Bang Bang Bar Band Talks Twin Peaks – An Interview with Au Revoir Simone’s Heather D’Angelo

au revoire simone twin peaks

As a fan of Twin Peaks, and specifically the music the show has produced over the years, Season 3 had me wondering, like many fans, about some of the musical acts that were featured at the Bang Bang Bar (commonly referred to as the Roadhouse).  Many of these performers were indie acts, with a few exceptions. 

The full list of musical performers who performed at the Bang Bang Bar during Season 3 include: Chromatics, The Cactus Blossoms, Au Revoir Simone, Trouble, Sharon Van Etten, Nine Inch Nails, Hudson Mohawke, Rebekah del Rio, Moby, Lissie, The Veils, Eddie Vedder, and Julee Cruise.

The Twin Peaks Season 3 Soundtrack expands on the above list with many other tracks from the show, with the overall musical effect of the entire track list being that of a tour de force.

twin peaks season 3 soundtrack

The music of Twin Peaks has always been exceptional, with the main theme song written by Angelo Badalamenti even winning a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Performance back in 1991.

music from twin peaks angelo badalamenti

The music of Twin Peaks remains unique.  In this article, I had the chance to interview one of the members of Au Revoir Simone, Heather D’Angelo, now a Bang Bang Bar band alum, and ask her about her own personal Twin Peaks experience. (skip to the interview)

But first, a bit of context…

About The Bang Bang Bar (The Roadhouse)

twin peaks bang bang bar

In Twin Peaks Seasons 1 and 2, the Roadhouse was established as a location on the show that fit into the nuanced plot written by David Lynch and Mark Frost, and would tie into the overall arc of the show sporadically, with drama between the shows’ characters playing out there from time to time.  

The concept of the “Bang Bang Bar”, as it was referred to as more so in Season 3, was also the show’s musical center in seasons 1 and 2.  However, Julee Cruise and her band were the only act we see play there during the first two seasons.

As viewers, we can only assume that Julee Cruise was only one act of many to pass through there, but we never get to see any other acts play.  Perhaps this is something Lynch sought to correct in this latest season of Twin Peaks.

During the first two seasons, Julee appears there several times throughout the entire run of the show (including the movie prequel, “Fire Walk With Me”), playing her soft, angelic music juxtaposed against some dark, depraved drama taking place in the plot, creating a juxtaposition of both tranquility mixed with violence – an unsettling combination to be sure.

With the Roadhouse being such a seedy juncture in the Twin Peaks world, the idea of such a pure and unfettered sound of one such as Julee Cruise performing in such a dark place was and still is an unlikely proposition.

Fast forward 25 years…

25 years later twin peaks

Enter: Twin Peaks, Season 3

Enter Twin Peaks: Season 3 (The Return), aired in 2017.  The plot picks up almost literally 25 years after the finale of Season 2, where Cooper becomes possessed by Bob and delivers his famous line: “How’s Annie?”

This final episode (called “Beyond Life and Death”) to a beloved TV series was not the ending many fans were hoping for, but that’s the way director David Lynch chose to end the show, when this final episode of Season 2 first aired on June 10, 1991.

The reasons for this ending to Season 2 were perplexing to fans, but no less perplexing than the entire run of the show itself up until that point, really. 

Still, while hardcore Lynch fans always appreciate a good Lynch-ian twist, more casual (and probably less fanatical for absurdist cinema) fans of the show were left with mild cases of PTSD from watching their beloved Cooper become possessed by the ultimate evil, and then: roll credits.

Perhaps it had something to do with David Lynch not directing the majority of Season 2, and walking away from the show until the final episode, where he comes back with the express purpose to, in his own special way, put an end to the show he started.

As has been reported by various sources (ie. Vanity Fair), David Lynch hates Season 2 more than anyone else could, with the tousle-haired cinematic maverick having been quoted publicly as saying it flat out “sucked”.

david lynch smoking

Fans would have to wait until 2017 when Season 3 of Twin Peaks finally reached airwaves to see how things would get resolved, and many were likely hopeful that such a gut-wrenching finale would indeed see some sort of satisfying resolution, once Season 3 finally concluded. 

Fans of Twin Peaks might have thought a positive outcome to be particularly imminent, considering this was David’s chance to right any directorial and plot-related wrongs done to the show throughout Season 2.

Well, did he?  To answer this question would take us well beyond the scope of this article, and so at this time, let’s now return to the topic of…The Bang Bang Bar, and the music we hear there throughout Season 3.

Back To The Bang Bang

One thing that seemingly had not changed much in the world of Twin Peaks was the Bang Bang Bar.

bang bang bar exterior

In the world of Twin Peaks: Season 3, it was still the place in Twin Peaks where various seedy drama and nefarious subplots play out.  But this time around, we’re treated to a variety of diverse musical acts.

It was as if the Bang Bang Bar was perhaps doing better business these days, busily booking more bands, and becoming an increasingly hipper place to be, which we, the viewers, we privy to seeing who would turn up week to week. For nostalgic fans, Julee Cruise and James Hurley both come back to the Bang Bang Bar to perform.  

Otherwise, we were treated to some fresh faces at the good old Twin Peaks Roadhouse.

Cue: Au Revoir Simone, playing their tune, “A Violent Yet Flammable World”, from Season 3: Episode 9.

Au Revoir Simone

Some of the choices for bands who performed at the Bang Bang Bar during the run of Season 3 seemed to be more in line with the world of Twin Peaks that fans know, while other performers were more unexpected.  

Au Revoir Simone, who perform on two episodes of the entire Season 3 run of the show , were at once a fitting, and yet somewhat unusual, choice.

au revoire simone

Why fitting?  Well, here we have, not 1, but 3 silky-voiced chanteuses playing ethereal, melancholic music in a slow, pulsating manner.  This is enough, perhaps, to qualify them as a good fit for the rather happening, and yet fictional, venue.

Why unusual?  It seems that in the intervening years between Seasons 2 and 3 of Twin Peaks, the always and forever-to-be stuck-in-the-past environs of the show have been forced to admit that yes, even in a seemingly timeless setting, time is passing. 

Hence, Au Revoir Simone have their synths in tow, and there is no particular attention drawn to their synthpop nature.  Perhaps now Twin Peaks is a world that has caught up to as far as the 1980’s, rather than being a throwback to the ’50’s or ’60’s.  

(The interview begins…)

Interview with Heather D’Angelo of Au Revoir Simone

heather d'angelo

It seems that curiosity got the better of me.  I felt the need to reach out to the bands who played at the Bang Bang Bar during the run of Twin Peaks: Season 3, in order to satisfy my fan-boyish urge to know more about these bands, and how they managed to appear on the show.

And so, here is my conversation with Heather D’Angelo, who is one third of Au Revoir Simone, discussing the bands’ appearance on the show and how it all came to pass.  Enjoy!


When did you start writing music?

Au Revoir Simone started out as a cover band, actually, working on covers of 80’s and 90’s songs from different genres.  We were just doing this for fun, as friends getting together and seeing how it went. 

Back in the early 2000’s, we (Annie Hart, Erika Forster, and I) used to jam together, when we were all living in Brooklyn, and decided to form an all-girl keyboard band, since all of us played keyboards and we thought that all of us playing synths would be pretty entertaining. Eventually, each of us was armed with multiple synths – sometimes we’d have 9 going at once!

As far as our covers went, it turned out that our covers were too idiosyncratic to be just covers – they had their own sound – so that gave us the notion to start doing our own songs.  And it all began there!

Eventually, we got enough material together for a little EP called Verses of Comfort, Assurance & Salvation.

Weirdly enough, a Japanese label and a British label picked up the EP, but we didn’t get any attention in the US – no one cared.

Funny thing was that the Japanese label had an english name – Rallye, and the English label had a Japanese-sounding name – Moshi Moshi

Moshi Moshi already were a well known indie label in England at this point, with bands like Hot Chip on their roster.  They were the ones that kind of operate on a new level, by saying “Ok, you guys are going to work with this PR company, etc.”, giving us tips on how to be a bit more professional.

So how did these labels come across your music, which then lead to your encounter with David Lynch?

They became aware of us through an indie music blog from the early days of the internet.

My good friend, Matthew Perpetua, is like the godfather of the music blogs. I think he actually had the very first music blog out there on the web in the late 90’s, called Fluxblog. There may have been one other one at the time, as these things tend to pop up in the zeitgeist at around the same time, but he was definitely one of the first.

Fluxblog was very popular for indie music and Moshi Moshi used to read his blog. Matthew used to write about our band when we first started, as he was a big fan of synthpop, and indie acts, and so Moshi Moshi read one of his features on us.

Steven Bass and Michael McClatchey then got a hold of our EP, which, at the time, was something we were screen printing ourselves in Annie’s bedroom and trying to distribute ourselves.

By the time we got to our first actual mature album, The Bird of Music, that was put out by both Rallye and Moshi Moshi, which had proper artwork and distribution. 

Listen to The Bird of Music on Spotify

The Bird of Music is what eventually ended up in the hands of David Lynch in 2007.

How did that come about?

There was a really cool event going on at Barnes & Noble in New York for some time, where they’d promote an author and then pair that author up with a band. 

A music supervisor for Barnes & Noble would seek out a band that they felt would match the author, and the author would do a reading from their new book, and a band would play during the reading, or between chapters.  It was pretty cool.

The music supervisor at Barnes & Nobles was trying to get us to do one of these events for some time, but it wasn’t working out, as we were always on tour, or the timing just wasn’t right.

But one day the music supervisor called and told us that David Lynch was promoting a new book, at the time, called Catching the Big Fish, and she thought that our music would pair really well with his work. 

catching the big fish

The book was about meditation, and she thought we could play some of our more dreamy material.

So we said “yeah”, because this time it worked with our schedules, and plus, it sounded really cool, so we did it!

But it wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for David’s sound supervisor, Dean Hurley, hadn’t heard our music, liked it, and passed it on to David, who also liked it.

So, we then met David at the actual Barnes and Noble event, where we played, and he read from his book.

(cue: a  short clip from that show in 2007)

This was the beginning of your collaboration…which would have been about 10 years before Twin Peaks: Season 3 aired.

Yes.  Back in 2007.

That’s pretty cool that you encountered him that way.  His output is very varied, so to connect with him on a book reading is very cool.  Were you aware of all of these things that he does at the time?  For example, the books, the albums, the artwork, and so forth.

We were aware of him, generally speaking, but we didn’t know just how many things he was involved with. 

The event at Barnes & Noble was amazing.  That particular location of Barnes & Noble was something else – it was huge, like 4 or 5 storeys, and jam packed with people.  Just a massive, massive, MASSIVE building.

And when he was there, it was unbelievable – every floor, just shoulder to shoulder people, all trying to catch a glimpse of him.

