apart from contemporary comparisons.

Citing influences as varied as the Wickerman soundtrack, Wu Tang – the 36 chambers era – and L.A. based ‘beat-scene’ producer Baths, it’s no surprise their oddball electronica meets melodic music, is causing waves amongst the blogosphere.

Produced by Jas Shaw, one half of DJ and production unit Simian Mobile Disco, it’s a modern imagining on a sound reminiscent of early nineties bands first discovering electronic music, mining the fertile seam of the first wave of post-rock.

Lead track Hands That Sleep and I’m So Black fuse math rock guitars with aquacrunk synth programming and hip-hop wizardry, whilst the vocal-lead She’s No One comes over like Suede gone electronic, and final track Dandelion nods towards Sparklehorse. Trying to hang easy reference points of music this unique is essentially a fool’s errand though – although the tracks show off a wide variety of influences and styles, a coherent, individual thread runs through them all.

As proficient in the digital world as they are with traditional analogue instrumentation, Plant Plants live show is an intimate combination of hands-on hardware samplers, framed by parallel vocals, guitars, bass & a digital piano. Integral to the tight knit, 2-man setup is an array of 15+ effects pedals ranging from Voice Boxes & Woolly Mammoth fuzzboxes, to 90s Kaoss Pads -all at an arm’s length. All samples & effects are fingered & manipulated live as instruments, with not a laptop to be seen! Plant Plants prefer to build their songs from the ground up, aiming to provide something more, than the usual gig experience.

My favourite is ‘Hands That Sleep‘ which I can best describe as The Cure’s ‘Close To Me‘ sipping coffee in an empty diner with Gold Panda while Neil Tennant discusses the possibility of making The Pet Shop boys sound less synth pop and really weird.

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Be-Bop Deluxe and Beyond – Bill Nelson ITV Legends Concert, March 26, London

Bill Nelson, leader of pop art bands Be-Bop Deluxe and Red Noise
Bill Nelson photo: Martin Bostock

On March 26th ITV films a special concert at Metropolis Studios in London, featuring guitar legend Bill Nelson, leader of pop art bands Be-Bop Deluxe and Red Noise.

Bill Nelson left high profile music some years back, due to his dislike of the music industry machine.  However, his influence is immense.  Admired by Paul McCartney, Brian May, David Bowie, Kate Bush, Eno, Prince, The Foo Fighters, The Darkness, My Chemical Romance among others.

Through conversations with Bill I’ve put this beginners’ guide to the enigma that is Bill Nelson together, as a prelude to this unique concert which still has a few seats available.

Bill Nelson’s celebrity career started with 1970’s Art School band Be-Bop Deluxe, where he had considerable success with classic albums like Futurama, Sunburst Finish and Drastic Plastic.  By the mid 1970’s Be-Bop Deluxe were conquering America although Bill’s dislike for the Rock’n’Roll lifestyle was revealed in his lyrics:

“This jet age life is getting worse, I feel I’m half a universe away…, I left my home some time ago, To fight the creatures of the U.S.A…, You tell me that this neon world is free…, You say this is the place I ought to be…, The time has come for me to go…, You say it’s fast but it’s feeling slow today…”
(Lost in the Neon World – from the album Modern Music).

It was time for a change and Bill disbanded Be-Bop Deluxe and formed Red Noise, a synth / new age band that was considered way ahead of its time, paving the way for 1980’s acts like Gary Numan, A Flock of Seagulls and many others.

Red Noise’s music was jagged and edgy and EMI dropped Bill Nelson at this point since he refused to perform ‘more of the same’.  It was shortly after this time that Bill was a pioneer in what we would now call Indie music, releasing albums made in his own studio on his own ‘Cocteau’ record label.  Many of these home-made creations were of superior quality to what others have created in the most professional of recording studios.

At various points since this, Nelson has dabbled with the music industry, having had recording deals with Mercury and CBS, but his heart is more within the inventor’s domain, locked in his home studio.   He has produced a more or less continuous stream of music in several different genres over the last twenty years.  Much of it can be accessed through Bill Nelson’s website ‘Dreamsville’.

His latest works are mostly lush ambient soundscapes although he is still not averse to churning out a 3 minute pop classic that would leave any of the X Factor great pretenders in the shade.  He will be mixing old with new at the ITV Legends concert in London on Saturday March 26th, performing a set which includes a wide range of Be-Bop Deluxe material, Red Noise and his later collaborations with the late Mick Karn of Japan, plus a few hedonistic sonic soundscapes from his more recent work.

Check out the concert details if you want to be a part of this once in a lifetime experience.  I wrote a personal cameo about Bill Nelson in the book Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll, as he is a master of continuous creativity and reinvention.

For more information about Peter Cook:  The Rock’n’Roll Business Guru, visit The Academy Of Rock.

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Moira Stewart Debut Album Finally gets a Remix Release

Sweetness, Yes Please! by Moira Stewart is released on Distraction Records
Sweetness, Yes Please! by Moira Stewart is released on Distraction Records.

Following the release of the original studio album in April 2008, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne’s finest Distraction Records release a remix album of Sweetness, Yes! by the oddly named trio, Moira Stewart.

The original Sweetness, Yes! album proved Moira Stewart’s affection for 1980’s synth pop with a nod to the sound of C86, New Order and contemporary artists like The Postal Service.  As with previous remix album releases on the label, each Distraction Records artist have remixed a track from the originally album in a style of their own, and the result is an excellent compilation of remixes from the likes of Tempelhof, d_rradio, Cathode and Dressed In Wires, among others.

