A Taut makeover for “Cities In Dust” by #SiouxsieandtheBanshees c/o remixers @Nazariff_ and @RoseThrone_

SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES, “Cities In Dust” (Nazariff x Rosé Throne remix)

Take it from someone who lived through the era as an adult, and also someone who doesn’t write about older songs remixed very often, American remixers Nazariff and Rosé Throne have done contemporary justice to 1985 alt.rock and dance classic “Cities in Dust” by Siouxsie & The Banshees originally from the Tinderbox album.  It was an important record for Siouxsie.  After many hits in the UK starting in 1978, “Cities In Dust”, with its raw vocal and tribal rhythm, was her US breakthrough, which ultimately culminated in the 1991 pop and dance hit “Kiss Them For Me”, and effectively extending her chart career to 1995 in the UK.  Nazariff and Rosé Throne honour the goth origins of the song, giving it a cinematic, taut makeover that loses nothing in its translation to 2017.  It’s hard to get it right and please everyone, but Siouxsie fans and club DJ’s will certainly embrace this remix.  You can download it for free at the link above.

“We Can’t Stop What’s Coming” brings back the distinct voice of @TheThe’s Matt Johnson, from new documentary

THE THE , “We Can’t Stop What’s Coming”

Some of my favourite alternative rock and dance music of the 80’s was written and performed by London’s Matt Johnson, better known to you as the constant behind The The for more than 35 years.  I was also fortunate to see The The perform in Toronto in 1990 (and it seems maybe one other time).  The The returns as the subject of an upcoming documentary called “The Inertia Variations” with “We Can’t Stop What’s Coming”, in tribute to Matt’s late brother Andy.  It’s a captivating, gentle song about getting older and realizing there’s not much time left to accomplish what you want.  The The has often laid out controversial issues front and centre in its songs and videos, so one should expect nothing but honesty and realism here.  In the video you’ll even see flashbacks to early The The videos such as “This Is The Day” and “Infected”, and Johnny Marr returns to contribute guitar work to “We Can’t Stop What’s Coming” too.  I hope this new song is the start of more new music from The The after more than a decade’s absence.  Matt’s voice sounds older and resigned in this song but as warmly engaging as ever.

ContempoRetro: New @Parralox in generous “Subculture”

PARRALOX, Subculture

You can never knock a Parralox album for being anything less than a high quality venture from Australian producer/vocalist/synthmaster and all round nice guy John von Ahlen.  It’s a journey through almost every possible synth sound created between the late 70’s and now, with songs that are shaped to give you major feels for parts of all of those eras – a couple of the songs sound like they were teleported in from the late 1979 disco/new wave melting pot in particular!  Subculture, Parralox’s 10th long-player and also the title of one of my very favourite New Order songs 🙂 is the sum of all of its parts and more featuring vocals by John and several friends/guests.  

Out of 14 generous tracks, the opener “Paradise” features the acclaimed Marcella Detroit, most noted as one half of Shakespear’s Sister but with a storied career before that as songwriter and session singer.  John’s rich production is the perfect match for a crisp and savvy vocal by Marcella which brings out the heartache in the song.  Equally ear-catching but on a totally different bent is “Last Man Standing” featuring fellow Aussie Peter Wilson, which has a 70’s pop radio flavour to contrast its driving beat.  “A Question Of Love” makes an unofficial trilogy from the Depeche Mode songs “A Question Of Lust” and “A Question Of Time”, one of the darker more brooding songs in Subculture featuring a lovely vocal by Louise Love.  

Elsewhere on the album you’ll hear Human League bassist Ian Burden (especially on “Overdrive”), and vocals by Johanna Gervin and Lillia, plus two redone Parralox songs, “Rocket Science II” and “Voyager II”.  One of the best songs also is all John on “Change Of Heart”.  Subculture is as much disco as it is mid-80’s post-new wave electronicas as it is contemporary house music.

Always bold and adventurous and as contemporary as retro, John von Ahlen and Parralox’s Subculture is a feast for the ears, the heart and your dancing shoes.  Hear it all at the link above and buy it at your favourite online music store.