For those who weren’t on the top floor, there was kind of a play-by-play being piped through their sound system, like one big listening party, and everyone was there just soaking it up.  It was then that we clued in to just how huge his fanbase actually is.

Were you into his stuff prior to this show?

Yeah, I really liked Blue Velvet, and his movies in general, but I wasn’t really a fanatic.  Same with Annie and Erika – we just knew of him, as most people do.  I had not watched Twin Peaks, though.  It just never crossed my radar.  I guess I was just too young.

I didn’t catch the show when it came out either, but a friend of mine recommended I watch Twin Peaks when I was in high school, so around ’95, as he thought it would be up my alley, and it was.  Had you seen any of his other movies?

Some of them.  I saw Mulholland Drive, which I enjoyed, and I was going to watch Inland Empire, but a friend of mine saw it and he was so traumatized by it, I didn’t really feel like watching it.

Yeah, Lynch seems to be very good at making very unsettling films that confuse and disturb people, as well as anticipating peoples’ expectations (especially fans) and then defying them.  I couldn’t make it through Inland Empire either!  That’s why I was wondering how Season 3 of Twin Peaks was going to turn out, considering his work seemed to be getting progressively more abstract.

Well, we have had the opportunity to collaborate with David several times over the years, since 2007, and so we were getting comfortable trusting his creative and aesthetic choices.  For instance, we worked with him on a retrospective he did for his work in Paris at the Foundation Cartier.

(cue: video clip from that exhibition)

(interview…continued) He had rebuilt a setting from Eraserhead at the gallery, and we were to perform in this setting.  So, he managed to incorporate our music into this production, and we were like, “Hell yeah!” and so we did it, and it was great!

Another time he invited us to play at Silencio, his private club in Paris.  Again, this is a beautiful club with a red-draped stage, and he was gracious enough to invite us into his world, which we have always been more than happy to do.

(cue: Llorando scene, from Mullholand Drive, filmed at Silencio)

(back to the interview…)

Over the years, we’ve remained friends, and would visit him in L.A., checking in from time to time.  He’s been very encouraging, incredibly sweet, and a great mentor to us. 

Prior to the return of Twin Peaks, he was mentioning it would be good to work on something together, and we thought that would be great, although we weren’t counting on it. 

We knew that historically, David has worked with Julee Cruise, Angelo Badalamenti, and so we weren’t really expecting to work on any major projects with him, per se.  He seemed to have his inner circle of collaborators, and so we thought it was nice of him to suggest a collaboration, but, again, we weren’t expecting anything.

But then, we got the call from Dean Hurley, David’s longtime musical collaborator, who informed us that David was going to re-launch Twin Peaks, and was seeking out bands to be part of the show, and he was hoping we’d take part.  Before we knew it, we’d said “yes” and we were part of the production.

We’d never really worked with David before in terms of being part of one of his movies, and so we didn’t really know what we were in for.

None of Au Revoir Simone were actors, but we flew to L.A., and we arrived at this house, that looked like a community center from the outside, and we found that they had recreated, in minute detail, the Bang Bang Bar.  It was like, “Oh my god, I’m in the Roadhouse!”  Even though, outside it was hot and sweaty, this set made you believe you were in the Pacific north west, like Washington state.  It was insane!

There were extras everywhere, and everyone was dressed up like it was the ’90’s.  There were a few other bands there, like the Chromatics, and the Cactus Blossoms, who were playing that day.

We had no idea what was going on.  We didn’t know who was playing, or when, or how to dress.  We had no guidance of what to wear, which was particularly odd because the fashion of Twin Peaks is so particular.  We didn’t know which decade we were supposed to appear to be from.  ’80’s? ’90’s? Now?  Rock stars, or not?  We didn’t know.  We decided to just go with a “classic” look.  

We knew he was going to ask us to do two of our songs, which we did.  It was lip synched.  This wasn’t like Saturday Night Live.  We performed our songs, it didn’t take too long, and then we left.  Time passed, we didn’t hear anything at first.  Eventually, we heard from David, and he said “Great job!”, so we thought “Great!”

We were still very confused as to how this would all play out.  We still didn’t know if he was going to be using the footage of us playing, or just use our recordings on the soundtrack.  Would it be both songs, one song?  Just a snippet?  

We didn’t see how any of it turned out until the show aired.  Eventually, we were told to keep our eyes open for Episodes 4 and 9.  We saw it on TV like everyone else.

(cue: band playing their song, “Lark”, from their album, “The Bird of Music”, during Season 3: Episode 4 of Twin Peaks.

(back to the interview…)

For both episodes, I had Twin Peaks’ parties in San Francisco, but I told my friends that if I didn’t show up on screen, not to be surprised.  We weren’t promised anything, so then when we did appear, and we had a fair bit of screen time, I was shocked!

Both songs were edited, but that made sense, for the purpose of the episode sequencing.  Still, it was entirely a surprise that we even made it on the show at all!

I guess you didn’t get to sit down and watch the “dailies”, huh?

No, we are not from the film industry, so that didn’t even occur to us.  There wasn’t even hair and make-up, so how we presented ourselves was completely up to us.  Had there been a hair dangling in the wrong spot, I don’t know if David would have brought it up or not.  It all happened so fast. 

We had been on photo shoots before, where people fussed over our appearance a lot more than this instance.  So that’s surprising, that we were now committed to tape for an iconic show like Twin Peaks, which will be seen by our children and children’s children, and we weren’t really prepped in any way for this.  I just knew that we were performing, and David was there, behind the camera, capturing every bead of sweat.

Was the lip synching difficult?  What kind of direction did he give you?

We weren’t given any direction, so we just tried to channel our best collective Julee Cruise vibe.  We had basic instructions as to when to start lip synching, and that was about it.  

You were saying there were other bands there at that point?

We saw some of the other bands, but we didn’t really see too many other bands.  For the most part, we were just in and out.  We heard there was a shoot for the other bands on another day, but we weren’t there for that.  

Are any of you particularly influenced by Julee Cruise, what with the hushed, angelic vocals, and all that?  Were you told to emulate her in any way for the show?

No, not at all.  We are fans of hers, for sure – especially Erika – but there was no mention of us sounding like her, or us trying to sound like her.

Our influences are Stereolab, Bjork, Pavement, Air…Broadcast is a huge influence.  I personally am very into Air and Stereolab.

Pavement, really?

Definitely, I love Pavement.  

Are you guys formally trained musically in any way?

No, we’re all self-taught.

How do you come up with your songs, as a band?

We all have input in each others songs, although usually, someone writes a song, initially, and brings it in.  That’s when we begin to shape the songs to fit Au Revoir Simone.  Nothing is really off limits for discussion, and it ends up being an equal process in the end.  No one has more representation in the band – it’s equal parts all three of us.

No creative differences?  Wow, nice.

There are differences, but as a trio, there can always be a critical voice if someone is strongly against something, and we like it that way.  We can push and pull the songs until we are all happy with the result, but it’s not always easy to come to a consensus.  For instance, if someone doesn’t like a bassline, or some other musical element, we talk about it, until we can all agree on something.

How do you feel now that you are on the Lynch fan radar?  Do you consider yourself to be on that radar?

Yes, we are aware that his fans are now paying more attention to us, with many of them being very passionate.  It’s cool.  

And how has that balanced out with your entire fanbase overall?

Well, our old school fans are the best!  Like, if ever there’s any sort of hardcore Twin Peaks fans who don’t approve of us for some reason, our old school fans will jump to our defence.  It doesn’t happen much, and besides, that’s just how it is on Youtube.  People debate all the time.  For instance, why did we get picked for the soundtrack and not some other “dreamy” sounding pop band?  Maybe someone more like Julee Cruise should have been picked, some might say.  All in all, everyone has their own opinion.  We encourage discussion, and we appreciate different views.

Fair enough.  Did you bump into any other cast members at all while you were there filming?  I happened to watch some interview with Kyle MacLachlan, where he said that he didn’t even see any of the show until it was on the air, or really knew what was going to happen overall?  Kind of amazing, since he was basically the show’s star.

It doesn’t surprise me.  There’s an element of secrecy to all of this.  Plus, I think that everything was shot individually.  We didn’t really interact with the cast very much.

Did you talk to Mark Frost (Twin Peaks co-creator) at all?

twin peaks mark frost

No, I didn’t.  

So you never read any of this Twin Peaks books – The Final Dossier or The Secret History of Twin Peaks?

the secret world of twin peaks

No, I’ve just heard of them.  Haven’t read them yet.

They’re interesting, if you are into the sort of “bigger picture” of Twin Peaks, and the mythology and sort of subterfuge that goes into the show.  They act as companion pieces, and they’re really cool if a fan wants to dive deeper into that world, as they let you in on some of the more secretive elements.  For any fans out there, I’d totally recommend them!  But anyway, what happened after Season 3 wrapped up.  What changed for Au Revoir Simone?

I have seen David twice since the show aired.  One at the Festival of Disruption in Brooklyn, and another time back in L.A., after Season 3 had aired.  When I saw him last, I had just watched all of the episodes of Season 3 and I had a million questions that I wanted to ask him.  So it was hard to not geek out on Twin Peaks and ask him lots of questions.  I did get a few things out of him, but generally, we didn’t talk about that much. 

I did, however, mention to him how much I loved Episode 8, as it was so groundbreaking and probably the best thing to be aired on television ever.  I had a chance to dork out with Dean Hurley, but he really doesn’t have the inside scoop on Twin Peaks either.  No one but David and Mark know the whole story.  It’s always fun to speculate, though.

How did you feel about the ending of Season 3?

I liked it.  I am a fan of cliffhangers, though.  Besides, if you expect anything by David to wrap up with a neat little bow, you’ll probably be disappointed. So I didn’t expect the show to end in any neat and tidy way.  Which it didn’t.   

twin peaks season 3 ending


(interview end…) 

Check out Heather’s new fragrance line – Carta

Check out a list of all the music used in Twin Peaks: Season 3

Downtempo – A Guide to the Great Artists and Their Best Songs and Albums

What is Downtempo Music?

Downtempo is a killer subgenre of electronic music, with little to no vocals and simple beats. It’s laidback like ambient music but has a beat you can groove to, unlike ambient music.

Okay, that is a total lie. At the bottom of the article we have included several of the best downtempo artists and some of them include vocals, but for the sake of this brief introduction to the genre, and to help familiarize you with it, let’s go ahead and say that most downtempo music uses soft vocals for audible texture but not so much to tell a story.

Partygoers, ravers and clubbers will be familiar with this genre, as well as DJs, of course. 

The music is a lot more chill than others in the electronica genre. Seasoned DJs will leave downtempo to the end of the set when the party draws to a close.

downtempo music

This music is also played in side rooms of clubs or designated “take five” areas. The beats are slower and super groovy, perfect for a break from dancing or wrapping up a party.

