Category Archives: Playlists

Top 20 Synthpop Albums of 2019

Here’s the Pansentient League’s Top 20 Synthpop Albums of 2019. Thanks to all the artists involved for giving us this marvelous music!

Jer aka @afront

TOP 20 Synthpop of 2019

Fragrance. – Now That I’m Real

This welcome debut LP from Fragrance layers cold-on-hot for some excellent warm-wave synthpop.

The Sweeps – Nostalgia for the Future

Another paramementic collection of retro-synthpop stylings from The Sweeps – “Love Shines” and “Living in a Cold World” are two songs you’ll especially look forward to remembering.

The Rude Awakening – Kaleidoscope

A re-sleazed synthpop musical, Kaleidoscope is your post-watershed synthpop album for 2019. Johnny Normal’s at the top of his game here, while Bridget Gray adds light to the feast with some effervescent love (cf. the lovely “Butterflies” and self-aware “Another Song”)

Knight$ – Dollars & Cents

This fab ‘n funky debut album from KNIGHT$ is newly romantic in all the right ways, and the deep italo connection won’t leave you feeling short-changed.

Crew of Me&You – Body Count / Home Free

Merge these 2 maxi EPs for the definitive Crew of Me&You 2019 experience! It’s worth it for some slick synthpop sparks (especial dirty love for “Come out and Play” and “Gold Chains & High Tops”)

Jules Verne Theory – Flat Earth Eclipse

Wonderfully inventive and contemporary synthpop from our islander friends, with hooks aplenty in songs like “Downsize Your Life” and “Bring Me the Highlife”

Hot Chip – A Bath Full of Ecstasy

An album full of smooth synthpop to soak in and warm your bones.

Howard Jones – Transform

The legendary Howard Jones shows the new kids how it’s done in this brilliant return to form. With a little help from his pal BT, Mr. Jones delivers an album-full of fresh synth-pop songs that delightfully brought me back to circa. 1985.

All Hail The Silence – ‡

Daggers clicks in all the right places. This is proper-good powerful and poignant synthpop, with fabulous vocals and resonant memories.

Sydney Valette – How Many Lives

Minimally waved electro-punkism from Sydney Valette, with bursts of synthpop sunshine in tracks like the hypnotically gorgeous “Space and Time”


Here’s my review of the Silicon Dreams festival held in Liverpool, July 2019.

TOP 10 Synthpop of 2019

Gemini Rising – Best Case Life

13 seriously good, perfectly produced tunes build an electric atmosphere to contemplate the future with. Fiora’s vocals will beguile you while the slick synthpop pulse keeps the heart beating longer.

Last Night On Earth – Electronica Royale

This debut album from Stockholm’s Last Night On Earth hits the spot. Vintage synths drive this wonderful collection of finely-crafted, warmly-chill scandi synthpop songs for the electric youth generation. It’s gonna be quite a night!

The Dynalectric Orchestra – Humanity

This dreamy electropop wave from the Dynalectric Orchestra pairs a retro-synth machine with powerful, heart-felt vox from a variety of vocalists. Follow with the also-excellent 9-track “AFTERGLOW” EP for the full-orchestra experience.

Pixel Grip – Heavy Handed

This jewel of a debut album has wonderful retro synth sounds forming some lushly infectious synth-pop tunes. Vocalist Rita Lukea sings with experience and dynamism on killer tracks like “Diamonds” and “Soft Peaks” – a hidden gem; Ameritronically Yours.

The George Kaplan Conspiracy – Recollected Memories

Following a string of magnificent EPs, French duo The George Kaplan Conspiracy’s debut album maintains that exquisite high quality. A nostalgic, contemplative shell wraps around this synthpop-funk for lazy days and hazy nights (or so it seems).

Harmjoy – Iron Curtain. Velvet Glove.

This superlative second album from Titans/Tyske Ludder cross-over band Harmjoy brings oh-so de-lush vocals to a strong hour of riveting and smooth futurepop dance beats.

Bananarama – In Stereo

Wow, was not expecting such sublimely synthy stuff like this from national treasures Keren and Sara – Bananarama return-a-delica! With slick electropop to follow moves from Kylie and Sophie, In Stereo has a double-dose of infectious, hit-worthy disco delights to keep you forever dancing.

TOP 3 Synthpop of 2019

Operators – Radiant Dawn

A glowing collection of brilliant analog post-punk synthpop, Radiant Dawn is 21st century indie rock pulped up for the post sci-fi synthesizer set (i.e. this album rocks!)

Red Sleeping Beauty – Stockholm

Winter in Sweden sounds idyllic, if this gorgeous synthpop album is anything to go by. 2019 was an epic year for Red Sleeping Beauty 2.0, with the release of this terrific 10-tracker and as many again top lovely songs on EPs. Both vocalists hold their own with range and heart, and the 80s synth landscape welcomes all electronica veterans to this fine city of song.

Pansentient League’s ALBUM OF THE YEAR 2019

International Teachers Of Pop

From the ever-mucky North of England, ITOP’s essential debut album shines a light on the World with its first-principle bleeps, eccentronic tweaks and synth-pop treats.

There’s so much to love about this record, especially if you grew up in the school of original synth. From the Kosmisher Broadcast of “She Walks” to the singalong-a-tronic, end-of-the-night waltz “Oh Yosemite,” these 10 songs deliver a perfect mix of multiplex synthpop with Confidence and old Yoda magic. Bloody brilliant.

Enjoy and learn from Pansentient League’s album of the year!

Listen to select tracks for all the above albums + many more here:

Top 10 Synthpop Albums of 2018

This year we cut to the chase: here’s some synthpop from 2018 we recommend you spend a little time with. Enjoy the music, pansentients!

(album covers below = Spotify play buttons)


Cosmicity – Twice Daily

Winter blues? Cosmicity have the remedy: a  healthy synthpop concept album with funky tunes, bouncy beats, and a wry sense of humor throughout. Take as directed 😉

Sarah Nixey – Night Walks

Salty tears from everyone’s favorite working Synthpop Sarah. Best thing she’s ever done I reckon: there’s lovely production here and some achingly good synth songs.

Rue Oberkampf – Waveclash

Voilà Rue Oberkampf, here for some much needed post-fin de siècle minimal waviness. Ebbhead shades are pink-tinted here: Waveclash is cold wave punk-electronique, but there’s also a slight sense of optimism and self-awareness lurking in the depths of this short but solid album, thanks in no small part to the beguiling and fey French vocals.


