Album Review: Various Artists ‘Bluetown Electronica (Is It Time Yet?)’

BTE

Earlier this year, in March, to be precise, I mentioned in one of my mini-updates here on Eminent Domain that I was extremely excited for what was then, to be an upcoming compilation album from Sub Culture Records, featuring some of the biggest and exciting artists in the indie electronic scene. I was particularly amped for this release because it was set to feature a number of my personal favorites, such as: Jonteknik, EmT, Pinklogik, and Synthie dB Shock. However, as often tends to be the case with so many compilation albums (regardless of the genre), you tend to get a couple of real pleasers, and the rest tend to be tracks that you end up never listening to.

I was expecting just this sort of experience before I bought this compilation, and to be perfectly honest, I was only buying it via the pre-sale to support my afore-mentioned friends. I didn’t plan on being completely swept off my feet by a bunch of artists whom, in most cases, I’d never even heard of prior to seeing their names on this compilation. However, that’s precisely what happened.

I was completely swept off my feet!

Before I dive into the album’s artists and musical content, I’d like to take a few moments to discuss the background (in so much as I know it) of what, and who Bluetown Electronica is.

Bluetown Electronica is a weekly radio programme that airs in the UK, from the lovely island community of Sheppey, on their burgeoning Sheppey FM radio. Indeed, Bluetown is a terrestrial radio broadcast, and not an internet radio gig. The weekly show, which airs every Sunday for three hours, from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM (GMT), is an electronic music aficionado’s wet dream! The mastermind behind the programme is a lovely gentleman by the name of Paul Randall.

Mr. Randall follows a simple, yet extremely powerful programming format that combines the creme-de-la-creme of indie and unsigned electronic acts, mingled amongst the true classic acts of the genre such as: Kraftwerk, OMD, Depeche Mode, Human League, and Gary Numan. In other words, a typical sample of his playlist will include the likes of Jonteknik and NEON, being played alongside Karl Bartos and John Foxx. Sheer genius! For the avid listener, it’s three hours of pure electronic bliss!

Furthermore, Randall goes to great pains to keep the show from focusing on just one area or sub-genre of electronic music. Over the space of these glorious three hours, you are sure to hear a fair balance of ambient, industrial, trance, electro, EBM, and synth-pop…… along with virtually every other form of ‘electronic’ music you can think of. This intentional focus on keeping the show so varied, keeps the listener from losing interest. Front 242 and VNV Nation followed by Martyn Bailey, which then segues into A-ha, Erasure, Rare Faktion, and finishes the hour up with a classic Vangelis selection…… it’s a dream come-true!

However, one of the main selling points of Bluetown Electronica, for me, anyway, is that it focuses most of its airtime on playing indie and unsigned artists.

In addition to the outstanding radio broadcast, which can be listened to live, in realtime on the web, Bluetown Electronica also hosts a witty, fun, and tremendously engaging live chat that runs simultaneously on their Facebook page.

It’s a great place to connect with like-minded fans and kindred souls, and many of the indie artists featured on the radio broadcast are often participating in this chat. The sense of community that’s fostered by this is unbelievable! This is THE place to be every week if you want to hear the latest up-and-coming acts in the indie electronic scene, and meet new friends.

Which ties us back to this wonderful compilation album…………

The Bluetown Electronica (Is It Time Yet?) compilation has been released by Sub Culture Records, an outstanding independent electronic label based in Norway, operated by musician/producer/remixer Per Aksel Lundgreen.

SCR

It comes as no surprise then, that several of the acts featured on the album are also on the Sub Culture label. Sub Culture is the home to many of the hottest stars in the indie electronic scene, and each new release seems better than their last. They’re well worth looking into.

So……. let’s dive into the album, shall we?

Bluetown Electronica (Is It Time Yet?) is a 25-track, 114-minute experience of sheer electronic joy and ecstasy, from 25 of the greatest independent artists out there. Style-wise, it runs the whole gamut of the scene. From pure synth-pop, to EBM, darkwave, and electro, and pretty much everything in between. It’s a true cross-section of the global indie electronic scene.

The compilation serves as a great introduction to what this thriving international scene has to offer.

There’s not a sub-par track on here. I don’t have the time to go into detail on every single track, but I will give a brief overview of my top-ten personal favourites from this album.

SHATOO – ‘Floodlights (Radio Edit)’:

Shatoo are a Norwegian synth-pop band that have been around since the 1980’s. They’re well-known in their native land, and have released several albums over the years. This particular track is one that I immediately gravitated towards. It’s one of the greatest lover’s lament songs I’ve heard in ages. One of the most powerful lead vocals in the scene, without a doubt. It’s a BRILLIANT pop song. It simply soars! Extremely catchy. Instantly fell in love with it! I hope to hear so much more from these guys. I’ve become a big fan of theirs in just the few short months since I discovered them via this compilation.

EURASIANEYES – ‘Far Off Land’:

An absolutely OUTSTANDING duo from the UK, that will instantly capture your ears and your heart with a glorious retro synth-pop sound,  that you will swear is actually some heretofore unknown Midge Ure/Billy Currie side project. Soaring synth lead solos that grab you by the cojones and shake you for all your worth! Absolutely brilliant songwriting and production. These guys are really something special. Keep an eye on ’em. I think they’re destined for greatness.