“Heartbeat” by @Autografmusic gets a post-disco workout by @Cloudchord and @FrancisPreve

AUTOGRAF, “Heartbeat” (Cloudchord x Francis Preve remix) (free DL)

You never quite know what to expect when a new Cloudchord remix arrives, and this time he’s paired up with fellow Austin denizen Francis Preve, the noted wizard of synths and sounds as well as remixer of songs by Dragonette and Sander Kleinenberg, for a retooling of “Heartbeat” by Chicago trio Autograf.  In the best of worlds, all sub-sub-genres of dance music fuse and merge to become new sounds, and Cloudchord and Francis take us on a time trip where disco was evolving and a new wave of punk-inspired rock music and dance music was gelling.  Thus the remix of “Heartbeat” has numerous classic disco flourishes with late 70’s, early 80’s progressive, electronic synth sounds, which when combined with today’s technology and retro early 2000 house rhythms, vocals, and melodies doesn’t quite sound like anything else out there.  This remix of “Heartbeat” will definitely give club DJ’s pause for thought – how to make it stand out in a set with its engaging six minute length as it rightly should.  You can check out all the fuss I’m trying to say in so many words by clicking on the link above and downloading it for free 🙂

Published in: on February 2, 2017 at 11:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Wild and funky! “Get It On” by @Jenauxmusic

JENAUX, “Get It On”

Not long ago, I brought to your attention a savvy remix of The Chainsmokers & Daya’s “Don’t Let Me Down” by rising NYC-based producer/DJ Jenaux.  He’s dropped a new original called “Get It On” and it’s one wild and funky ride.  I often have trouble getting past wacky vocal effects but there is so much going on in “Get It On” in terms of gritty groove and deep house flavour.  It all somehow mixes in with all of the wild goings on including 70’s funk (think Parliament-Funkadelic), disco (Chic for sure), and 80’s new wave (Rio-era Duran Duran?) to provide a festive feast for your ears and feet.  “Get It On” is what the BOOM in your speakers is all about and Jenaux pulls out all of the stops.

Published in: on May 4, 2016 at 10:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Telling the story: @EMutemusic’s cover of “Love Will Tear Us Apart”

E-MUTE, “Love Will Tear Us Apart”

Following up his recent release I Can Pay For It, UK-based singer/pianist/drummer E-Mute delivers his cover of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart”.  And before you start shaking your head, muttering “why”, and so on, do give this piano-driven rendition a few listens.  E-Mute presents this as a classic story, perhaps a bit theatrical in a few vocal inflections, but nonetheless perfectly suited to the anguished, tortured soul of the song.  There is absolutely no vocal like Ian Curtis’ original, and I’ve heard some terrible covers over the years.  But E-Mute has it in the bag – purchase it on Bandcamp right here.

Published in: on February 20, 2016 at 9:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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coolclevercovers: The Recovery album by @Parralox

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PARRALOX  Recovery

There’s very little that I like better in the world of music than a record that is full of ambition and is obviously a labour of love.  Much-praised Australian duo Parralox (aka electronics whiz John von Ahlen and singer Amii Jackson) recorded Recovery over two years ago, but as the 1980’s move further away, it’s probably better to be released now (available on iTunes), especially with new and notable releases this year by Pet Shop Boys and Depeche Mode, who have toured and/or are touring (as well as New Order).  Parralox tackles songs by all of them – three by Depeche Mode, one by New Order and its predecessor Joy Division – as well as a most curious and intriguing gamut of 18 pop/new wave/dance tunes from the early 80’s through to the early 90’s, some hits or dance club hits, and others more on the fringe.

For those of you who know Parralox’s recent work, such as “Hotter” (from This Beat Is… Poptronik Volume One) and “Silent Morning”, the supurb cover of the Noel 80’s freestyle and pop hit (also to be included on This Beat Is… Poptronik Volume Two), you are likely more familiar with Amii’s Gwen Stefani-meets-Madonna voice.  She has additional shining moments on Recovery, bringing a new human dimension minus the robotix on Kraftwerk’s “The Model”; a bang on ready-for-clubs rendition of Madonna’s “Physical Attraction”; a synth-washed pop version of Depeche Mode’s “Somebody”; and a straight forward take on ABBA’s “The Day Before You Came”, as well as harmonies on some songs.