You Drive – You Drive

A clue in the title for sure, here’s this year’s Electric Youth/Drive soundtrack kind-of-record. Hopefully not just a one-off collab from Makeup + Vanity Set and Jasmin Kaset, as this is a gorgeous album that brings out the best of both drivers. It’s a relaxing, chilled album with some poignancy to the lyrics and a strong sense of direction. Add to your favorite destinations!

Fröst – Matters

I discovered Fröst via The Electricity Club: good call guys, I love this! The 60s-psych sound has always meshed well with synthpop-tronics, with artists like Jane Weaver and Amber Arcades being notably talented. Fröst joins the ranks, thanks in part to some Fujiya & Miyagi action. This album is seriously cool, it deftly mixes neo-psychedelica with synthpop, krautrock and a chemical beat to produce a solid 37-minute listen.


Dream System 8 – We Sleep Again

The list of now-vintage instruments used to make this album is impressive, if that sort of thing’s your bag (hey, there’s a Casio VL-1!). For me it’s mostly just about how it sounds, and We Sleep Again is an album I’ve returned to often in 2018. Stuffed with Thermostatically chippy synthpop (plus a few excellent “slow ones”), this 12-track album delivers delightful electronic pop music with some real gems if you dream deep enough.

Vive La Fête – Destination Amour

Écouter et répéter! Belgium’s Vive La Fête are this year’s 2RAUMWOHNUNG: gifting us a fabulously fun synthpoppy album seeded with European style & panache, singalong songs (if you speak a bit of French!) and lots of replay value due to some outstanding tunes and quirky riffs. Tourterelle aka “the turtledove song” is especially sumptuous synthpop, mes amoureux 😉

For Esmé – Righteous Woman

Alanis Morissette was a righteous woman, and For Esmé share that well of power and occasional rage. This is a serious album make no mistake (and it pays to listen to it in order), but it’s also rich in memorable electronic pop songs and infectious melodies. While CHVRCHES seem to have lost their way this year, Righteous Woman shows that synthpop can still carry a message (if you care to listen).

Confidence Man – Confident Music For Confident People

With three-out-of-three funky-as-flip songs released in the build up, I did wonder whether these cats could maintain the quality of their singles for a full album. I needn’t have worried: this record is absolutely fabulous!

Bouncy pop laced with humor and intercontinental beats, Confident Music For Confident People is slinky and sassy and the best album this year to put on at a party: everyone’ll love it, regardless of their electro-pop opinion. There’s nods to disco days of Primal Scream and Black Eyed Peas, maybe a touch of Bee Gees and the Jackson 5 (and hey: funky drummer!) but forget the past: this is exemplary modern pop music & the record I’ve danced about the most to all year 🙂

Pansentient League’s album of the year:

Reed & Caroline – Hello Science

When Freezepop did a song about a Science Genius Girl, I’d hoped they’d go on to create some kind of science-based concept album with soothing authoritative vocals and quirky synthpop DNA. They never did, but hello Reed & Caroline!

Hello Science is an intelligently designed album that bursts with ear-worms for the synthpop-discerning (hu)man. Featuring science & technology-themed songs throughout, they’re all fundamentally intriguing and a rather good listen to boot. A lot of thought and care has clearly gone into this record: it’s wonderfully crafted and deceptively evocative when you give it a proper listen end-to-end. I love how Hello Science isn’t all high-school test-tube love songs but muses on topical topics like dark matter, entropy and the Goldilocks zone.

Synthpopically, Hello Science is polished pop and full of imprintable hooks. So many times this year a song from this album would jump into my head: a line or a phrase, an especially fine-formed musical bit or twiddly synth flourish. Top marks, this is why Hello Science is Pansentient League’s album of the year!


Top 5 Synthpop Songs of 2018

Jump to The Electricity Club (original version) for my Top 5 Synthpop Songs of 2018…

Pansentient New Synthpop 2018

All the above artists are featured on our Spotify playlist:

Artists Discovered On this playlist:

AEX, AIVIS, Alienare, And the Echo, Apsurde, Battery Operated Orchestra, Blipblop, Coma Alliance, Ctrl, Dream System 8, Electronikboy, Electronomy Department, Eloquent, Elyxr, Flux Fin, For Esme, Form, Foxtrap, Fragrance, Happiness Project, Humble Braggers, Ideomotor, In Good Faith, Johan Baeckstrom, John Cyrus, Kennelklubben, Kodacrome, Kurs Valut, The Lipz, Logic & Olivia, ManMindMachine, Mari Dangerfield, Matthias, Metroland, Milan, Mind Cinema, The Modern, Opera, Park Fires, Perpacity, The Planets Won’t Let You Sleep Tonight, Poupee, Radioaktivists, Ratmilk, Red Sleeping Beauty, Reed & Caroline, Rocococo, Rodney Cromwell, Rue Oberkampf, Sarah Nixey, Sector One, Sine City, Sinestar, Sister Electra, Solsun, Space March, Stolen, Tiny Magnetic Pets, Trans Atlantic Crush, Tremors, Unknown Land, VIGGO, Vision Paname, Watching Spaceships, We Are Temporary, Zuma.

Thanks for listening!

See y’all next year,


aka Afront of the Pansentient League.


Top 20 Synthpop Albums of 2015

1555367_928152020541602_2925872410725832726_nSo that was 2015 then: what another great yeat for synthpop! But I nearly didn’t manage this year’s Pansentient Top 20 Synthpop Album rundown, as I was busy writing a book- please check it out, it’s a geeky techno-savvy modern fable (with embedded Spotify playlists 😉 )

While writing my book, I of course listened to A LOT of music – and a lot of that was NEW SYNTHPOP. I have a Top 20 for you below the fold, but before that, bookmark these special non-synthpop Pansentient playlists from 2015:

One final note before we begin: PSL’s Top 20 list is traditonally SYNTHPOP ALBUMS ONLY – this had restricted things in the past (hello, Kite and your EPs) so this year we are a little bit more open (also provides a dash of Krautrock, futurepop maybe – still probably no guitars though ;).

Another final note: this year’s commentary is shorter than usual due to circumstances fully under our control.

