One of our favourite French producers, SynthWave genius Tommy ‘86, is set to drop his new EP this week. It’s called Aurora, a track that he débuted a while ago but is now getting a proper release with a couple of reMixes to boot. One of those reMixes comes from our Scandinavian friend Johan Agebjörn. He’s partnered with Mikael Ögren for the reMix, which we can première for you right here.
These two get their serious synth on right here. A mystical synth excursion for fans of Jean Michelle-Jarre, this reMix is a mid-tempo piece that envelopes you in it’s electronic magic as it pours out of the speaks. Using reverb heavy drums and sparkling arpeggios to craft an enigmatic mood, thee guys build up an exotic atmosphere before launching into some of the most captivating synth solos you’ll have heard in a while. Sit back and sink into this evocative and intoxicating track. It’s even got a little Sally Shapiro vocal sampling going on.
♫ Tommy ‘86 – Aurora (Johan Agebjörn and Mikael Ôgren reMix)
Johan has also currently got a reMix competition on the go for his track The Leftovers where you can win a Numark NS7, which is a pretty good prize for a reMix comp really!
Sweedish ElectroPop superstar Johan Agebjörn’s new album of quieter, more introspective pieces, Notes, is our now. The albums collaboration with Young Galaxy, You Passed Through, has got itself an companion video.
Directed by Jarrett Sitter, the clip is a dreamlike, shadow theatre animation. The perfect melancholic accompaniment.
One of Sweden’s finest synthesizer exports Johan Agebjörn is gearing up for the release of his new solo album. The ElectroPop, Italo and disco producer extraordinaire and half of Sally Shapiro, is taking a different tack with his latest opus. Notes is a collection of largely instrumental pieces eschewing his usual infectious grooves for more cerebral and emotional works taking the likes of Young Galaxy, Sally Shapiro along for the ride. The first single is the sublime The Right To Play, check it out below.
Despite being almost beatless, The Right To Play finds itself a strong and energetic rhythm. An intertwining symphony of synthesizer and electric piano, the track is a dreamlike escapade that sees chiming leads dance playfully around each other. The result is, in one word, enchanting. DreamPoppers Korallreven step up for reMix duties, chipping away a little at the tracks light and delivering an enigmatic and moody mirror image driven by robotic beats.
♫ Johan Agebjörn – The Right To Play
♫ Johan Agebjörn – The Right To Play (Korallreven reMix)
Johan Agebjörn’s The Right To Play is released today.
Sweden’s top ElectroPop producer, and one half of Sally Shapiro, Johan Agebjörn has whipped up this resounding reMix of Annie’s stance against Russia’s anti-gay laws, Russian Kiss. Retitled Sweedish Kiss (there’s also a Norwegian Kiss by Skatebård) the track is out now on Annie’s own label, Totally.
Johan goes all Sci-Fi Italo and Spacecoder with his version of the track.. A rolling arpeggiated bassline chugs underneath the tune, giving it it’s power, while floaty, galactic snyths swirl around the track. Annie’s vocals are given the vocoder treatment, making her heartfelt mantra sound like a robotic order. Otherworldly grooves from Johan here.
♫ Annie (Feat. Bjarne Melgaard) – Swedish Kiss (Johan Agebjörn reMix of Russian Kiss)
Never one to sit around on his arse, prolific ElectroPop producer Johan Agebjörn having already released the new Sally Shapiroalbum and it’s associated collection of reMixes, the man is keeping himself busy by releasing this free compilation of his reMix work, both as himself and as part of Sally Shapiro. Sweetened pulls together some pretty big names that Agebjörn has gifted with his production skills, featuring the likes of Little Boots, Jam & Spoon, Glass Candy, Lindstrøm, CFCF, Wolfram and Holy Ghost! and Hercules And Love Affair, and more.
It’s hard to pick favourites from this sweet collection, the releases here span a couple of years and showcase every side to Agebjörn’s production. From the blistering ElectroPop to the growling Italo, Johan always injects his music with an emotional energy, often mirroring the mood of the vocals, rising and falling with the sentiment of the track. Expect an album’s worth of punchy dance beats and starlight synthesizers that whirl around your head. At times the album show’s off Agebjörn deeper, groovier, more experimental side, but on the whole you’re treated to 13 tracks from one of the best ElectroPop producers in the world working today. Did we mention it was free?
As well as being one of the top futurist graphic designers in the game (you’ll have seen his work gracing countless electronic music releases cover art), Kilian Eng is also one half of Swedish SynthWave ElectroPopers DW alongside Amir Zaino. This EP seems to have taken, literally, years to be see the air, but that just makes this week’s release all the more sweet, and when you see the reMix line-up (Johan Agebjörn & Le Prix, Flashworx, Indiscreet and fucking Mille!) it makes this EP all the more sweet.