Considering each artist brings their own style to Sweetness, Yes Please! the album has a remarkable and surprising continuity throughout.  The swirling synth pop electronic remixes from Keith Canisus and Tranisent, the drum machine-driven synth pop of Wroooaaar!, glitch ambience of remixes by Tempelhof, OK Ikumi, Phasmid, Orange Crush and Dot Tape Dot, the spaced-out housed of Mood4, Cathode and Spintronic, electronic dub of Dave Curle, IDM of The Matinee Orchestra and Dressed In Wires, and the feedback-dripping pop of d_rradio, Sweetness, Yes Please! is an exceptional album and will be a late entry on many ‘best albums of 2010’ lists, come the end of the year.

Favourite tracks include the glitch and dub ingredients of Phasmid’s remix of the wonderfully titled, We Still With Our Parents, the dreamy My Bloody Valentine-esque glitch of Tempelhof’s Love Drops, the squelchy space of Mood4’s In The Kitchen and the Jesus & Marychain inspired feedback and distortion-soaked candy pop remix of Give A Little Love by d_rradio.

As with the original studio album, Moira Stewart’s Sweetness, Yes Please! remix album will put a smile on your face and have you nodding your head and tapping your feet.  A perfect way to keep warm inside this winter.

Sweetness, Yes Please! by Moira Stewart tracklisting:

1)    You Are The Kids (Keith Canisius Remix)
2)    Top Ten Drinks (Wroooaar! Remix)
3)    Love Drops (Tempelhof Remix)
4)    Sprinkle Glitter On My Heart (Ok Ikumi Remix)
5)    We Still Live With Our Parents (Phasmid Remix)
6)    In The Kitchen (Mood4 Remix)
7)    Give A Little Love (Orange Crush Remix)
8)    The Mr. Men Groove (Dot Tape Dot Remix)
9)    Intermission
10)    Sprinkle Glitter On Heart (Cathode Remix)
11)    You Are The Kids (Transient Remix)
12)    Stars Are Shiny (Spintronic Remix)
13)    In The Kitchen (The Matinee Orchestra Remix)
14)    We Still Live With Our Parents (Dave Curle’s Dub Remix)
15)    The Mr. Men Groove (Dressed In Wires Remix)
16)    Give A Little Love (d_rradio Chain Remix)

Sweetness, Yes Please! by Moira Stewart is released on Distraction Records.

Former Ghosts offer free mixtape download ahead of new album release

Former Ghosts - New Love

Former Ghosts release their highly anticipated new album, New Love, on November 8th, promising a fresher, poppier sound but with darker undertones than their debut album.

Former Ghosts, the synthpop inspired band were formed and led by Freddy Ruppert (this song is a mess but so am i) and consist of Jamie Stewart (Xiu Xiu), Nika Roza (Zola Jesus), and Yasmine Kittles (Tearist).

To get you in the mood for the latest offering Freddy Ruppert is offering a free download of the collection Welcome to Old Love by Former Ghosts.

The full mixtape collection features demos, outtakes, live performances, remixes and other previously unreleased music. You can download Welcome to Old Love now on Freddy’s blog.

Here is the video of the latest video from Former Ghosts – New Orleans

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Former Ghosts will also play the following UK dates:

UK Dates (with Xiu Xiu):
October

29th – Dublin, Darklight Festival at Grand Social
30th – Bristol, Arnolfini
31st – Leeds, Brudenell Social Club

November
1st London, XOYO (rare group performance with Zola Jesus + Xiu Xiu)

John Foxx Live @ The Roundhouse, London – live review

John Foxx @ The Roundhouse, June 2010
John Foxx @ The Roundhouse, June 2010 photo: Simon Pollock

Not normally one for retro gigs, I was drawn to this as soon as I was aware John Foxx would be playing a special concert at the prestigious Roundhouse theatre to celebrate 30 years since the original release of his ground-breaking debut solo album, Metamatic. For this special occasion John Foxx would be accompanied on stage by special guests and a bank of analogue-only synthesizers.

The mood was set with a DJ set from Gary Numan & Ade Fenton of late 1970’s and early 1980’s electronic music, the likes of Nag Nag Nag by Cabaret Voltaire, Are Friends Electric by Tubeway Army and Memorabilia by Soft Cell filled the Roundhouse, a perfect choice of venue.

John Foxx was greeted by very enthusiastic applause and took centre-stage behind a bank of synthesizers. His set was in three-parts; the first being songs from Metamatic, early singles and b-sides from that era. Burning Car, This Town, He’s A Liquid, No One Driving, and of course Underpass (or as one of my friends used to sing ‘Underpants’).

The crowd were mesmerised by the almost motionless John Foxx as he orchestrated proceedings from the front of the stage while a large screen played fitting monochrome accompaniment to analogue songs.

For the second part of the set Foxx introduced Louis Gordon, and played songs from their collaborations from albums from the mid-1990’s. Gordon found it hard to hide his excitement but it was clear the audience were here to hear older John Foxx tracks.

With Underpass already played, the final part of the show had to be something special, and it was. Joining John Foxx on stage to play three songs was original Ultravox guitarist Robin Simon. The crowd went mad for Dislocation, Quiet Man and Slow Motion from the 1978 album ‘Systems of Romance’.

Like his music, John Foxx has aged well. Away from commercial pandering, Top of the Pops limelight and synth pop comings and goings, John Foxx decided to turn his back on commercial success after Metamatic; a move that kept his dignity and fan base intact. Unlike Midge Ure’s Ultravox and the smash hits world of Gary Numan, John Foxx was seen as more thought-provoking and serious about his musical output.

Now, thirty years on, at the Roundhouse, his music lived on.