Cheers, let us know your own favorites below & have a great New Year 2016!

Jer aka afront


Pansentient League’s Top Synthpop Albums 2015


20. Kosmischer Läufer: The Secret Cosmic Music of the East German Olympic Program 1972-83: Volume 3

The third long-player in Kosmischer Laufer‘s excellent series of synth-mellow krautrock instrumental albums. Perfect dreamy and inspirational retro-synth music to get lost in, Kosmischer Laufer were frequently my go-to band for early-morning/late-night listening in 2015.
The reason this one is only Number 20 is because it’s just out and I’ve not heard it much yet. The previous two I’ve played A LOT though, they’re brilliant!
  • File next to: Kraftwerk, Jean-Michel Jarre, Neu!, Warm Digits
  • Spotify’s #1 “Discovered on” Playlist: Spotify’s Fresh Finds




19. Rainmode – On

A solid debut from Sweden’s Rainmode, On is synthpop aimed at the modern masses. There’s a few tracks I’d skip (like “Seizures“) but gutsy chart-friendly synthpop deployed on the likes of “The Foghorn” make On well worth repeat listens. And who else can hear early Duran Duran in the deliciously smooth “Ballroom Barricades“?










18. Purity Ring – another eternity

You can keep your Grimes – For me, Purity Ring‘s second album is by far 2015’s superior slice of glitchy withchy synthpopery. The three singles are a good taster for the whole album: you’re assured of consistency, as Megan James (vocals) and Corin Roddick are purely synergetic. It is all of course a bit goth – just a bit – so not to everyone’s taste. Me, I love it obvs.







17. Parralox – Aeronaut

I’ve been a huge fan of Parralox since their beginning, but synth-masetro John von Ahlen seemed to run out of steam a couple of years ago, releasing perhaps one cover song too many. Luckily, “Aeronaut” is a big return to form: John’s got his songwriting mojo back (although I do wonder why this wasn’t released under his Empire State Human moniker, where JVA also takes full lead-vocal control. I miss the girls 😉








16. Marsheaux – A Broken Frame

This really shouldn’t work at all: a synthpop covers album of a lesser-known synthpop classic. Song by song. But dammit it DOES work, and very well too! Marsheaux‘s Greek-inflected vocals are perfectly suited to the songs on this not-for-everyone’s early Depeche Mode album. Couple that with some tight, modern production and what you get is one of the surprise synthpop delights of 2015. I’ll try not to be so dismissive of covers in the future, Σας ευχαριστώ για το μάθημα , κυρίες 😉
  • File next to: Depeche Mode (duh), Client
  • Spotify’s #1 “Discovered on” Playlist: Drive Soundtrack






15. Carpenter Brut – Trilogy

Carpenter Brut‘s Trilogy brings together his three EPs into one killer synthwave long-player. The Giallo-flavored 80s soundtrack schlock still reigns supreme, but there’s also some jaunty, uplifting numbers here (and a surprise non-instrumental in the form of “Anarchy Road“). So it’s not all sci-fi horror-movie synthwave, just mostly. Pour les Pervs.
  • File next to: Perturbator, Kavinsky, John Carpenter
  • Spotify’s #1 “Discovered on” Playlist: Hotline Miami 2 OST







14. Northern Lite – TEN

I have some catching up to do if this, Northern Lite‘s tenth album, is anything to go by. Masterfully put together, TEN has 10 bright futurepop club songs, each perfectly paced with vocals coming from somewhere between Dave Gahan and Eskil Simonsson. If futurepop is still a thing, this album must surely be its new gold standard.
  • File next to: Covenant, And One, Depeche Mode, LCD Soundsystem
  • Spotify’s #1 “Discovered on” Playlist: Kontor.FM








13. Man Without Country – Maximum Entropy

I’d been keeping an eye on this band for a while, as earlier releases showed a lot of promise. The new long-player doesn’t disappoint:  single “Laws of Motion”  (with vocals from Morgan Kibby) is a highlight, and “Catfish” has a great housey vibe to it. The album includes a cool cover of The Beloved‘s “Sweet Harmony” (now there’s a band I would LOVE to see return!)

  • File next toHurts, Mesh, M83, iamamiwhoami
  • Spotify’s #1 “Discovered on” Playlist: Spotify’s Brain Food







12. Rodney Cromwell – Age of Anxiety

Somehow Rodney Cromwell‘s debut album is both fresh and familiar at the same time. A new wave album for sure, Age of Anxiety dallies with minimal synthpop but with a quirky heart instead of a frozen one. The brilliant “Black Dog” is New Order‘s “Temptation” reduxed, while “Cassiopeia” is the sweetest little  synth ditty I’ve heard all year. No wonder Rodney Cromwell was voted to top “best newcomer” by The Electricity Club’s editor-in-Chief.
  • File next to: New Order, Blancmange







11. Gateway Drugs – Dare Tonight

South Africa’s Gateway Drugs are my secret find of 2015: it seems so anyway! Others may disagree, but I reckon Dare Tonight is the perfect summer synthpop album. The album cover might suggest synthwave, but this is really more like something the Human League might have put out in the mid 1980s (I think “Louise” must be a particular Gateway Drugs favourite). That’s not to say this album is for everyone: some synthpop pals reckoned this was a bit too cheesy and twee for them, with all its youthfully jaunty pop songs and perceived lack of substance. But hey, sometimes all you need is a little bit of cheery pop and these boys deliver it to your room with a cherry on top.
  • File next to: Human League (Hysteria-era but without the politics)
  • Spotify’s #1 “Discovered on” Playlist: Retro & Smoov




10. Kite – I – VI

Since it’s Christmas(ish), this year I am letting Kite into this usually ALBUM-ONLY rundown. After six fabulous EPs, it would be rude not to after all. And amazingly, number VI is quite probably Kite‘s finest EP yet. Synthpop with poignancy is how I think of Kite: their Nordic blend naturally reflects the colder seasons, and you can hear the proto-industrial creeping in to the epic opener “Up For Life”, another progressive synthpop track (just without the orchestrals).
  • File next to: The Knike, a-ha, Tikkle Me, Prince, Trust
  • Spotify’s #1 “Discovered on” Playlist: Programming







Heaven 17 gig in Paisley Town Hall, 2015. © Jer White



09. Blancmange – Semi Detached

Much like their contemporaries OMD, Blancmange returned from the wilderness with a new “sounds-like-greatest-hits” album a few years ago, then followed it up with a career-defining release of new songs. For OMD, that was English Electric. For Blancmange, Semi Detached is surely destined to become a fan favourite. A Synth Britannia album through-and-through, the song-writing and especially the wonderful lyrics elevate this album above most this year. NEVER write off the original versions!