The EP kicks off with it’s title track, a track that really settles you into the tone of the EP. With five minutes to play with, DW bring a vintage SynthPop arrangement with retro future synths and a particularly Swedish set of vocals. Anthemic and uplifting, the track delivers all you could want from a nostalgic SynthPop tune. Parallel Persons takes things in a slightly heavier direction with a rolling Electro beat and a more enigmatic atmosphere. The surprising thing about this release is that is seems to have more in common with 80s SynthPop than the current SynthWave sound that you instinctively associate DW with (mainly due to the use of their artwork), there’s no big Outrun tunes here, this is pure vintage synthetic Pop, pitch perfectly produced. Razorblades and You And Me continue this theme, delivering rich, emotional, slightly chilly electronic music. Johan Agebjörn & Le Prix go full on Scandinavian ElectroPop with their reMix of Nine Lives, loading on on high calorie beats and swirling synths while Flashworx’s reMix of Parallel Persons goes in a more moody direction with an energetic Italo tune. They eyebrow raising inclusion here is a reMix from Swedish SynthWave genius Mille, on of our favourite producer who in recent years has had his attention occupied by his current band Autostrada, but returns to some of that Mille goodness to reMix You And Me, bringing his trademark ChipTune-esque Dreamwave ElectroPop energy to the EP and playing out the release in fine style, epic string breakdown included. A highly recommended EP..
♫ DW – Nine Lives
♫ DW – Parallel Persons
♫ You And Me (Mille reMix)
♫ DW – Nine Lives (Johan Agebjörn & Le Prix reMix)
Sally Shapiro first came into our lives way back in 2006. This duo, because Sally Shapiro is a duo, made up of ElectroPop producer extraordinaire Johan Agebjörn and an blissful unnamed singer whom we shall henceforth call Sally (to avoid (or create) confusion), have put out some of the most exciting, listenable, Italo-Disco tinged ElectroPop records in the last decade. Released today is album number three, Somewhere Else, that has already spawned the acclaimed singles What Can I Do? and Starman, the latter featuring a guest turn from Toronto’s Electric Youth.
The album is a thrilling excursion through poppy, dancefloor friendly electronic music with heart. Johan’s beats are always meticulously produced. Clean, shiny and pitch perfect whilst Sally’s sugar sweet, personal vocals tell tails in the most appealing way. This time around the pair have a little help with Anoraak, Le Prix and the aforementioned Electric Youth all doing turns on Somewhere Else.
Sally and Johan too some time out from their album release prep to chat with us about how this unlikely partnership hooked up and what the album holds:
ER: First off, how did you two get together?
S & J: We met in a youth environmental organization back in 2001 where we both worked at the office. But we actually didn’t discover our common interest in 80s disco until 2004!
ER: Did you both come to Sally Shapiro with the same influences, or do you each bring something different with you?
S & J: Johan is more the expert on various genres of electronic music. Sally has a good feel for what is a good and catchy pop song. She can’t really deliver a good vocal performance if she’s not into it. In the beginning, it felt like poppy 80s disco was the only thing that worked for both of us, but we think that we have broadened a bit since the start.
ER: I always feel that there is a 60s British Pop influence to Sally Shapiro songs, in a kind of Saint Etienne way. Is that the case or do you think there is just a 60s Pop influence in classic Swedish Pop in general?
S & J: We don’t think that the 60s are a conscious influence, but we listen to British pop like Saint Etienne and Belle & Sebastian for example. “What Can I Do” was very inspired by Belle & Sebastian.
ER: With so many good ElectroPop artists coming out of Sweden, and the music seeming to be the more dominant form of Pop there, do you think there is a reason for ElectroPop finding it’s spiritual home in Sweden?
S & J: We don’t know. When we grew up it was not like that, Sweden was a guitar country and far behind the UK when it came to appreciating electronic music. But Sweden was also early a very computerized country so maybe that’s a reason.
♫ Sally Shapiro – What Can I Do?
ER: Where does the name Sally Shapiro come from? Are we right in thinking Johan chose it? Is it named after anyone?
S & J: It was Johan’s suggestion to use a pseudonym in the tradition of Italo disco stars like Valerie Dore and Katy Gray. It’s not named after anyone, but we wanted a name that sounded English, with a surname that was not too common and not too uncommon. And then the first name should begin with the same letter as the surname, and it’s beautiful with names that end with a y, isn’t it?
ER: Sally’s said she has no interest in being a Pop star. When you originally wrote songs together was it with the intention of the public hearing them, or just for fun?
J: Well the goal was to make a track for fun and hopefully that someone wanted to release on a 12″ record. But we never thought it would reach out to more than the Italo disco fans and vinyl collectors to be found on various forums on the internet.
ER: Were you surprised with the reception Disco Romance received, and how fast it became a hyped record?
