REVIEWS
SynthPoP For The Masses
TOC 2004 (1/11, 2/11, 3/11, 4/11, 5/11, 6/11, 7/11, 8/11, 9/11, 10/11, 11/11)

DE/VISION - Unplugged and the motion pictures (DVD)

On the 16th of August 2001, the most popular German SynthPoP band De/vision did an unplugged gig during the PopKom 2001. This unplugged session was recorded by the German music broadcast station ViVa for "Overdrive". At this time De/vision hit their peak with the album TWO and the singles "Heart-Shaped Tumor" and the two co-productions with "Green Court" "Shining" and "Take (My Breath Away)".
Well, picky listeners would not designate this session an unplugged one, as De/vision still make use of an electronic keyboard and a synthesiser. But the most important thing is that all musical and sound elements are played live. De/vision was also supported by an additional drummer, guitarist and keyboard player, and the guitarist Lars Baumgardt also supports the band during concerts.
This unplugged session includes 9 tracks taken from the albums "Two", "Void" and "Monosex" which were rearranged and performed with great emotion and remarkable warmth. The audio recordings of this gig were already released in 2002 (read my review).
The package includes the live video, additional ten video clips including three brand new live recordings from the wave gothic meeting in Leipzig in 2004, an interview, a picture slideshow and the full discography.

The additional audio CD is features the whole unplugged session and three previously unreleased remixes of the songs "Drifting Sideways (gigi d'augostino viaggio mix)", "I'm Not Dreaming Of You (nevarakka mix)" and "Aimee (intuition mix)".
The DVD comes with 16:9 format and both 2.0 and 5.1 Dolby Digital (only the unplugged session) sound. Unfortunately the 16:9 format isn't anamorphous, therefore the full lines are not utilized which results in a lost of sharpness. Also the automatic format changing does not work. Nevertheless the picture quality is still very good and portrays very good contrast, vivid colours, a good sharpness and no video-noises. The sound is as good as on CD and hits the listener with firm basses, very balanced mids and clear highs.
During the German interview (optional with English subtitles) De/vision speaks about their chronicle from their begginings in 1998 until now and delivers some very interesting information about De/vision (e.g. the importance producing demanding music, first successes with "Strange Ways Records", comparisons with Depeche Mode, the lost of fans with "Void", etc.).

On the whole, this DVD package delivers an exciting view of the band's musical qualities, a variety of their video clips and much more in a good quality package.

Date of Release: 30th August 2004
Rating: 4 globes
   

DE/VISION - Pictures Of The Past (non unplugged) (DVD/CD)

This DVD includes the videos "Live Moments We Share and "FairyLive" which were filmed in 1995 and 1996. The two live concerts have been available on CD audio for a long time and nearly entered the German charts years back. Now, after almost 10 years the video material is available and represents De/vision of a time when the trio (including Markus) only worked with electronic sounds. Many fans are proclaiming this time the heyday of De/vision. Also the purchasing patterns for the last releases have shown that the fans prefer the pure electronic compositions of De/vision.

Technically the DVD features only 4:3 format and Dolby Digital Stereo. The video quality does not really reach modern requirements due to the age of the recordings and the fact that the videos were filmed on video masters. The viewer has to forgo the vivid colours, excellent sharpness and contrast available in later, more technically advanced DVD releases. This is especially evident in "Live Moments We Share" which is filmed too dark with a constant block-noise is present. But regarding the current demands for technical superiority, it's very creditable that De/vision decided to bring out those live concerts on DVD.
"Fairylive" is the more exciting video as it combines both live acts and touring happenings (including interviews and studio reports) in a short film which is spiced up with stylish elements. Much like Depeche Modes "101" or Apoptygma Berserk's "Live 2000", all live acts are in full length. As a bonus this DVD also includes the rare video clips of "Blue Moon", "I Regret 1996", "We Fly Tonight", "Strange Affection", "Foreigner", "Freedom" and "I Regret 2003".

Well, apart from the average sound and picture quality, this DVD represents a worthwhile retrospective of a time when De/vision was focused on pure electronic music.