08. John Grant – Grey Tickles, Black Pressure

So firstly, yes: John Grant sounds a like the Divine Comedy‘s Neal Hannon. But you maybe knew that already: Mr. Grant has some notoriety, and I’m not just talking about his sweaters. There’s also a fair bit of guitar on this album, and fretless bass, etc. But there’s enough synthpoppynes to warrant the inclusion of Grey Tickles, Black Pressure. Check out tracks like “Sung Slacks“, “You & Him“, or the wickedly THL MKI-ish”Black Blizzard“). I know that once I get into the lyrics, I’ll find more treasures (yay Spotify again btw: click the Lyrics button et voila). Everything But the Girls‘s Tracey Thorn duets with John on “Disappointing” – so good to hear her again!



07. Johan Baeckström – Like Before

Sweden’s Johan Baeckström has featured on our EOY lists before: as half of Daily Planet in the Pansentient League’s Top 20 Synthpop Albums of 2014. He follows that up with this blinder of an album. Daily Planet rules still apply: if you like your synthpop Erasureseque, then this album’s for you. I love that vibe, and Johan totally nails it here. While Dancing With Ruby flirt with something different (see below, and their remix of Baeckström’s “Starlights“), Like Before targets one sound throughout. This could be risky, but Johan’s songwriting chops are first class: track-after-track, another electro-earworm. That little synthy bit on “Come With Me” – this was with me for weeks!



06.  Electro Sensitive Behaviour w/Perry Blake – Modern Love

So firstly, yes: Perry Blake also sounds kinda like the Divine Comedy’s Neal Hannon (cf. John Grant above). That is of course a good thing. And like Hannon, the lyrics on this album are wonderfully quirky and inventive. But Electro Sensitive Behaviour are true to their name: Modern Love is perfectly synthpop; sequenced so the listener never gets bored, and some great wry Hannon-esque humor to keep you involved. It’s great to hear some fun and cheekiness sometimes, and this album is filled with it.
N.B. I nominated Electro Sensitive Behaviour as the Newcomer of the Year in TEC’s 2015 End of Year Review.
  • File next to: Divine Comedy, John Grant, Sparks, Neosupervital





05.  Dancing With Ruby – In the Interest of Beasts

I reviewed Dancing With Ruby‘s brilliant In the Interest of Beasts over at The Electricity Club. Suffice to say, this is a superb “debut” album (like Parralox, DWR aka Northern Kind recruited a new vocalist in the form of the wonderful Charlie Sanderson). Deceptively deep and socio-ecoligically aware, Charlie’s co-songwriting is a shot in the arm for imagineer Matt Culpin.
At its heart though,  this album’s crisply produced synthpop beat just rocks. Take a listen to “Spider” or “Still Waters“. Then album closer “Dance Move Feel” – the summery synthpop song of the year. I can’t wait to hear more from them!
  • File next toUsual and some unusual suspects





04. IAMX – Metanoia

Me and Chris go way back. Back to the start of the Sneaker Pimps. But then we went our ways. His solo stuff – I liked it, don’t get me wrong, it just never had that zazz I’d heard in the ‘Pimps. I checked out his new albums but so-so I thought until: wham! Metanoia comes out this year and it’s fu*cking genius, there’s no other way to describe it. If I wasn’t in such a happy mood, this album would probably rank even higher. Wickedly infectious, IAMX take the listener into a personal space that some may think should be left alone. Not me though: Metanoia is just too good not to listen to repeatedly!





03. Black Nail Cabaret: Harry Me Marry Me Bury Me Bite Me

Black Nail Cabaret‘s second album is an essential box of electro-goth tricks and synthpop-cabaret delights. Hungarian duo Emese Illes-Arvai (vocals) and Sophie Tarr have crafted an album that gets under your skin, much like IAMX above but with feminine curves. The vocals are gorgeous throughout, both enticing and haunted. You’ll be mesmerised, especially on tracks like “Hair“, “Satisfaction” (slow Kylie!) and “Down Again“.
  • File next to: Client, Antony and the Jonsons, Vile Electrodes
  • Spotify’s #1 “Discovered on” Playlist: Pansentient Synthpop 2015






02. Susanne Sundfør– Ten Love Songs

This came out at the start of the year and it still sounds as fresh as that first day of listening. Championed by everyone who’s heard it, this beautiful album of Ten Love Songs has everything a music fan could want. The fact that it has a synthpop backbone is a bonus for us long-term listeners. I chose “Delirious” as my song of the year on The Electricity Club, but it could have been almost any song on this album. The central masterpiece: “Memorial” is a truly epic 10 minute song: progressive synthpop that proves once and for all that love can be unbounded from both time & synthesiser. The wash of orchestra must have cost a bob or two but it’s worth it: as I said, this album has a song for everyone.
  • File next to: Anywhere really but try Goldfrapp, Depeche Mode, Divine Comedy, Fever Ray, Tori Amos
  • Spotify’s #1 “Discovered on” Playlist: Spotify’s Chillout Lounge




01. CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye

These three wise Scots, they’ve only gone and done it again: picking up from where Bones… left off, Every Open Eye just says nyah to the naysayers and instead sticks with the winning formula of pure synthpop. Except this time it’s EVEN BETTER THAN THE LAST TIME! I cannae say how delighted I am that this album is so good. Every track is pure dead brilliant: even the blokey song is pretty good (you need to see him dancing to it). “Clearest Blue” is of course my other song-of-the-year, listening to it is like pressing the “spine-tingle” button on-demand. Absolute barry stuff guys, thank you!
I saw these cats a while ago in a wee Edinburgh basement bar gig below an art gallery: now they’re all over American prime-time TV and suchlike, carrying the synthpop sound back to where it belongs: as music for the masses. G’an yersel, Churches!


Chvrches Dundee

CHRVRCHES gig in Dundee, November 2015. © Jer White


Trailer: Pansentient Synthpop 2015 (Spotify Playlist)

Our popular Spotify playlist below features all the above artists, and many more besides. These playlists are curated throughout the year then pruned in time for the winter. Synthpop satisfaction guaranteed!

