Saturday, 5 April 2014

La Roux announces tour of Canada and US - Update: new album confirmed for July

Five years later on from the release of 'In For The Kill' and Brixton's last great synth star of this modern age Elly Jackson has finally announced a comeback of sorts. La Roux yesterday confirmed nine date tour of Canada and the US that will include three concerts supporting Factory legends New Order (still sadly missing Hooky but still a gig that most electroheads will savour).

La Roux's tour kicks off on June 1st in Toronto at the Danford Music Hall and concludes on July 13th at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles in support of New Order and this announcement must surely lead to news of the much delayed second album that was rumoured to have been completed and then delayed by Polydor possibly due to the usual artistic & contractual wrangles that blighted Little Boots career a few years back. In contrast to these rumours, yesterday posted this new quote from Elly: 'I realised  the album I wanted to make would require me being a much better musician than I was. There's been a lot of learning and it's been fun and I didn't want it to stop, basically.'

Following a few warm up dates including a gig in Brixton last March where some very catchy new tracks were performed, rumours surfaced that the new recording sessions have had production input from Chic's Nile Rodgers and his recent success with Daft Punk and various festival appearances including Bestival 2013 may well have pushed back the La Roux follow-up.

The question is will La Roux's 2009 following be waiting for her in 2014 when new material is finally released? A gap of five years between pop albums is unprecedented for an act that  took over the airwaves with a debut album. My humble guess is that a sizeable audience will still welcome the new album given how memorable those La Roux singles were back in 2009 with the Skream remix still a modern classic. La Roux is also likely to be more welcome over in the States where the debut won a Grammy for Best Dance/Electronic Album a year or so after it was released in the UK but time will tell.

By odd coincidence, I picked up a vinyl copy of La Roux's debut for just £2.50 and it arrived through the post this morning. At that price, I was expecting a few scuff marks  on the vinyl and quite a few pops but it all looks and plays beautifully. It is still a surprise in 2014 that such a refreshingly retro sounding album with obscure and loving production nods to Blancmange managed to break into the mainstream back in the Spring of 2009. Back then, electronic pop was fleetingly back in vogue. Electronically Yours was attracting in the region of 40,000 unique visits per month and various newspapers were covering new electronic bands yet the success of La Roux is still wonderfully surprising though I do remember Elly dividing the EY readership back then. Listening to the album again now on vinyl and it is still something of a foot tapper with a couple of tracks that were really crying out for a single release ('Tigerlilly' being one of them).

The front cover has a black sticker with a quote from NME saying 'The final word in the synth-pop generation' which sadly turned out to be true as there hasn't been an electro-pop album since that has had the same mainstream success as 'La Roux'.

Update: La Roux's new album 'Trouble in Paradise' will now be released July 7th on Polydor according to label press release in France - source:
Guardian music journalist Tim Jonze was lucky enough to hear the new La Roux album and on March 21st he tweeted that it's 'bloody brilliant'.

Here's a 2009 gem (another one that should've been a single).

Related links:
La Roux official site

Friday, 21 March 2014

Synthy Quiz Time!

What do the following acts and tracks all have in common?

Whitney Houston 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody, New Order 'Confusion', Talking Heads 'Psycho Killer' (live version), Marvin Gaye 'Sexual Healing', anything by 808 State, A Guy Called Gerald 'Voodoo Ray', Afrika Bambaataa 'Planet Rock', SOS Band 'Just Be Good To Me', 'The Finest',  Alexander O'Neil 'Criticize' & Public Enemy.

I'm sure that  some readers will already have guessed the link but the answer is the Roland TR-808 drum machine that originally bombed with musicians upon its original release back in 1980. No prizes sadly for guessing the correct answer (I'm skint and living off baked beans and cashew nuts), but the history of this foot long 'beatbox' is a fascinating one that is currently being praised as Roland re-releases new versions of this enduring technology.
Following the 1980 failure of the 808 (with little more than 12,000 units being shifted worldwide), many of them would later end up in pawn shops across the Atlantic where they were then snapped up by eager hip hop artists with a love for Kraftwerk vinyl. 

UK musician Graham Massey was so in love with the 808's crisp and diverse pallet of sounds that he named his influential dance act 808 State in honour of the foot long black slab.

Taken from the BBC today:

'A layman might think they’re all the same, says Massey. But for him these ‘humble little black boxes’ that look like the dashboard of a Cold War nuclear facility, take on personalities. Indeed no less an expert than Britney Spears once sang: “You got my heart beating like an 808."

Perhaps the most iconic pop intro that uses the Roland TR-808 to such brilliant effect is Whitney's 1985 stomper 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody'...always a good tune to blast out on a Friday morning...

Graham Massey of 808 State has recorded an excellent interview with the BBC in which he talks passionately about this Roland gem and you can listen to that by jumping here.