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The vice Guide To Electroclash

The problem with only covering four or five bands a month is that, when there's an explosion of great bands - a movement even - you have to wait months to fit them all in. We could do our new favorites like, say, Stereo Total and Crossover this month...
December 1, 2001, 12:00am

The problem with only covering four or five bands a month is that, when there’s an explosion of great bands – a movement even – you have to wait months to fit them all in. We could do our new favorites like, say, Stereo Total and Crossover this month and then Miss Kittin and Soviet next month, but what about the other 11 bands? This is too huge to wait. The bands we’ve already covered include: Khan, The Centuries, Adult, ARE Weapons, DJ Assault, Bedroom Productions, A&C, Add N to (X), Jeans Team, and Chicks on Speed. Everyone else took care of Ladytron, Peaches and Fischerspooner (the ones who started this whole thing), but what of the rest of them? What about the rest of the best thing to happen to music since punk rock?


Instead of having to wait another seven months, here are 15 other bands that combine slick style, pretentious fashion, a sense of humor, choreography, stage shows, computers, 80s electro, 70s punk and new wave into a cripplingly great new phenomenon that has made New York City the center of the universe once again.


Soviet plays a mean set of electro-pop with just a dash of emotion (think a robot that cries). Listening to them is like dancing around your bedroom in your underwear. Then your mom walks in and your all embarrassed but she’s like, “what is this totally poppy new wave synth-like music with sentimental lyrics?” And your like, “Duh, Mom, get with the styles! Soviet is only like THE hottest band.” And so she starts feeling the beats and before you know it, she’s stripped down to her panties as well. A year ago Soviet was just two shy boys (Keith Ruggiero and Christopher Fantasy) who played their hearts out, mostly in the privacy of their own bedrooms. Now, with the addition of Kenan Gunduz and Amanda Berkowitz, they have become one of New York’s best- kept secrets.


Though occasionally accused of being backwoods indie kids trying to cash in on electroclash, they’re more than just Nebraska’s answer to Heaven 17. The Faint all play keyboards but perform with the poncey vigour of a new wave/punk group. They arch their backs, writhe around on the floor and bang their heads while making catchy, dark and heavy synth pop. While they’re not the best-looking boys in the world, the songs on their excellent Danse Macabre album on Saddle Creek ( more than make up for their mirror-cracking mugs. It’s vaguely sexy as well.


Two New York models disputably named Desmond and Verona make trendy fashion-techno but manage to pull it off without being pretentious cuz they have a sense of humor and a wonderfully bloopy mid-tempo dance hit called “Extensive Care” that namedrops Prince. The “She’s loved downtown for exactly what she does!” chorus will get stuck in your head for days. At their show they gave out illustrated booklets called “Fantasmo: Journey to Grob” that had pictures of a glass baby unicorn named Jennifer and other majikal beasts with names like “Felpin, the Plexus Station Lowlife.” Where oh where can we get their mysteriously obscure full-length album?


New York’s Phiiliip is Philip Guichard, a cute, shy 21-year-old former journalist who writes warped, insanely layered ballads that sound like Syd Barrett fronting the Residents, or like if Beck were a gay and read a lot of Dennis Cooper novels. Please also note that Phiiliip’s debut album Pet Cancer (on Momus’s new label American Patchwork) contains the best song about K-holes ever written. Listen to it on headphones and drugs.

