Logan Sky was busy making analog synth music in various teamups and the Electroclash band Riviera F [where he was produced by Sir Nick of Rhodes] when he was plucked from his largely instrumental solo work milieu and dropped into the Visage collective. Playing synths with Visage as they managed a very impressive third act with three albums [plus a massive compilation] and live touring [!] on his CV with them before it was all cut short by the untimely death of singer Steve Strange.
We loved those Visage albums, and when the band ceased, we looked up what the diaspora of the band were busy with afterward. Logan Sky had teamed up with singer Steven Jones [who sang some tunes at the Steve Strange memorial concert] to form a modern synthpop duo that we have been following ever since as they move from strength to strength.
- Zeitgeist Disco
- Blonde Cobra
- 10 Hours To Berlin
- Cold Fury
- Forced from Khartoum [w/Robin Simon]
- Zona Rose Prime Time
- Shinjuku City
- Through Sweden
- We Fuel Progress
- Return To Land
This “Systems Broken Down” compilation represents the proto-Visage years; taking the busy synthesist through his active solo period of 2009-2013 when he was mining a rich vein of music as contained on the albums “Journeys Into the Interior” and “Face The Flames.” The music here was mostly vintage analog hardware such as to make a synth-lover’s heart palpitate. Classics like the ARP Odyssey, Korg Polysix, Roland TR606, Yamaha CS20, and even a Crumar Trilogy string synth combine to give the gritty, cinematic the sort of minimal tech flair that caused John Carpenter to be name checked by a later generation of synth-heads that would coalesce as the Synthwave genre.
But don’t let references to John Carpenter soundtracks cast a pall over any approach to this material. This may use some of the instrumentation and vibe of the Synthwave genre, but it’s far closer to pop music than dry soundtrack material. There were a plethora of hooks and the arrangements were juicy and rich with inventive detail, as the opening “Zeitgeist Disco” proved with its rubbery bass lines juxtaposed against maxxed out beatbox, dubby handclaps, and squelchy swells of portamento leads rising above it all. Sample below.
The once prophetic and now ironically retrograde “2019” proffered a compelling dive into the New Wave bucket with lead synths and rhythms that evoked Greg Hawkes of The Cars at his peak and the kind of perky electropop of Men Without Hats “Safety Dance.”
Things got more cinematic with the curdled synth string strains of “10 Hours To Berlin.” Whose methodical sequenced rhythms dropped out in its coda for an airless finish. “Forced Form Khartoum” was distinguished by a guest guitar courtesy of Visage bandmate Robin Simon, who adopted a radically different one here I’d never heard from him elsewhere as he explored sitar-like sounds here.
Not all of these tracks were from the two earlier solo albums. On occasion, Mr. Sky has been known to invest some instrumental action into his current partnership with Steven Jones, and the pensive “Through Sweden” was an instrumental interlude that slotted nicely into the “Corrupt State” album of 2015.
In spite of its subtly disturbing title, “We Fuel Progress” [surely the motto of some multinational conglomerate responsible for the ruin of earth?] surprised me to offer a dignified, yet minimal vibe. But the breakdown of the placid feel in the chaotic coda perhaps what I had been expecting all along.
This collection, covering from roughly 2009 to 2013 makes for an appealing accompaniment when the mood speaks to that netherzone between pop music and soundtrack sounds. A few of the pieces here were from the ill-fated third solo album that got tabled once the artist was drafted into the Visage Army® so including them in this retrospective makes for a tidy send-off to that era of his career. Sometimes this strain of his musical DNA manifests in his current project, but who knows when we’ll get another fabbo collection like this. Yours for a mere £4.00 if you click that button below.