FFH (originally Four for Harmony, now Far From Home) are yer classic CCM outfit, male and female vocals, gloopy pop ballads about 'their relationship with Christ'... You get the picture. A thought: if the chief 'relationship' in a hardcore Christian's life is with his god, where does that leave his nearest and dearest? Second-class citizens, by the sound of it. Anyway, this album sucks a dead dog's cock, frankly; the nearest it comes to not actually offending is the gospel/blues of I'm Free, which seems, stunningly, to ascertain that being in thrall to an imaginary deity can be construed as 'freedom'. Fascinating. Tim Lauer plays samplotron strings on In The Waiting, faint to the point of near-inaudibility.
When Franz Ferdinand formed in the early 2000s (remember all the music press hype?), who would ever have thought that the stars would align correctly and, not only would they collaborate with the mighty Sparks, but their joint names would abbreviate to FFS? Of course, it's exactly what you'd expect from the Mael brothers' witty, cynical, erudite take on popular culture; presumably the Franz lads come from a similar place, albeit Scottish and thirty years later. I'll be perfectly honest and say that I don't know their stuff; I'm pretty allergic to the UK indie scene, but Sparks' appreciation of their work clearly counts for something.
Apparently, the two bands first mooted the idea of a collaboration as early as 2004, a mere two years after Franz' formation, but it took them another decade to actually get together properly, the end result being 2015's FFS. Everything about this album: the concept, the sleeve design and above all, the contents, are immaculately-conceived, bringing out the best in both outfits, manoeuvring Sparks into a full band sound, where (IMHO) they're always at their best. Unsurprisingly, the overall sound is a straight cross between the two contributors' styles, 'indie Sparks with hints of electronica', for want of a better phrase. Is it possible to nail down its high points? The lyrics are superb throughout (to absolutely no-one's surprise), while musically, we might be looking at Dictator's Son, Save Me From Myself, Things I Won't Get and superb closer Piss Off. Mellotron? Rumoured, but if the 'string' sound on Little Guy From The Suburbs is supposed to be a Mellotron, you're not fooling anyone, chaps, ditto the strings on Save Me From Myself. As with Sparks' own, real Mellotron-featuring records from the mid-'70s, though, the presence or absence of any actual tape-replay is neither here nor there. This is a great record that I intend to get to know a lot better.
Tahliah Debrett "FKA Twigs" Barnett (usually styled with a lower-case 't') is a British artist, whose style, going by her debut, 2014's LP1, is almost uncategorisable. Avant-garde trip-hop? Ultra-experimental R&B? Near-random drum programming, sparse, icy synths, sudden brief bursts of drum'n'bass, echo effects... Not my personal bag, but all power to her for making music this uncompromising. Emile Haynie is credited with Mellotron on Hours. Really? Despite using one on his own album the following year, there's nothing on the track even approximating one, so, given my new 'stop giving the benefit of the doubt' policy, into samples it goes. A brave, experimental album, then, but no obvious Mellotron.
What appears to be Faelwa's lone release, 2009's Farewell Sun CD-R EP, contains four tracks of piano-driven, goth-inflected dark folk, at its best on the title track and the beautiful Orphan Lullaby. Jasper Strik's 'Mellotron' strings across the board and choirs on the title track really aren't.
Unsurprisingly, Sunken Condos sounds an awful lot like Steely Dan, with few obvious influences later than, ooh, 1980. As ever, the lyrics are at least as important as the music, which shifts between the usual jazz/pop through a funky cover of Isaac Hayes' Out Of The Ghetto to the superb, bluesy Weather In My Head. Michael Leonhart is credited with Mellotron on The New Breed. Er... He's also credited with mellophone (confusing them's a common mistake, particularly on Discogs), so who knows? No Mellotron, anyway.