Most of the rest of the album is John’s baby.  He’s brazen enough to offer up radio-ready “Eye In The Sky”, originally by The Alan Parsons Project and the biggest “hit” within, with eerie Eric Woolfson-like vocalizing, and it will be the next single from the album.  He pulls some great 80s electropop out of storage, creating beautiful new synth sounds for Blancmange’s “Blind Vision” (who also recorded a much droller and different version of “The Day Before You Came” on the same album, Mange Tout); a dance floor feeding frenzy in the 7 minute + cover of Sparks’ “Number One Song In Heaven” (which original producer Giorgio Moroder has recently praised, take that!!); a more accessible reinterpretation of Front 242’s industrial dance hit “Headhunter”, to me the best song on the album (listen below – wait for that whip to crack!), with vocals as if Dave Gahan joined forces with Blancmange’s Neil Arthur; a strong version of Depeche Mode’s recent hit “Heaven” that was made available on You Tube this Spring; and a bold, proud version of DM’s “Black Celebration” which opens the album as the perfect lead in.  

Other successes on their own terms are covers of  lesser known songs, such as The Cure’s early “A Forest”, The Human League’s “I Love You Too Much” (from the Hysteria album), Pet Shop Boys’ “In The Night Two” (which was the B-side to PSB’s 80’s hit “Opportunities”), and Australian act Q Lazzarus’ “Goodbye Horses”, which some of you may know better from a mid-90s cover by Canadian group Psyche.

A record of 18 songs does not go without its missteps, and I give full credit to Parralox for their creativity and insight into these songs, but they would be the reworks of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, New Order’s “Touched By The Hand Of God”, and DAF’s “Kebabträume” – the latter is not my cuppa, and I’m way too attached to the originals of the former two.  All in all, though, you can lock me up in a room anytime with a host of Parralox covers and while I might not know what to expect next, I will be totally, and enthusiastically, engaged 🙂

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Published in: on August 21, 2013 at 8:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Alt-Electro: Depeche Mode, Parralox, BAKER, SIRPAUL, Sergey Lazarev, and Everything Everything

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Depeche Mode, “Heaven”

It’s rare that I get to write about a group or performer whose entire career has been roughly the same length as my adult life.  So I’ve basically grown up with Depeche Mode from listening to – and not really liking – their first album Speak & Spell back in my college radio days in 1981.  In fact I didn’t fully begin appreciating the multi-faceted talents of the band until 1984’s Some Great Reward, when it was extremely clear that they were more than just a new wave synth pop band and had to diversify to survive that era in music.  And survive they did; they’ve actually made some of their best and most interesting music in recent years and have a repertoire that any band that’s been in the biz for 30 years would kill for.

“Heaven” (video below) is the first single from Depeche Mode’s upcoming album Delta Machine, due at the end of March, their first for Columbia and latest since 2009’s hit-and-miss Sounds Of The Universe.  It’s a languid affair but it does feature a most compelling and passionate vocal by Dave Gahan that definitely pulls you in and brings you back again.  I’m sure the band will mix it up for the new album, but think of the song for lack of exact comparisons as “I Feel You” (without the blistering guitar sounds) meets “Stripped” with a dash of “Precious”.  Would love to hear some true Depeche Mode fan comments about this one!

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Parralox, “Enjoy The Silence” and “Heaven”

In those 30-plus years, Depeche Mode has influenced an endless array of performers.  I’ve been writing about Australian electronic duo Parralox recently, and they have been one of the first out of the gate not only with an electronic cover of “Heaven”, but also a reverent and most welcome cover of the band’s biggest North American hit “Enjoy The Silence”.  This time John takes on lead vocals from Amii and brings another dimension to the duo’s growing catalogue of songs.  It’s no mean feat to carry off covers like these but Parralox performs them in style and they can easily help make them contenders in electro dance this year after already receiving positive notice with “Sharper Than A Knife”.  Watch the video for “Enjoy The Silence” and listen to their take on “Heaven” below.

