Chris Braide first came to my attention back in 2011 when he sent an email with links to a new project he was working on – 'Hello Leo'. It was instantly clear there was something special here. Not only was the sound influenced by TM/NM, there were actual sections that captured “The Tony Mansfield Sound” perfectly. After exchanging further emails with Chris it became evident how big a fan he was of Tony's, and that this NM influence was no accident. One album has been released so far under the Hello Leo name – 'Human Feel'. Subsequently Chris teamed up with Geoff Downes (Buggles/Asia/Yes) to create the band DBA (Downes Braide Association). That project has since led to two albums – 'Pictures of You' and 'Suburban Ghosts'. Chris himself is not only a very talented singer/songwriter/instrumentalist but is also a producer of some repute with a string of production credits under his belt with some of the world's top recording artists. If you want to find out more about that side of his career then visit here... http://christopherbraide.com/ For this article however I want to concentrate on his New Musik / Tony Mansfield passion, found most evidently on the Hello Leo / DBA albums which have become firm favourites of mine over the years. Chris has injected these albums with a wealth of Tony Mansfield sounds, melodies, vibes and touches and I'll do my best to highlight them as I journey through these wonderful tracks.
Hello Leo – Human Feel
Released in 2012, and available as a download as well as limited edition yellow vinyl.
Human Feel A very catchy track featuring American rapper/singer Theophilus London. Theophilus recently released a track called 'Revenge' which is a cover of 'They All Ran After The Carving Knife' – doubtless an influence picked up during his work with Chris.
Architects of Symmetry A simply wonderful track with a chorus bristling with Mansfield infection. Thudding Phil Towner style percussion. One of my favourite tracks on the album, rounded off with a child's voice in 'On Islands' style.
This Is The World Again, wonderful infection and lots of NM style synth patches.
Pure Probably my favourite track of the album, a wonderful poignant piece of infectious beauty. There's a section in the chorus with lyrics “...don't ask for anything...” where a haunting, pensive synth line appears which could literally be played by Tony from the 'From A to B' album. It's totally mesmeric.
No One Out There A great pop track, lots of NM style string synths.
Widescreen Very clever and enjoyable piece featuring CR78 style percussion and featuring “Speak and Spell” style vocals. Reversed style synth strings complete the picture. Brilliant.
Let's Go Tokyo This was the track Chris originally sent to me and it is possibly the closest track to the NM vibe on the album. Metronomic beat. Tick. String synths. Tick. And I should also highlight what a great voice Chris has, with a very impressive range very similar to Tony's. A quirky facet of this track is that the chorus features at the end of the track - I'm sure Tony would like that break from the norm. :)
Sparx Another great pop track. Again the Phil Towner style metronomic drum beat is evident, and the track builds beautifully. And the piano playing is great. Chris is a prodigious talent on the keys.
You Control Me Love this track, great lyrics eg “you're in so close now, your eyes pixelate”. And perhaps most notably.. “the needle is repeating in the play-out track like the echo of a memory I can't back” - the vinyl play-out trick is something Tony has used before eg on 'Guitars'. The track even plays out with vinyl-style noises. Oh, and Cathy Dennis also adds some vocal touches. :)
Human Feel (Reprise) As will become evident with the DBA albums Chris is a fan or reprising earlier themes, again something Tony was fond of. This is a short vocal reprise of the opening track.
DBA – Pictures of You
Released in 2012, vinyl CD and download.
Sunday News Suite Weighing in at over 13 mins this “Suite” is split into 4 sections – 'Sunday News' / 'Islands' / 'Goodbye Johnny' / 'Anywhere'. New Musik fans will already recognise some themes there I'm sure. ;) I'll comment on the sections individually...
Sunday News The perfect opening to the album, the piano melody and vocals are brilliant – and worthy of the reprise they get on the subsequent album. But more of that later. Lyrically Chris sets his stall out early, with "Sad films playing on TV" opening the 2nd verse. :) The track then develops into a superb, infectious, uptempo piece.
Islands The tempo slows and then we get a haunting and beautiful pastiche with soaring vocals – and yes there is more than a hint of New Musik's 'On Islands' although it's in terms of vibe, infection and presence rather than direct melodic references. Either way, it's totally stunning.
Goodbye Johnny A very short fast paced section underpinned by a Towner-style beat, synths stir and then wonderful atmospheric vocals – short but very sweet!
Anywhere As with 'Islands' the references to New Musik are evident but this is also a fine section in its own right – absolutely beautifully sung – and a wonderful conclusion to a sweeping and truly memorable track.
Radiant Children Fine track, more influenced by Geoff Downes's bombastic style characteristic of his solo and group works. Great electric guitar to close, and a brief reprise of 'Sunday News'.