Forming in 1988, the little-known Fairy's sole album, 1994's Hesperia, is a typical, overblown, female-fronted Japanese prog workout, although, sadly, Akiko Hiragaki sings flat throughout. The album occasionally veers away from its template, notably with the fusion influences on Composition, while the most successful attempt at their chosen style has to be the gloriously OTT closing title track, featuring a superb, stereo choppy guitar riff. Downsides? Most of the album, I'm afraid, although the playing's as spot-on as you'd expect, the awful digital pseudo-analogue, brassy lead sound (a Korg M1 factory patch?) on several tracks being a particular toe-curler. Either keyboard player Mizuho Suzuki or bassist Hiroyuki Ishizawa plays Mellotron string and flute samples on The Blue Of An Angel, to very little effect, frankly. There's better Japanese prog around than this; I can't say I'm surprised Fairy didn't last longer.
The Fallout Trust were a fairly typical British indie act of the 2000s, throwing second-hand electronica into their faux-'60s soup, probably at its least dull on No Beacon. Guy Connelly and Jess Winter are both credited with Mellotron, with strings on TVM and One Generation Wall (spot the long, held chord) and overly-smooth, clearly sampled cellos on closer Take Comfort From Me.
Maria "Fallulah" Apetri's mixed heritage (Danish and Romanian) informs the music on her debut album, 2010's The Black Cat Neighbourhood, a heavy Balkan influence pervading most of its tracks. To be honest, its combination of mainstream pop/rock and pounding Eastern Europeanisms palls after a while, but kudos to Ms. Apetri for coming up with a genuinely new sound, just when you thought everything had been done. Fridolin Schjoldan supposedly plays Mellotron on two tracks, with (maybe) background choirs on Hey You and string chords on the title track, although whatever Maria/Fallulah adds to Back And Forth is inaudible. However, I have to say that what little I can hear sounds all rather sampled, although I'm probably wrong. Again. Fallulah has been compared to the likes of the bonkers Natasha "Bat for Lashes" Khan and the more mainstream Florence & the Machine, but to my ears, she has more in the common with the former than the latter, which should be taken as a compliment.
Fan Modine are a prime powerpop outfit, with not a jot of that tiresome indie influence that creeps into many of their contemporaries' recordings. Cause Célèbre is really rather splendid, top tracks including opener (and single) Épater La Bourgeoisie, despite (or because of?) its Please Please Me vocal melody rip, First Fruits And Tenths, Tapestry (which sounds a lot like The Who) and superb closer Rich Girls In Wellingtons. Not a dud in sight, frankly. However, Gordon Zacharias' Mellotron credit turns out to be no more than a wash of background sampled strings on Épater La Bourgeoisie.
Thomas Fanger's debut album, 2005's Parlez-Vous Électronique?, has been hailed as 'classic' in some quarters of the EM community, but its relatively upbeat, major-key take on the Berlin School style veers a little too close to new age for my personal tastes. Better tracks include the brief Calm and closer The Land Of Milk And Honey, although our old friend Klaus "Cosmic" Hoffmann-Hoock's composition (on which he plays many of the instruments), Jungle Bar, amongst others, is rather too cheesy for its own good. Hoffmann-Hoock plays credited Memotron on Jungle Bar, with distant strings that don't sound that different to some of Fanger's own synth patches on other tracks, notably the obvious Mellotron flute, string and choir samples on The Land Of Milk And Honey. Overall, decent enough, but really not one for those who prefer, say, '70s Klaus to, say, '80s Tangs.
Fantastic Plastic Machine, or Tomoyuki Tanaka, as he's known to his nearest and dearest, is an electronic composer/musician, whose influences include Chicago house, lounge, bossa nova and French pop: just my kind of artist, then. Not. His third full-length release, 2001's Beautiful, is the kind of album you might play at the poolside at your luxury Bel Air mansion, although hearing it in the rather more prosaic setting of my music room probably rather dulls its impact, not that I was ever really going to like it, anyway. Its lengthy, largely repetitive tracks are doubtless perfect for its intended setting, but drag to the point of utter tedium elsewhere. Is there a best track? Well, One Minute Of Love's manic piano work makes it stand out as the joker in the pack, although I'm not sure if it deserves the term 'best'. Tanaka's Mellotron samples only get two outings here, with flutes and strings on effective opener Beautiful Days and album 'proper' closer Beautiful Days (Reprise). D'you know, unless you're big on ironic lounge/disco revival stuff, you don't need to hear this any more than I did.
