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29 October 2014
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Sheffield glamour boys Heaven 17
Sheffield glamour boys Heaven 17

Electric Sheffield: Is New Romantic back?

As all the couples gear up for a romantic weekend some are dusting off their 7inch singles and buying excessive amounts of hairspray in a bid to relive the new romantic 80s. Go on, get out the mascara and glam yourself up!

Electronic music emerged from musicians playing with technology. This led to the electro-funk sound which like the new romantic sound has made a comeback in recent times.

Some would argue its never been away, but the recent rise in popularity is evident with artists such as Air and Ladytron incorporating the electro ethos.

BBC radio station 6 Music devoted its airways to the new romantic era for Valentines Day, and recreated the Blitz club in London as an apt tribute to the 80s scene.

We spoke to 6 Music presenter Janice Long about her experiences of the new romantic era and she filled us in:

"I looked gorgeous in my dark green velvet knickerbockers and huge white frilly shirt. Hair was a girl version of David Sylvian and I wore blusher like never before.


"I was going out to gigs and clubs five nights a week, falling in love and buying buckets of hairspray!"

Old romantics

The early 80s saw the rise of the new romantics, and Sheffield led the way. Whether it was a new genre influenced by Punk, or poor employment prospects which led to the rise, the city was at the heart of a new genre of music.

Bands like Cabaret Voltaire, ABC, The Human League and Heaven 17 were some of the first to emerge from this new scene out of the steel city.

The Human League had a worldwide hit with 'Don't You Want Me Baby' which continues to receive airplay around the globe to this day.

Guitars were replaced by synthesizers and traditional drum kits gave way to electronic drum pads and beat machines.

The success and development of 'trashy pop' in the latter part of the decade inspired the rise of acid house and rave culture.

The Human League
The Human League

The increasing popularity of Chicago and Detroit house music saw Sheffield's strong connection with various music scenes decline... or did it?

WARP: We Are Reasonable People

Two local lads and indie heads, Steve Beckett and the late Rob Mitchell opened an independent record shop in Sheffield and within two years had set up a record label to showcase home grown talent - Warp Records was born.

Rob and Steve were into the underground sounds of the time, influenced by electro and dance and rock.

A very distinctive sound emerged and the label quickly established its individuality and 'bleep, bass and breakbeat' ethic. Early on they signed influential artists Nightmares on Wax and friends LFO.

Warp Founders Rob and Steve
Warp Founders Rob and Steve

Electronic sound pioneer Richard Kirk of Cabaret Voltaire produced a Sheffield classic, 'Testone' under his Sweet Exorcist name - electronica was moving forward and Sheffield once again pushed the boundaries.

By the time DJ's like Fabio and Grooverider used this sound as the base for hardcore then drum 'n' bass, Warp had evolved once again.

The label were increasingly seen by indie kids as 'approachable', previously intimidated by the electro nature of the label.

The Sabres of Paradise with Andy Weatherall and Red Snapper, in addition to Warp's innovative nature, gave a welcoming impression for artists of all genres.

Creation of an identity

Musicians from a host of backgrounds contributed to a diverse mix of output, but all, somehow sounded very 'Warp'.

Reputations in underground music are always strengthened by word of mouth and Warp was certainly hot on everyone's lips!

Over the years this has been enhanced by the success of Rephlex Records, including international superstars Aphex Twin, Sheffield's Tom Jenkinson aka Squarepusher, Autechre, and Relaxed Muscle featuring local favourite Jarvis Cocker - the list goes on...

Jarvis Cocker
Jarvis Cocker

Warp artists Plaid say, "I think there's a bit of a problem with the perception of electronic music. Because there have been so many scenes that have come out of it, people are always looking for the next thing.

"So unless you're doing something radically different every time, people sort of almost feel like 'that's not relevant any more', its always gotta be the next scene. We're not following anymore. We're happy with where we are."

Although the nature of the music industry and its London-centric nature has seen the label relocate to the capital, Sheffield is still home to award-winning Warp Films.

It's run by the producer of Peter Kay's Phoenix Nights and designers of their revolutionary MP3 download site, which offers music from Warp artists and has supplied over 20,000 tracks for visitors in its first week.

Sheffield is as creative as ever and the diverse sounds and multimedia output that emerge from South Yorkshire will surely continue to be the centre of modern movements in music of many genres, well, hopefully!

last updated: 15/07/08
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