J: Yes, though it actually didn’t become hyped that quickly. At the very beginning, the distributor complained that it didn’t sell so well. Then Pitchfork rated it “best new music” and everything changed, it got re-released twice and licensed to different countries. But the whole process of re-releases and finally two remix albums based on the tracks took one and a half year.
ER: And now, three albums later. How would you say your sound has changed since the first record?
S & J: It’s a bit more varied, we’d say, but still grounded in 80s disco, which is still the ultimate genre of music. But these days we take influences also from trance, euro dance, IDM, jazz, electronic funk, indie pop etc.
ER: Is there a theme that runs through Somewhere Else?
S: There’s a theme in all our music, we think, about melancholic longing and hope. Hoping that something will be better, maybe in a different place, somewhere else.
ER: How did the collaborations on the new album come about?
S & J: Johan released the album “Casablanca Nights” in 2001 with a lot of collaborations, so he’s got quite used to working with other producers and he likes it. He works with Le Prix a lot, sometimes they meet in Stockholm but mostly via the internet as we live in Lund in Southern Sweden. The collaboration with Anoraak was originally Anoraak’s idea and a different version of that track appeared on his album a few years ago, we’re really happy with the track and wanted to release this version too. The collaboration with Electric Youth was our idea as we really like them. Both those collaborations were carried out through the internet, we’ve never met them…but it would be nice! Apart from the collaborations mentioned here, there are also lyricists, co-writers (frequently Roger Gunnarsson) and guest musicians involved on the album.
ER: How does the writing and recording process work for Sally Shapiro? Is Johan allowed in when Sally’s recording now?
S & J: No, Johan is still not allowed in. Johan is the composer and producer, sometimes together with other songwriters and producers. When he has something almost finished he plays it to Sally and gets some feedback. We then write the lyrics together, and the vocals are almost always the last things that are recorded before finally mixing the track.
ER: Is there a favourite synth or bit of studio kit.
J: Not really, it shifts. Yamaha DX-7 wasn’t used before this album, it can sound really smooth. Earlier there were a lot of sounds from the Roland Juno-60 and Jupiter-4.
ER: If money was no object, what synth would you love to own?
J: Elka Synthex.
♫ Sally Shapiro – Lives Together (Johan Agebjörn Dub)
ER: Are there plans for Sally Shapiro beyond Somewhere Else?
S & J: Not which are official right now.
ER: Are Sally Shapiro more of a full cooked breakfast, or bowl of cereal kind of duo?
S & J: Bowl of cereal probably. Sally drinks coffee, Johan drinks tea.
Many thanks to Sally and Johan for speaking with us.
Sally Shapiro’s Somewhere Else is released today in the UK and tomorrow in the rest of the world. It comes highly recommended.
Tomorrow, Sally and Johan will be hosting on online release party where you can chat with them and ask them stuff we was too lazy to ask, details here.
This is one of those track that just reading the title gets you excited. Sally Shapiro reMixed by Com Truise! If ears watered with appetite, like your mouth, then the thought of Sally and Johan Agebjörn’s blissful ElectroPop reworked by the master of SynthWave would leave drool on our lobes. Which is a pretty gross analogy, so let’s just say it’s a pretty exciting thought. OK.
The track is ace, Com’s reMix of the new Shapiro single, What Can I Do?, takes a funky 80s stab at the track. the Truise way, which is Boogie fuelled beats and basslines mixed with more cosmic, esoteric synth work is very much present here with a digital bass powering the track giving the rest of Com’s sound pallet free reign to swirl in and out of Sally’s vocals. The contrast between the thick Electro Funk and the ominous vocal manipulation & atmospheric synths make for a track destined for both the feet and the head. Amazing retro synth goodness.
♫ Sally Shapiro – What Can I Do? (Com Truise reMix)
Sally Shapiro’s What Can I Do? is released November 20th on Paper Bag Records followed by the new album, Somewhere Else 26th February next year with contributions from Anoraak, Le Prix and Electric Youth.
Well this has slipped out a bit unnoticed. We would have though their received, or deserved, a bit more fanfare but it appears to just be ‘there’. It;s the forthcoming new single from amazing Swedish ElectroPop act Sally Shapiro. The titular Sally and Mr. Johan Agebjörn have been doing their studio thing again and come up with a dreamy piece of Pop gold.
What Can I Do? has a distinctly 60s feel to it, mixed up in Agebjörn’s ElectroPop and a little Indie guitar. It’s a sound we weren’t expecting from these two, but it’s both refreshing and very easy on the ears. Shapiro’s understated vocal performance is just a pleasure to listen to, and the whole thing ends up sounding a bit Saint Etienne, bit slightly more contemporary. This is our pleasant surprise of the week.
♫ Sally Shapiro – What Can I Do?
Sally Shapiro’s What Can I Do? is released November 20th on Paper Bag Records.