I was expecting Far to be an indie outfit, so having my ears assaulted by a metal band rather confused me. Mind you, we're not talking dreaded nu-metal, thankfully; comparisons with Tool are apparently valid. After playing this in the car and being heavily irritated by it, I was all for giving it a low * rating, but a second play at home has bumped it up to a whole three stars; Far understand dynamics, although 'quiet/loud' has been rather done to death lately, I fear. Best tracks? I Like It has an interesting riff and In 2 Again has an effective (real) string part. While there's nothing genuinely bad here, the punkier tracks had me reaching for the 'skip' button, I'm afraid. Personal taste, I suppose; gimme The Ramones any day, although I'm sure that's missing the point. Producer D (Dave) Sardy played keys on a few tracks, including a tortured samplotron string line on opener Bury White.
Far From Tellus (presumably referencing E.E. "Doc" Smith's rather silly books) features a kind of indie/folk crossover, shifting between the banjo electronica of opener Far From Tellus itself, through the folky likes of Rosemary and Morning Stars to lengthy, not-entirely-welcome indie workout Bless Our Souls, (presumably) Christian Næss' yelping, Dylanesque vocal style not particularly helping matters, frankly. Næss and Magnus Andersen Husum play samplotron, with cellos and strings on Rosemary, flutes and distant strings on Morning Stars, flutes on Mogens, strings on User Of Uzi and background strings on Murder Ballad, to greater or lesser degrees.
Bibi Farber's Second Kiss sits somewhere in between Americana and singer-songwriter territory, at its best on the album's rockiest effort, closer Straight Up And Steady, or Meticulous Man, with its Cars-esque monsynth. Andy Burton plays obvious samplotron strings and flutes (spot the high 'A') on I'll Wait Here, plus flutes on Evelyn.
L.A.'s Farflung are a current stoner/space rock crossover outfit (aren't the genres almost the same?), at least going by their half of their 2012 split EP with White Hills, the thirteen-minute Fade. Fittingly, it sits stylistically somewhere between Sabbath and Hawkwind, a far rockier proposition than White Hills' drifting To Find The Secret Door, although also correspondingly less trippy. Abby Travis is credited with Mellotron, but the distant, sometimes over-extended string parts on the track are most unlikely to emanate from a real machine, frankly. I'm not even sure if this is available on CD, but I'm sure a (legal) download is an option, for those as yet unconvinced of vinyl's return as the preeminent format. Don't go expecting any real Mellotron, though.
You've probably never heard of Mylène Farmer (nor had I before being given a copy of this album), but she's a French actress/singer-songwriter, born Mylène Jeanne Gautier in Québec. Known for her arty, controversial and provocative videos, she's hugely popular in her adopted country (her family moved back there during her childhood), her albums routinely going platinum. Point de Suture is her seventh studio album, shucking off her usual ballads for an electronic, dance-orientated style; surely rather outdated, now? Then again, dance/pop music always seems to sell well and if that's the area in which she currently wants to work... The only track that stands out for me is the 'hidden' one, Ave Maria, a orchestral synth-backed ballad that showcases Farmer's beautiful voice. Guess what? Although Pol Ramirez del Piu is credited with Mellotron, it's entirely inaudible. A snippet of flute on one track is almost certainly del Piu's real one, so it's a complete loss on the Mellotron front.
Jay Farrar is the significant member of alt.country legends Uncle Tupelo who didn't go on to play in Wilco, forming Son Volt to realise his own Americana vision. They went into indefinite hiatus after their third album, 1998's Wide Swing Tremolo, at which point Farrar kicked off the solo career many had expected after Uncle Tupelo's demise. Sebastopol is the first fruit of said career, largely carrying on where Wide Swing Tremolo left off, mixing psych, Neil Young-style rock, country and even Eastern influences (Prelude (Make it Alright)) into a gumbo of forward-looking and thinking Americana for a new century. Best songs? Opener Feel Free, country ballad Barstow and maybe Drain, but in actuality, there are no bad tracks, which on a fifty-minute album is a feat in itself. Farrar plays samplotron on the album, with rather screechy background strings on Clear Day Thunder, outclassed by the far more upfront ones on Damaged Son, with less of the same on Different Eyes.