Trailer: The Turtle at the Bottom of the Garden

My other project this year was this daft wee geeky book for kids (small & big) called The Turtle at the Bottom of the Garden.

A funny, loopy story for kids about a boy jumping from turtle to turtle. He doesn’t care that it’s turtles all the way down…”

Set in near-future Scotland, Jer White’s The Turtle at the Bottom of the Garden is a quirky, modern kid’s book with built-in re-readability, a geeky glossary, Spotify playlists and other treats. With every chapter beautifully illustrated by Edinburgh artist Adam Howie, The Turtle at the Bottom of the Garden is available now as a 160-page paperback or soon direct to your Kindle!

Out now from Amazon (UK/EU) or CreateSpace (USA)






PSL 1993: May Bee Mix (Redux 2015)

PSL 1993 – May Bee Mix – Extended and newly mixed for Spotify/YouTube playlist, originally mixed 1992/1993 in Falkirk on Fostex 4-track cassette tape.

Contained samples from UHF, The Lawnmower Man and others. Spotify playlist created 2015. For the May Queen.


Thanks Muse Mq, who kindly agreed to pose for the playlist cover art x



Babble, Billy Mackenzie, Deee-Lite, Finitribe, The Future Sound Of London, The Grid, Orbital, S’Express, Senor Coconut, The Shamen, Transglobal Underground, Underworld, William Orbit, Yello.

PSL 1993: May Bee Mix (Redux 2015)

Spotify Playlist by afront


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Pansentient Synthpop 2013

psl-sp2013-200Pansentient Synthpop 2013 is our latest annual Spotify playlist containing an ever-expanding collection of the best new synthpop and electropop releases of the year. Featuring over 100 songs from over 100 artists, this playlist is the ultimate modern sampler for every discerning synthpop fan!

Updated weekly with additional suggestions from The Electricity Club, Brutal Resonance, Electronic Magazine and Bop 2 Pop.




Alison Moyet, Analog Angel, Arachnophobias, Austra, B.E.F., Bloodgroup, Carved Souls, Chateau Marmont, CHVRCHES, Cinemascape, Click Click Drone, Clubfeet, College, Covenant, dAVOS, Daybehavior, Depeche Mode, Digits, Electro Spectre, Eleven:Elevene, Emika, Etage Neun, French Horn Rebellion, Future Perfect, Gazelle Twin, Ghost Capsules, Hjärta, HNN, Hot Chip, Hurts, Hyperbubble, Jenn Vix and Dirk Ivens, Juveniles, Karl Bartos, Kavinsky, Kid Moxie, Kite, Kontravoid, Lindstrøm, Little Boots, Lust For Youth, Marnie, Marsheaux, Melotron, Mesh, Miss Kittin, mr. kitty, Neutral Lies, Noblesse Oblige, Oppenheimer Mk II, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Parralox, Pet Shop Boys, Planet R, Polly Scattergood, Pyrroline, Quelles Paroles, Raggedy Angry, Rubber Dots, Sad January, Sally Shapiro, Selected Area, Sensual Harassment, Sin Cos Tan, Skinny Puppy, Slave Republic, Social Ambitions, Soft Metals, Soldout, Sound of Science, Space March, Spacebuoy, Spleen United, Sykur, Syrian, Tenek, The Emperor Machine, Titans, Topgun, Torul, Vanbot, Vanguard, Vaylon, Vile Electrodes, Visage, Vision Talk, Vive La Fête, Vivien Glass, Vulgar Fashion, Zynic… and more to come!



New Spotify playlist! 42: SINTHETIC SOURCES for ANALYSIS v1.x features a range of Favorites In Selected Electronica Sub-Genres, spliced together with brutish determination and saving grace.

Contains 10 million volts in the form of: electro-industrial, psytrance, industrial metal, hauntronica goth, hybrid krautrock, Neuromancer dub, soundtrack, glitch and a whole load more.

This is a live snapshot of 42 reference points (possible variable content nodes, one potential anomaly identified). Use Wisely.

Pansentient Synthpop 2012

Pansentient Synthpop 2012 is a Spotify playlist containing an ever-expanding collection of the best new synthpop and electropop releases from 2012. Featuring over 100 songs from 100 artists, this playlist is the ultimate modern sampler for every discerning synthpop fan!

Updated weekly with additional suggestions from The Electricity Club, Brutal Resonance, Electronic Magazine and Bop 2 Pop.




3 Cold Men, Agent Side Grinder, Aidan Casserly, Alexander Geist, AlterRed, And One, Antiscion, Anyplace, Ashbury Heights, Assemblage 23, Atari Cowboy, Bioassay, Calfskin, Carved Souls, Cassette Electrik, Chew Lips, Christianoshi, CHROM, Cinemascape, Color Theory, Compute, Computer Magic, Continues, Cosmicity, Curxes, De/Vision, Dead Eyes Open, !Distain, EGOamp, Electric Youth, Electro Spectre, Electrobelle, Eleven Pond, Empire State Human, Erasure, Even More, Evokateur, Father Tiger, Flux, Foretaste, Fox Hunting, The Golden Filter, Grimes, Haberdashery, Happiness Project, The Hundred In The Hands, Huski, Iamamiwhoami, Indefinite Cure, Jonas Seltsam, Karin Park, Kontravoid, Led Er Est, Light Asylum, Lola Dutronic, LorD and Master, Lovelock, Marina and The Diamonds, Maxwell’s Complex, Metroland, Moon.74, My Woshin Mashin, The Mystic Underground, Nicolas Makelberge and Friday Bridge, Norator, Ny Fan, Oblique, …of Diamonds, Optic, Ostrich, Parallels, Parralox, Pet Shop Boys, Planet R, Polaroid Kiss, Purity Ring, Retropop, Scarlet Soho, Sleekey, The Slow Waves, Social Ambitions, The Sound Of The Crowd, Strangers, Substaat, Suicidal Romance, Supercraft, Synthetic Division, Tesla Boy, This Mono Galaxy, Tiger Tea, Toxic N Blue, Trans-X, Ultravox, Underwater Pilots, Vainerz, Vanguard, Vaylon, Wave in head, Willy Baxter, Xylos… and more to come!

