A Different Drum!

A Different Drum is a synth-pop label and mailorder. They have many great releases of their own but they also carry some really good stuff from other labels. The music they carry ranges from mild to wild and everything in between. You might say that A Different Drum is synth-pop Heaven.

A Different Drum
P.O. Box 744
Provo, UT 84603
A Different Drum Website


Blue October

"Incoming" (11 Tracks. 57:53)1998.

Chick music. You know, the kind of music you can play for your wife or girlfriend and they’ll like it. Blue October’s sound is generally very mello with many sweet ballads to play for those intimate moments. The light synth music is accented by acoustic guitar and piano in spots. Such sweet ballads include “Over”, “Believe”, and “Safe” which will break your heart. These songs, with their melancholy strains, take on even more meaning in light of the untimely death of singer Barney Miller. Here he sounds a little like Richard Marx. Other songs like “Where I Stand” are upbeat with a very pop appeal. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear this song on the radio. Though the majority of this album is pop oriented, there are tracks like “Over” and “Force” which have a more techno/dance appeal. There are some very strong melodies on this CD as well. All in all, Blue October are a pop band making use of synthesizers with some great, tight, radio friendly tunes.

Blue October

“Believe” (4 tracks. 32:09)1999. This CDEP is the project underway by Blue October when singer Barney Miller died unexpectedly. It features two remixes of the song “Believe”, one by Blue October (slick mix) and the other by Finland’s Neuroactive (club mix). As the title suggests, this version of “Believe” is very danceable and demonstrates the programming finesse of Neuroactive’s J. Tuohimaa. There is a comforting, beautiful new ballad called, “Hope”. Once again, with this song, Blue October stirs the heart strings. This song also features some beautiful guitar playing. Fourth on this release is a very ethereal remix of “Over” appropriately subtitled, “ExtendedDreamMix”. The CD ends with another new track called, “Blaze A Trail” which is very catchy and also very dancy. If the remixes are not enough to motivate you to get this, the two new tunes are worth buying. This CD is bound to be a collector’s item.

Brave New World

"Groove Thing" (11 Tracks. 44:01) 1999.

Brave New World could well be called a synth version of Duran Duran for the 90's. From the trio of male voices singing in unison to the solo parts, BNW have a very Duran Duran-like vocal presence. The structure of their songs also give one this impression. Songs like "Stone" and "Replace", for instance, certainly draw my thinking back to the 80's to Duran Duran, Arcadia, and Tears for Fears. Further, the Duran Duran song "Planet Earth" is covered on this CD. All that being said, it should be noted that these guys sing well together, have a tight sound and a very danceable CD. BNW's music is an even mixture of pop and dance. You might hear these songs on your pop radio station or you might here one at a club. The songs are smooth and catchy and display a professionalism that justifies their presence on a label such as A Different Drum. The eighth track, "Moment of Silence" is a refreshingly different tune. Also, "Node One" is kind of a darkwave track that also adds a little variety to this CD (the voices sound like robots from Star Wars). For the most part, then, this CD is mostly dance-oriented synth-pop but has a few moments of variety.


"Isabella" (12 Tracks. 43:28) 1997.

From the outset Isabella is a very soothing and darkly romantic CD. Song after song speaks of a love or fascination for a woman that borderlines on obsession. Whether or not each song is aimed at the girl "Isabella" or just romantic poetry is not clear. What is clear is that the music is very beautiful and evokative. The opening track, "Crucify", is a very minimalist song. With each successive song the music picks up momentum until we get to the very dancy "Oblivious". Then we get to the title track. The title song, "Isabella" is very beautiful and poetic yet haunting like an Edgar Allen Poe poem. It is a very memorable song. After this is a remix of the first song, "Crucify", and then a hidden track which is kind of an ambient instrumental. It sounds like a track Brian Wilson might have put on his Pet Sounds album had he been a synth-pop musician


"Renaissance" (10 Tracks)1999.

Though Mark Nicholas has been quite prolific he hasn't exhausted his pinache for intriguing music. I think Renaissance is by far the best of his work that I've heard. Isabella, for instance, was a romantic and enjoyable album but this one is far better. Renaissance exhibits a quiet sense of confidence that comes when a musician is on top of his form; from the opening track "Fate and Time" to the last "Kristi's Song". My favorite song is "Orange" which is subtle and funny lyrically, but the music, with it's use of tempo changes and dynamics, is incredible. "Self Involved" is another clever song in which he talks as if he is in love with his computer. (Maybe that's a good way to deal with the loss of Isabella). Speaking of which, "Point of View" tells us that getting over Isabella wasn't as hard as he thought it might have been. Other songs like, "Too Far Gone" and "No Evil" are quite danceable and catchy. There's a lot I could say about each song and the clever, well-written lyrics, but this CD is really about the music. The music is dreamy, melodic and very listenable. On top of this, Mark Nicholas' vocals are smooth. The bottom line is that Renaissance is both musically and lyrically entertaining while also being reflective and occasionally melancholy. This is probably one of the best synth-pop albums of the year (along with Joy Electric's "Christian Songs").