I'm sure you've all heard of Larry Fast, if not through his synthesizer project Synergy, then through his extensive session work with Peter Gabriel, Nektar and others. He began working as Synergy in the mid-'70s, using his Mellotron on his first album, Electronic Realizations for Rock Orchestra only, although he subsequently played it on various other artists' work. Upon listening to Synergy again, the thing that makes Fast's work stand out from other exponents of synth-based music is his keen ear for a melody, uncommon at the time and virtually unknown in the world of the modern EM revival.
2002's Reconstructed Artifacts is one of those 'let's re-record our best work using bland modern sounds' albums; like so many of his contemporaries, driven to distraction by the vagaries of '70s keyboard technology, Fast is clearly in thrall to softsynths and the like, not to mention modern computer-based sequencing. In a way, I can't say I blame him; so much less work for, well, nearly as good results. I have a theory, though: the hard work of keeping all the old kit running, in tune et al. actually informs the creative process in a positive way. 'You don't get owt for nowt'. Then again, I could be talking crap. Either way, this is best approached as an effective 'best of', top tracks including Warriors from Electronic Realizations... (I'd forgotten how good this is), the Orbit 5/Ancestors segue and several tracks from '87's Metropolitan Suite.
Fast adds, variously, samplotron flute, string and choir parts to Electronic Realizations...' Relay Breakdown and Warriors, plus parts added to several tracks that didn't originally feature the instrument, giving us an idea of how he may've tackled them originally had he been prepared to nurse his M400 along. Then again, if he was using a Sound Sales (US importers) bodge, it's understandable that he gave up on it pretty quickly. Overall, this is a fine compilation of some of Synergy's best material, with extra fakeotron parts on several tracks, working well both as a starting-point to Fast's work and as an adjunct to his career.
Fatal Fusion are a new entrant in the Scandinavian prog stakes, although their 2010 debut, Land of the Sun, is more diverse than you might expect from that description. The opening title track is nine minutes of typical, albeit extremely good prog, but Cry No More isn't a million miles away from Edgar Winter's Frankenstein, while Uriah Heep are clearly a band touchstone. Other top tracks? There's nothing here (despite the album's length) that really should've been left off, but lengthy closer Out To The Fields is particularly recommended. Erlend Engebretsen's 'Mellotron' work is almost certainly nothing of the sort, however (in fairness, they don't actually credit it as such), the flutes, strings and choir all over Land Of The Sun itself and most other tracks telling their own story. If this album has a fault, it's that much of its material lacks originality, but it's difficult to deny that what the band does, it does very well. Don't come here expecting real Mellotron, but this is a good, if not outstanding debut release.
Father John Misty is better known as ex-Fleet Fox J(oshua) Tillman, his debut under this name being 2012's Fear Fun. Sadly, everything I liked about 2009's Vacilando Territory Blues (under his own name) is absent here, replaced by an attempt to channel pre-rock'n'roll blues and country in two forms: 1) upbeat (rarely good) and 2) downbeat (occasionally good), less tedious efforts including the mournful O I Long To Feel Your Arms Around Me, pseudo-country hoedown Tee Pees 1-12 and closer Everyman Needs A Companion. Keefus Green is credited with 'Mellotron abuse', but given that they list random, jokey credits like 'lending of personal mobile devices', 'baffling ability to play piano boogie in F' and 'Wurlitzer repurposing', it should come as little surprise to hear that, especially given the track's real strings credit, the only thing it even might be is a background string part, almost certainly sampled. An EP of this album's better tracks would be relatively palatable, but I'm afraid that over forty minutes of this is enough to knock a half star from its already low rating.
