Electronically Yours is one of the longest-running synth-pop websites. Originally a Human League fansite, EY has since grown to encompass all-things synthpop and electropop, focusing on both established acts as well as up-and-coming bands. Site owner and editor Orac is ably assisted by his team of contributors, chief of whom is the enigmatic Babooshka. As well as running the website, Orac masterminds the Electronically Yours record label which has put out some fantastic releases, including the superb compilation Electronically Yours Volume 1. Gorgeously packaged, this 2x CD features the very best of current female-fronted analogue electro.
I asked EY for a list of their Top 10 current favourite tracks. Orac and Babooshka provided five picks each along with some excellent commentary. Check it out below!
[Orac] I’ve never really had much time for The Rolling Stones surprisingly enough or anything from the 60’s (except maybe Dr Who or the odd track by The Kinks). One night several years back during Client’s Being Boiled club night in Notting Hill, the DJ broke away from Kraftwerk classics and slipped in Under My Thumb. I had no idea that it was a Stones track and I was rather oddly nodding my head along to it thinking that the bassline would work really well if it was belted out by some unstable old analogue synth. Elly Jackson aka La Roux have just recorded a cover of this track that is rumoured to be the next single and she sings it beautifully. It’s not quite what I was expecting – the original guitar bassline has been totally removed but in its place comes some lovely Blancmange-like synthy bits. Quite a radical re-working really.
2. The Knife – Marble House
[Babooshka] With a love for Karin Driejer Andersson’s vocals and fearless approach to making electronic music, I could easily fill my choices with The Knife and Fever Ray. Experimental to the point of this year’s bonkers Darwinistic Electro Opera, it is hard to choose with classics like Silent Shout and Heartbeats. A favourite for me is the eerie weirdness of Marble House and with the quirky appeal of this Nordic duo, the live versions are always the best. Thanks to ‘The Orac’ for introducing me to The Knife after my complaints of recent electro music being ‘samey’ and not pushing any boundaries.
3. Blancmange –What’s Your Problem (Extended)
[Orac] When I first heard La Roux’s debut, I was initially delighted that someone had decided to resurrect the Blancmange sound — a band who were very original, should have had more hits and should have had a bigger following. Months later, La Roux’s camera shy Ben Langmaid would later admit to being a huge fan of this almost forgotten synth duo and the influence is obvious in their Bulletproof. The inclusion of What’s Your Problem on La Roux’s Sidetracked compilation prompted us to dig out a very dusty 20 year old CD of Blancmange’s Greatest Hits and this track was tucked away at the end. It was never a huge hit (reaching number 40) and was barely played on national radio at the time. I heard it just the once. Fell in love with it then quickly forgot about the track for years. Love it even more to the point where I can’t stop playing or blipping it. The chorus is fabulous. Why wasn’t this a bigger hit and why have Blancmange shunned the retro tour circuit? I think Neil Arthur & Stephen Luscombe could make a killing here.
[Babooshka] Electroclash queen Miss Kittin and her loyal hacker are another top choice for me. With her provocative and heavily accented deadpan humour in the track Frank Sinatra and 1982 packed with cool references from electro’s heyday, you can’t help but love the shiny synth pop catchiness of last year’s 1000 Dreams from their recent album. With continual discussion over gender dominance in electro, the boy/girl combo continues to work unfalteringly as far back as Yazoo.
5. May68 – My Ways
[Orac] Mancunian electro with May68 who many probably wouldn’t have heard of with fellow Mancs Hurts and Delphic being marked as “the ones to watch.” Hurts have struggled a little bit whilst Delphic can be found in bargain bins. On a commercial level boy led electro has struggled in replicating the success of La Roux and Ladyhawke who both had the tunes and all important hooks. On the back of My Ways, May68 grabbed a slot at Glasto and it proves the power and pull of a perfect unpretentious pop song. Featuring classic boy girl vocal interaction and a stomping chorus, this is probably one of the best tracks I’ve heard so far this year by a new act. They look as if they are having a lot of fun too in the process which makes me think that Hurts need to smile more and avoid the mistakes of their last video. Factory Records legend Mark Reeder contacted EY after hearing My Ways. EY fixed it for Mark and there could well be a Reeder mix for the next May 68 single.