KirA – ‘Stand Up’:

One of my personal favourites on the indie scene, KirA are the glorious, and deliciously seductive duo of Kira and Richard. They’re one of my go-to bands when I want to chill out and relax, or simply reflect on my day’s events. This particular track, was lifted from KirA’s absolutely BRILLIANT album, Spark of Curiosity, which came out in April of 2013. This track is smooth as silk, with a gentle, throbbing bassline that moves it gently along. You absolutely MUST get acquainted with this band!

EmT – ‘Regret (Rob Abbey vs EmT Dark Mix)’:

An absolutely lovely remix of EmT’s debut single! No secret that EmT are one of my personal faves, and this track clearly demonstrates why. Ema Walter‘s gorgeous lead vocals, sweetly guide this song along to synth god, Tony Blue‘s, splendid arrangement of a lover’s tale of…… well….. regret! Still waiting for their debut album. Best get on it, folks!

Jonteknik – ‘Relay (Extended)’:

From my dear friend, Jonteknik‘s, most recent album, The Satellites of Substance, this track is a lovely gem of classic Kraftwerk-ian robot-pop. ‘Relay’ fits in well with this crowd, and is a stellar example of why Jonteknik is so respected and revered in the indie electronic scene. This version is extended (hence, the name!) from the version one hears on the original album version, which is only a blessing for Jonteknik fans! Wonderful, retro mono-synth sounds and that vocoder we’ve all come to know and love. Awesome personified!

Technomancer feat. Angst Pop – ‘Electronic Warfare’:

A brilliant angst-driven song about…… well, electronic warfare, I s’pose. An instant dance floor filler! Reminds me of something you’d hear in the bumper music on the Alex Jones Infowars radio programme. Wonderful news media samples, along with vocoders, retro synths, and lyrics about hitting the “FEMA target”…… seriously, what’s NOT to love?!?

Johnny Normal – ‘Save Me’:

Along with the afore-mentioned tracks by Shatoo and Eurasianeyes, Johnny Normal is another glorious discovery I was turned on to with this album. With a voice that calls up images of Gary Numan and David Bowie, Johnny Normal is simply brilliant! Stands apart from the rest of the crowd because of how unique he sounds. Makes you perk up and take notice right away. Also unique because of his tasteful use of guitar. Absolutely LOVE this track!

The Flood – ‘The Right Time’:

The vehicle for Germany’s Markus Hof, The Flood, is dark-tinged synth-pop with a definite De/Vision feel to it. One thing I really dig about this mid-tempo track is that it changes tempo and key halfway through the song. Not something you expect when you’re listening to it. As a listener, I like being caught off guard like that from time to time.

Pinklogik – ‘Bide Your Time’:

A true, dark, brooding, sonic masterpiece this one is! Jules Straw, the lovely lady known as Pinklogik is an absolute genius at creating ethereal, otherworldly atmospheric textures in her music. For me, she’s right up there with the likes of Brian Eno when it comes to making ambient music that you simply get lost in. Her voice is so airy on this one. It simply floats along like a phantom in a dream. Hard to say if this track evokes a dream, a nightmare, or both. But I absolutely love it. World-class in every way.

Synthie dB Shock – ‘Factory Reset’:

When I first heard this track, it reminded me of an old American indie synth-pop act, named Agnes Poetry. However, this is clearly not that once-famous band from Manti, Utah. Rather, this is the vehicle for the lovely, Jo Huber, of Australia (by way of Switzerland!). The song is catchy, upbeat, and has a powerful lead vocal that really cuts through the mix. Being a record producer, one thing I listen for is production quality and clarity in the mix. Jo nails it in every area on this track! A sheer joy to listen to. Like Johnny Normal, Synthie dB Shock sounds quite different from the rest of her peers on this album, and that difference plays to her advantage.

HONOURABLE MENTION:

Naked Lunch, Paul Humphries, In This Mode, Among The Echoes.

CONCLUSION:

Bluetown Electronica (Is It TIme Yet?) is a first-rate, bit of ear candy. It serves a splendid showcase for the fabulous Bluetown Electronica radio programme, and it gives Sub Culture Records one hell of a strong release to showcase their ear for world-class talent. Based off these facts, and the additional selling point that this 25-song electronic music feast only costs roughly $10.00 (USD)….. which is an absolute STEAL!

I’m awarding Bluetown Electronica (Is It Time Yet?)  out of stars!

You can purchase this fantastic album via the Sub Culture Records page on Bandcamp.com, as well thru iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and many other online digital services.

I also strongly recommend you request to join the Bluetown Electronica Facebook group, and listen in to Paul Randall, and his new co-host, Dean Clarke, every Sunday on Sheppey FM. PLEASE…… support ALL of these wonderful artists, and purchase their music.

SUPPORT INDIE ARTISTS!!!

Jimm Kjelgaard, Sr. – July 2014

JimmSSL

Advertisements