Finally, a band that’s aiming to move away from stereotypical songwriting themes! I don’t know how many electronic experimental synth pop bands have come out of Durham, but I’m willing to bet not a massive number. Especially ones that are as creatively minded as these guys…
Emile’s Telegraphic Transmission Device (ETTD) consists of Dan Williams on vocals, synthesisers, bass guitar and percussion (who also does the synth and drum programming), and John Timney on drums and percussion, guitars and synths. What’s with the name, I hear you cry. Emile was the French telegraph engineer Emile Baudot, who invented his own telegraphic encoding machine which closely resembles ETTD’s beloved synthesiser.
Formed in July 2012, the first album released last June included “Doodlebug,” their ode to the first V1 flying bomb to hit the UK. “Radio” offers a melodic, descriptive chronology of how the medium works. It’s different, lyrically and musically. Yes, I can say they sound a bit OMD with a bit of Kraftwerk or Joy Division thrown in for good measure to give you an idea, but it’s fresh and deeply layered, and catchy as hell to boot. Their instrumental demo of House of the Rising Sun is inspired.
The sound is influenced primarily by emotions, with Dan, who writes the majority of the songs and lyrics, aiming for a specific analogue synthesiser sound and texture for the finished product. It’s refreshing that he tends not to write love songs about people, but more about things that we cannot really love in the same way – such as a nasty big bomb. They take their inspiration from historical fact and fiction, bringing their own quirky perspective on important and sometimes long-forgotten past events.
As I checked out their record covers and their love of vinyl releases, I realised that there was a lot going on here. The artwork is carefully considered and highly imaginative, with the first album sleeve using an image demonstrating the Baudot keyboard being used. When I asked Dan about the artwork, he explained their choices perfectly – that “the art and the music are kind of like a marriage, who will spend the rest of their lives together and complement each other.” Sigh.
2013 was a pretty busy year for the band. They got airplay on BBC Radio and spent a lot of time writing the new album, Ambivalence in Motion, soon to be released in May 2014. The first single, Lady Windermere pays homage to a character from an Oscar Wilde four act comedy from the 1890s, using the plot as a basis for the lyrics. I wouldn’t expect anything less. It’s melodic and atmospheric, with a distinctive non-vocal synth chorus and a lyric that sums up their take on songwriting – “love and hate is not the choice – it’s principles.”
Upcoming gigs include 19th April at RPM Music in Newcastle for Record Store Day, with more dates to be confirmed (check their FB for updates). Dan refuses to confirm or deny that they are already working on their third album, but knowing their commitment to the cause, I wouldn’t be surprised.