Thursday, April 30, 2015


Gamer - Old Money
By Andrew B. White

Gamer are back with a new four song EP Old Money. Fans will be pleased to know Gamer retain their signature sound on this release which follows on from the Moon Base Europa album, released in late 2014. Once again Gamer provide solid instrumental tracks in a spacey, semi-outrun style with plenty of sublime melodies courtesy of analog synths including the Roland JX3P and Juno 106. Arrangements are kept clean and avoid any unnecessary clutter.

‘Old Money’, a driving mid-tempo, polysynth-laden track opens the EP leading into ‘Counterfeit’ with it’s half-time beat and more big synths. This track is a soundtrack for an operation printing counterfeit money or making up fake IDs, in a dingy basement somewhere in the city. ‘Overpass’ bring the tempo up as all good songs with ‘overpass/underpass’ in their titles should do, and gives a slight nod to house music with its use of claps and 4/4 kick drum. ‘Pole Position’ closes the EP out and although its title suggests hectic car racing action the opposite is true here. ‘Pole Position’ doesn’t ride along at a gas-guzzling pace. Instead this feels like it is all about a driver who is getting ready for a race and contemplating the task ahead; those few moments before the flag drops and all hell breaks loose…

The core members of Gamer are based in New Zealand and Australia respectively but that hasn’t stopped them from performing live. Known for their excellent pixel art music videos and with the addition of two additional members for live shows (a synth player and a VJ) Gamer present a true audio-visual experience. Follow them on Facebook here to check out some shots of their recent show in Melbourne Australia.
Gamer present Old Money on their Bandcamp  page here and also as a limited edition (of 20) MiniDisc from their Bandcamp page. In addition to Old Money the MiniDisc also comes with a free download for all of Gamer’s previous releases. That’s a deal! All songs on the EP are relatively short which keeps the whole affair felling nice and snappy. Gamer provide us with a quality batch of material that is sure to keep the old fans happy while bringing in many new ones.

Old Money comes very, very highly recommended from Synthetix.FM.

Android Automatic - Signal

By Chris “Python Blue” Day

With Android Automatic’s latest release, it feels a lot like the ideal synthwave release. Hauntingly beautiful chords and melodies persist throughout the EP, further boosted by the science-fiction-themed choice of album artwork. While the snare drum is a bit saturated for my personal taste, I love the touch of gated reverb applied to the drums overall as well, and the pseudo-electric guitar is also well-played.

'Somewhere Along the Coast' is a perfect choice for an opening track: chords and a persistent bassline at a mid-tempo drive. 'The Signal', while sometimes giving the impression of being underwater, has that science fiction vibe making it a good fit for a title track. 'Malibu Cruise' is the pinnacle of the pseudo-electric guitar, with a few chords and another synth lead thrown alongside it. 'Saw Her Yesterday' seems to border into trance music with the chord sequences, but the way the more retro instruments work alongside it is an excellent blend of genres!

Signal is without a doubt very, very highly recommended from Synthetix.FM, and is available on Android Automatic’s personal Bandcamp page here.

Kyoto Dragon - Kusanagi​-​no​-​Tsurugi

By Rick Shithouse

Thankfully, when the 80s officially stopped when our calendars ticked over to 1990  Japan decided not to really take notice and much of the synth music from the late 80s continued to flourish in popularity throughout the first half of the 90s. This was especially prominent in anime productions as well as arcade games. In fact, the early 90s arcade titles from Japan are still some of my favourite 80s synth music and a real final hurrah for classic 80s sounds.

The whole Neo Tokyo idea took the synthesizer as its own soundtrack and this has inspired many, many producers over the years to draw from that inspiration and recreate their own neon lit, rain drenched ultra violent totalitarian dystopia. I've heard a lot music done in this kind of homage, but it wasn't til I heard Kyoto Dragon's music that I felt the music had actually moved forward, instead of constantly looking backwards.

Kyoto Dragon, for those unaware, is the new type evolutionary cycle of the artist formerly known as Destoroyah. In taking on this new form the Destoroyah sound has been exploded and reconfigured on different technology making for a magnificent new experience. This five track debut EP is one hell of an exciting new direction for 80s inspired synth music to expand while still retaining its soul.

The EP mixes up vast, sprawling synthscapes of subtle layering and use of samples and effects with faster paced set pieces; playing out like a proper soundtrack to some unknown OVA release from 1991. The Japanese theme runs deep in the music and isn't just used for novelty. The melodies themselves derive a sumptuous asiatic tone and are build on instruments thoroughly in keeping with the geography. Kyoto Dragon thoroughly understands the way to structure pieces and breathe life into their parts, tracks like Yamata no Orochi 八岐大蛇 Battle in The Slums and Wani 鰐 Crocodile King are exemplary experiences in this style of synthscape, luring you into untold excitement and then exploding into an adventure of life and death amid the neon and concrete underworld.

The slower, soundtrack oriented pieces also exhibit a wonderful level of control as Kyoto Dragon keeps details hazy and obfuscated while giving the listener broader strokes of scenes and experiences. Being able to keep the aesthetic working so brilliantly through both high energy piece and moodier, drawn out ideas keeps you in entirely in the Kyoto Dragon zone and proves hugely satisfying by the final track's completion.