6. Crystal Castles – Vietnam
[Babooshka] 2010 pick has to be from the brilliant second album from Canadian duo Crystal Castles. Fearlessly experimental again and despite all the accusations over sampling, they still manage to sound unique. Surprisingly melodic tracks like Celestica and Suffocation give way to shrieky techno Baptism and the beautifully sampled Sigur Ros on Year of Silence. A hard choice as this is on continual play at the moment but for me Vietnam stands out with its memorable build up of crunchy synths and unpredictable appeal.
7. Yazoo – Happy People
[Orac] I must have played You & Me Both just twice following the shock of the Yazoo split. I was so devastated that I wiped my c-60 copy with something like Howard Jones’ Humans Lib – the actions of an electro emo, according to the lovely Babooshka. It wasn’t until the Yazoo live gig in London of 2008 where the second album struck me as being rather brilliant. EMI sent EY HQ the remastered boxset a while back and it’s been like discovering a new electronic gem once we finally took it out of the flimsy box. Happy People is a chirpy Vince classic with some odd lyrics and I’ve been playing it an awful lot lately. Could have been a single?
8. Bat for Lashes – What’s A Girl To Do?
[Babooshka] Not technically electro but I’m hiding behind Orac on this one as I know he loves it too. Natasha Khan hasn’t returned to anything that quite sounds like What’s A Girl To Do? which is a pity as this early track is just hypnotically brilliant. Whimsical dark pop is always a winner for me and the seemingly Donnie Darko inspired video suits it perfectly. For the electro purists there are some more synthy led remixes of this track but they are not nearly as good.
9. Propaganda – Dr Mabuse (Long Version)
[Orac] For the last few weeks I’ve been mainly listening to a CDR copy of the SACD version of A Secret Wish and falling back in love with it all. The remastering on this version is simply quite amazing. In a recent interview with EY, Ralf Dorper mentioned that Susanne Freytag had been lot in the mix but you can hear more of her in the SACD version. Propaganda are fascinating for all this audio variations and extra mixes but best of all is how timeless all this album sounds. It could easily have been recorded this year a few doors away from the Crystal Castles studio. It’s hard to believe that there is 25 years between A Secret Wish and Castles 2 (my fave album of the year….so far). Very hard to pick a favourite from A Secret Wish but I guess their most iconic hit is Dr Mabuse – the track that would go on to inspire the Pet Shop Boy’s Left To My Own Devices (probably the Pet’s finest singular moment). 7m.05 s into the original Long Mix simply sums up our love for this genre. Ralf referred to its “relentlessly marching basslines” and 25 years on, this piece of music with sweeping orchestras and analogue chords sounds like it was recorded yesterday. Geniuses…. the lot of them….. and everyone should own a copy of the lovely deluxe edition.
10. Depeche Mode – Perfect
[Babooshka] Could be highly predictable with Depeche Mode but feel like flirting with controversy with this one and picking from Sounds of the Universe. I love this album and think Gore/Gahan came back successfully with their classic brand of synth and new wave guitar sound. I’m going for the melodic loveliness and strong bassline of Perfect after weighing it up against the ill fortune of Wrong, the mind cleaning declarations of Peace and innocence of Little Soul. Perfect to me sounds as good as anything on Violator and they continue to be creative and deliver with fresh electro arrangements when a lot from the same era now sound worn out.
- My Top 10 – Electronically Yours, featuring 7 of Orac and Babooshka’s chosen tracks. The extended versions of the Blancmange and Propaganda tracks are not yet on Spotify, so I substituted the regular versions and added the Stone’s original for the La Roux cover.
- Website: league-online.com