Most clubgoers, whether they recognize and know downtempo or not, will automatically get the signal from this type of music that it’s late into the night.

If you’ve ever seen Portlandia, the theme song is a prime example of downtempo music with a chill beat that is easy to listen to and very enjoyable. There are some vocals but they’re airy and non-dominant. 

Non-dominance is a good way to define downtempo. It’s got elements of ambient music and serves listeners the same way: it can be enjoyed either as a focal point or be ignored while still providing an atmosphere. It neither overpowers nor disappears. 

It’s a beautiful genre for summer driving.

You will often hear downtempo in lounges.

It’s great for a casual hangout with friends or any time you need to relax.

A bit of history

It all started with the synthesizer. This instrument became more affordable to people in the late 1960s – early 1970’s and so musicians, being the experimental and curious artists they are, ever-searching for the perfect tool for self-expression, fell in love with it. We had the beginnings of ambient music in the 1970s; 

Electronic music really came into huge popularity in the early 1990’s. The club scene brought in all kinds of new genres after the : electronica ruled the soundsystems everywhere because it didn’t require a live band and provided dancing crowds with non-stop movement to inspire their dancing.

It was an obvious new experimentation with the synthesizer, which at the time had only been around for a couple of decades. There was plenty left to explore on that instrument with so many options.

Downtempo is usually played on a synthesizer as well as a drum machine and a few other things.

Electronica is typically faster paced, and so downtempo was created not as an antithesis but simply as an alternative for lounge areas and chill-out rooms at festivals and nightclubs. 

Dancers could go into these rooms and sit for a while, taking a break from the intense energy of the dancefloor and enjoying a drink. 

You’ll notice rather a hypnotizing element to downtempo, the same way electronica brings you in and holds you.

The genre originated on Ibiza, a Mediterranean island, well known for its nightlife and electronic music. Tourists from all over the world come to Ibiza as a destination for this type of holiday.

DJs have always known how to read a crowd (or, they should) and know how to bring up the energy and bring it down. On the island of Ibiza, where they party til sunrise, the DJs start playing downtempo to bring the crowd down after a full night of partying.

Here’s a “Best of Ibiza” chillout downtempo playlist if you want to feel a little bit of that vibe for a while.

Oh, and downtempo is sometimes called trip hop, taking elements from hip hop, drum and bass and ambient music: these are combined altogether over a lower tempo. These days the music also incorporates more melodic instrumentals.

The Artists

Now that we are familiar with the genre, let’s have a listen, shall we?

Here are some of the best downtempo artists out there. Some were around for the advent of the genre and helped shape it; others showed up along the way and furthered the genre’s popularity by keeping it alive. 

Thievery Corporation

Thievery Corporation has been around since 1995. This electronic duo has opened for Paul McCartney and worked with artists such as David Byrne and Wayne Coyne.

They bring an overtly political message with their music and actions, performing at the Operation Ceasefire concert and supporting human rights and the World Food Programme.

Visit the Thievery Corporation official website


Flume

Flume is a young’un, born in 1991 and has been making music since 2004. He has risen to popularity rather fast, having remixed several famous songs by artists like Lorde and selling 40 000 tickets for his first national tour.

He is from Australia and his work incorporates many electronic elements from hip hop to dub. Here is his self-titled debut album. 

Visit Flume’s official website 


Blue Sky Black Death

Another duo on our list, Blue Sky Black Death hails from San Francisco, California. They produce their music with a drum machine, sampler, keyboard, synth and guitar. They’ve been on the scene since 2003.

The phrase “blue sky black death” is a skydiving phrase alluding to beauty and death. They got their start making beats to rap over but soon gave up rapping to pursue producing. Below you can hear their third full-length album, Noir.

 Visit the Blue Sky Black Death Bandcamp page


Kruder & Dorfmeister

Kruder & Dorfmeister get automatic points from us for their G-Stoned cover, which resembles the famous Bookends cover by American duo Simon & Garfunkel.

Peter Kruder & Richard Dorfmeister comprise this Austrian duo and have been making music together since 1993. They got their start playing big festivals and were instantly loved by the audience. They have gone on to tour the world and continue producing music to this day. They’ve also put out their own solo albums and albums under aliases. They have at least 9 studio recorded albums available.

Here is their first album, G-Stoned.

Check out the Kruder and Dorfmeister Facebook page


Samantha James

Samantha James stands out from others on our list for her vocal style. Many downtempo artists are producers and rarely feature vocals in their work. Rather the vocals are presented as a soft ambience over the beat.

Samantha’s singing is incredibly soulful and gives a whole new life to this style of music. Coming from Los Angeles, she became involved with the underground dance scene there as a teenager.

She has been making music of her own since 2007. Her first single, Rise, was an instant hit in 2006 and she has since toured the world with her wonderful blend of electronic and soul music.

She has two full-length albums and has reached #1 on the US dance charts.

Listen to her first album, Rise, here:

Check out Samantha James on Om Records


Helicopter Girl

Helicopter Girl is a Scottish musician and has been active since 1993. She gives downtempo a unique spin incorporating elements from several genres, including dance music, indie pop and jazz.

Helicopter Girl is widely revered for her vocal style and the lyrics offer a listening experience that speaks utter truth. Straight badass. You’ve just got to give a listen and experience this for yourself.

We’ve included a link to her video for Glove Compartment but we also recommend listening to her song Angel City.

Glove Compartment is mysterious and fateful; Angel City is rockier than everything else on this list, but the vocals are cool, calm and sultry, chilling you right out with icy proclamations.

Check out Helicopter Girl on Dharma Records


Portishead

Portishead are one of the better known artists on this list. They remind us of Helicopter Girl a bit – with their infusions of other genres like indie rock laid on top of downtempo – and a bit of sex appeal.

This is music you can throw on for driving or grooving out at home, and works just as well in a lounge setting. Portishead has been around since 1991, taking a brief hiatus from 1999 through 2005. They took up music again after the break.

They’re an English band, well known in this genre because they were one of its pioneers. Despite their dislike for press coverage, their music has been successful internationally.

Even Rolling Stone referred to them as Gothic hip-hop. They’ve been around so long making this kind of music that they have been played in all kinds of underground clubs and gothic scenes.

Visit the Portishead website here

The Best Dark Ambient Artists and Albums You Should Know About

Ah, you’ve come.

Welcome.

Your nostrils tingle with the scent of misty roses in the hour of the gloaming. Lurking in the trees, stalking the rows of the cemetery, the hunger of a humid night under a full moon in June.

We have gathered for you creators of the perfect visionary soundscapes to accompany you on this journey.

For that is what dark ambient is all about: the journey. There can seem to be no beginning nor an end; there is not a climax. Only the atmosphere. Ambient music is soothing, with few instruments, and sounds with large gaps in between.

The kind of music that plays while you get a massage: music that calms you, relaxes the breathing and frees the mind.

Dark ambient is the atmosphere of a lonely nightmare, soft violence, utter fear. And in facing this fear through listening to the music – through bearing that exact experience – one comes out the other side feeling rather liberated, risen, freed. For in facing fear we conquer it.

Generally speaking, that’s a very important theme to appreciate about dark music: that shared experience between creator and listener, the cause and effect of having put that emotional work into the music and then effecting the same responses in the listener.

One could argue it is a spiritiual experience for through endurance we grow stronger.

Endurance is another big theme in dark ambient music: the notes and beats and frequently repeated, suggesting endurance in both the repetitive, machinelike motion and pain evident in the vocals. But there is always sensuality in this music, for in its ghostly state it feels so very and truly alive.

Dark ambient music is about the experience of feeling while listening. From guttural, deep and quiet vocals just a bit offkey, to muffled horror sounds, there are elements some find disturbing and others find calming.

Personally I find them to be a bit of both, as per that aforementioned liberating experience.

Early Ambient

Ambient music as a genre took root sometime in the 1960s, when synthesizers were becoming more affordable to the average consumer.

It is true that the accessibility of the synthesizer led to an ever-increasing presence of the instrument in music from the 1960s and 70s, but – as with most genres of music and art – the group or artist who invented or began the genre shall forever be argued upon.

The synthesizer opened up endless doors to new sonic possibilities, with its myriad sound effects and capacity for programming and recording. In the late 1960s music took on rather a psychedelic and fantastical sound in the form of prog rock.

Bands like Genesis and King Crimson were experimenting with synthesizers and creating an entirely new atmospheric experience for the listener. The length of songs extended to make room for instrumental parts that sounded otherworldly, ethereal, sometimes downright haunting.

Into the 1980s, synthpop is very popular and mainstream, so following Einstein’s law of universal relativism, we begin to see dark branches splinter off into goth and industrial music, with both sounds and words often containing strong and slow beats, injury to the body, minor chords, haunting sound effects, machinery, heavy emotional content and response from the listener. With every technological advancement, music becomes heavier.

And so, naturally, this led to the experimentation with an exploration of instrumental ambient music to suggest the so called dark themes of confusion, feeling lost, melancholic, haunting, horrifying or mysterious, to name a few.

Here it is: a collection of the names of dark ambient artists you should know about.

  1. Nocturnal Emissions
    https://nocturnalemissions.bandcamp.com/

Nocturnal Emissions has been around since the late 1970s, initially as a sound art project by art student Nigel Ayers and a few other members. He is based in the United Kingdom.

Since the mid-1980s, it has primarily been Ayers’ solo project. As you go through the bandcamp page, you will notice quite an extensive discography.

The sounds primarily orbit about dark ambient but venture into electro techno stuff, post-industrial and noise music. He avoids the music industry and has rather a big cult following.

Since the early 1990s Nocturnal Emissions contains a lot of sacred, magic and ritual elements.

 

  1. Controlled Bleeding
    https://controlledbleeding.bandcamp.com/

This American band has also been around since the 1970s, but released their first full-length album in 1983. To this day they have released more than 30 full-length albums.

With such a large output, they have of course experimented with progressive rock, metal, classical, sacred music and jazz, all in addition to ambient.

They have received their best critical response to their industrial dance. In this phase they began using lyrics more prominently in the 1990s, as a change from their previously mostly instrumental music.

3. Zoviet France
https://soundcloud.com/zoviet-france

Little is known about the members of Zoviet France, other than their names. The musical group has been around since 1980 and gone through several personnel changes in that time.

Their music incorporates some industrial elements but is altogether out of this world. We link to a rather profoundly disturbing track of theirs: the 20-minute long Shamany Enfluence from the 1988 album Looking at the Ground.

  1. Lustmord
    https://soundcloud.com/lustmord

Lustmord hails from North Wales and has been active since 1980, releasing at least one album each year since. He is a musician as well as a film score composer, known for having worked on The Crow.