I found this release highly entertaining and even more promising for the the future and what the Kyoto Dragon experience could evolve further into. This five track introduction though, is totally rockin to the max and is a welcome dimension to add to the ever growing planesphere of the 80s inspired synth scene. Grab a copy here, throw on some classic early 90s arcade games (preferably Sengoku or Air Buster) and feel that Kyoto Dragon magic.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Searsly Spuhghetti

By Eddie Spuhghetti

Most of y'all would say I'm a Horror Nerd; I plead guilty as charged.  From the kindergarten beginnings with Universal Monsters and eventually coming to terms with my fear of anything gory, the Horror genre has been a standard in my life by infusing itself within the pop culture surrounding me.  Every kid knew who the current big-screen boogeymen were, even if they hadn't seen a single frame of film: it was common knowledge on the playground that Jason stalked campgrounds in search of pervy teenagers and Michael only came out on Halloween.  The one that always interested me was the monster named Freddy who resembled a burnt Indiana Jones in a rugby sweater with a weird knife-glove.  Trips to Woolco with my mother always included a stop at the VHS racks and every time I'd wonder what horrors lurked within a certain tape with Freddy's mug on the box.  Since 1991, that box art had such a profound impact on me that I got the dang thing tattooed on my arm (that's another story all-together) but it wouldn't be until the early 2000s that I'd finally get to watch A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge.  I wasn't horrified nor was I scared but I do wish someone woulda prepared me for what hid amidst the gore, screams and bad dreams: a "cleaning up the room" montage/dance sequence.

Freddy's Revenge serves as a semi-sequel to the original as it technically takes place after the events of the first film and makes reference to them but does not contain any old faces other than Freddy himself.  It's unique because we don't see many bizarre dream sequences or Freddy's torment spanning over several teens; he instead focuses on one teenaged-boy named Jesse to perform his killings in the real world.  Newly moved into the protagonist's home from the first film, Jesse and his family are having a tough time with their humble abode: the place feels like an oven and Jesse is hardly getting any rest.  His father doesn't have a clu (get it?) what's up with the furnace and assumes Jesse's issues are due to drugs.  To make matters worse, he's pretty adamant on getting Jesse to go clean his dang room up and things come to a boil when the kid is about to head off for a swim with his friend and mega-crush Lisa.  Frustrated, Jesse tackles cleaning his room in the best way possible: putting on Touch Me (All Night Long) by Wish feat. Fonda Rae and proceeding to dance his ass off.

I'm not sure where Jesse picked up these moves but I don't think it was from MTV; try some quality programming off HBO's Cinemax or perhaps he was getting a feed of CityTV's Baby Blue 2 outa Toronto.  There's so many pelvis motions here that even Elvis would toss his hands up and say to bring 'er down a notch.  The tune is very catchy though and I don't blame Jesse for getting so into it: cleaning your room is lame and only upbeat music will really make the experience enjoyable.  Jesse's methods of cleaning and organizing includes tossing everything into one drawer and closing it with his ass because his hands are busy.  Singing into a stick/club/whatever-the-hell-it-is can be fun and this contraption has a ball hidden in one end that pops out with one swift pump; I'm not gonna go all Sex-Ed Teacher here to explain what that symbolizes.  I can guarantee you though that if he weren't interrupted, Jesse would have kept the dance moves going all night long and how appropriate: he'd never get to sleep!

Looking for some more tunes to keep you awake from encountering dream demons?  Silent Gloves will keep you dancing like Jesse!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Off The Grid With OGRE & Dallas Campbell

By Robin Ogden


Dallas Campbell is probably the biggest hardware enthusiast I know, and has curated a mind blowing collection of synthesisers, drum machines, signal processors and musical curiosities. I recently sat down with him for a chat about his production processes, all things analog, and a retrospective look at Origin Seeds. This is the second installment of ‘Off The Grid’ artist on artist interviews for Synthetix.FM, so if you’re a producer interested in contributing to this series, as either interviewer or interviewee, or want to share a chat between yourself and a synth-pal, please get in touch with either myself or Rick Shithouse!

For more information on Dallas Campbell:

For more information on OGRE:

Robin (OGRE): So, you’ve just dropped Oases, which is an utterly fantastic full length analog tour de force - what’s currently going on in the world of Dallas Campbell?

Dallas Campbell: Hey thanks dude! It felt like it took me forever to finish it. I had planned on taking like a month off and not thinking about any music, but I started working on this other project about a day into my break [laughs]. So I'm currently doing lots and lots of sampling.

Robin: I always find I get like a post-album depression, and then eventually start on something else.

Dallas: [Laughs]. Yeah I'm always thinking, ‘I can't wait to do nothing for like three months!’ Theres always something that pulls me back in after a day. Other than that, I'm just lurking on eBay and fiddling around with my kids.

Robin: You showed me some of the new drum machines you've just picked up. I take it they're part of what's being sampled at the moment, in addition to the digital cricket sound you were just telling me about before we started this chat?

Dallas: Well, I had already gotten into a deep obsession over the old school preset drummers before this came along.  A lot of the sound and feel of Oases comes from those drum boxes. [Laughs] that digital cricket would make one heck of a guiro!

Robin: I guess they really open up with mods that let them talk to other gear. And each other! You really bring a lot of musical ideas out of those old grooveboxes, especially as they have preset patterns.

Dallas: Yeah, they’re mostly presets, but the beauty comes with mixing and matching them all. Also, I've been having them modded and worked on to fit into what I'm doing. It’s an entire other thing to get obsessed over. Generally I have a mix of analog drummers going with digital ones, plus samples too. It’s fun to get them all working together.

Robin:. I remember us chatting a while back when you were doing Pagoda about restricting choices and picking a hardware pallette as a means to stimulate creativity, and not getting too bogged down - something I’ve definitely subscribed to recently. What’s your workflow usually like?

Dallas: My workflow is usually a mess [laughs]. I have way too much stuff that I want to use and not enough inputs. So in the past I’ve recorded everything one thing at a time mostly. On Oases, I started recording more things live, and I kinda want to keep going in that direction.  So, I guess my workflow is always changing.