Date of Release: 30th August 2004
Rating: 4 globes
   

Equatronic - Too Close, Too Far And Gone

After a ten years, Equatronic is able to look retrospectively on a successful musical career. Equatronic started in 1996 with their self-produced five track E.P. Shadowland which was re-released with additional tracks in 1997 by the independent label Zoth Ommog.
In 1998 Equatronic were scaled back to a duo and produced their second longplayer "Motivation". In 2002 Equatronic, comprising of members Oliver Thom and Dorothea Brandt, released their so far "real" last album "plas:tique".
During the last 10 years, mastermind Oliver Thom always held together Equatronic and now they are releasing the "Best of" album featuring 12 remixed versions of their best songs. The remixes are made by "Wave In Head", "Tristraum", "Liberté", "Pearls Of Dew", "Northern Electric", "Pleasures Remain" and other electro bands.
"Too Close, Too Far And Gone" is features technically refreshing remixes which absolutely satisfy the requirements of modern music. In doing so the remixed versions never alter the typical Equatronic core, and therefore successfully retrain the feeling of each Equatronic song. Therefore, the songs still retain the gorgeously simple and very remarkable melodies. It is the simplicity of Equatronic's electronic compositions that is able to convey a great portion of melancholic emotions and warmth.
A conspicuous characteristic of Equatronic is Oliver Thom's voice. And I am right to affirm, you either to love or hate it. Well, I have to admit that I got used to his exceptional singing and appreciate all the releases by Equatronic.

On the whole, this remixed album is delivers 12 well-done remixes of both danceable songs (e.g. Shame, Assistant Views, Light, Late Night Show) and melancholic ballads (Searing Eyes, Always The Same, No Tomorrow), which I have to recommend to people who like 'easygoing' and very melodic electronic music.

Date of Release: 5th July 2004
Rating: 4 globes
   
   

Pleasures Remain - Magmatears

This German Duo, now consisting of Matthias and Heike, released their debut single "Waste My Time" in late 2002 (read the review). In 2002 I also had the chance to interview Heike of Pleasures Remain (click here). Now, I am very proud to review the debut album "Magmatears" by these talented newcomers.
After a short instrumental intro, the album kicks off with the very 80s styled and pulsing track, "One Step Ahead". The title of this track could not be more accurate. After being invited to dance, the following track reduces the speed with gentle electronic sounds and a reposeful singing.
The third track "Dark Affairs" is also based on a mid-speed foundation and the sounds are reduced to the most essential elements and kept very minimalist. The interplay of Matthias and Heike's vocal parts works absolutely perfect and harmonic. After these two mid-tempo songs the re-worked single track "Waste My Times" loosen the album with both melancholy and catchy melodies. With "Remember" the duo capped it all. The seventh track "Hall Of Shame" is build on an akin structure as "One Step Ahead" and again the eighties influences are very concise.
After 7 mid-speed tracks the ballade "One Rainy Day" showcases the skills of Pleasure Remain, who can also compose smooth and melancholic duets. The next song "Meeting You" is one of the less interesting songs. I can't do anything with it, as it is based on disordered melodies and does not include a cognizant refrain.
The lead vocals for the next song "Hidden Tears" are by Heike. It's a more or less danceable song that showcases the old style playful/poppy synth-melodies combined with sauve melancholy singing. Followed by the "Waste My Time" CDM B-Side "Pretty Girls", the album contains yet another peppy song. It's a fast-beat very late 80s, early 90s influenced song which reminds me of songs by "Cetu Javu" or "OMD". It's a great eighties resurrecting song. "Orange Dreams" is the first instrumental song which acts as interlude for the final song "I Was Wrong". "I Was Wrong" again represents a mid-speed song where "Pleasures Remain" sound pleasant up-to-date and show their competence for creating compositions which are always kept too minimalist level.

On the whole this album features well known songs for which Pleasures Remain successfully build on innovative structures. It's a pure SynthPoP album without techno runs or trance elements as we know exist in commercial electronic music - Top Of The SynthPoPs!.

Date of Release: 30th August 2004
Rating: 4 globes
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