Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Claudia Brucken

Claudia Brucken came to prominence with German synthpop group Propaganda. They were mostly famous for being "the next band" on ZTT after Frankie Goes To Hollywood hit it big. They always sort of lived in Frankie's shadow, which is a shame, as their album A Secret Wish is an all time classic. After that, they broke up. Claudia married Paul Morley (the other brain behind ZTT after Trevor Horn). Propaganda eventually issued another album with a new singer, but it's pretty lightweight compared to the genius of A Secret Wish. Claudia did another project for ZTT called Act, which was pretty good. Eventually however she left ZTT and made a solo album called Love: And A Million Other Things. Produced by Pascal Gabriel, it's quite a nice little dance-pop gem. This track, "Always," reminds me a lot of Scritti Politti, which can't be a bad thing.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Building Up A New Home

Shriekback was that sort of strange wonderful animal you got a lot of in the 80's: a bunch of guys from rock bands getting together to make unexpectedly electronic and/or danceable music. Dave Allen (Gang of Four) and Barry Andrews (XTC) had excellent postpunk credentials already, but when they formed the initial Shriekback lineup with Carl Marsh, I doubt anybody could have predicted what they would sound like. Funky slapped basslines, eminently danceable Linndrum rhythms, squiggly synths and some catchy but cryptic lyrics. By their second album they were in full swing churning out dancy, somewhat poppy, but never trite songs like Hand on my Heart and Under The Lights.

Today's track is New Home from Jam Science (1984).

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Colourbox was a complete oddity in the world of pop music - they were completely reclusive. No interviews, no videos, precious few pictures. They were only active for 3 or 4 years, but during that time they created some strange and wonderful music. They appeared on the 4AD label, which at the time was mostly known for goth faves like Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance. Amidst the gauzy gloom, Colourbox's brand of in-your-face technopop stood out like a sore thumb. Ivo, head of 4AD, once called them "the most subversive band on the label."

The coolest thing about Colourbox, from my perspective, was their relentless genre-hopping. Their sole album release starts with a beautiful piano instrumental, which crashes jarringly into a shredding guitar 'n' sample fest dance track, which segues into a reggae-lite electropop number, followed by a 50's doo-wop pastiche. It doesn't let up for its entire running length.

At Ivo's suggestion, they collaborated on a single with fellow 4AD artists A.R.Kane. Released under the name M|A|R|R|S, the single Pump up The Volume became a monster international hit, ushering in a new era of sample'n'scratch-based dance music. (Tim Simenon/Bomb The Bass owes his whole career to Pump.)

After Pump Up The Volume Colourbox all but disappeared. I have no idea what Stephen & Martyn are up to now. I hope they are hiding out on a tropical island, living off the royalties from Pump Up The Volume. After almost 15 years of total silence it seems unlikely they will ever make music again. At least they left behind an amazing body of work.

Picking one track to sum up their sound is impossible, so I just threw a dart at a board. Thus today's track is Manic, from their self-titled album. It features a guitar solo from some guy named William Orbit. I wonder whatever became of him.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Well it seems like everybody these days has an audioblog, so who am I to fight fashion? Here at The Black Hit Of Space (or TBHOS as we like to call it) we'll be exploring the big wide world of Music That I Like. The only criteria for a song to be featured here is that I Like It. If you don't like it, tough. Come back tomorrow for something else that you may like.

To kick things off, we need a theme song, and after much deliberation, I have chosen The Black Hit Of Space by The Human League. This is the lead track on their second album, Travelogue (1980), an absolutely classic album from the lineup of Phil Oakey (vocals), Martyn Ware (synths) and Ian Craig Marsh (synths). Halfway between the harsh experimental electronics that characterized their early EPs like The Dignity of Labour and the slick synthpop that would later emerge with Dare and Ware & Marsh's new band Heaven 17, Travelogue was a truly groundbreaking merger of industrial mayhem and pop songs, albeit with extremely oddball lyrics.

From the recent reissue featuring remastered sound, here's The Black Hit Of Space.