Robin: I always think there’s a really live element to you music, and we’re both self confessed noodlers [laughs]. It's a wonderful thing really - that balance between sequencing and live playing.

Dallas: Pagoda happened because I was sick of dealing with songs that had like 50 tracks of synths, like in Origin Seeds. I'm thinking about pagoda 2 because i have the same sick feeling after finishing oases. I did much more live in Oases. I'm sure the noodling is annoying to most but I can't help myself. Pagoda was done with lots and lots of CV controlling filters and whatnot. Oases was much more free, I barely used any midi or CV controlling at all really. It’s just me noodling around while I have my morning coffee mostly.

Robin: Man, the gear listing for Oases is seriously impressive. Do you find that certain synths lend themselves more easily to certain musical ideas, like springboards almost?

Dallas: I think so, I've found that if i start a song with the Pro One as the center piece, it’s much different than say the SH101.  Something about the sound I guess sends me in a certain direction. On Oases, much of the feel of certain songs had to do with the drum patterns. Songs like ‘Kief’ and ‘Forest’. Those were started with a CR68 and the Pro One synced together.  If I'm wanting a 70’s smooth lead, the Pro One is the top choice for that. Love that thing. There’s soul in those old machines.

Robin: There really is. They all have so much character. A waveform on one is completely different to another, and two identical synths can sound completely different. I was chatting about this earlier today funnily enough. I guess this kind of comes back to the creativity through limitations thing again - certain things lend themselves better to certain ideas. All synths seem to be individuals, they all have a story to tell in one way or other.

Dallas: Oh I totally agree, they all have their own personality. I love limiting myself to using one for a while because you can really get to know it.  You get a feel of what it can really do well. That’s why I feel like I have to have so many [laughs]. They all do one thing really, really well usually.

Robin: I don't think I've ever asked you this actually - when did the synth bug bite?

Dallas: In the late 90’s maybe?  I started making electronic stuff after I heard that Boards of Canada album Music Has The Right To Children.  I think I had some plugins at first. Rebirth and Reaktor maybe? Something like that. Soon after that I bought a Nord Lead, a DW8000, and a couple of Bass Stations. Oh, I had a Sidstation early on too. I miss that one!

Robin: I was noodling on the Bass Station earlier.

Dallas: You have the rack or the keys?

Robin: Rackmount to save space. It filled the last RU. I think it was a fairly good choice. The sync section on it's pretty cool!

Dallas: Nice thats what I had too. I didn't know a damn thing about anything back then. But yeah that’s a sweet synth. I remember I used to use it to control my Moog Rogue.

Robin: That's probably a better use for it in a lot of ways [laughs].

Dallas: Ah heck any synth can sound good if you just run it through delay.

Robin: And judicious reverb [laughs]! You use quite a few sync lead bits in your music actually. It seems to be something most retro-synth people shy away from, or at least I think so anyway. I think the 303 gave it a bad rep in some ways.

Dallas: You know I do a lot of that with layering, modulating so there’s always fun things going on and modulating the pulse width and whatnot.

Robin: I’ve lots I really want to ask you about last year’s Origin Seeds, which is one of my all time favourite synth albums. I’ve got it on in the background now. It’s genuinely hard for me to single out any one track as they all offer so much musically. It’s very much an experience for me, much like Oases actually.

Dallas: Damn man, thanks, that one was a bear to finish as well.  I think a lot of the feel of that one was because I recorded the songs in two separate time periods.  The kinda poppy disco stuff I wrote first. Then I took a few month break and decided to finish it, but I didn't want to write more songs like that, so that’s when I wrote stuff like ‘Indica’ and ‘Sativa’. At the end I had to go through and make it all work and make sense.

Robin: It's all really cohesive though, so I wouldn't have guessed.

Dallas: I think it worked in my favor because I really had to work on making it feel like they fit together. I reworked a lot of the songs and replayed parts. It made me take my time and really dissect what I had. I probably should have the same sort of session with each project, but its hard to really stop and take that time.

Robin: It does explore a lot of genres actually, spanning everything from Tangerine inspired Berlin bits to, as you say, lots of disco pop ideas. ‘Cygnus Operation’ is a straight up banger though. I love the vocoding in your songs.

Dallas: [Laughs] vocoding is such a guilty pleasure. James Bowen made that ‘Cygnus Operation’ song though, it’s garbage without his solo.

Robin: The guitar in it is utterly deadly.

Dallas: I know, that was the first time i had ever heard him play too.

Robin: Wow. Hell of a premiere! I remember reading somewhere that vocoders were originally designed for encoding spy messages, or at least repurposed for spy stuff. Don't suppose yours is early 20th century vintage [laughs]?

Dallas: Wow, send me that article! I had no idea. My main vocoder is a Roland SYC350. I usually pump my Juno 60’s square wave through it. Origin Seeds I'm thinking actually was done with a Korg DVP1 through a Dimension D.

Robin: Does the Dimension D feature a lot? I've been wanting to give one a whirl for a while.

Dallas: Well it has four settings: wide, really wide, super wide, and space!

Robin: Space!

Dallas: [Laughs] not really, but yeah it just has four settings, and everything on Origin Seeds pretty much was run through it. I was more selective on Oases and Pagoda. You know, that Sound Toys plugin isn't all that different from the Dimension D, but obviously the real thing is the best.

Robin: Sound Toys make some excellent stuff. I used their new vocal processing thing on a project quite recently. Formant shifting to the max!

Dallas: I haven't had a chance to use it yet, but I made sure to snag it when it was free!

Robin: Yeah, it's pretty damned amazing! It's been making sound design a breeze. Though I've actually ended up using it on some drums.

Dallas: Nice! That’s badass. I wanna hear that! I need more time in the day to do everything I want to do!