My Ten Favorite Albums of the 1990s

Me in a Massive Attack “eurochild” T-shirt, Grenoble, France 1995.

Most electronic music aficionados think of the 1990s as “the dark ages” after the explosion of electro bands in the 80s. Post acid house, good electronic pop music saw a huge decline in the face of grunge, Britpop and the like. But there were some superb releases in this decade. The 1990s saw the electrofication of goth and industrial music to create electro-industrial, a genre I consumed with rabid passion and still love to this day. The rise of the sampler reinvented how to make a song. Trip-hop fused multiple genres into a hip new sound. Big Beat brought the cult of DJ and PlayStation game Wip3out brought the soundtrack album of the decade.

The 1990s were a crazy decade for me: I had the best of times and I had the worst of times. Maybe this is reflected in my selection below, where you’ll find some choices that aren’t even very electronic. Or maybe good music always transcends the circumstance you’re in when you hear it. Either way, here are my ten favorite albums of the 1990s!


Deee-lite – World Clique (1990)

Clutching my newly-earned degree in Electronic Engineering, in 1990 I started a job as a graduate technical writer with a small firm in central Scotland. With student debt I couldn’t really afford anywhere decent to stay, so I ended up renting a room in the house of a mad christian woman. The house was always packed with people, as she’d invite random stray homeless to sleep in the living room and worked at converting them to her religion. She kept the heating on permanently and thought it was her duty to harass her neighbor into selling the house next door to her (She owned 3 of the 4 houses in the block and was determined to own the fourth one. Luckily god was on her side: one morning she burst into my room to ecstatically tell me how Jesus had come to her that night and offered to go next door and smash the neighbor’s water pipes). Another time she broke into my room when I was out and smashed up my wall clock. It was one of those backwards clocks which I thought was pretty cool but she said it was “the work of Satan” and had to go. So to escape all that madness I’d go for long walks each night, accompanied by my Sony Discman and two albums in particular: Front Line Assembly’s Caustic Grip and Deee-lite’s wonderful World Clique.

World Clique is a superbly made record and I loved every single track on it. Lady Miss Kier was my savior in those dark days, shining her bubblegum light in the gloom and always bringing a smile to my face. Listening with headphones this album really comes into its own: DJs Dimitri and Towa Tei were true sampling pioneers and genius producers and mixers. There’s so much going on in every song that the rewards for repeat listens are bountiful. I think I listened to World Clique every day for months as I went on my long cold walks in the night.

After one weekend away I returned to the crazy christian home to find that the landlady had moved all my stuff to another house while I was away. Half my books and CDs had gone missing, and I’m pretty sure I saw one of the homeless guys wearing a pair of my jeans. I moved out of there soon after.


Depeche Mode – Violator (1990)

Depeche Mode’s best and best-selling album is the masterful Violator. Everything about it oozes sweet perfection: the song-writing, the lyrics, Flood’s production, François Kevorkian’s mixing, the album art and packaging. The heretic in me will also say that the 2006 DTS 5.1 surround mix is the best way to hear Violator. But however you listen, this album is at the pinnacle of electronic pop music. On its release Rolling Stone unbelievably gave Violator a paltry two-out-of-five and made themselves a laughing stock. Never trust a hippy.



The Beautiful South – 0898 Beautiful South (1992)

I’d been dating the same girl from school for years, but by 1992 things were pretty much over. We’d both moved on to new places and intellectually we’d moved on to different planets. “Our band” had been The Beautiful South, who I’d liked since their Housemartins incarnation. Along with Frazier Chorus, The Beautiful South were my favorite lyricists and I’m still waiting for a band to equal them on that regard (The Divine Comedy – see below – come closest). I loved how a Beautiful South song would seem to be one thing but listening to the words revealed it to be something else entirely. Their songs were sharp and witty and often funny but The Beautiful South were never a comedy band: their music was often deceptively poignant. I don’t really “do” love songs but I think The Beautiful South wrote some of the best love-influenced songs ever. 0898 Beautiful South is my favorite album of theirs. It never fails to make me smile and cry and feel uplifted, amused and melancholy all at the same time. 0898 Beautiful South is full of clever, funny, bittersweet lines and packed with memorable pop songs from start to finish. Probably my favorite is I’m Your No.1 Fan, an endearing love song and homage but with darker undertones. Heaton and Corrigan take turns to describe their warts ‘n’ all background before an obsessive (but honest) declaration of love and devotion.

I split up with that girl not long after this album came out. I panicked and shamelessly pleaded with her to take me back. Citing a Beautiful South song, she told me she needed “a little time” to think it over. Luckily she found a little courage and did the right thing. I never saw her again.


Snap! – Welcome To Tomorrow (1995)

I moved to France in 1994 for a job with Californian computer company Sun Microsystems. Suddenly I was in the heart of Europe with good food, good weather, and a truly pan-European environment thanks to the mixed nationalities in the university town of Grenoble. My musical tastes also expanded greatly, but at heart I was still primarily a fan of electronic pop music. German band Snap! had been around for a few years. I’d kinda liked The Power and loved Rhythm Is a Dancer and Exterminate (even though it had nothing to do with daleks). But I never really got much further than their singles until the release of Welcome To Tomorrow. Finally this was a Snap! album with consistency, helped along by a eurobeat and a strong sense of optimism. Futurism features heavily on this album, from the album cover through to the themes of songs like Dream On The Moon and my favorite track The First The Last Eternity.


Leftfield – Leftism (1995)

Thoughts of home and exaggerated patriotism were common among us British ex-pats in France. So when I heard about an Edinburgh-based film called Shallow Grave. I rushed to see it at one of the local art cinemas that showed films in “version originale.” This cool film also had an excellent soundtrack, and I especially liked the title track by Leftfield. The subsequent album – Leftism – remains one of my all-time favorite albums of any era. Mixing The Grid and William Orbit-style electronica with tribal dub and techno, I instantly thought of William Gibson’s cyberspace novel Neuromancer (if you know the book just listen to Afro Left or Inspection Check One and you’ll hear what I mean). This album could easily be the soundtrack to Neuromancer, and I think it’s no coincidence that it came out just at the birth of the World Wide Web. I created my first ever webpage while listening to this album, and still find it the perfect album when writing any kind of code.