Although Newton Faulkner's 2007 debut sold the larger part of a million copies in the UK, I've never heard of him and, frankly, after hearing his third effort, Write it on Your Skin, I wish it had stayed that way. This is your classic dreadlocked trustafarian pseudo-busker's album, all strummed acoustic and hideous pop vocal lines allied to 'heartfelt' lyrics. Ugh. Faulkner and Sam Farrar are both credited with Mellotron, but the flutes on Brick By Brick (only really audible on the song's final chord) don't ring true.
Faultline are otherwise known as the London-based David Kosten, whose second album, 2002's Your Love Means Everything, falls loosely into the downtempo/electronica area, I suppose. Is it any good? Fucked if I know; it bored me stupid after about three tracks, but that probably has more to do with my boredom threshold than any wider definition of the concept. The album was reissued with a different tracklisting two years later, but I doubt whether I'll like that version any better. Kosten adds sampled Mellotron strings and flutes to several tracks, but you can carry on living your life perfectly happily without ever hearing them.
The Faults were ex-V-Roy Mic Harrison's new project (if that means anything to you), who lasted just the one album. 2001's The Faults is best described as being at the harder end of powerpop with the occasional alt.country influence, which is no bad thing. In fact, the only track to sound at all countryish is closer Poison Land, so countryphobes needn't get too het up. Several really nice tracks, although the pick of the bunch is probably opener Dishonest Jenny, which sets the band's stall out nicely. Harrison plays samplotron, with a short but sweet string part on Let The Angel Lie; he's subsequently joined Superdrag, albeit after their Samplotron Years, so I doubt if he's used one again.
Faun Fables are essentially Dawn McCarthy's solo project, although Oakland avant-progsters Sleepytime Gorilla Museum's Nils Frykdahl is a regular collaborator. Originally privately released in 1999, Early Song is usually credited as 2004, the year Drag City picked it up for CD issue. More folk than singer-songwriter, the album starts normally enough, in a sparse folk kind of way, but slowly descends into eccentricity, McCarthy actually yodelling on Ode To Rejection and Bliss. But is it any good? Matter of opinion, I suppose; it's certainly unusual, but whether that makes it especially listenable is another matter entirely. Rob Burger allegedly plays Chamberlin, along with pump-organ, but the latter is the only thing actually audible here.
Bill Fay is a British singer/songwriter who produced two albums at the beginning of the '70s, then, like many similar, gently slipped off the map, although unlike some, he continued to write and demo material. His caché has increased over the years to the point where a critical mass was reached in the late 2000s, leading to American producer/fan Joshua Henry recording Fay's first new album in over forty years, 2012's Life is People. To my ears, it opens with one of its weakest tracks, the gospelly There Is A Valley (Be At Peace With Yourself is a similar effort), although second song in, Big Painter, is absolutely beautiful, as are most of the album's slower tracks. Other highlights? The Never Ending Happening, Jesus, Etc., Cosmic Concerto (Life Is People) and gorgeous closer The Coast No Man Can Tell. Yes, the occasional religious sentiment doesn't have to ruin a record.
Mellotronically speaking, the warning bells begin ringing as soon as you see the word 'mellotrons' in the credits: yup, lower-case and plural. More than one? Really? The studio pics in the CD booklet show a Hammond C3 (not the credited B3, which seems to've become synonymous with 'Hammond' these days) and a Wurlitzer, along with a MIDI mother 'board. Hmmm and hmmm again. Patrick Simon's 'Mellotron' choirs on opener There Is A Valley are the clincher, though. No, that is not a Mellotron. Mikey Rowe (Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds etc.) adds strings to This World, The Healing Day and City Of Dreams, but my jaw would drop were it ever to be proven that a real machine set foot inside the studio. Real-or-otherwise Mellotron really isn't what this album's about, anyway; this is one for those who never let go of the dream.