Robin: Would I be wrong in thinking there's a concept behind your releases, and your musical ethos in general?

Dallas: Yeah, usually I'm working with a concept in mind when I really get going in a project. There’s usually a time period where I'm just making noises. I love that time period [laughs]. Just experimenting with new ideas and trying different combinations of gear and whatnot.  Then I’ll usually start to get a feel of what i want to do which eventually becomes a concept.

Robin: I'll spend pretty much every spare minute when I'm not actively working on something programming patches or recording samples. It speeds everything up for when you're ready to start making. Do you take inspiration from films and things? I don't know if I'm right in saying this, but ‘Green Sea and the Spice’ had something Dune about it, in addition to a killer live bass groove and really nice vocal call and responses.

Dallas: Yeah, I mean I grew up in the 80’s. I'm sure that stuff is hardwired into my brain.  Heck it’s probably why I like synths and stuff. I will do things like looking at certain images or watching certain films while I'm noodling to kinda steer me in that direction. And thanks! Bass is such a fun thing. My wife did a damn good job on that song. You're the man when it comes to sampling and working with digital and MIDI though. I’ve told you before, I have no clue how to make the sounds that you come up with!

Robin: You’re too kind dude! Your family make a few cameos in your music, I think it's great.

Dallas: [laughs] Yeah I'm a cheesy dad! I probably wouldn't be making these jams without them!

Robin: I love that track a lot.

Dallas: Thanks dude! I love listening to your tunes when I have to go do something. It makes it feel like a Bond mission just taking the garbage out.

Robin: Cheers man, I appreciate it! I have to ask - is there one, piece of kit you really could not live without or bear to part with? I know that’s a horrendously unfair question to ask on the spot, but this is one of the few occasions where I can [laughs]. Actually, I’ll rephrase that: if you could take one musical thing to a desert island, which has a mysterious and infinite power supply, what would it be?

Dallas: Crap, do I have a DAW on the island?

Robin: Let's say yes. But no plugins...probably.

Dallas: [Laughs] Okay no problem there! Let me look around a sec.

Robin: You're also allowed a Kenton or similar. This hypothetical island's getting better all the time!

Dallas: Oh well hold the boat that changes things. You know honestly I'm gonna have to say the Pro One. I can do any analog drum sound with it, it has a sequencer, and filter control with a kenton. You could have endless music with it. [Laughs] I could get a lot done on this island! What would you take?

Robin: I'm thinking I might actually be boring and take a guitar. Then regret that decision for the rest of my solitary existence…

Dallas: Lone man with a guitar.

Robin: My beard would get even longer, but at least I'd have the music!

Dallas: Oh man yeah huge beard. [Laughter] what if you broke a string? Do you have to make your own?  I'm pretty sure an island is a bad place to keep a synth too!

Robin: Man I didn't think of that. I should've taken a sampler or something…

Dallas: Oh fuck. That’s the right answer. We failed! [Laughter].

: Anyway [laughs], any shout outs you'd like to give?

Dallas: I’d like to thank you for asking me to do this and for making all the sweet tunes! And thanks to Rick and Synthetix.FM for having me!

Robin: You're very welcome dude! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, and the splendid music, I really appreciate it!

(Many thanks to OGRE and Dallas for rockin this Off The Grid so hard! Be sure to check out OGRE's previous edition of Off The Grid with Protector 101 here if you missed it. If you're interested in doing an Off The Grid with OGRE please contact me via the contact form on this page, or OGRE via the links at the beginning of the article - RS)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Funky Magic Of Spending Cool City Nights With Fanateek One And Rach B

By Rick Shithouse

Something that I grow more and more aware of with 80s inspired synth music is that it becomes ambiguous in origin for many producers. Pulling elements from the decade from seemingly random points and compiling them into an all new sound provides much excitement to my ears and manages to re-invent the wheel in seemingly countless ways. However, when a producer finds their passion crystallised into a very specific vintage of 80s sounds and dedicates their homage to it in very specific terms it can be a sublimely magical experience.

Fanateek One is one such devotee of 80s synthscapes. His unrequited passion for mid 80s funk has been something I've been ardently following for years and now we finally have his debut album to enjoy and revel in. The funkier genres of 80s sounds have always been of much fascination to me as in the 80s, here in Australia, funk music was barely ever in the charts and was a more niche genre that had a its own street cred and dance floor personality and discovering and experiencing many, many funk classics from the 80s over the last 15 years has been something I've vastly enjoyed.

Of all the genres of iconic 80s music, funk denominations have really been some of the most timeless and recognised in recent years. This is thanks in no small part to mainstays like Chromeo and the ever present future funk genres that crossover into a myriad of electronic music styles and redefine vintage sounds into an accessible modern relevance. On Fanateek One's new record though we find an experience that is deeply rooted in the 80s and modern nuances are kept to a bare minimum in order to get the funk flowing all the right ways and by bringing funkstress Rach B along for the ride makes for a supremely winning combination.

The authenticity of sound, melody, tone and atmosphere is what hits you instantly with Cool City Nights. The open, live soundscape is electrically charged with energy and feels spatial with the instruments yet intimate with the vocal delivery and huge bass and synth hooks. Cool City Nights sounds like cool city nights, which is the best way I can describe the atmosphere Fanateek One presents throughout the whole record. 'If You Want To Be'  is the first song and it really welcomes you into Fanateek One's world with a smooth, panning bassline and suaveness in the groove you'll move to effortlessly. Rach B's vocals are a huge success on this record as they are the perfect combination of intimate, street, sweet and sassy when they need to be and channel many classic 80s chanteuses while building on her own personality throughout the album.