Björk – Post (1995)

When I first heard Björk’s Post album it seemed to speak to me personally like no other. I was alone and isolated in a foreign country, far from my friends and family and suffering a severe bout of insecurity. Post helped me through those rough months, gave me hope and fuzzy warmth like only the best music can. Stylistically Post is all over the place (which also seemed to match my mood at the time) with trip hop perhaps being the most predominant. But Post has not dated one bit: it remains a brilliant emotionally-charged record from start to finish, and I still regard it as Björk’s finest work to date. Six singles were released from this album and I bought them all. None of the deluge of remixes matched the perfection of the album versions, with perhaps the exception of Skunk Anansie’s mix of Army Of Me.


The Divine Comedy – Casanova (1996)

I’d completely missed The Divine Comedy until I heard Something for the Weekend on a free CD that came with a magazine. I was soon a huge fan of everything Neil Hannon (well, except for Fanfare for the Comic Muse) and saw him in Lyon promoting his fourth album: Casanova. Casanova’s witty lyrics and Joby Talbot’s chamber-pop instrumentation, along with Neil Hannon’s Scott Walker-esque voice made this my most-played album that summer of ‘96. My life in France had taken a turn for the hedonistic: I was dating a few too many women and drinking a few too many bottles of wine than was probably good for me. I was young and single and those French girls always did seem to go for my big blue eyes so I was taking full advantage while I could. The Divine Comedy’s Casanova was the perfect album for me then, with its uniquely self-centered songs of “love” and sex and tales of frog princesses and women of the world.


Prodigy – The Fat Of The Land (1997)

I got a job back in Scotland and returned to the UK at the end of 1996. By far the biggest band back home was The Prodigy, who I’d liked ever since the Out of Space single back in ‘92. The Fat of the Land came out in the summer of 1997 and was the number one album across pretty much the entire planet. I had felt part of a jilted generation: the electronic music future promised from the previous decade had been all but killed off by the rise of grunge and Britpop and other guitar-based music for the masses. But here was a massively successful electronic dance record that smashed up all those guitars and succeeded on a scale that surpassed The Chemical Brothers, Orbital and Underworld combined. Putting aside the controversial videos, Keith Flint’s nu-punk antics and festival headline status, this record was everything the hype had promised. Liam Howlett was a sampling genius and had his finger not so much on the pulse as gouging out the veins. The Fat Of The Land drips with energy and is laced with some seriously funky shit. The three singles Firestarter, Breathe and Smack My Bitch Up gloriously terrorized the charts in a way that’s never happened since: punk is dead but it sure put up a hell of a fight on the way down.


My Life Story – The Golden Mile (1997)

The Divine Comedy had whet my appetite for chamber pop – that fusion of Britpop with real classical orchestras – and there’s no finer example than My Life Story. I’d first heard them in France, but back in Blighty I was able to see them live several times before their major label album The Golden Mile was finally released. By that time I already knew and loved pretty much every song on the album, so if anything it was a sort of Greatest Hits album for me. Back in ‘97 I didn’t really have any music biz connections or anything like that, but I did manage to get myself backstage to meet the band a few times. Mostly I just wanted to try to chat up MLS violinist Lucy Wilkins (with whom I’d developed a rather unhealthy infatuation) but I was also in awe of Jake Shillingford’s seemingly endless supply of fantastic songs. Many wonderful songs didn’t even make it onto the album (such as Stuck Up Your Own Era and live favorite Silently Screaming) but the songs that did make it are all first class (well, except for The King Of Kissingdom which never quite did it for me). The Golden Mile was undeservedly and shamefully panned by critics when it came out but I think this album has supremely stood the test of time. Take a listen to the magnificent You Can’t Uneat The Apple for example and tell me that’s not timeless.


Billy Mackenzie – Beyond The Sun (1997)

One night on one long cold Scottish winter in 1997, my favorite singer Billy Mackenzie committed suicide in a shed just over the water from me. I was devastated when I found out, it took me ages to get over. And I’d never even met the guy. That’s the power music has over me I guess. Billy Mackenzie was often thought of as having “the voice of an angel” and now I expect some would say that’s truer than ever. From a fanboy point of view there was one good thing to come out of this tragedy: it saw – finally – the release of all the Associates and Billy Mackenzie solo back catalog on CD, as well as formerly unreleased sessions he’d done with Steve Aungle, Paul Haig and former Associate Alan Rankine. It also triggered the creation and release of Beyond The Sun, an album made from demos Billy had recorded leading up to his death. Simon Raymonde of The Cocteau Twins produced and I think he was the perfect choice: his skilled touch meant that the end result is, for me, Billy Mackenzie’s best album. Perhaps the circumstance of the release added extra resonance (especially with songs like At The Edge Of The World and Beyond The Sun); perhaps the emphasis towards the softer laid-back Ronnie Scott style rather than synthpop would never had happened with Billy around. But what an encore! To hear that voice one last time, singing such wonderful songs with such heart and feeling – musical perfection is such a rare gift.

So it goes.


My Top 5 Spotify Concept Playlists

Among the many album-based playlists I make, I’ve also created several “concept” playlists which all have a bit of back-story, inclusion dilemma, structuring precisions and multiple viewpoints. So here’s a list of 5 Concept Spotify Playlists that I’m especially pleased with. They’re not my most subscribed (this Drive soundtrack playlist has nearly 4,000 23,000 subscribers!) but these five I consider proper mix albums and showcase both the selected artists and the amazing creative potential of Spotify.

Included are playlist stats and links to the “sleeve notes” that accompany each playlist, as well as embedded Spotify Play Button widgets to check out the tracklistings. Ideally play with your crossfade set to 7 for all playlists except the space one  (Edit > Preferences > Crossfade tracks).

For your listening pleasure:

A Fool For You

Tracks: 32 / Subscribers: 273 / Genres: Pop, Rock, Folk Sleeve Notes

Something for the Weekend

Tracks: 25 / Subscribers: 95 / Genres: Downtempo, Trip Hop /
 Sleeve Notes

His Majesty’s Starship Derbyshire:
A Science-Fiction Story with Spotify Soundtrack

Tracks: 30 / Subscribers: 86 / Genres: Retro-Electronic /
 Sleeve Notes and Full Story Here!