Count to Infinity

“Once Is Not Enough” (10 tracks. 48:47)

Regardless of what others are going to say about this CD, I am going to go out on a limb and describe it as moody and introspective. Trancy, sometimes morose, sometimes lilting music underscores existential lyrics reminiscent of John Lennon. Take “Sky”, for instance. “Remember when we asked the sky where we’re going when we die? The sky gave us no comfort. It said there’s no death, no hell for the righteous, no heaven for the rest.” These lyrics definitely remind one of Lennon’s “Imagine”. At other times the music is more danceable like “Abducted,” “Electric Venus,” and “Jessica,” which is a really cool and interesting song. Some songs, like “Twirl” or “Fade to Black” might appeal to fans of Joy Electric, not for its message, but for the soft melodic style. “Aquarius Moon” ventures close to industrial, but stays within the confines of synth-pop. The CD closes out with the lullabye, "Sleepless." To summarize, John Giacobello has created a diverse musical tapestry that holds together under the unifying factor of his smooth vocals. Fans of Cosmicity will go for this.

The Echoing Green

"If I Could . . ." (6 Tracks. 27:11) + 16 minute .avi video file. 1998.
As stated by other reviewers, this CD is worth the purchase price for the video alone. It is a very humerous look at the Echoing Green as they tour, record, and just have fun. You can see how this band works hard, plays hard, and . . . has lots of fun. (Is the word fun getting redundant? Well, it is a lot of fun!). Aside from the video there are six very solid tracks on this CD. We are introduced to the song "If I Could", a great new one by EG. This song does not sound like a leftover track. It could have been the single off of a new album. Anyway, it is remixed by The Arp & DJ T.R. for a rap/hip-hop sound and by Adam Sorensen for more of a club sound. The other new song on this CD is called "Thief" and I think it is one of the best songs they've ever done. The other two tracks are remixes of "Defender". The first remix is done by Geoff Pickney of The Nine and the interpretation is very exciting (as is The Nine's music) and the other remix is by System 22 a club sound. All in all, this disc is a great bargain by a truly great band. Don't miss out on it.

The Echoing Green

self-titled. 1998. (12 Tracks. 48:52)

Arguably the best release from Sarabellum Records. Features a powerhouse cast of musicians, co-writers and producers—Jerome Fontimillas (Mortal, Fold Zandura), Masaki (Dimestore Prophets, Rivulets and Violets) to name two such guests. Whatever TEG has accomplished in the past is eclipsed by this great disc. This CD features techo pop which rivals some of the most popular bands of that genre and has a thick production reminiscent of U2’s “Actung Baby,” “Zooropa,” and “Pop” albums. Includes a remake of “Safety Dance” and a track called “Freak Out” for those with bass cannons to go “thumping” with.

Faith Assembly

"My Mortal Beloved" (10 Tracks. 44:02)1997.

Dreamy is a great word to describe this release. Clean guitars and light programmed drums accent the lilting keyboard parts. Above it all is the smooth tenor of Mark Buss' voice. Faith Assembly come across as a 1990's synth-pop version of Simple Minds musically and Tears for Fears vocally. The songs on My Mortal Beloved range from passionate like "Red Ambition" and "Persuasion" to emotionally stirring in songs like "Unraveled" and "Her Deepest Sleep". All this is touched off by the beautiful and emotional lyrics. These lyrics don't escape your attention as the music has a way of accenting, and not overpowering the vocals. The CD ends with a sort of ambient track called, "An Uncertain Sense of Serenity".

Faith Assembly

"Shades of Blue" (10 Tracks. 54:56) Reissue

This is--to my knowledge--the original Faith Assembly release. Here it is remastered with a CD-Rom video at the end. Originally released in 1993, this band got passed over, as did many other really good bands, by the grunge scene. This album is musically stirring like its follow-up called "My Mortal Beloved". The main differences between the two releases is that this one is more upbeat and has lots more of the female vocals to go along with Mark Buss' tenor. Had this CD come out in the mid-80's there's a great chance you'd be hearing tracks like "Pool of Tears" and "Captive" on your oldies station. Too bad things turned out as they did. However, it's like a dream come true to discover a new CD with that great synth-pop sound.