Fanateek One's been hard at it with his vocoder work too and provides a male partner for Rach B's feminine touch. The vocoder is implemented as a true feature more than a novelty, as should be the case with 80s funk, and there are some great passages of back and forth between Rach B and Fanateek One on tracks like 'Supernatural' which work together smooth as glass and displays a magical chemistry between the music and voices.

Once you get a few tracks into this album you begin to really appreciate the exquisite level of care given to the tracks. Each song feels like a perfected idea that has been put together and evolved over many, many hours of passionate toil. Not only is the songwriting professional but it is also hugely soulful. Funk has a huge link to soul and R&B sounds and often times modern age producers rely on elements that come off as cold and sterile, but Fanateek One's brand of funk is so warm and full of life you can feel its soul pulse with every beat. You just can't deny the magical feel that tracks like 'New York Boy' and 'Holdback' elicit as you're guided through the urban wonderland of sounds.

Fanateek One has been hugely judicious with his choices of instruments on this record, you can aurally feel the scrutinising given over every possible element in each track yet the end result comes across as being entirely smooth and effortless. 'Struck By Your Love' is one such song that is just so polished and engineered to perfection that you'll be enraptured by its funky brilliance from beginning to end. These songs demand multiple listens to appreciate the musicianship and marksmanship Fanateek One and Rach B rock out like seasoned veterans.

As I mentioned previously there are so many great variations funk music had in the 80s from the club classics, to the street funk boombox ammunition to the midnight romance and everything in between. Cool City Nights manages to capture many of these styles very eloquently and shifts betwixt their tones from track to track without taking the listener out of the atmosphere. On 'Boogaloo' Fanateek One extends his influence out to about 1987 and brings in some seriously contagious hooks that are then allowed to simmer and become even more flavoursome with Rach B's spicy vocals giving a luxuriously piquant zest.

For all the intricacies in the production some of the most incredible moments on Cool City Nights are the most simple and distilled. 'Maverick' has become an anthem for me, an absolute piece of refined perfection that is untouchably beautiful. The set up, the pay off, the groove and every single other part of this song is utterly kick arse to the max. Stupendously rockin. The pop funk sounds hit a new high point in the next track, 'Stranger', with its ridiculously catchy bassline and sublime narrative this would be the Top 10 pop chart smash of '85 from Fanateek One and Rach B.

Cool City Nights finishes the experience with the floor filler 'Just Wanna Dance'. Cutting a groove miles deep with an uncompromising energy the interplay between the guitars, synth, bass and drums is compelling and addictive. The only instrumental piece on the album this book ends the experience flawlessly with a high note that lingers long after the music finishes.

Fanateek One and Rach B present the Cool City Nights album on Bandcamp here in digital formats and also on irresistibly wondrous vinyl (limited to 500 copies!) on Fanteek One's site here. I must say, listening to this album on vinyl has been one of my favourite experiences in listening to 80s inspired synth music in 2015 and I highly advocate picking it up in its most befitting format.  Cool City Nights is an album years in the making and it has been well worth the wait. The incredible refinement of the production and the excellence in the songwriting across all the tracks makes it an indubitable Synthetix  Reference Experience that is a must-own album of 2015.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Searsly Spuhghetti

By Eddie Spuhghetti

Besides being a soup made with beef stomach, Menudo was also a Latin boy-band that started in 1977 and spanned over three decades with a member list that resembles a few seasons of a sketch-comedy show.  Fundamentals of the group involved being under the age of 16 with no facial hair or noticeable girth in height; once you hit puberty in Menduo, your days in the group were finito.  Right from the get-go (I'll stop rhyming, I promise), the boys made a name for themselves in Latin America and broke young girl's hearts overseas across Spain and the surrounding areas.  The dawn of the mid-'80s marked Menudo's invasion into North America and paved the way for more work involving commercial jingles and touring.  Their 17th and second self-titled album would be one of their most successful and contain a track that managed to be the only tune of theirs to make it onto the Billboard Hot 100.  Featuring a tone that was more in the style of American teen-pop, Hold Me has all the things you'd want in a teenage love-tune from 1985 and of course, it had a pretty campy music video.

As the boys and their friends play tackle football in the street, in rolls a white luxury car up to a hotel across the road and out steps a babe with shoulder-pads.  At first ya think she's gonna join in on the game since she's got the gear on but it turns out she just wants to smile and tease the piss outta lead singer Robi.  Searsly; she walks away to go inside and then turns around again just to smile more at Robi gyrating his pelvis.  The group decide to go parading over to a nearby underpass where a b-ball game is going down: it's Menduo against Crop-Tops and Skins featuring an older fella with a safari hat on (wonder what he's on the hunt for).  With love on his mind, Robi sits the game out and sings to us about how he comes off as a bit looney to his friends when talking about the connection between himself and Hotel Babe.  After NBA Jam: Menudo Edition is over, everyone scatters back to the same street from earlier and as kids start to skateboard around, toss a ball about and argue over which member of Menduo is the cutest, our five young superstars take the opportunity to start dancing in unison in the middle of the road.  This impresses Hotel Babe so much that she comes running down from her balcony to stare Robi in the face as he continues his ballad of promises and cuddles.

Frankly, I don't blame her for rushing down there; if I saw five girls (or Menudo) doing a choreographed dance for me in the street, I'd be twirling my non-existent pony-tails.  In fact, I wouldn't mind learning the moves here myself because who the heck knows when they may come in handy?  You may notice during the video that one of the kids in Menudo looks like a young Ricky Martin; that's definitely him and he's considered the most well-known of the group's alumni.  Hold Me works quite well for it's intended audience: it's a song about young love and knowing when to act when you see a good thing smiling back at you.  While it does carry an overall taste of a cheezy "let me count the ways I love thee" song, there's oddly an underlining message here about self-confidence and not succumbing to peer pressure.  We've all been in a situation where we've had a massive crush on some guy or gal with that unexplainable sense of a mutual connection; yet, your friends dismiss it as just wishful thinking.  You just have to take a chance, say "what the piss" and try.  Just don't attempt to dance in the middle of the street unless it's a one way or you're in the 'burbs.