Fehlfarben are one of Germany's longest-running punk/new wave outfits, although there seem to've been some gaps in their hegemony. 2006 brought an unusual career retrospective: 26½, eighteen re-recorded favourites, all with (mostly German) special guests, including Herbert Grönemeyer (well, I've heard of him) and Brit Tim "T.V." Smith of seminal UK punks The Adverts. The material's pretty much what you'd expect from the era when most of it was written (the early '80s), tending towards the fast'n'furious, the occasional synthpop number thrown in for good measure. Best title? (Geh) Du Ran Du Ran. No contest. It seems to be a rewrite of The Undertones' Teenage Kicks, rather than Planet Earth, but there you go. New-ish member Kurt "Pyrolator" Dahlke (already something of a name in his home country, apparently) is credited with Mellotron, but the rather fake-sounding strings on Chirurgie 2010 make me think that he got no nearer to a real tapes'n'all machine than the guy who sampled it. But I could be wrong... Anyway, one for fans of Deutsch new wave, I think; certainly not one for Mellotron nuts.
D Henry Fenton is an Australian Americana artist whose second album, Turnin', while more cohesive than his debut, Autumn Sweet, is also blander, at its best on the title track and Time For Moving On. Arlan Schierbaum is credited with Chamberlin, but the strings on the title track and closer Transcending fail to convince.
Sky Ferreira got her break in her teens after uploading her songs on MySpace (seems so long ago, doesn't it?), although her style shifted from dance-pop to a more indie/electro direction after signing with a major. After a couple of EPs, Night Time, My Time is the kind of album I don't like, yet (thankfully) fails to enrage me. Teen pop, nothing to see, move along... I'm not sure where Justin Raisen's Mellotron is supposed to be on the title track, as there's absolutely nothing audible.
Singer-songwritery/powerpop crossover stuff from Dodd Ferelle, at its best on Gullah, My Anna and Gardens Disappear. David Barbe's supposed to play Mellotron, but the flutes on Come Home sound more like a recorder, although no woodwind's credited.
Here's a phrase to strike fear into the hearts of the boldest: Italian X-Factor winner. OK, second-placed. Whatever. Il Mio Universo is every bit as grim as you might imagine, a combination of modern-pop-with-rock-guitars, slightly more Italian-sounding stuff and Big Mediterranean Balladry, all delivered in her overly-husky voice. Simone Bertolotti and Luca Chiaravalli are both credited with Mellotron, by which I presume they mean the chordal flutes in Niente Promesse and Linguaggio Immaginario. I think not.
Melissa Ferrick's thirteenth album is not dissimilar to 2002's Listen Hard in its largely acoustic singer-songwriter mode, although I hear more of a country influence a decade on. Ferrick's supposed Mellotron on Take In All The Plants is one of the less obvious woodwind sounds (in other words, I'm not sure which: oboe?), but I am sure it's not genuine.
The original lounge lizard finally gets around to a new album and, would you believe, it actually isn't at all bad? Bryan Ferry has a deserved reputation for ultra-smoothness, but Frantic features a decent selection of songs new and old and a dry, upfront vocal sound that the Ferry of old would never have contemplated using. Two Dylan covers and a Leadbelly song (Goodnight Irene) sit amongst co-writes with the likes of (evil) Dave Stewart and Eno, although all are moulded to fit the Ferry Sound, as are instrumental contributions from the likes of Chris Spedding and old Roxy compatriot Paul Thompson. Colin Good allegedly plays Mellotron on Nobody Loves Me, presumably the track's choir samples stuck through some effects.
Thomas Fersen is a French singer-songwriter, apparently immensely clever with his use of language, which, of course, is as much use to those of us who speak anywhere from little to none of it as a chocolate fireguard. Then again, Fersen isn't making albums for the non-French market, so he should care. 2008's Trois Petits Tours (Three Times Round) is something like his seventh studio album, actually a very listenable record in a jazzy French folk style, most tracks consisting of little more than guitar or ukelele, piano and occasional percussion under Fersen's high-in-the-mix voice. Daniel Thouin plays exceedingly faint background samplotron strings on Ukulélé, while Thouin and François Lafontaine add faint choirs and slightly more audible strings to Ce Qu'Il Me Dit.