Two German dudes and a lead singer girl in a neon wig whose gimmick is that they do covers that “electrify and sexify” pop/rock classics like Kiss’ “I Was Made for Loving You” and Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical.” Their latest album, Nightlife in Tokyo (on the Viennese label Angelicka Koehlermann), includes awesome electro covers of Frank Zappa’s “Bobby Brown,” The Who’s “Acid Queen,” and Laid Back’s disco staple “White Horse,” which is so wild and screamy it makes women wearing high-heeled sandals over anklet socks with little red hearts on them climb up on the bar and grind like a slut. 6 DMX KREW
London’s Ed Upton is the DMX Krew. Don’t be fooled by the band of pretty-boy longhairs on the sleeve of the full-length CD, We Are DMX - they’re all Ed. He records for the Aphex Twin’s Rephlex label as well as running his own imprint, the exemplarily electro Breakin’ Records. DMX Krew’s sound veers from nihilistic and glammy (“The Glass Room”) to Duran Duran-y (“Street Boys”). All in all, though, it’s not just retro. It’s forward-thinking, sometimes heartbreakingly beautiful, and always kind of dark. 7 TRACY + THE PLASTICS
Cold, badass, and danceable. From the pissy Northwest (Olympia, WA) comes Wynne Greenwood, a.k.a Tracy + The Plastics. What’s billed on paper as a three-girl band is really just Wynne and some videocassettes. She performs as Tracy with the other members broadcast on screens and TVs behind her. It seems a little corny and artsy but the music on the CD, A Muscler’s Guide to Videonics, makes up for it. It’s hard and minimal drum programming, bass-y squelches, and creepy Videdrome female vocals. 8 PIXELTAN
Incredibly compelling and aggressive dance music. A Pixeltan is the soft blue tinge your skin gets when you spend 23 hours a day in front of a computer. Brooklyn’s Pixeltan, the band, is the soft blue bruise on the arm of today’s electro scene. A “group” by definition (guitar, drums, vocals), Pixeltan is in a direct lineage from ESG and Liquid Liquid, but also P.I.L. and Throbbing Gristle. Hisham from Black Dice plays drums, so you know the beat is inescapable. The vocalist works the Arthur Janov school of expression - yelps, screams, utterances. In fact, Pixeltan’s sound is all about relentlessness. 9 JOHN SELWAY
New York’s John Selway is probably the only DJ in the bunch here - which is to say that he’s the only one in this group that gets hired to play at 10 000-people raves all over Europe and the US. He’s been doing it for more than 10 years but he’s been producing for more. His output in the last few years has been prolific, including remixes for people like Fischerspooner, Detroit Grand Pubahs and Japanese Telecom. Now he’s got a full-length of his own, Edge of Now, that we like to call electrohouse. His first full-length, it alternates hard techno on shit like “New People” with haute electro and stylish vocoded lyrics on tracks like “Digitalemotion.”

Miss Kittin is a Frenchie named Caroline Herve. Her new collab with Felix Da Housecat is super, but she’ll always be known for her massive dance hit “Frank Sinatra” (on Miss Kittin & The Hacker’s Champagne ep on Gigolo Records) which is the most perfect dance song ever. She speak-sings the notorious lyrics with perfect ice-queen sexiness, and the lyrics are a perfect poem which need to be memorized RIGHT NOW!

Brezel and Francoise are multilingual Europeans who live in Berlin and make Stereolab sound like Serge Gainsbourg but with more beats. Momus calls them the best band in the world and their new hit “L’Amour à trois” about the merits of a ménage à trois is so fucking good we had to stop the presses to get them on this list. Though one of the least electro-ish bands on this list, they often do stray from their garage roots, and when they do it is, as the British press would say, “truly life-affirming.” 12 PRIMA DONNAS
Though the album may wear a teeny bit thin after a while, The Prima Donnas are the modern day Duran Duran but with more keyboards. When you hear the new Prima Donnas CD Drugs, Sex and Discotheques, you’ll see what we mean. There can be no doubt that if the Prima Donnas hadn’t fled a Sussex, UK orphanage to move to Texas (or so they say), they would be so huge right now the malls would be full of 13-year-olds with “Prima Donnas Forever” scrunchies in their hair. 13 CRÈME BLUSH
Longtime New York hipsters led by Nicole Pinto on bass and Satski Ohtaké who plays synth-driven electro punk like someone shot crystal meth into her hands. Pinto’s voice sounds like a cross between Patti Smith and The Slits and when you hear their cover of Giorgio Moroder’s “Midnight Express” (one of the hardest songs to master on the keyboard in the world) you understand why Satski needs thick black lace gloves to hide the blisters on her fingers. 14 MR. VELCRO FASTENER
Two Finnish guys, both named Tatu, are collectively known as Mr. Velcro Fastener. This is one of the most unabashedly retro acts in the electroclash scene. They make music primarily using analogue equipment that was already outdated around the time of the first boom of Velcro. The 1999 full-length, Lucky Bastards Living Up North, is the release to get. An inordinate ratio of songs about robots (“Real Robots Don’t Die”, “Robots 4 Life,” etc.) and a decidedly minimalist approach to b-boy-meets-Kraftwerk tracks make it a must-have for any self-respecting music enthusiast with an asymmetrical T-shirt and Flock of Seagulls hair. 15 MONO TRONA
Some say she hails from outer space, some say Korean television, and some say Brooklyn. We know one thing for sure: Mono Trona puts on the most hilarious (and probably the only) act of synthesizer music/performance art/songs about fighting low-tech robots and ancient evils that we’ve ever seen. She used to do kids’ shows and when we saw her play an art gallery last year, she was wearing a leotard and screaming, “Aliens, destroy!” so loud we were gasping for air. Her enthusiasm and fearlessness as a performer is totally infectious and can reduce crowds of hipsters to slack-jawed awe. COMPILED BY VICE STAFF