If you've not got onset diabetes from this slickly sick, sugary pop I'd suggest a high dose of direct intravenous Sunglasses Kid to give you those shakes you just can't stop.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Dallas Campbell’s Oases In The Desert Of The Real

By Robin Ogden

I often find myself considering the role of authenticity in retro-electronic music, and indeed music and art moreover. Without wishing to engage with the ins and outs of overplayed hardware/software rhetoric, and oft quoted ideas of representation, simulacra and simulation, I firmly believe in the relevance of vintage synthesisers, and have the utmost admiration for musicians who practice authentic production methodologies. Dallas Campbell is certainly one of the latter; a producer paving his own way down the road less travelled, building cosmic musical Pagodas (like last year’s full length Origin Seeds), and teaching old synthesisers new tricks on the way.   

Sublime - greatness beyond all calculation, imitation and measurability. This is the only term I believe befitting of Dallas Campbell’s latest LP Oases. As the titling of the album suggests, this is verdant musical territory, a refreshingly real beacon in the desert of the virtual instrument, expanding on the synth voyages charted, and worlds explored, in Campbell’s previous offerings. The gear list provided with the album reads like a program of players in the most fantastic interstellar space-boogie opera ever imagined, a world class cast of carefully crafted characters that straddle genres and create an unparalleled, and fully realised, 12 track synthphonic experience. 

The album’s opener ‘Colossus’ feels like a monumental full system check prior to your embarkation, a throwdown to ensure your listening environment is properly tuned and ready to receive the crisp high frequencies and full fathom bass of the album to follow.The arpeggiated sequence of notes rebounds off the face of the Colossus. Winds of white noise swirl about your ears. Are you ready, traveller? The journey through the Oases is about to begin.

‘Pillars’ surrounds you, enveloping your ears in lush analog polyphony. The cerebral complexity of the evolving arpeggiated sequences and the live leads are firmly grounded in an ever present, rock solid, classic boogie groove. The groove is a core character of this album established early on, and will be your companion for its duration. The glorious display of fluidity above the deep metaphysical sound architecture feels so organic: exploratory musical motifs are conjured from the ether, and are released like vapour into the desert sun. Building on the textures established in ‘Pillars’, ‘Forests’ further demonstrates Oases’ musical lexicon. The incidental formant lead phrases, the wonderful union of the human voice and the vocoder and its ability to naturalise the unnatural, are exquisite, punctuating the evolution of song’s rhythmic bedrock and the swirling sustains that border this particular oasis.

As a songwriter, Campbell has a wonderful propensity for melody and groove. His pop music sensibilities are able to guide listeners through often challenging musical episodes and ideas. This is a truly remarkable skill, and demonstrably apparent in both ‘Glider’ and ‘Magic Carpet’. The latter goes through a wonderful metamorphosis over the course of its arrangement, from vocoder loaded funk jam to a fully blown instrumental disco rock anthem. 

The wondrous synth magic of Oases is perhaps encapsulated best in ‘Mystic’. The vocoder ushers incantations beneath the whirling infinite; the rapid evolution of the synth arpeggios treat us to a flash forward, a vicarious experience of life on the accelerated ascetic path. We are guided toward new levels of consciousness. The following track ‘Amethyst’ is an appreciation of this newly gained understanding: a serene vamp of live bass and guitar is embraced by a chorus of sumptuous, vibrant synthesisers. The groove has evolved. The groove is reborn. 

The final third of the album really seems to engage with this evolution. It transcends homage. ‘Telecommunique’, ‘City of Sand’ and ‘Bronze’ all sit as pools of originality, oases in their own right, sowing narratives and consciousnesses of their own devising. ‘Bronze’ is a distillation of everything explored over the course of the album. We behold the quenched desert, surrounded by the awe and lustre of the purest synthesis. Everything is beautifully spatialised - the melodic quantities and chordal phrases are utterly superlative, but you’re suddenly aware that this journey is coming towards its end.

In closing, ‘Transmission Decay 2093’ feels like a glorious farewell to this journey, a retrospective consideration of Campbell’s Oases and all that has been presented. You feel a sense of peace, warmth from the setting sun, and are glad to have beheld and experienced this great odyssey. The finality is not an adieu by any means. You will surely return to Oases again for more adventures. 

Oases administers a much needed injection of retro into the retro-electronic musical canon and, in my opinion, Dallas Campbell reaffirms the absolute need for analog music in the 21st Century. This album really is a journey, a carefully charted evolution. Motifs are picked up along the way and every musical possibility created in Oases’ world is thoroughly explored. This is a wonderfully produced album, the inimitable qualities of a world class signal chain are almost tangible, and it is beautifully mixed and mastered. The wonderful palette of vintage synthesisers is ambitious and cohesive, and coupled with the bold, original and strident musical conceptualisations, this makes for an exceptionally engaging listening experience. Oases comes very, very highly recommended by Synthetix.FM and is available for download from Dallas Campbell’s Bandcamp page here.   

Thursday, April 16, 2015

LA Dreams Opens His Paint Box

By Andrew B. White

It’s old news to anyone who follows the synthwave scene that LA’s SellorRekT/LA Dreams is a extremely prolific artist, releasing more music in the space of three years than there have been re-releases of the ABBA back catalogue.

