Synth-pop was new and exciting once. To appreciate the music of the High Eighties, you have to get the freshness, the sense of possibility opened up by synthesisers. Some of it was a bit thin, a bit tinny, but at its best it had an energy, a zip. One of its best practitioners was Vince Clarke.
You know his work, even if you don’t know his name. He was a keyboard wizard, with a magic touch which made synths sing. He was one half of Yazoo (“Only You”) and early on with Depeche Mode (“Just Can’t Get Enough”) and later teamed up with another singer, Andy Bell, to form Erasure.
The thing about Clark, he loved – true l’amour– analogue synthesisers. This was before they were fully digital beasts. To record them you had to link everything up with cables and control voltage (CV) gate switches, hard at any time but nigh impossible when different manufacturers were involved. Things got easier in 1983, when an industry-wide standard system, MIDI, was introduced. It is the mark of the near obsessive-compulsive nature of the true musician that while Clarke used MIDI, and very well, he disliked it.
CV and Gate is tighter. I can hear and feel that it’s tighter than MIDI … Because everything is clocked simply, it arrives bang on the beat. … I think that ‘feel’ has been lost with MIDI sequencers. No matter what you do with MIDI, the music will never sound as good as it did in the good old Futurist days.
Strange to feel nostalgia for a Roland MC4, but eccentricity and creativity are often partners. And the main thing: Vince put all his circuits and keyboards and cables together and made something fabulous. It is tight, it does arrive bang on the beat. This is one of Erasure’s hits. Have a listen.
- Artist: Erasure
- Single title: Oh L’Amour
- Format: 7”, 45 rpm, stereo
- Label: Mute
- Catalogue: MUTE 3000
- Manufactured in: Australia
- Year: 1986