His work is exceptionally dark, as he combines all kinds of clips from field recordings in crypts and other such creepy places where death lurks and mixed them into his work.

He is in fact widely recognized as the founder of this genre. One of the elements unique to Lustmord is the expanded bass lines that remind one of the darkest depths of the ocean.

His work is altogether ominous, haunting and calm, with just the right tempered balance of dark and ambient.

  1. Coph Nia
    https://cophnia.bandcamp.com/

Coph Nia is a newer band on the list, having founded in 1999 after the height of industrial music. They come, appropriately, from Gothenbug, Sweden.

The very slow beats in a lot of dark ambient music, combined with the ominous sounds, one is likely to associate with dark ritual and moonlight.

Coph Nia sounds like ritual music and is utterly empowering with spoken, monotone vocal style. Their name comes from a passage from Aleister Crowley.

Their songs contain a lot of western magical themes.

 

  1. Robin Rimbaud AKA Scanner
    https://soundcloud.com/scanner

Another fantastic artist from the United Kingdom. Scanner is the stage name of musician Robin Rimbaud and he has been making music since 1982. He works under this name because he uses cell phones, police scanners, radio and cell phone signals in his works.

These indiscernible hints at human life – and the broken communication – make for rather a profound emotional impact on the listener. In the early 1980s Rimbaud played with a band and released cassette tapes of their recordings. He debuted Scanner in 1992.

In addition to music, he creates artworks, plays classical music and helped develop a natural light and sound alarm clock with Philips Electronics.

He also creates performance and installation art and has been honoured with many awards over the years. Some of his compositions are utterly chilling.

  1. Klaus Wiese

Wiese passed away at the age of 67 in 2009. He was a fantastic multi-instrumenalist who made compositions using Tibetan singing bowls; he is widely known as being a master of those bowls, having created several full-length albums with them. His work is very spacy and meditative, but the slowed notes of the singing bowls add a slightly unnerving seriousness to his work (we mean this in the best way possible).

It is through this mood created his work falls into dark ambient. There are elements of drone presented through an ever-zooming, pulsing lens.

He studied Mysticism in the Far East for many years, the influence of which can certainly be heard in the songs. For example, his entire album Maquam is about the stations of enlightenment within Islamic mysticism.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dmM_uPw2-c&t=807s

10 Synthwave Artists You Should Know

 

Synthesizers! They are so cool, right?  You take the most reliable aspects of a computer – programmable, reliable in its mathematics – attach a keyboard; amplify the sound through electronic speakers and be taken to another dreamy and sometimes intense world.

How to Make Vaporwave Music Videos Using Adobe Premiere Pro

Are you looking to invoke nostalgia for the pop-culture of the past? Need a music video to match your new vaporwave tune?

Maybe you just want an introduction into aesthetic design. Look no further.  Today we take you through the whole process of how you can make your own vaporwave video using Adobe Premiere Pro. Check it out!

Oh BTW, here’s what our music video will look like, more or less, once we’re done:

Explanation:

We’re going to take gameplay footage of an old 8-bit game (although feel free to apply this to your favourite Simpsons episode) and split it into its red, green, and blue channels, like so…

We will offset those colour channels and then apply a VHS-tape warping effect to make it look like you recorded the footage 30 years ago.

Step 1: Obtaining Footage

Install a Youtube video downloader add-on onto your Firefox or Chrome browser.

Then, download gameplay footage of an old 8-bit game.

Download this VHS overlay while you’re at it: 

Step 2: Splitting The Layers

  1. Import your 8-bit footage and your VHS overlay into Premiere.
  2. Drag your 8-bit footage onto your timeline.
  3. Make sure you have 4 tracks by right-clicking on the blank space above your tracks and clicking “Add Tracks…”
  4. Unlink your audio from your 8-bit footage by right-clicking on it in the timeline and selecting “Unlink”
  5. Click on your audio clip in your timeline and press delete to get rid of it.

Your timeline should look like this:

Now we’re going to do a colour glitch effect.

Explanation: Every image on your computer is made by combining red, green, and blue in various amounts. We are going to separate the red, green, and blue channels of our gameplay footage.

Hold alt and click + drag the video up onto the V2 track. When you alt+click+drag, you’re duplicating your video track. Duplicate the track once more onto V3.

Click on the effects tab. Search for “rgb”. Select “Color Balance (RGB)”. Drag “Color Balance (RGB)” onto each one of your 3 tracks.

Since you’ve dragged the effect onto your video clips, you will now have a “Color Balance (RGB)” option in your Effect Controls window (top-left window of Premiere).

Click the video on your V3 track to select it and, in your Effect Control window, click the arrow to the left of “Color Balance (RGB)” to expand its options.

You’ll see a “Red”, “Green”, and “Blue” option. The idea here is that you want V3 to be only the red channel, V2 to be only the green channel, and V1 to be only the blue channel.

That means, for V3, click the number to the right of the ‘Red’ channel, type in ‘100’, then type in ‘0’ for the ‘Green’ and ‘Blue’ channels.

Finally, set the ‘Blend Mode’ of each track to ‘Screen’.

Your video layers are now set up, just go into the “Motion” tab of your Effect Control window and offset the ‘x’ and ‘y’ of each layer until you get a separation that you’re happy with.

You can change the ‘x’ and ‘y’ easily by clicking and dragging left and right on the values in your Effect Control window.

Step 3: Adding VHS Tracking

At this point, adding the VHS tracking video should be a breeze. Drag your “VHS Bad Tracking Overlay” from your Media Browser panel onto V4 so that it’s above all your other clips.

Right click on the clip and ‘unlink’ it from its audio, then click on its audio track and press ‘delete’ on your keyboard to get rid of its audio.

Select your VHS clip on V4 and, in its Effect Control window, set its Blending Mode to ‘Screen’. Setting its blending mode to screen will get rid of the black in the video and make it look like your footage underneath is genuinely glitching on an old VHS tape.

If your VHS tracking clip is too short, you can copy and paste it within the Timeline to extend it.

But be careful: Premiere will paste into whatever track is highlighted blue, so make sure V3, V2, and V1 are deselected, then select V4.

Now that the V4 track is highlighted, select the VHS clip, ctrl+C, press ‘down’ on your arrow keys until your timeline marker is at the end of your VHS clip (pressing ‘up’ will send the marker back to the start of the previous clip), then press ctrl+V to paste it.

At this point, you’ll want to import any audio you want in your video and drag it onto one of your empty audio layers (A1, A2, A3, or A4).

Part 4: Export as MP4

Go to File -> Export -> Media…

Your export window will open.

Change your ‘format’ to ‘H.264’. This will compress your video and let you save as an mp4 video file.

You can leave most of these settings to default. Hit “Match Source” just to make sure.

At the bottom of this window you may notice your ‘Estimated File Size’. If your estimated file size is too large, you can go into ‘Bitrate Settings’ in your ‘Video’ tab and reduce the ‘Target Bitrate’ until your Estimated File Size is something more manageable for you.

You may want to reduce the ‘Maximum Bitrate’ along with it. Keep in mind, reducing the video bitrate also reduces the overall quality of your video.

Once you’re happy with the Estimated File Size, click Export and Premiere will start rendering your video out to a file you can upload to Youtube.

Part 5:  aesthetic Text

If you want vaporwave-style characters in your Youtube title, go to https://lingojam.com/VaporwaveTextGenerator, type in your title, and convert it to full-width characters. Then just copy + paste them into your Youtube title.

You’re all done! Hit play, sit back, and remember a time long gone.

What is Downtempo Music? – History, Characteristics, and Artists

Downtempo is a genre of electronic music. It is similar to ambient music, however, downtempo has a greater emphasis on beats. It is also similar to trip hop, a fusion of hip hop and electronica which emerged in Bristol in the late 1980s. Downtempo also surfaced around this time in the UK, but its rise in popularity began in the 1990s.

In 2010, the Atlantic described downtempo as “a variety of music styles from the 2000s characterized by mellow beats, vintage synthesizers, and lo-fi melodies.” The genre generally includes chillwave, glo-fi, and hypnagogic pop.

Downtempo music is slow, made up of tranquil beats and melodies peppered with synth that flows in and out, presenting an overall retro, dreamy, far away vibe. There are usually few to no lyrics used in downtempo. The genre takes inspiration from many other styles of music, like 80’s pop.

Some artists have also taken a feather from Jamaican dub and reggae and incorporated that into the genre, such as the duo known as Thievery Corporation. Their album “Treasures from the Temple” illustrates their reggae-influenced style of downtempo perfectly. You can listen to the album below.

In addition to Thievery Corporation, some other downtempo artists include Flume, Little Dragon and Tycho.

Washed Out is another prime example of the genre. You can listen to “Feel It All Around” below.

There is a simplicity to downtempo that makes it easy to listen to, and a rhythm to it that makes it enjoyable.

Tycho album cover

History of Downtempo

Downtempo was often played in Ibiza throughout the 1990s. Ibiza is an island in the Mediterranean Sea known for its nightlife and summer club scene, as well as the electronic music that originated on the island.

Many DJs use Ibiza to try out new songs in the electronic music genre. Often in Ibiza, DJs would play downtempo music to bring down the vibe as the party neared sunrise. After a night of upbeat electronic music, a bit of chill, ambient downtempo would relax the vibe and bring everything to a nice close.

Throughout the 1990s, downtempo was played in the chillout and relaxation areas of clubs and electronic music events. Later in the 1990s, it grew in popularity thanks to the Austrian duo Kruder and Dorfmeister who remixed many pop and hip hop songs in the downtempo genre. You can listen to their song “Shakatakadoodub” from their 2008 album of the same name below.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for some chill, ambient music, embroidered with a bit of 80s charm and stitched together with simple beats and melodies, this genre is for you.

What Is Electropop Music? Characteristics, History, Popular Artists, and More

Electropop, as a musical genre, has existed since electronic synthesizer-based music fused with pop music to create a new genre that is now widely known as electropop. 

In other words, if your music has synthetic elements, and yet aims to be popular, it could be considered “electropop”. 

But this is too simple an explanation – let’s dig a little deeper and explore the history, some of the characteristics, and popular artists working in the genre right now.


History of Electropop Music

The genre found its footing in the 1980’s with all sorts of electronics-based pop bands who were finding mainstream success, such as New Order, Gary Numan, Kraftwerk, Pet Shop Boys, A Flock Of Seagulls, Aha, Soft Cell, Simple Minds, Erasure, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Depeche Mode, and countless others.  Back then, it was known as synth pop. 

Remember this classic synth pop song from The Breakfast Club Soundtrack – Simple Minds’ Don’t You (Forget About Me)?

There was no “electro pop” label around this time in the early to mid-80’s, but there was electro-punk music.  However, “electro-punk” I believe referred to groups like Suicide, maybe Devo, and even early Human League. 

