Category Archives: Electronica

9 of the best – sounds of nineties

Good morning. It’s a little bit later than normal but hopefully worth the wait. I participated in The Great South Run yesterday, which was was celebrating its 30th anniversary with a 1990s party. It was fun, but certainly not a collection of the decade’s best songs. I give you my favourite nine sounds in chronological order. I have to say this is by far the toughest best-of list that I’ve published… just look at the quality of sound that I demoted to honourable footnotes.

Massive Attack – Unfinished Sympathy (1991)

R.E.M. – Nightswimming (1992)

Jeff Buckley – Last Goodbye (1994)

The Smashing Pumpkins – 1979 (1995)

Oasis – The Masterplan (1995)

Sparklehorse – Cow (1995)

Radiohead – Let Down (1997)

Mercury Rev – Holes (1998)

Wilco – She’s A Jar (1999)

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Honourable mentions also go to: Cocteau Twins for ‘Cherry Coloured Funk‘ (1990); Pulp for ‘Babies‘ (1992); Pavement for ‘In The Mouth A Desert‘ (1992); Blur for ‘To The End‘ (1994) and ‘The Universal‘ (1995); Beastie Boys for ‘Sabotage‘ (1994); The Flaming Lips for ‘Placebo Headwound‘ (1995) and ‘Race For The Prize‘ (1999); Radiohead for ‘Fake Plastic Trees‘ (1995); Red House Painters for ‘Have You Forgotten‘ (1996); Spiritualized for ‘Ladies and Gentlemen We are Floating in Space‘ (1997); and Röyksopp for ‘So Easy‘ (1999).

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9 of the best – sounds of 1990

Looking beyond the pervasive sounds of ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’, ‘Ice Ice Baby’ and ‘World In Motion’, 1990 had so much more to offer. For the weekend, I give you my favourite sounds that year, in no particular order…

Primal Scream – Loaded

Beltram – Energy Flash

Happy Mondays – Kinky Afro

Depeche Mode – Enjoy The Silence

Cocteau Twins – Cherry Coloured Funk

Smallage – Together

The Orb – Little Fluffy Clouds

Pet Shop Boys – Being Boring

Adamski feat. Seal – Killer

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Honourable mentions also go to: Enigma for ‘Callas Went Away‘; Happy Mondays for ‘Step On‘; A Tribe Called Quest for ‘Can I Kick It?‘; Faith No More for ‘Falling To Pieces‘; The KLF for ‘Wichita Lineman Was A Song I Once Heard‘; Lush for ‘De-Luxe‘; The Charlatans ‎for ‘The Only One I Know‘; and LFO for ‘LFO

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Nils Frahm ‎- Says (2013)

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Like last month’s post of Martin Roth’s ‘An Analog Guy In A Digital World’, this sound from Nils Frahm is a serene interlude. ‘Says’ features on his 2013 album Spaces. He creates a pure, pulsating soundscape that is both contemporary and classical.

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Japan ‎- Quiet Life (1980)

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Formed in Catford in 1974, Japan comprised David Sylvian on vocals, his brother Steve Jansen on drums, Richard Barbieri on keyboards, Mick Karn on saxophone/bass and Rob Dean on guitar. These glam rockers were influenced by artists like T. Rex, Roxy Music, David Bowie and Lou Reed, all eminently unfashionable by the time the band hit their stride during the UK punk era. But their fortunes turned around with the emergence of the New Romantic movement. Suddenly their androgynous image and the addition of synthesisers made them cool. Success followed, and it, in turn, poisoned the relationship between Karn and Sylvian; Japan split in late 1982. The title track off their 1980 long player Quiet Life is where this change started.

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Martin Roth ‎- An Analog Guy In A Digital World (2016)

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… and now for something completely different. In 2016, German DJ and producer Martin Roth self released the single ‘An Analog Guy In A Digital World’. I think a lot of us can empathise.

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Depeche Mode ‎- Behind The Wheel (1987)

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In 1987, Depeche Mode created a larger sound, were about to embark on a mammoth world tour, would break through in America and document that success in the classic live album 101. I remember putting the needle on the vinyl and hearing the live versions of ‘Pimpf’ and ‘Behind The Wheel’ for the first time; that initial wall of sound would not be matched gain until ‘Airbag’ opened OK Computer nearly a decade later. ‘Behind The Wheel’ kicked off Side Two of the ambitiously named LP Music for the Masses.