Faith Assembly

"Crash and Burn" (5 Tracks. 26:01)USA

The 80's live on in this extended single from Faith Assembly. Listening to this disc it occurs to me that we really didn't get enough synth-pop back then. Unfortunately, there has been a philosophical shift to the left in the world and that shift is reflected in the changes in musical trends. This being said, it seems to me that groups like Faith Assembly have not made the philosophical shift. These five tracks reflect a belief that life, and song, has meaning and structure (have I ventured too far into left field?). Anyway, the sound you've come to expect from FA is present and solid on this disc even though the creativity has added new dimensions to the title track. Aside from the 4 remixes of "Crash and Burn" is the song "Atonement" with it's Eastern sound. Once again, FA delivers some fresh, smooth pop music which soothes and intrigues.

House of Wires

“You Are Obselete” (12 Tracks. 48:28. Plastiq Musiq). USA
Pivot Clowj has joined the ranks of bands with an alter ego. At once I notice that this CD has a much more uniform structure than “The Fish Who Could Swallow the Sea” and “It’s not as if it were the end of the world . . . . “(see below)—thus the alter ego. I assume that House of Wires is meant to be more of a synth pop project whereas Pivot Clowj seems to be highly experimental.
This is how I interpret the music: At once you’ll notice the predominance of the drum beats. I should mention that not all the drums are programmed either. These guys have made use of a live drummer on some tracks. Also, other live instruments like trumpet, flugel horn (a marching band version of the French horn), violins, etc. are used on this album. So, it should be noted that this isn’t just two guys with synthesizers. It is real-time music.
As I was saying, the drums are predominant while there is a trade off of almost minimalist melody and counter melody. Sometimes the keyboards parts are less noticeable because of this. The overall effect is an almost dancy, hypnotic feel; but definitely popish. This is accented by Jon’s smooth, often melancholy vocals.
There are many songs on this album that will speak to you emotionally. No doubt many of the lyrics are personal to the authors but they still have an existential effect on the listener. This is especially noticeable on songs like, “Mother,” “Busy,” “Breathe,” and so on. At other times the words are more direct such as, “Final Moment,” “Death is a Beginning” . Also, there are two songs not written by the group. One is a cover of Optic Rain’s, “When Words Fall.” The other is a brilliant song called, “Where Is My Mind” (I don’t know the source but I can’t get it out of my head).


“Saving Time” (5 Tracks. 27:04) & “Danger is the Shame” (4 Tracks. 20:41 ) Techno-pop.

These two E.P.’s are my first experience listening to this group but I must say that I feel as if I know them. Iris appears to be made up of two guys named Matthew Morris and Reagan Jones. With these two E.P.’s they have created some very solid synth/techno pop music that deserves to be played on the radio. Imagine The Nine playing a more pop oriented, less aggressive style of synth music and you get the idea. As a matter of fact, the vocalist and the lyrics remind me very much of The Nine. “Saving Time” features two versions of that song by the band. While the music makes you want to dance, the lyrics make you think, thus, Iris effectively engages the listener both emotionally and intellectually. There is a really cool remix by Jarkko of Neuroactive and another by Blue October. Interestingly, the Blue October remix has a very club oriented sound. In between these four versions of “Saving Time” is the beautiful, balladic “Everybody is Life”. It is a dreamy song great for slow dancing and very affective. The next E.P. is “Danger is the Shame”. This E.P. is a bit more upbeat, not that “Saving Time” is slow. Anyway, the song, “Danger is the Shame” has a slightly more industrial feel. The vocals on this E.P. remind me a lot of Phil Keaggy (for those of you who know who he is). There are two remixes of this, one by Geoff Pinckney of The Nine and another by Nate Nicoll of B! Machine. One other song, “Annie Would I Lie To You”, which is another dancy/pop track. Both of these E.P.’s are very strong and I am eager to hear a full album. I should add that all these songs by Iris are a careful balance between the assorted instruments and instrument sounds. Synths, drums, and guitars are all balanced and accent but never overpower the lyrics.


"Disconnect" (10 Tracks. 49:50) USA.

Well, the new Iris has arrived and let me say, it is everything I hoped it would be. Iris's musical blend could be described as a careful blend of The Nine and Faith Assembly. It should be noted that Iris is neither as aggressive as the Nine nor are they as "ghost-like" as Faith Assembly, but I think that the creativity of this group makes them sound like a careful mixture of both. The lyric writing is intelligent and thought provoking and the music is upbeat and dancy. A prime example of all that I've said so far is the song, "Saving Time." If you've already heard the single you already know what a great song it is. It is almost intense but yet very pop-ish. Other similar songs are, "Annie, Would I Lie to You," "Twilight," "The Way I Live My Life," and so on. Other great songs are, "Waves Crash In." This song invites reflection, a trait I always find redeeming in music. In short, I think this is one of the most enjoyable CD's coming from A Different Drum.