The whole “electro” label just wasn’t used widely yet during the 80’s, they apparently liked the word “synth” better. 

My guess is that “electro” still reminded people of electric instruments, which were already widely in use, so they needed to differentiate.  Who’s “they”?  The writers who wrote for music periodicals, of course.  Rolling Stone, NME, etc. 


Influencers of Electropop

The bands that influenced all of these new synth-based pop music were far more progressive in nature than what amounts to electropop today – back then, it was synth pioneers like Jean-Michel Jarre, Tangerine Dream, even Pink Floyd and Bowie – these were some of the very earliest synth-based songwriters who experimented with the technology and became widely known as masters of that technology before anyone else.

Here’s Jean-Michel Jarre, with Oxygene, Pt. 4 – a song that came out well before even synth pop emerged in the 1980’s.

Synth-based pop music artists, who started their careers in the 1970’s, and who were really hitting it big by the mid-80’s, showed us that electronic pop music could become just as widely accepted as many of the larger rock bands of the day. 

The rise of synth pop was surely to the dismay of some rock bands and out of touch record company execs at the time, who didn’t want to have to deal with a whole new batch of weirdos wielding instruments that didn’t look very exciting (futuristic pianos), and people that moved in a more “unnatural” way.

A good example of this new type of “weird” music could be summed up with a band like Devo, who looked more like geeks and dweebs than any type of typical rock star. 

However, if you were around in the ’80’s, you knew that movies by the likes of director John Hughes and others were presenting social outcasts in a new light. 

It was “revenge of the nerds” out there, folks, and all sorts of people who were formerly cast aside were starting to become more generally accepted in society.  Life imitates art, they say. 

This clip from the Revenge of the Nerds movie shows the influence of electronic pop bands at the time on popular movies, which were seen in theatres and on video cassette by millions throughout North America.

With synth pop on the rise, and its more fringe elements starting to align with the concerns of Western society, the music loving public was now willing to accept synth-based music as a legitimate form of music, just as they had accepted rhythm and blues before that into the cultural lexicon.


Synth Pop’s Mass Appeal 

In terms of why synths caught on in the first place, I think that once the prices dropped for certain synths, which were, prior to the early 80’s, too expensive for most musicians to afford – well, these now slightly affordable synths eventually were within reach of more “normal” people, and more and more musicians started using them for songwriting purposes. 

That’s when synth pop / electro-pop bands started to surface, as people got a hold of the synths needed to make the music. 

Here’s a popular synth pop track from the time, which many of you might remember – Take On Me by A-ha.

I’ll throw in a personal anecdote at this time to corroborate some of this information I’ve been saying.  In 1984, when I was 7 and in Grade 3 here in Canada, I remember we had an assembly in the gym where a number of synth pop bands came to our school and played synthesizer music for us. 

I believe they came from the high schools, and it was just an event to show us smaller kids what was happening in the world outside.  All these teenagers had weird hair (ie. mohawks, hair dye, giant rat tails and mullets), and played various types of keyboards that looked like pianos but didn’t SOUND like pianos at all.  I remember being slightly confused, but very impressed. 

The point is, by the mid-80’s, kids were getting synths for Christmas and were putting their piano lessons to use by forming synth pop bands, some of whom had just watched movies like The Breakfast Club.

As the 80’s progressed, synth pop bands around the country started hauling these large synths out on stage for live performances, and that’s when critics took note that bands started looking and acting different, being quite suspicious of these bands at first. 

After all, most concert goers and editorial writers only knew rock ‘n’ roll for the longest time, and had yet to catch up with the paradigm shift that a large part of society had already experienced. 

These stuffed shirts and yuppie types who were accustomed to things being a certain way all the time, certainly weren’t ready for people like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper – these total freaks that were also female, to boot!  Scary!

For some people, having their daughter take after Madonna was their worst nightmare.  Still applies today!

As mentioned, “electropop” as a descriptive term for a style of music still hadn’t been born yet, and the terms around this time were synth pop, new wave, and electro punk.  Even Madonna, who was one of the biggest musical stars ever by the end of the ’80’s, was still referred to as a pop artist, if anything. 

Also around this time (mid-80’s), hip hop was beginning to develop out of New York, with artists like Afrika Bambaata, and it too was based mostly on electronic elements with some help from Mr. James Brown.

Still, no genre of music was really being referred to as electropop at the time, as it was still filtering its way into the deepest levels of society. 

By the 1990’s, “pop” was a common way to describe a lot of music that was in the charts.  If it wasn’t rock, it was pop, unless it was jazz, or blues, or something else. 

In fact, if memory serves, all of the electronic music that was being written in the ’90’s and was considered groundbreaking such as Underworld, Fatboy Slim, The Chemical Brothers, Aphex Twin, Orbital, etc. 

Their music was called just that – broadly labelled as electronic music, and was still considered a fringe element along with the venues in which electronic music was played – raves, festivals, dark clubs, and such.  Even though these types of events were becoming far less fringe and more appealing to the masses.

In retrospect, this, of course, was the rise of DJ culture, and as such, most rock people and even people who were accepting of synth pop in the ’80’s wasn’t exactly prepared to accept rave culture into their homes.  That is, until they had to because it was just too damn popular to ignore any longer.


Electropop

If you ask me, electropop didn’t become a specially used term until the 2000’s, when all of the electronic music and all of the pop music finally merged to create a single definable style with certain characteristics.

Artists like Lady Gaga, Calvin Harris, Ke$ha, Hardwell, and The Chainsmokers have been dominating the charts now for years and their music could easily fall under the umbrella term of electropop, even though their music would also naturally fall into other sub-genres as well.

Let’s have a look at and a listen to perhaps the queen of electropop – Lady Gaga, from back in 2008 when she performed on Ellen.

To define electropop, it doesn’t have to be complicated, and yet it sort of is.  It is a style of music that is often heavy on synths, but avoids certain cliches that a genre like synthwave might embrace.  For instance, electropop is modern, without being retro-futuristic if that makes any sense. 

To explain, a similar genre like synthwave music harkens back to the days of synth pop and retro electronic sounds from the 60’s / 70’s / 80’s, typically of the progressive variety.  Electropop, on the other hand, is music made for this moment, is influenced by all sorts of world music styles but especially hip hop, and doesn’t rely on any sort of dystopian futurism for it’s stylistic cues. 

Which means, electropop isn’t usually very dirty production-wise or overly dark or sinister theme-wise.  Rather, the themes of electropop tend to be more eternal – love lost and found, and more relatable themes of that sort.

Check out this classic Calvin Harris track from 2009 called I’m Not Alone.  It has some guitar, yes, but it also builds around some epic synths, making the whole production sound huge.

Electropop now is like synth pop was, or pop music in general always has been – meant to be timeless.  Instead of using a lot of standard rock instrumentation (which it reserves the right to if it wants), electropop music itself can be built up with synths so long as the synths aren’t too retro-sounding. 

They can be retro, but not past say, the late 90’s, or it gets into that territory of 80’s synth pop which is does try to consciously avoid, I think. 

I would say that the synths used in electropop music sometimes has to play down their synth leads, due to the inclusion of vocals, whereas more experimental styles of electronic music don’t have the pop vocal performance to worry about as much (my highly generalized take on things, I know).

While electropop has been described as robotic and artificial by some (in terms of production, if nothing else), electropop music still manages to dominate most pop radio stations today, as electropop artists tend to write songs specifically to be catchy and have mainstream appeal. 

Other similar genres to electropop will opt for a more underground appeal, which serves to legitimize them more with certain fanbases, whereas electropop always goes for the largest audience possible, because it is “pop”, after all. 

Cue “Fireflies” by Owl City.

That said, the genre can still be experimental music in nature if it so chooses, as it is perpetually trying to be cutting edge and modern, attracting the slickest producers in the game, as well as some of the most talented artists in music right now. 

And, at the same time as it tries to be cutting edge, many detractors of electropop will claim that the genre is to music as the Twinkie is to nutrition – as in, devoid of any real value due to it’s assembly line production style.  In the end, all views are subjective, and tastes obviously differ from person to person.  

Like it or not, electropop is a dominant force in music today because it is one of the remaining musical genres where the success level can still be huge, as evidenced by artists like Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Owl City, Passion Pit, and others. 

And, with the accessibility of recording software and hardware, it is easier than ever for an artist to write an electropop song by themselves with no help from anyone, and make it sound like it was written by a million-dollar producer.  So, what are you waiting for?  Go do it.  If the Owl City guy can do it, why can’t you?

What Is Synthwave Music? History, Characteristics, Artists, and More!

Music these days has splintered off into a thousand and one sub-genres.  Who can keep track?  Me, I guess.  With the genre known as synthwave, there is the added complication of there being two different incarnations, with one appearing in the late 1970’s and lasting for another decade or so, and the other being much more recent, starting in the 2000’s and continuing to this day.

If you are new to synthwave, we will try to describe the difference between the two genres, and clarify what exactly synthwave is now. But first, we’ll dip into the history of the genre.

History of Synthwave

What synthwave is and what it was are basically two different things.  The original genre of synthwave was also called synth-pop or sometimes electropunk.  It was never really called synthwave actually, or even “synth wave”, specifically.  If I recall correctly, it was referred to as synth pop, but some writers may have called it synth wave at some point.  For our intents here, we will distinguish between the first wave being called synth wave (note the space), and then the second and most recent incarnation being synthwave.  Get it?

Before we go further, here’s a taste of some old school synth wave from one of my favourite 80’s movies, the 1981 John Carpenter classic, Escape from New York with Kurt Russell starring as Snake Plissken as…ah, look it up if you feel like it.

Escape from New York doesn’t exactly “embody” the genre of synth wave aka synth pop, but no one song or soundtrack does. 

The essential premise of the original wave of synth-based music, under the umbrella term of synth pop (but was not really synth pop at all), is that it involved any music that contained a lot of synths, was used for a sci fi or action movie soundtrack, and combined it with a type of futurism, with the result being a type of music that best used for scoring films and video games. 

Synth pop was part of this “wave” of synth-based music, but synthwave, or what would become synthwave nowadays, was sort of an undefined type of synth music that was becoming popular due to the proliferation of the technology, plus the types of movies and games that were permeating pop culture at the time.  Speaking of pop culture, I remember in 1987 when Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was in theatres, and this song, called “Oh Yeah” by Yello, came on the screen at the end.  By this point, you knew (or can see in retrospect, at least) that pop music and offbeat experimental electronic music had finally melded into one.  

Influencers

Who influenced the first coming of synth wave?  Jean Michel Jarre, Tangerine Dream, Brian Eno, and Vangelis are some of the essential first wave synth proponents from the ’70’s, not to mention all of the retro gaming music composers like Rob Hubbard, Matt Gray, and countless other old school retro video gaming music gods.  