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9 of the best – sounds of 1991

A compilation for my hangover. Also a compilation for what looks like its going to be one of the last sunny days in September. I was immersed in dance music in 1991, but R.E.M., Nirvana, Mercury Rev and Lenny Kravitz were able to break into a best-of list otherwise dominated by the sound of house music.

Orbital – Belfast

Mercury Rev – Frittering

Massive Attack – Unfinished Sympathy

Moby – Go (Woodtick Mix)

Future Sound of London – Papua New Guinea

R.E.M. – Losing My Religion

George Michael – Cowboys and Angels

Lenny Kravitz ‎- It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over

Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit

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Honourable mentions also go to: Saint Etienne for ‘Nothing Can Stop Us Now‘; My Bloody Valentine for ‘Only Shallow‘; De La Soul for ‘A Roller Skating Jam Named Saturdays‘; Photon Inc. for ‘Generate Power (Wild Pitch Mix)‘; Crystal Waters for ‘Gypsy Woman‘; Altern 8 for ‘Infiltrate 202‘; Björk for ‘Hyperballad’; A Tribe Called Quest feat Leaders Of The New School for ‘Scenario‘; Slam for ‘Eterna‘; Frankie Knuckles for ‘The Whistle Song‘ and Last Rhythm and Silvie Carter for ‘Last Rhythm‘.

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The Orb – Little Fluffy Clouds (1990)

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The Orb is an electronic music group founded in 1988 by Alex Paterson and The KLF’s Jimmy Cauty.  By 1990, Paterson and Cauty had fallen out and the former was now working with old school friend and bassist of Killing Joke, Martin “Youth” Glover. Youth had come across a recording of an interview with Rickie Lee Jones, in which someone asked her: “So what were the skies like when you were young?”. The two of them sampled her answer and mixed with a whistling harmonica from Ennio Morricone, some drums from Harry Nilsson’s Jump into the Fire and some other stuff. This was ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’; this was ambient house.

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Underworld – Jumbo (1999)

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“I need sugar.” In my view, this is the best song in Underworld’s catalogue. ‘Jumbo’ was a great a way to finish a decade of dance for these shores. The samples remind me of Big Audio Dynamite, the use of electronics was something Orbital would have been proud of; and Karl Hyde’s vocals were surprisingly sultry. “Beaucoup fish.”

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New Order – Elegia (1985)

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One could argue that New Order reached their peak in 1985. The band’s third LP, Low-life, was self-produced at Jam Studios and Britannia Row Studios in London and loved everywhere it was heard. Its notable tracks are ‘Love Vigilantes’, ‘The Perfect Kiss’ and ‘Sub-Culture’. But for me, the sound of ‘Elegia’ is the one that gives me the goosebumps. It is said to be an homage to Ian Curtis.

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Four Tet – Locked (2012)

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Mixer, producer and DJ Kieran Hebden has been making music as Four Tet since 1997. 15 years in, he released a collection of dance singles as Pink, his sixth studio album. Continuing to draw from his Indian roots and his love of jazz, techno and hip hop, he opens the album with ‘Locked’. Cosmic dissonance abounf for a chill Saturday. Have a great weekend.

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Payfone – I Was In New York (2019)

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Together, Phil Passera and Chieka Ononye are Payfone, the new-wave-funk-disco duo from East London. Their electronic sound has created a seriously funky bassline in the track ‘I Was In New York’. It’s a 10-minute burn…. stay with it.

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Light Asylum – Shallow Tears (2012)

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Light Asylum were a post-punk/darkwave act that shone so brightly before they split when Bruno Coviello left the band in 2012. Raphael Radna assumed keyboard duties in 2012, but it was shortlived. However, their digital-only label from Brooklyn, New York, did manage to release their eponymous and only album. The single ‘Shallow Tears’ stood out.

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Sparks – The No. 1 Song In Heaven (1979)

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Samuelsounds is back and it’s my birthday. Perhaps there’s no better time to play a guilty pleasure. Giorgio Moroder on production; brothers Ron and Russell Mael on keyboards and vocals… I give you the title track off their 1979 album The No. 1 Song In Heaven. Have a great day. Have a great week.

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Metronomy – Salted Caramel Ice Cream (2019)

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Some disposable electronic pop for a Thursday. Metronomy’s Joseph Mount was inspired by the likes of LFO and Aphex Twin from an early age, but his latest creative mine seems to be the electronic art-pop of Yello and Sparks. ‘Salted Caramel Ice Cream’ will feature on Metronomy’s new album Metronomy Forever due for release in September. Kitsch.

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