Paint Box is the second full-length LA Dreams release of 2015 thus far and continues the same formula as previous releases - a mixture of up-beat melodic songs and mid-tempo/slower ballads. Everything has an authentic 80s sheen to it and to me, sees its feet firmly planted in a time zone somewhere around 1984/85.

Typical to an LA Dreams release, Paint Box has eight tracks as was common to many albums in the 80s, due to the time constraints of the vinyl LP. This gives you a sense that no ‘filler’ content was considered - only the good stuff was included here. Track lengths are just right for this sort of music too; long enough to keep things alive, get you hooked and fade out into the next piece of ear candy.

‘Flying’ is a great opening track. From the first bars of synth tom rolls and synths you know this album is going to be ride you want to stay on to the end of the album. Allow extra driving time if your journey is going to take less than 32 minutes…

‘Heard It All Before’ and ‘One More Step’ don’t let up and take you along with them, again with great arrangements, use of melodies and sounds with well thought-out production that allows you to hear what’s going on.

‘DX Heaven’ is a slow ballad, reminiscent of a teen movie romance scene complete with faux-saxophone and fretless synth bass. As the title suggests the song is heavy on DX7 use with that signature DX 80s piano. Crazy for you, indeed.

‘The Empty Frame’ comes as close to a ‘vocal’ LA Dreams track as you will get with the use of what sounds like a vocoder. It’s also more intense and darker, edging closer to outrun territory without being over-compressed. The retained dynamics and melodies keep the song more on a brighter pop edge.

The energy of ‘Go Get ‘Em’ gives you the idea that it could suitably appear in any number of 80s video montages: California beach life scenes, BMX racing action, surfers in full flight, aerobic classes. For anything that has action, this is the soundtrack.

LA Dreams always gives great titles to the songs which can give you more insight in to what the songs might about. ‘After Her’ implies someone in the aftermath of a break-up. She’s gone and now it’s time for consideration. There is nothing schmaltzy or desperate here though, it’s contemplative - imagine sitting on top of the hills at dusk looking out over the city and wondering just what happened.

Final and title track ‘Paint Box’ is a great way to go out. A rolling arpeggio with bright synths, chunky bass and simple melodic lines that remind me of the Psychedelic Furs’ poppier moments. This is not a case of saving the best for last, rather that the whole album is constantly good.

LA Dreams presents Paint Box on his Bandcamp  page here. As with LA Dreams’ other releases you can hear many 80s influences his work but nothing that is a direct copy of any one song or artist. To me, this is the beauty of great synthwave, where an artist is not copying 80s music but takes many of its cues to create something new but familiar. If you are looking for dark, foreboding synth music LA Dreams might not be for you – Paint Box is all pastel colors, sun, sand, Raybans and romance. This is scene-stealing stuff, perfect for driving or playing in your walkman on your way to meet up with your date at the mall. Paint Box comes very, very highly recommended from Synthetix.FM.

LA Dreams’ Kevin Montgomery was kind enough to answer a few questions to go along with this review:

ABW: Your music seems ideal for freeway driving in a city like LA. Is that a conscious move on your part - to make music to drive to?
KM: I like the feel of nostalgia and driving to music gives me that feeling of my teen years.
I enjoy making music that sparks emotions and memories.

ABW: Were you ever involved in BMX racing in the 80s? LA Dreams’ music would fit perfectly alongside old school BMX videos.
KM: LOL, yes to be honest. My early years of having a Redline bike and riding through the neighborhoods with friends. We used to be around 15 bikers and skaters who would ride up to the local arcades and comic book stores.

ABW: You did a vocal collaboration, ‘Neon Nights’, with Femmepop. Are there any plans to do more collaborations and/or vocal tracks?
KM: Absolutely. Margaret (Femmepop) is awesome. I’m currently working with a very talented singer Joanna Wiśniewska that you all will be hearing soon.

ABW: What synths did you use on Paint Box?
KM: I used the Roland Juno 60, Yamaha DX7 IIFD, Roland D50, Roland Jupiter 4, and Oberheim OB8.

ABW: Your albums are the classic LP track length of eight songs. Do you feel eight track albums are a good way of retaining a listener’s interest, rather than bombarding them with 15 tracks?
KM: Well I think its up to the individual artist. Sometimes when I'm telling a story, the songs can often stretch through different tracks to capture different experiences. Sometimes it's told in 8 songs and other times more.

ABW: You’ve sometimes been accused of being “too prolific”. Does making music come easily for LA Dreams and do you plan to keep releasing albums every couple of months?
KM: I do what I feel, I don't operate under anyone else's format. I love my fans and those who look forward to hearing more from me. I don't think I will always make monthly music though, LOL.
I stay in a creative mode, I'm an artist.

ABW: It’s been said the synthwave scene needs to evolve and move away from the 80s sound. That doesn’t make sense to me, especially for an artist like LA Dreams. Would you ever consider changing you style or is the 80s music you like too much of an influence?
KM: Well I think that a lot of the newcomers need to understand and appreciate the origin of the music today. There are different composers and producers who take various routes in Synthwave, I can't complain about that. I do what I love and will continue to be LA Dreams.

Note from Rick Shithouse: "Thank you for being LA Dreams, Kevin!"

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Searsly Spuhghetti

By Eddie Spuhghetti

I'm no stranger to infomercials; Ronco, Tony Little, The Bullet, and The Foreman-Grill are all staples of Sunday afternoon programming for when nothing else is on but you're too lazy to toss a tape in.  While I love the idea of having an audience sit in a studio and marvel at how a knife can cut through a pineapple, there's something just as satisfying when it comes to their shorter commercial counter-part.  I'm talking about the "Order Now" ones that run for as long as 20 to 30 seconds and contain a fast-talking, smooth-sounding announcer who has the warlock-like ability to sell you on something as ridiculous as "hair" in an aerosol can.  Some of these products gain a following and are successful enough to stick around for the long run but what about those that were sent to the hall of product failures to be forever lost in time?  Once in a while, you'll have an oddly familiar commercial pop-up on the net that you swore you only saw once as a kid and in Rick Shithouse's case, that's The Music Vest.      