These guys had their roots in classical, jazz, and prog rock, so they weren’t exactly mainstream hitmakers.  In fact, they weren’t part of the mainstream at all, although their sound was so powerful that it attracted new fans left and right.  

There were still most often vocals in these original synth wave songs that became hits in the 80’s, like any other pop song of the day, but often songs had no vocals to highlight the soundtrack nature of some of the songs, as shown in the above examples for instance.  It was always a dichotomy, with some songs going straight for the pop jugular, and others being steeped in obscure references and progressive music from the past.  

Here’s a synth pop song with vocals that was aiming for mass appeal, from classic synth pop band Depeche Mode.

In many cases both the bands who performed synth wave, in the manner that people still play it today, represented “the future” in one way or another, either performing as robots, cyborgs, (ie. Kraftwerk) or some type of futurist (often dystopian). 

Of course, if they were more on the new romantic side of things, they might just be sharp dressed individuals with some type of distinctive “look”.  Hair was always something to check out on these artists.  Think Duran Duran circa 1984.  They still had guitars, but synth was a big part of their sound and they went on to be one of the biggest bands the world has ever known.

Here is a band that informed the original synth pop bands a great deal – the legendary Kraftwerk.  This was back before they really modelled their look after dystopian futurism, in 1975.  They went on to call it “machine music”.

Divergence of Synth Pop and Synthwave

It is also worth noting that when it comes to categorizing music in general, the acts that were considered “synth” groups in this original period of the 70’s/80’s were more so labelled as such by music journalists who were having a hard a time figuring out what to refer to these new and different bands as in music magazines. 

Music industry people had never seen bands like these before, nor were they familiar with synths in general, so no one really knew what to call these types of groups.  Should they be called synth pop, new wave, synth wave, electro punk?  Synth pop, to my knowledge, was the prevailing term of synth-based bands at the time.  Synthwave, as we now know it, was still at this time more of a loose concept than a formal term, and embodied the more experimental aspects of synth pop.

 Here is the group, Yazoo (AKA Yaz), with their hit, “Only You”, written by synth master Vince Clarke.  Undoubtedly synth pop.

The bands themselves didn’t always refer to themselves by any such label, ie. “synth pop”, or anything else at the time.  That said, once the term synth pop had caught on, bands realized they could benefit by billing themselves as such, and so they did later on, once the term had been firmly entrenched in mass culture as a whole.

Many of these synth-based acts, while reaching their peak in the 1980’s, still started their careers in the 1970’s, when synthesizers were becoming more accessible to musicians by virtue of slightly lower prices at music stores. 

What Is Synthwave Now Vs Then?

The relatively “new” breed of synthwave music is not really referring to the old guard of acts who once embodied the genre like Depeche Mode, and the rest.  Synthwave (no space this time) began in the early 2000’s, and, like the synth pop of old, certain tracks were instrumental only, while others feature vocals prominently.  This has never been the deciding feature of the genre.

Let’s kick this section off with some Mitch Murder and his classic track, “Remember When”, which flashes back to the ’80’s and some of the great nostalgic memories from movies of that time including E.T., the Karate Kid, the Breakfast Club, and more.

Modern synthwave, while it does sometimes target mainstream listeners, generally is more of an underground self-aware type of affair, with only a select group of listeners who care about old movies, video games, and synth pop caring about very much. 

That said, while its crowd is currently somewhat selective, I think it is also fair to say that synthwave has elements that appear in all forms of modern popular music in terms of radio hits nowadays, because most radio hits love to incorporate synths more now than ever into their song arrangements. Still, this type of music would now be considered electropop, not synthwave.  

Regardless of which demographic it is aimed at, this new form of the genre takes everything that happened in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, including video games, movie soundtracks by famed directors like John Hughes and John Carpenter, and, of course, the original bands that inspired the name (pop, experimental, or otherwise), and mash it into one glorious cocktail of sounds to give us what is the essence of “synthwave” now. 

Let’s have a listen to the track Ghost Dancers Slay Together, by Perturbator, which definitely throws back to some serious old school vibes featuring a dystopian cyberpunk aesthetic.

It was in the 80’s that the music business and fans as well realized how much they loved the sound of dystopian futurism, and it became bigger in some ways than anyone might ever have dreamed. 

Not to name drop Depeche Mode again, but in recent years their world tours have generated more money than almost anyone else, and even though they typically are thought of as synth pop, they too have strong synthwave elements – go figure.  

The new synthwave really makes no bones about where it comes from – it honours the past while also playing with it, then serves to experiment and forge new ground where it can.  It is not a limited genre, but, like all genres, it follows certain trends and cliches which everyone loves and are tried and true.

Equipment Used in Synthwave

The driving principle behind the music described as synthwave now is – surprise – using lots of synths.  Whether it’s an actual analog synthesizer, or a VST (Virtual Studio Techology) which replicates old school synth sounds, synthwave tracks generally feature these sounds, as well as synth drums.  Big, evil basslines are also found in synthwave music, courtesy of the right analog gear or particularly juicy VST’s. 

Retro elements from old video games and movies are definitely taken advantage of as well, in the form of certain familiar tropes.  At the same time as the music has a retro feel, it uses modern production to update the sounds which, in their original incarnation, may have been more contained and sparsely produced, can now be blown up to sound huge and, more suitable for today’s larger than life global culture.  Since synth users were always considered more geeky than their rock guitar playing counter parts, it is no surprise that they seem to have a better insight into musical production, if I may generalize.

Check out this epic track by Gunship, called Art3mis & Parzival, which successfully combines all the elements that make synthwave what it is – dystopian futurism, retro gaming, soundtrack music, but it combines it with more modern elements as well.

Another element of synthwave today is the “open source” nature of the sounds themselves.  Creators of certain tracks are apt to share various patches with other creators in order to create certain sounds.  This, in a way, makes the “sound” or “effect” the star just as much as the artist.  Because, once artists become aware of a particular patch as being a good one, the community will rally around it and actively mention it and promote it.

But synthwave is now more than just music.  It is also wrapped up in culture itself, with synthwave style art also being somewhat definable.  Just drop by any platform that features a visual component (instagram, etc), and you’re bound to see some synthwave style artworks.

Unfortunately for those of us who would like to keep things simple, the rabbit hole that is synthwave goes far deeper than just simply defining the genre and being done with it.  Synthwave grows tentacles in the forms of sub-genres like vapourwave, futuresynth, retrowave, and outrun, to name but a few sub-genres. 

If you were a kid in the ’80’s, you might know “outrun” as Outrun, a popular driving video game.  Yeah, it’s that, but it’s also a genre now too, thanks to the 2013 album by Kavinsky that produced fast-paced synth music perfect for driving. 

Speaking of synth-driven driving music, the successful 2011 movie Drive, featuring Ryan Gosling, also helped to bring synthwave to the fore.

Today, it’s shows like Stranger Things and the 2017 version of Blade Runner that have helped to keep synthwave popular.

Another feature of synthwave music that is particular to these times is the fact that it is self-produced, and is effectively an underground movement.

With platforms like Bandcamp, Youtube, and Soundcloud being huge incubators for new ideas, they tend to draw in synthwave artists because there is no barrier between the artist and releasing their work to the public.  And these days, you never know what will be popular next, although many artists are content to exist in their dark little corner of the web as well, as not all artists crave the adulation of the masses.

We hope this clears things up a little bit as to what synthwave is all about.  

Who Is Aphex Twin?

“Forget all the equipment, forget the music, at the end of the day it’s just literally frequencies and their effects on your brain. That’s what’s everyone’s essentially after.”

Aphex Twin, born Richard David James, is an electronic music artist born August 18, 1971, who has come to be associated with genre descriptors such as IDM (intelligent dance music), ambient, techno, and overall “experimental” music.  He can be described in these ways, yes, but his resume goes on…he is also a record producer, composer, performer, remixer (sometimes for ca$h), DJ, and just an all round musical fellow who grew up dreaming of beats and tunes.

Richard D. James has been making groundbreaking tracks for decades now, and is generally considered on of the most important electronic music makers of all time and is loved by fans and musicians alike.  However, it would seem that Richard doesn’t take himself quite so seriously as an important musical figure, preferring to remain in relative obscurity and to troll as many people as he can.  Sometimes his music can even seem rather troll-like.  This, to some, gives him his particular charm… but can you really trust this face?

Of course not.  In any case, we figured, hey, let’s look at the convoluted history of the man behind the slightly off-putting visage. Who is this Aphex Twin guy, anyway?  He seems to not want to really be known at times, and other times he is hard to escape, but that only makes us wonder… Is he perhaps a Satan worshipper?  Your garden variety techno knob-twiddling dweeb?  Some kind of hacker dude?  A EDM bigshot like Hardwell?  An actual twin to a brother who died at birth?  Who??

Sweet Baby (Richard D.) James

Richard D. James grew up in Lanner, Cornwall, in the United Kingdom, but was born in Limerick, Ireland.  He has two older sisters, and his parents are Welsh.  While the demonic emblematic omnipresent face may suggest otherwise, the future AFX was a fairly contented child according to James himself, who was generally left to his own devices in this scenic area of England.  Let’s check it out for ourselves, shall we?

Left to explore the countryside and feeling apart from the wider world, Richard was a curious sort with an active imagination enjoyed doing his own thing.  These qualities remained with him into his adult life.

An 11-year-old Richard took an early interest in electronics and, after winning a competition in school where he farted around with a Sinclair ZX81 and got this machine to make some sort of “really weird noise” when the volume was cranked, even though it was apparently incapable of doing so.  This netted Richard 50 pounds, and his career in music was thus launched!  For anyone wanting to geek out a bit, here’s the “Grandaddy of Computers”.

Ah, that hit the spot.  Anywho, the story goes that Richard began composing and producing his own tracks early on, in his pre-teenage years, and, one the hormones were in full swing, he became a DJ and spun tracks in several locations around his neck of the woods, ie. the Shire Horse Inn in St. Ives, as well as the Bowgie Inn in Crantock, as well as at some local beaches.  Here is that very same Inn as seen through a very strange neon lens.  Could this be how Richard saw it? 

College Yrs

In college, his interest was electronics and engineering, which naturally connected him closer to the music he was already making.  At Cornwall College, where he studied in his late teens, Richard received a certificate for engineering.  He was known, according to one of his teachers, to wear headphones a lot, even during class.  Scrutinizing audio was obviously a primary concern for Richard.

Being in such an isolated part of the country, it was difficult for Richard to gain access to the types of music that interested him the most, namely techno, electronic shit, and the like.  This lead to him making tapes on his own of this type of music that was not common where he was from, so he could play it for friends and immerse himself in it fully.  While working as a DJ at the Bowgie pub, he met Grant Wilson-Claridge (the dude giving the finger above), who was also a DJ. 