Superfortress I have a little story about this track which is totally true but may seem unbelievable. I still find it hard to believe the coincidence myself tbh. ;) I first heard this track in the car after dropping my son off at Liverpool (UK) University (yes, and his name is Jonny – though without the “h” - but that's not the coincidence :) Driving back home along the M62 to Manchester I was passing the outskirts of Warrington, a place called Burtonwood. Burtonwood used to be an American WWII air base, it's now been transformed into a huge business park with a motorway (the M62) through it. And 'Superfortress' started to play. The place, the track, and Chris's lyrics suddenly coincided... “What did they do? The architecture changed and so did you. They pulled it all down and built a motorway. Through the heart of Burtonwood.” I swear I nearly had to pull over such was the shock of the coincidence. I was just passing Ikea/M&S at the time which is pretty much where the runway used to be and the superfortresses would have taken off. Needless to say this track now has a very special place in my heart. :)
Pictures of You Another fine track, again the lyrics are great. A perfect example of how these two artist work so naturally together.
Songs That Can Heal The opening to this track could be straight from a New Musik piece. Spot-on string synths and metronomic drums. And the New Musik references continue throughout this wonderfully infectious track, especially the stylish piano flourishes very reminiscent of Clive Gates. NM lyric check: "...but you see me reaching out for sanctuary."
Ride the Waves From a New Musik opening we move onto a Buggles opening, with clear references to 'Video Killed the Radio Star'. The track then develops into a pensive masterpiece with emotional vocals and beautiful piano/guitar with distant string synths. NM lyric check... "like a sad film when the credits are rolling". :)
Road to Ruin Regulation great track. :) Catchy chorus which is pretty much a trademark of most of these tracks.
Live For The Moment Possibly the most overtly NM-influenced track on the album. Chris's homage to 'A Map Of You' perhaps? The vocals and synths are epic. To add even more lustre the final minute is a sumptuous instrumental finale.
Sky Sailor The album ends with a more stripped down piece, mainly vocals and piano backed by occasional string synths. I fine ending which is more aligned to Chris's solo work.
DBA - Suburban Ghosts
Released September 2015 – CD and Download
Machinery Of Fate The album gets straight down to business with this confident opener. Fast paced drumming in classic Phil Towner style underpins a strident piece with trademark Geoff Downes bombastic/symphonic synth riffs.
Suburban Ghosts – Parts 1 & 2 Another infectious piece, it has a medium lilt and again is beautifully sung with a melancholic/pensive air. The New Musik string synths swirl in the background and are then left in isolation at the 4 minute mark where the refrains of 'A Map Of You' come to mind. Then Chris demonstrates his guitar prowess in the closing stages (and it won't be for the last time on this album). A cracking track.
Suburban Ghosts – Part 3 Incredibly, I think Part 3 out-does parts 1 and 2 and is possibly my favourite track on the album. It has everything you want in a great pop track – infection, likability, great lyrics, enough twists and turns to maintain the momentum. Classic Chik Musik style guitar strums also feature, but the trump card comes at the 3.30 mark. "Now only the lonely know who you are". The mood, the lyrics, the pensive haunting melody. It's that “doomy jollity” NM's music often eschewed. And it's absolutely breathtaking. The track ends with a child's voice singing the opening lyrics to 'Sunday News' – it's a beautiful reprise and the perfect end to the perfect track.
Vanity A piano/vocal piece with real passion, again the vocals are of the highest quality and the mood is pensive and downbeat.
Number One Fast paced metronomic beat, a real foot tapper with a strong chorus which ensures this piece maintains the high standard set by the previous tracks.
Interlude A very short piece with repeated lyrics, very effective and a typical Tony Mansfield style quirk.
North Sea They just keep on coming. :) What a track this is. A genuinely strong and genuinely infectious track, the chorus is a real ear-worm. More of a Buggles feel with this one. The melody is beautifully picked out on piano later on in the track.
One Of The Few A moodier piece, a beautiful combination of vocals and atmospheric instrumental layers.
Time Goes Fast By now the references to London in the tracks point to this being a large part of the concept of this album. I'm sensing home sickness here. :) Which will be more overtly explored in a track to come. This one is another great foot tapper. Great synth solo towards the end.
Live Twice Musically much more of a Geoff Downes piece, grandiose air with dramatic synth overtures. Another fine track.
Dreaming Of England Another album highlight. Lyrical reminiscing of life in London, the melodic infection is on overdrive. The overt New Musik references have become rarer in recent tracks but when the standard is this high it doesn't matter. DBA's quality very much stands on its own, and this masterpiece underlines it. The guitar during the end section is wonderfully played and one of the most heartfelt solos I've heard in many a year. Reminds me of Andrew Gold actually. This is a totally stunning track. (...and I've just noticed while researching this article it's available as a limited edition 12". Which I've just bought. :)
Finale Well the New Musik references are back for the finale. This is an instrumental reprise of the opener played in Magazine Muzik style. Absolutely brilliant!! :)
To sum up... All three albums are totally essential for New Musik fans. With Hello Leo, Chris's New Musik touches are more prevalent but they abound on the DBA albums too. Strangely it took me some time to get into 'Pictures Of You', it's only after 'Suburban Ghosts' hooked me and I revisited it further that it really grabbed me, and if anything now I like it more. But it's not just the New Musik sound that makes these albums, they are fantastic works in their own right full of genuinely strong and infectious melodies and lyrical work of the highest standard.
So there you go. I hope this article has been of some use, and thanks Chris Braide (and Geoff Downes of course) for creating albums which have joined those relatively few that feel woven into the tapestry of my life, as New Musik's were and still are. :)
Graham G, February 2017.