Although Fettes Brot are known for their Germanic take on hop-hop, Fussball Ist Immer Noch Wichtig seems to be the Teutonic equivalent of the British 'football novelty song', the band's tongues firmly in collective cheeks. I hope. It's an idiotic, piano-driven slowie, tailor-made for singing at matches. Has anyone done so? I wonder. Not, of course, in a 'keeping me awake at night' kind of way, however. Daniel Kramer is credited with Mellotron, but if that's what those vague string and brass sounds are supposed to be... On the remote offchance that you're actually up for hearing this, it's available on an album called Strandgut (2007), a compilation of the band's previous four singles, released over a period of two years.
Louisianans Feufollet would appear to have a mission to drag Cajun music into the 21st century, kicking and screaming if need be. 2008's Cow Island Hop is an album of mad, electrified Creole folk with a rock'n'roll attitude, interspersed with accordion-fuelled swampland balladry and French-language lyrics, although I doubt whether the Parisian Délégation Générale à la Langue Française et Aux Langues de France would be too happy at the mangling handed out to their beloved tongue. Top tracks include jaunty opener Prends Courage, complete with distorted organ backing, the title track's hoedown and the jazz-inflected Femme L'a Dit, but not a single thing here actually disappoints. Ivan Klisanin plays what I take to be distant samplotron choirs on Chère Bébé Créole.
Elin Fflur's a Welsh-language singer-songwriter, active in the Eisteddfod since early childhood. So why, oh why, does Hafana resemble an album by Cher? In Welsh. There's bad albums that bore me and then there's bad albums that begin to make me angry. This is one of those. Wasn't AOR an '80s genre? This is at its least cheesy on acoustic ballad Tywysoges Goll, but that's hardly a recommendation. David Wrench's Mellotron? No more than vague choirs on a couple of tracks.
Although they formed in the mid-'90s, it took Figurines until 2003 to release an album, Shake a Mountain, their second, Skeleton, appearing two years later. To be honest, it's a pretty ordinary modern indie album, not doing anything that a million others aren't also doing, although at least they avoid the 'whiny vocals' trap. Better tracks include I Remember and closer Release Me On The Floor (nice Hammond), but it's not exactly a stand-out release. Lasse Lakken plays a nice samplotron string part on Silver Ponds. Sadly, 2010's Figurines is a step down; this kind of mid-'60s, pre-psych-influenced indie does absolutely nothing for this listener. While its adherents would obviously disagree, I'd love to be told exactly what makes material like Glee, Poughkeepsie or closer Unable To Drift original, different, or simply any good. Although it's credited on more than half the tracks, Jens Ramon's 'Mellotron' quite clearly isn't, typified by the too-fast-to-be-real cellos on We Got Away and the only-occasionally-semi-authentic strings on Every Week.
Filarmónica Gil play an appealing kind of folk/pop, with plenty of local influences; after all, they probably don't expect many people outside their home market to have even heard of them, let alone buy their records. I think 2005's Filarmónica Gil is their debut, full of songs of the quality of opener Um Homem Como Eu, the frenetic Lisboa 4 Ever or No Colo Do Meu Pai. On the samplotron front, Rui Costa adds flutes to opener Um Homem Como Eu, while O Rapaz Pendular opens with a chordal flute part that reiterates throughout the track. The band followed up with 2007's Por Mão Própria, slightly more varied than its predecessor, with hints of rock and reggae thrown in, though not necessarily for the better. Costa on samplotron again, with uncredited flutes on opener Ponto De Rebuçado and more of the same on Saia Indiscreta, although nothing on the credited Batas Brancas; however, we do get uncredited strings on Nunca Vi, making me think someone's cocked up the credits. More flutes and strings on Eu Disse Que Sim, although I suspect any other string parts are real.