“I’m just some irritating, lying, ginger kid from Cornwall who should have been locked up in some youth detention centre. I just managed to escape and blag it into music.” 

Grant was interested in what Richard was up to, and, after hearing some of his original material, encouraged Richard to make records with his involvement.  This got Richard more interested in vinyl, as he was now entering the world of record producing.  The two friends were beginning to create their own little world of unique electronic music in a more rural part of the United Kingdom.  Keeping it interesting, no doubt.

First Releases and Rephlex Records

If you’re a fan of Aphex Twin, you’ll know that his first release was called Analogue Bubblebath, released as a 12-inch in 1991 on Mighty Force Records.  Here he worked alongside Tom Middleton, AKA Schizophrenia, to produce the track En Trance To Exit.  A popular radio station in London, called Kiss FM, picked up the EP itself, which did help it to become a success.

Rephlex Records was founded in 1991 was Richard D. James and his friend Grant Wilson-Claridge, who both had a strong love of Acid – not the drug, but the musical genre – which was both much maligned and much loved by the people of Britain.  In fact, many people were wholly unfamiliar with it, and so Rephlex set out to expose this genre to new ears and change others’ minds about it.  Can you teach a farmer to dance?

Two Analogue Bubblebath’s were released between ’91 and ’93, with one credit to AFX and one with no name on it.  Another EP, released under the name Bradley’s Beat, also emerged, as did yet another of Richard’s monikers, Bradley Strider.  It was around this time that Richard went to Kingston Polytechnic to take a course in electronics, however, he was quickly being consumed by techno music and would soon focus on his career in music exclusively.

Alternate Egos and SAW 85-92

More alter egos surfaced at this time when Richard was staying in London, having left school – Blue Calx, The Dice Man, Polygon Window, Power-Pill… more tracks were created, found their way on to releases by Warp Records, as well as a number of compilations.  Meanwhile, Richard was seemingly without permanent residence, living in both an empty bank and near or actually on a roundabout in Elephant and Castle in South London.

“Well, I just bought a massive bank and I’ve moved into it on my own.” 

It was in 1992 that Aphex Twin started to really get the praise heaped upon him, with the release of Selected Ambient Works 85-92, which was his very first full length record under the Aphex Twin name.  It was sited as a landmark album for ambient music, and was seen by some critics as taking what Brian Eno had done for electronic music to the next level.  That said, although many consider this to be Aphex’s first big breakthrough album, it wasn’t the highest quality as it had been compiled on tape and lacked fidelity as a recording. 

But this didn’t stop 1992 from becoming Aphex Twin’s year.  This was also the year that Digeridoo came out, and enjoyed airplay on Kiss FM in London thanks to DJ colin Faver, and even charted on the UK Singles Chart coming in at #55.  As well, the now famous Pac-Man EP came out under the pseudonym Power-Pill, and Caustic Window released four Joyrex EPs.  These tracks seemed to hint at what drum and bass music would soon become, although Richard claimed that Digeridoo was designed to make obstinate ravers go home.   

Outpouring and SAW Vol.2

1993 and 1994 were also big years for Richard in terms of creativity, with a formidable outpouring of songs that came out under his various guises, including Bradley’s Robot by Bradley Strider, the Quoth EP and Surfing on Sine Waves by Polygon Window, a couple of EPs by Caustic Window, a 3rd Analogue Bubblebath, the now-legendary “On” EP, and, as if that weren’t enough, Warp released Selected Ambient Works Volume II, which is an album that continues to inspire, amaze, and confuse as time goes on. 

https://warp.net/

Richard has credited the creation of these tracks to lucid dreaming and synaesthesia, which does make a lot of sense when you listen to them.  They are quite abstract as far as songs go, and extremely ambient, buoyant, and dreamlike.  They even messed with Gracenote, the worldwide music database that makes it its mission to catalogue tracks in the most detailed way possible.  Without simply stated titles, even Gracenote was given the slip on many of these tracks.  Following this Aphex Twin Classics and a 4th Analogue Bubblebath (he just loooves to bath in analogue with soap, doesn’t he?), as well as GAK. 1994 was, as mentioned, a big year for Richard creatively speaking, and this basically solidified him as not only a force to be reckoned with in the music industry, but a real gamechanger.

“There’s a lot of melancholy in my tracks.”

He Cares Because You Do

1995 was hot with anticipation.  Could Richard keep ’em coming?  Turns out, yes, yes he could and did.  …I Care Because You Do was the beginning of the scary sort of mocking play on Richard’s face that began adorning future works, as well as videos.  This one came in the form of a rather creepy looking painting on the album cover. 

The tracks on this album had been brewing over the past 5 years, but they were a major leap forward as far as Richard’s overall work was concerned.  They range in styles, with some of Richard’s most beautiful melodies and beats, not to mention the crowd pleasing Ventolin (above). 

Analogue synths were the instrument of choice here, and this was to be the last time that Richard was entirely dedicated to them.  Famed composer Philip Glass also makes an appearance around this time, creating a version of the album track Icct Hedral, which came out on Donkey Rhubarb.  1995 saw Richard also dip into a style called drill ‘n’ bass for a release called Hangable Auto Bulb EP.

“The best musicians or sound-artists are people who never considered themselves to be artists or musicians.” 

In The Jungle…

1996 saw further development of Richard’s musical approach, as he released the innovative Richard D. James album via Warp Records.  At this point, the beats became crazier, the synths became synthier, and the overall feel was that of a wild experiment, with moments of abandon balanced with moments of sublime melody, and then other seriously weird stuff thrown in just because.  Around this time, there was a proliferation of “jungle” music entering the zeitgeist, with even the likes of David Bowie beginning to toy with the genre (ie. Earthling at the beginning of ’97), not to mention The Prodigy and other lesser known acts like Omni Trio and Tango and Ratty.  Aphex Twin trumped them all with his self-addressing album, adding more speed and some aggression by way of full throttle beats and snare rushes that blurred past you as a listener tried to take stock of the music aurally. 

That said, this album was not the same as Atari Teenage Riot and it was not really designed for raves, but for headphones.  Whatever this album is, critics latched on and it was added to many best lists including all time best electronic albums list that continue to crop up.

Come To Daddy

Come To Daddy EP came out in ’97 and drew even more attention, as by now Richard was officially considered a genius in music circles and people were waiting to see what would be next.  He made a video with Chris Cunningham for the album’s first song and title track, Come To Daddy, featuring some rather disturbing stuff. 

At the same time, Richard has said that he thinks it’s basically just his version of bad death metal, saying it was basically the product of some drunken nights and joking around.  Still to this day, the song has its distinct fans who take the song a bit seriously, such as Dillinger Escape Plan who covered the track both on disc and live.

“Sometimes I just hit the keyboard in a way I’d like the rhythm of the tracks to sound.”

It was around now that Richard was starting to take less enjoyment out of the whole MTV thing and being famous, and started to creep back into his natural state, which seems to be one of relative obscurity.  But not before releasing Windowlicker in 1999, his hit video (again with Cunningham helming it) that features a very long limousine and some what-was-now archetypal creepiness from RDJ.

Drukqs

There was a slight pause of 2 years, and then in 2001 Aphex Twin came back with Drukqs, featuring heavy influence from John Cage and Erik Satie with experimental piano music combined with computers.  Ever perplexing, there were some tracks with titles written in Cornish, and this was a double album at that so it was somewhat hard for fans and critics to grasp what exactly Richard was going for here, except maybe to keep them on their toes with something completely unexpected.  Reviews for this album were mixed, but it was generally agreed upon that many of the tracks had merit at least in terms of melody.  All in all, it was not what you’d consider a “hit” album and maybe that’s how Richard wanted it.  The next time fans would hear from Richard was via his Rephlex Records label.

www.rephlex.com

Analord

2005 was the year of the Analord, which came out in eleven EPs and brought Richard back to his AFX moniker.  Over the course of these albums, 42 tracks were released featuring both digital and analogue equipment, heavy on drum machines – in particular Roland machines such as the classic 808. 

But also weaving through the mix was a number of rare vintage synths and beat making machines, including Roland’s MC-4 and the TB-303 and then we can’t forget the Synton Fenix.  Tracks were pressed according to James’ specific tendencies at the time, going straight to vinyl, although he was convinced to also create a compilation on compact disc called Chosen Lords, featuring 10 tracks culled from these sessions.  An additional 20 tracks appeared on the Rephlex website in 2009 for download, beefing up the series significantly.

“I’m a really good hacker, but I’m not a sensible person.” 

The Tuss

In the years prior to Syro, which was released in 2014, Richard was busy being unfamous and trying to throw people off his trail by working under the name The Tuss, and having Grant Wilson-Claridge state that this was not Richard, but two other artists.  Later, it seemed that it was in fact Richard as both Brian and Karen Tregaskin used one of Richard’s rare synths – the Yamaha GX1.  Later, Richard finally admitted that he was The Tuss.  Coming up to 2014, Richard played a few select shows – one was a tribute to Krzysztof Penderecki, and another paid tribute to Steve Reich.

Syro, Soundcloud, and a blimp

With some interesting marketing in 2014 including a blimp and the dark web browser Tor, Aphex Twin finally came back with his first album since Drukqs, called Syro. 

This was followed by Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments Pt2 EP, and then a flurry of random users on Soundcloud released tracks that seemed to be by Aphex Twin, but there was some confusion around this.  Eventually, it was clear that Richard was at it again, doing subversive things involving his music, his fans, and the internet.  His presence on Soundcloud gave way to previously unheard tracks, and entire unheard albums with Richard making brief but insightful comments along the way.  His Soundclouds were going down, and returning, with tracks popping up here and there under different accounts.  His fans seemed to be keeping pace with him quite admirably, despite the haphazardness of his online behaviour here.

In most recent years, Richard launched his online store featuring a slew of new tracks.

https://aphextwin.warp.net//

With Richard starting to play the odd show, and releasing more tracks, we may have entered a golden age of Richard’s music, with more of it now available directly from the artist himself.  Being the enigma that he is, it is difficult to say what will be next.

Can (Band) History, Some Analysis, and Discography

History of Can (as in the band)

Founders and the artistic core of the band Can were the keyboard player Irmin Schmidt and the bassist Holger Czukay. Both had studied composition with Karlheinz Stockhausen at the Musikhochschule in Cologne .

can german band

In early 1968, they gathered together musicians with contrasting musical backgrounds, forming an experimental musical collective.

David C. Johnson was, at that time, a lecturer for electronic music. Free jazz came from the drummer Jaki Liebezeit, who had previously worked with Manfred Schoof.