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BAKER, “Overload”

It’s only been a few weeks since the video for BAKER’s “If U Love Me” dropped, but after hearing the Red One-produced “Overload”, it’s absolutely no surprise why this one couldn’t wait.  This is one of those exceptional powerhouse arpeggio-laden dance records that could send BAKER into the international dance charts.  It’s sound goes hand-in-hand with Red One’s contemporaries like Calvin Harris, David Guetta, Ian Carey, and others, but what makes the difference here is BAKER’s stunning vocal, which helps raise the bar even higher.  Listen below.


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SIRPAUL, “Glow”

SIRPAUL is a New York singer/producer/remixer who has been making music by his own set of rules for the last 15 years.  After establishing himself as a force in his own city, his music has been spreading around the world.  To be honest, I had only just heard of him when his song “Going Down In La La Land” was a highlight on last year’s absolutely essential This Beat Is…Poptronik Volume One collection.  Since then he’s released his latest album The Horse, from which comes the latest single “Glow”, highlighted by an expensive-looking video with some beautiful images below.  The song sparkles and has a killer vocal that stands out from the rest.

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Sergey Lazarev, “Take It Off”

Some of you may know Sergey Lazarev as one half of Russian group Smash during the last decade.  Others may know him from his cover of Johnny Hates Jazz’s “Shattered Dreams”, whose video was clearly shot in my city and looks like Sergey had Yonge Street all to himself  (below) 😉 “Take It Off” is from his latest album Lazarev, available on iTunes, a dance track with an upfront flirty intent.  You can see how much Sergey’s vocals have progressed since “Shattered Dreams”; you can’t have such a tease of a song without having a commanding vocal.  Watch the live performance of “Take It Off” from last summer below.  A video for the song has been in production and I hope it will surface.

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Everything Everything, “Cough Cough”

Mighty drums are ablaze and surely what will attract you to the latest single from UK quartet Everything Everything.  “Cough Cough” comes from the band’s sophomore album Arc, released last month in the UK.  It’s definitely an alt.mix of tribal rhythms and electronics that will lift you out of your seat and make you watch and listen, particularly if you like other similar bands such as The Presets or Depeche Mode.  The band is signed to The Strokes’ singer Julian Casablancas’ label Cult Records for North American release, and will see an EP of “Cough Cough” on release February 5.  Everything Everything also performs two shows at SXSW in March.

Favourites From The Decade Lists, Part 2: The 1980’s

As we approach the end of the first decade of the 2000’s, I’ve decided to add my lists of personal favourites from the 70’s, 80’s  and 90’s in preparation for the end of this decade.

This list for me showed a personal evolution of Top 40 oriented pop and dance songs through modern/alternative rock of the early 80’s, through to highly personalized selections from the late 80’s.  1986 was a critical year when our local Top 40 AM station shuttered, leaving listeners to find their own way through to their ‘hits’.  Fortunately with my involvement in campus radio up to 1988, I had a treasure trove of selections to hear as well as access to other music buffs whose own choices might influence my tastes.  By the end of the decade, though the focus was still on Singles – and I have many album tracks from the 80’s that should be on a Best Of list – it evolved into a highly personalized set of songs, some of which are not known or recalled by many.  If you’re a fan of CFNY-FM Toronto (now The Edge 102.1), light splashes of Canadian success by the likes of MOEV, Rarefaction, Vis-a-Vis, Blue Peter, Saga, Scott Merritt, and Spoons may trigger happy memories.   New Order, The Style Council, INXS, and Big Country were my artists of the day, while ‘one hits’ by the likes of It’s Immaterial, Wah!, When In Rome, Womack & Womack, and Secret Service also grace the list (link below).

Bill’s 100 Favourite Singles of the 1980’s