Finisterre (Italy) see:
Patrick Zimmer produces a rather poppy kind of electronica under the name Finn (not to be confused with Neil & Tim Finn's project, of course), making programmed non-dance music palatable, at least to an extent. One online reviewer raved about his third album, 2005's The Ayes Will Have it!, taking the opportunity to have a dig at Coldplay and their ilk, but I have to say, I'm not sure how wide the gap is between the two... Wispy vocals, droning electronics, quiet, heavily effected picked guitar... Quelle difference? Zimmer's credited with Mellotron, amongst other things, with strings and/or flutes on most tracks, but the major string part on closer Hymn sounds just that bit too smooth for its own good, giving the sample game away. I think. Anyway, one for slightly wet people everywhere.
After Harmonium's late '70s split, singer Serge Fiori forged a solo career that has included songwriting for other artists, film soundtrack work and new age albums. His eponymous 2014 release is his first album of regular songs for the better part of thirty years, a mostly French-language pop/rock effort for the most part, possibly at its best on the mournful Laisse-Moi Partir. As a nod to his progressive past, we get lush samplotron strings on opener Le Monde Est Virtuel.
So Long Someday is an Americana album, probably at its best on its more energetic material, highlights including Caroline, Promising and the dark Waltzing Mathilda (despite the near-subliminal programmed percussion). This is one of those 'no-one credited with Mellotron, but some online references' records, with blatantly sampled flutes on So Long Lorraine.
Going by Live a Little, Love a Little, Fireking operate at the punk end of powerpop, although Rebel Rouser is a spot-on (first time round) glam rock pastiche, other highlights including Arkansas and Blue. Anthony Kaczynski's 'Mellotron' consists of distant flutes on Blue and obviously sampled strings on Big Priest Of Love.
First Aid Kit are the sisterly duo of Klara and Johanna Söderberg, aided by a cast of thousands on their third album, 2014's Stay Gold. It's a decent enough country-inflected folky effort, thankfully avoiding the 'mainstream trap': no autotune, few synths or programming, its better tracks tending towards the drumless end of their sound, not least Fleeting One and closer A Long Time Ago. Ben Brodin plays restrained samplotron flutes on Master Pretender.
Although Günther Fischer seems to be best known for leading his jazz outfit, The Günther Fischer Band, 1979's Günther Fischer sounds like an album of soundtrack pieces. Perhaps it is? It shifts through a variety of styles, although I wouldn't say that jazz was especially prevalent. Highlights? Severino, the charming Streets Of Berlin and the powerful Pastor Himmelsknecht, perhaps. Fischer is credited with Mellotron, but, as with some other East German jazzers of the era, it appears to be nothing more interesting than an occasional string synth, although Mellotrons weren't unknown on the wrong side of the wall.
Fischerspooner are the New York duo of Warren Fischer and Casey Spooner, operating in what I believe is known as the 'electroclash' area (he says, in his best 'bemused old person' manner), although their second album, 2005's Odyssey, is quite clearly early '80s-style synthpop, using either analogue synths or good impersonations. The trouble is, songwriting of the Soft Cell/Human League variety just isn't happening here; it's all well and good having the sound, but unless you know what to do with it... Some of the synth textures are great, but I couldn't remember a single tune after the album finished; maybe I'm missing the point. Anyway, I've had this down as a 'Mellotron album' for a while, but unless I'm heavily mistaken, the Mellotron strings on Everything To Gain are samples, with one or two other bits on the album that could be samples again. Of course, if anyone out there has more accurate information...
Arnold Fish (surely his real name?) is a French psychedelicist, whose In the Land of the Elephant Blues straddles the fine line between homage and pastiche. Best tracks? It's nice to be able to say 'it's all good', but late '60s TV theme-esque opener The Guilty (Il Colpevole), The Boogeyman and the Supertramp-esque Lady Harrington all stand out. Despite Mr. Fish's 'Mellotron' credit, we're quite clearly hearing nothing of the sort, the strings on The Guilty, brass on the title track and A Beautiful Car Crash and pretty blatant upfront flutes on The Boogeyman and The Battle For The Crown, amongst others, being seriously fake. Very listenable record, though.