Guitarist Michael Karoli still sought musical identity. At first, the band called themselves Inner Space. From a concert of June 1968, the singles Agilok & Blubbo (July 1968) and Kamasutra (November 1968) were released.

From 1968, the band first rehearsed at Nörvenich Castle, where they met in June 1968 for a jam session with the personnel of Karoli, Czukay, Schmidt, Liebeszeit and Johnson.

They were supplemented by Manfred “Manni” Löhne (vocals, percussion, flute).

This jam session was published in 1984 as the bootleg Prehistoric Future, which was published in limited editions of 2,000 copies and contained samples of the student unrest at the Sorbonne in Paris.


From 1968 to 1973

In November, 1968, Can recorded the soundtrack to the Kinofilm, Kama Sutra – Completion of Love, which came out on June 5, 1969 in theaters.

The first LP Monster Movie was created on July 25, 1969 in Nörvenich Castle and includes spontaneous compositions.

Only 500 copies of the first edition were sold in two weeks. From the end of the year, the band renounced the “The” in their name and now called themselves simply Can.

monster movie the can

At concerts, Malcolm Mooney was also struck by these performances in a negative way. On the advice of his psychiatrist he returned a little later to the United States, due to Can’s avante-garde-ness getting the better of him.

This was followed by the LPs Soundtracks (recorded from November 1969 to August 1970) and Tago Mago (November 1970 to February 1971), also recorded in Nörvenich.

Soundtracks included a compilation of film music from the last five films, for which Can was responsible as composer.

Can_-_Tago_Mago

Between 1971 and 1978, eight studio albums were created. The first LP from the new recording studio was Ege Bamyasi (December 1971 to June 1972), followed by Future Days (released in August 1973).

At the suggestion of Conny Plank, René Tinner took over the role of sound engineer from 1973 onwards, and in 1978 he continued the studio as a CAN studio.

In September 1973, Damo Suzuki left the band.


From 1974 to 1977

The LP Future Days Limited Edition (1974) was only planned with an edition of 15,000 copies, but was expanded to the Unlimited Edition in 1976 and contained unpublished titles.

This was followed by the LPs Soon Over Babaluma (August 1974), Landed (February to April 1975).

The double-LP Unlimited Edition (March 1976) was an extended version of the LP Limited Edition and included recordings between September 1968 and September 1974, Flow Motion (June 1976) and Saw Delight (January 1977).

From 1978 onwards

After the sessions on LP Can in February 1978, the group eventually broke up. In the same year, Karoli left the band. In 1980, Schmidt moved with his family to Provence.

Subsequent performances took place under the name Can Solo-Projects with individual former band members.

On 18 June 2012, the CD Can – The Lost Tapes was released with missing recordings of about 30 hours of playing time. They were found when the Can studio “Inner Space” was disbanded in November 2007 and re-built in Gronau (Westf.)

By the Rock’n’popmuseum. Jaki love died on 22 January 2017 at the age of 78 years at a lung inflammation. On September 5, 2017, Holger Czukay was found dead in his home in Weilerswist.

can the lost tapes


Movie Music – Spoon – Singles

To a larger audience, the band became known through film music, such as Tom Toelle’s television movie The Million Play, broadcast on 18 October 1970. On the LP Can Soundtracks, titles from the films Girls with Violence (Germany’s premiere on 19 February 1970), Deadlock (October 15, 1970) and Cream – Schwabing Report (August 27, 1971).

As of September 24, 1975, the Crimean Eurogang ran with the Can-Single Hunters and Collectors (from LP Landed ).

The single I Want More (from the LP Flow Motion ) came in August 1976 in the British charts down to 26th place, the only British chart listing the group.

Concerts

The band was very well known in Great Britain despite the restrained sales figures. The first tour through England took place as of April 28, 1972, beginning in London and ending on May 8, 1972 in Colchester; Since then, they have regularly appeared here.

An extensive tour of England started on 16 February 1973 and ended only after four weeks on 18 March 1973. On 9 August 1971 they were at the Beat-Club in front of the cameras.

Can gave on 3 February 1972 a concert in the sold out Cologne sports hall, which was recorded by the WDR television and broadcast on 25 September 1975 in WDR 3. The last performance took place in May 1977 in Portugal.


Some Analysis As Promised

Can put into their live playing the nature of the interplay and in the production method experimental accents, which deviated significantly from the conventional rock music. Repetitive passages, strong improvisational passages in jazz rock and free jazz became their hallmark.

Can was neither a commercial rock band nor a formation attributable to the mainstream of rock music. The music style of the band did not fit into the marketing scheme of most record companies, so the group initially found it hard to find a record company. This was the reason why the band had to change the record label so often.

Only in May 1975 did they receive a record contract with EMI, Can’s recording habits led to the accumulation of unpublished recordings, which then came to the market only years later. In 2003, Can received the German music award Echo for lifetime achievement.

From the outset, Can was beyond the tradition of rock ‘n’ roll , due to the fact that two of their musicians (Czukay and Schmidt) came from the classical music scene around Karlheinz Stockhausen.

A colleague from Stockhausen, the composer, flutist and live electronicsian David Johnson, was one of the founders of Can.

The only one who could have had experience in rock music at the time of the founding was the young guitarist Karoli, who had already played in different beat groups. In addition, the drummer Liebezeit, who had previously occupied himself with jazz and for a time with free jazz (for example, in the quintet by Manfred Schoof), brought a further contrast into the “musical community” which mainly focused on the opening days improvised music.

Another influence, which shaped all members of the formation, was world music and folklore from all parts of the world.

In the course of their work new influences such as disco, but also technical innovations were added, whereby their sound picture gradually changed.

These constant changes and the peculiar views of collaboration in the collective led to changes of occupation, although the core was always preserved.

Their decisive contribution to the history of music lies in the fact that, like hardly any other band, they developed an aesthetics of repetitive sound compositions independent of the classical song structure.


Influence on other bands

On his album Graduation (2007, Roc-A-Fella Records ) Kanye West uses a sample from Sing Swan Song for Drunk and Hot Girls.

The experiment composer Karlheinz Essl created with Father Earth, the 2007 on its publication SNDT®X, a tribute to Can, which refers to Mother Sky from the LP Soundtracks.

In an interview with The Quietus of 2011, Geoff Barrow of Portishead describes the enormous influence of Can on his creative work: “Can are my favourite and most inspirational band ever, I think. I heard this in the early nineties on the radio, thinking they were the best new band ever. Melodically, sonically and rhythmically this is experimentation with songs.”

Stephen Malkmus, the former singer and guitarist of Pavement, who worked with this band as well as with the Jicks an intensive Can reception, together with members of the band Von Spar 2012, covered the entire Can album Ege Bamyasi at the Cologne Weekend Festival and released the recording 2013 as Can’s Ege Bamyasi.

In June 2015, the magazine Rolling Stone chose the album Future Days in the top eight of the 50 best progressive rock albums of all time.

DISCOGRAPHY

Charts

Singles

LPs

  • August 1969 Monster Movie
  • September 1970 Soundtracks
  • February 1971 Tago Mago Double LP
  • June 1972 Ege Bamyasi
  • August 1973 Future Days
  • November 1974 Soon Over Babaluma
  • September 1975 Landed
  • October 1976 Flow Motion
  • March 1977 Saw Delight
  • July 1978 Out of Reach
  • July 1979 Can Re-release Inner Space
  • September 1989 Rite Time

Singles

  • July, 1968 Agilok & Blubbo / Camera Song
  • November 1968 Kama Sutra / I’m Hiding My Nightingale
  • December 1969 Soul Desert / She Brings The Rain
  • December 1971 Spoon / Shikako Maru Ten
  • 1972 I’m So Green / Mushroom
  • 1972 Vitamin C / I’m So Green
  • August 1973 Moonshake / Future Days
  • 1974 Dizzy Dizzy / Splash
  • September 1975 Hunters & Collectors / Vernal Equinox
  • August 1976 I Want More / … And More
  • 1976 Silent Night / Cascade Waltz
  • January 1977 Do not Say No / Return
  • January 1978 Can-Can / Can Be
  • August 1990 Hoolah Hoolah (double-mix) / Hoolah Hoolah (sun electric mix)

Compilations and Live Recordings

  • 1974 limited edition Collection of rarities 1968-1974
  • March 1976 Unlimited Edition Collection of rarities 1968-1974
  • 1976 opener Compilation of LP material 1972-1974
  • 1978 Cannibalism Compilation of LP material 1969-1974
  • 1981 Delay 1968 Collection of rarities and outtakes 1968
  • 1984 Prehistoric Future The very first session at Nörvenich Castle June 1968
  • 1993 Anthology Compilation of LP and soundtrack material 1968-1991
  • 1995 The Peel Sessions Collection of BBC recordings 1973-1976
  • 1997 Radio Waves Rarities and live recordings
  • 1997 Sacrilege Tribute double album with remixes and covers
  • 1999 Can Live Collection of live recordings 1972-1977
  • June 2012 The Lost Tapes Unpublished studio and live recordings 1968-1977
  • 2017 The Singles compilation

Bootlegs

  • Mother Sky Berlin (Waldbühne, 1971)
  • University of Essex (Colchester, May 8, 1972)
  • Horror Trip in the Paper House (Cologne, February 3, 1973)
  • Live at Paris Olympia (Paris, 1973)
  • Live at Sussex University (Brighton, November 1975)
  • Live at Stuttgart (October 31, 1975)
  • Live at Hanover (November 4, 1976)
  • London and Grenoble Live (1976)
  • Germany 1976 Vol. 1 (Hanover, April 11, 1976)
  • Great Britain 1977 Vol. 2 (Aston, March 4, 1977)
  • Radio Waves (Sonic Records, 1997): Live recordings and rarities 1969-1972
  • Zhengzheng Rikang (2006, recordings from 1968/1969)

Books

  • Hermann Haring: Rock from Germany / West – From the Rattles to Nena: Two decades of Heimatklang. Rowohlt, Reinbek near Hamburg 1984
  • Pascal Bussy / Andy Hall: The Can Book. SAF Publishing, 1989
  • Hildegard Schmidt / Wolfkampmann: Can Box: Book. Medium Music Books, 1998
  • Julian Cope : Krautrocksampler. One Head’s Guide to the Great Cosmic Music. Werner Pieper’s Media Experiments, 1996
  • Robert von Zahn: Irmin Schmidt, Holger Czukay, Jaki Love time: CAN. DuMont, Cologne 2006
  • Wagner, Christoph (2013): Sound of revolt: the magical years of the West German music underground, Mainz and others: Schott.
  • Alexander Simmeth: Krautrock transnational. The Re-invention of Pop Music in the FRG, 1968-1978, Transcript Verlag, Bielefeld 2016, ISBN 978-3-8376-3424-2