Afront’s Hauntronica

Tracks: 28 / Subscribers: 138 / Genres: Haunted Pop, Witch House Sleeve Notes


The Easter Egg Project (Part One)

Tracks: 16 / Subscribers: 8 / Genres: EggcentricSleeve Notes

Elektronische Musik aus Deutschland auf Spotify!

German electronic music shaped my music tastes more than any other. As a young boy in Scotland in the early 1980s, hearing Kraftwerk for the first time had such a huge impact on me that I immediately archived all my Beatles and ABBA records and sought out anything I could find by Kraftwerk, Nena, Alphaville and the rest of the Neue Deutsche Welle. I even signed up to learn German at school for the sole reason of being able to understand the lyrics of my new-found musical homeland.

To this day, I have huge admiration of German electronic music, especially German synthpop and electro-industrial. Spotify is of course full of it, so I thought I’d spotlight some of my favorites. Since there’s so much to choose from, I decided to highlight some of my favorite German artists from when I was growing up, and a few contemporary German bands I like that fall into the category of Deutsche Elektronische Musik (or, more correctly Elektronische Musik aus Deutschland auf Spotify!)



Perhaps not the most electronic of the original Krautrockers, but Neu! set the beat for electronic pop music that was to follow and I always found them the most accessible compared with the likes of Can, Faust, Popol Vuh and Cluster. The Neue Deutsche Welle and Krautrock has seen quite resurgence of late: see my post New Krautrock on Spotify for more on the new generation of bands influenced by Neu!





Truly one of the greatest bands ever, these men/machines can be considered as single-handedly inventing electronic pop music, dance music, house, trance, techno, minimal, even rap and hip-hop! I’ve chosen 1977’s Trans-Europe Express as this was the album that gave me that “O – M – G…!” moment when I first heard it all those years ago. While Britain looked back to their ancient past with royal celebrations, in Europe the future had already started for anyone who had a ticket.

See Kraftwerk Live in 3D at Die Alte Kongresshalle for Nix Lowrey’s account of Kraftwerk’s recent performance in Munich.



Outside Germany, Nena is probably thought of as just a one-hit wonder. But she’s had a long and successful career in her homeland, with dozens of albums, retrospectives and even an autobiography under her armpits. A school friend came back from Germany one summer and gave me a cassette of  ? (Fragezeichen) – Nena’s 1984 album with not a red balloon in sight. I listened to that tape to death on my then-new Sony Walkman… look out for Der Bus is’ schon weg – the World’s shortest synthpop song!



Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft (D.A.F.)

My love of that strange synthpop/industrial hybrid known as Electronic Body Music (EBM) harks back to these guys from Düsseldorf. Alles ist Gut from 1981 opened my eyes to all sorts of musical possibilities when I unearthed it in a 2nd-hand record shop. It features DAFs most famous song: Der Mussolini.






Alphaville’s single Forever Young was a huge synthpop hit in the mid 1980s. The album of the same name was a massive favorite of mine back in the day, and it still sounds incredible today.

Recent release Catching Rays on Giant is very good too and saw them return to their pure synthpop roots. It took ages to make it to Spotify but I’m glad to say it’s on there now!





Frankie Goes To Hollywood may have sold bags more records, but for me Propaganda were always the jewel in ZTT’s crown. Their debut album A Secret Wish remains one of my Top 10 albums of all time, I think I must have bought it half a dozen times on various formats and reissues. There’s just something transcendental in here, for years I was convinced of all sorts of hidden meanings. You might have recently heard Propaganda singer Claudia Brücken singing in a nightclub in videogame L.A. Noire, but for more on what she’s been doing recently check out this fascinating interview with Claudia Brücken on The Quietus.



The 1990s were pretty dire for synthpop fans, but two German bands were holding the light for us and putting out some great records. And One (see below) are still going strong, but the other was Wolfsheim who sadly split some years ago. Spectators is my favorite album of theirs: check out tracks like Touch for an example of the quality of their music.




And One

Fusing a hybrid of EBM and Depeche Mode-flavored synthpop, And One have an extensive back catalog and seem to get better and better with each release. I named their album Tanzomat as one of my Top 20 Electronic Albums of 2011, but I think my favorite And One album is Bodypop. Bodypop managed to blend perfectly the darker and lighter sides of electropop and I played it to death when it came out. Unfortunately missing from Spotify is the Frontfeuer EP, included with some releases of Bodypop and featuring another five great examples of their Kind of Deutsch.




It took me a long time to get into De/Vision. I’d heard them on and off throughout the nineties and noughties, but it wasn’t until Popgefahr in 2010 that I thought they’d finally backed up their synthpop sound with strong song-writing. They might come across initially as yet another Depeche Mode clone, but De/Vision do have a distinct sound and they’ve successfully carved a niche for themselves with a dedicated and fairly large fanbase. De/Vision followed up Popgefahr with a remix album, which includes a mix by fellow German synthpop act T.O.Y.



Funker Vogt

Firing out a blend of electro-industrial, futurepop and “aggrotech” since the mid 1990s, Hamelin’s Funker Vogt have been my favorite modern German band since I heard remix album T back in 2000. The vocals are harsh and distorted and the songs are predominately about war, but listen to the lyrics and you’ll soon realize that this is anything but glorification: the tragedy of armed conflict is at the forefront of Funker Vogt’s music.

Oh, and if the Neue Deutsche Härte is your bag, note that there’s still Keine Rammstein Aus Spotify.




Elektronische Musik aus Deutschland: The Spotify Playlist!

To celebrate Spotify’s arrival in Germany, I’ve created a special Spotify playlist called Deutsche Elektronische Musik. It features all the above bands, as well tracks from Absurd Minds, Blutengel, Camouflage, Chapeau Claque, Deine Lakaien, Der Plan, Die Krupps, Diorama, Frozen Plasma, Harmonia, Klirrfaktor, Melotron, Polarkreis 18, Schiller, Tangerine Dream, Welle: Erdball and more! The playlist is loosley chronological, with an overriding cluster of sub-genres  taking in the birth of German electronic music, old-school and modern synthpop, futurepop, EBM, and electro-industrial. The playlist ends with a section dedicated to minimal synthpop, ambient and Kosmische Musik.

For track suggestions, special thanks to Barry Page, Christine Hall, Philipp Anz, Sebastian Hess, The Crippled Claw, and especially mein besonderer freund Deutsch: Lola Kxx!