"Fiber-Optic Rythm" (11 Tracks. 49:04) 1999.
I find myself mesmerized by this CD. From the deep baritone vocals to the contagious edgy techno music Neuroactive have created a CD that is full of atmosphere. The vocals, provided by K. Karjalainen, sound very gothic like the singer from Undish, or England's Paradise Lost. They are very hypnotic and flow smoothly over the music; almost sinister, in a way. In contrast, the music is upbeat but not overly commercial in any way. The overall mood is dancy but also dark; maybe this is music for a vampire club. If you can imagine the mood of Faith Assembly mixed with the aggressiveness of the Nine you can imagine what this CD sounds like. Lyrically, Neuroactive have some very poignant and intelligent sounding lyrics. This is especially true on songs like, "Moments Passing By", "Shrieks and Sighs" and so on. After hearing this CD I am hungry to hear more of their music. Features guest appearances by Geoff Pickney of the Nine and Midihead of Monolythic

The Nine

"Native Anger" (10 Tracks. 49:47)

The Nine is a duo consisting of Geoff Pickney and Ian Davies from England. This debut from them is a powerhouse recording of some really groovin' synth music. The synthesizer sound on this disc is very thick and you find yourself wanting to jump around the room; just try sitting still when listening to "Like An Alien". Most of the music has the up tempo disco beat of this song. Other songs have a great flair for the dramatic like "Haunted" and "No Faith". All throughout the music is intense and driving. Some readers may think I'm crazy but there is an underlying disco feel to parts of this disc. This is mostly obvious on the drumbeats but I'll argue that the vocals lead to this as well. While Geoff and Ian don't sound like the Bee Gees they do sing high and harmonize quite well. This is very noticeable on "Haunted" and "No Faith". Again, you may think I'm crazy but go back and listen to those tracks and then tell me I'm crazy.
Over all, this CD is very exciting and it will be interesting to see what these guys come up with in the future.

The Nine

"Our Tomorrow" (4 Tracks. 19:09) 1999.

The Nine's exciting music is available on this maxi-CD at a great price for those who may want to hear some of their music. It begins with a radio Edit of "Our Tomorrow" and has two other remixes of that song. The first remix, called the "yesterday mix", reinforces the impression I had that the Nine plays a style of synth music similar to early Deitiphobia. Fans of that groups first two albums will really dig The Nine. The second remix is called the "omniscent mix". Each of these remixes totally reinterpret the song and add different effects and are different enough to be enjoyable without being monotonous. The other track on this CD is the album version of "Denied", another great track.

Pivot Clowj

“It’s not as if it were the end of the world . . . that was yesterday” (14 Tracks. 63:45. Flaming Fish). USA

From what I understand this CD has been a long time coming (PC formed in 1993). I first learned about Pivot Clowj when I saw other artists’ tracks remixed by these guys (e.g.,Cybershadow). I was wondering how a band with no CD out would become so well known and respected enough to be asked to remix tracks for so many groups. Now I can see—or hear—why. These guys are incredibly creative.
I found out that many of the synths and other instruments used on this CD are homemade. One such instrument is called an “electric piece of elastic” which must be the strange sounding instrument used on track two, “Holy Water”. Pivot Clowj are probably the first band to actually create pop music with an industrial approach. Think of Mental Destruction playing a song by Simple Minds. Many bands today are mistakenly called Industrial today because they use programming in their songs. This is a misnomer. But in the case of Pivot Clowj, I believe I am correct to call them pop and Industrial at the same time. It is so weird and yet very appealing. Another word to that accurately describes their music is “experimental”.
Another bonus about this particular CD is that it contains five great bonus tracks. Some of the are remixes from tracks featured on various compilations. Others, like “Doubting” and “Mind On A String” first appeared on their demo tape “The Fish Who Could Swallow the Sea “(above). The best of these is the live version of “Mind On A String” which is done only on piano with Jon’s melancholic vocals. You imagine him singing in a smoke filled bar at 3:00 in the morning. What a cool way to end such a diverse CD.
In my opinion Pivot Clowj stand out as a band of bands (note the superlative). Maybe it’s charisma or maybe it’s creativity but whatever it is, it’s fun to listen to.


"Rising: Synthpop Compilation" (15 Tracks) 1998.
Getting this sampler CD is the best way to find out which groups you are interested. It features the following: 2 tracks each from Faith Assembly, Cosmicity, Brave New World, and 1 each from KieTheVez, The Nine, Neuroactive, Elegant Machinery, Blue October, The Echoing Green, Statemachine, Paradigm, and Saudade.

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