Now I can barely find any information on this thing other than it was for sale in 1985 and I'm gonna take a guess at not for very long.  Even the company that distributed it, National Catalogue Inc, has fallen off the face of the earth somehow (although, it doesn't surprise me after looking at this thing).  The Music Vest is a wearable waterproof speaker-system that combines elements of a boombox with a walkman; in the sense that while you can blare your music all around you, you're physically wearing the speakers on your body like you would a pair of headphones.  The vest is claimed to be perfect for exercising, bike-riding, golfing, fishing or "just hangin' around": aka break-dancing on the driveway while you try hard not to scrape the shit outa the speakers.  Both are embedded into the front shoulder cuffs on the vest to allow for a stereo experience but I highly doubt there was great quality technology in there to begin with.  In fact, the commercial doesn't mention what source the music comes from; a built-in radio or is there a Walkman adapter?

Elegant and versatile don't paint a great picture for describing this thing; electrical/duct tape life-jacket sounds more appropriate to me.  Product aside, the commercial is at least entertaining to a degree and that's certainly thanks to the breakin' tune going in in the background.  What we hear is most likely "library music": a term used for uncredited stock compositions that are used by production companies and radio/television stations when there's no budget for licensed tracks.  Generic sounding in a sense, yet it gets the overall-feel across easily and in regards to The Music Vest, it appears as if they wanted to market this thing more-so to break-dancing enthusiasts.  Regardless, even some slick beats couldn't help sell this thing to someone who needs to be physical with their dance and in the end, you're better off just using a boombox: ask Rick, he has like a million of those things.

Grab your tape adapter and hook up some Batch Sound tunes while you're at it!

Thursday, April 9, 2015


Abelard - Meta Valley

By Jerry Herrera

Existing between an incredibly catchy midtempo dance EP, and a pained meditation on the two dimensionality of modern life, Abelard’s Meta Valley EP strikes a very deep, if a bit funky chord within me. It’s wonderful night driving music that reminds me that I am, in fact, driving alone.  Musically, it’s infinitely pleasing to the ear, and for that reason alone it is simply a Must Listen but in listening you’ve only completed half the journey. You have to let Meta Valley speak to you.

'In the Rain' is full of fat retro basses and satisfying claps, with glittering synths cascading all around the track. It’s an easy going, feel good track that continues on a predictable pace until the end where we hear a snippet of a phone conversation. A man and woman look forward to seeing each other, yet their voices are deadened and hollowed by their medium of speaking. The title track picks up again, happily. With a bassline that is reminiscent of Sussudio and instruments and vocal snippets layered absolutely sky high, the music is absolutely bursting with synth joy. Yet interspersed among the breezy waves and funky keys are some heartbreaking moments from Pretty in Pink. The juxtaposition would be absolute genius if the impact didn’t hit me right in the gut. Out of context, the words in the argument between father and daughter ring true for many people, for many reasons.

'Cheap Talk' is powerfully lush and funky and I almost blew out my eardrums because the composition of the track just compels you to crank up the volume. Using distorted vocals from a BB&Q song called 'On The Beat' Abelard creates an impossibly catchy vaporwave dance track. It’s fun and joyous and really evokes the feeling of being lost at the club, in a sea of party people having a good time. Only, aren’t you just lost at sea, and are you really having a good time?  'Look Around You' featuring Cade is a slower, spaced out song that features melancholy vocoded vocals. It’s an alien made R&B track musing about love and loss, and perhaps something more permanent and terrible than a breakup. Taking us directly away from whatever low, sad place the last track left us, 'Dance In Space' features more distorted vocals (this time from a Carmen track called 'Time To Move'), clavs, cowbells and so many snares and claps that one really must resist the urge to get up and dance. To move from one emotion to another takes a bit of work but the emotional rollercoaster I found myself on is one of the most intriguing things about Meta Valley.

A bit of teenage uncertainty from the movie Girls Just Want To Have Fun opens 'Waiting By The Window'. Again, Abelard creates truly catchy retrowave but also at work is something deeply affecting. The music and little vocal clips are a springboard into a pool of the listener’s own emotions and memory, and that’s always been what drew me into retro synth, but Abelard crafts that springboard without forcing nostalgia or introspection. It’s, as I mentioned, a brilliant yet humble juxtaposition of two themes that triggers an inner dialogue.

'Edie’s Theme' closes out the Meta Valley EP and like 'Look Around You', is markedly more melancholy than the other songs. The vocals are barely intelligible, but there is laughter and crying and conversation and rants; it’s human noise beneath the uneven heartbeat of a machine. It’s an odd, meandering song that is possessed of a unique, static filled beauty.

Abelard crafts a fascinating facsimile of our world, one where the cracks in the facade are equally visible as what we see at face value.  There is a perception of humanity, that is what we see online and in commercials and print ads, what we are supposed to believe about ourselves and each other, that doesn’t quite make sense. Because the reality of humanity is that we’re flawed and cracked and heartbroken people. We don’t really interact the way people do in the Coca Cola commercials or the multi-million dollar music videos. But rather than attack the corporate image machine, Abelard suggests through his music that we embrace each other and understand that the breadth and depth of human emotion eclipses any neatly packaged, focus grouped slice of “life” portrayed on TV. As I said, if I’m just judging the music, this is one of the most luscious, listenable, crank the volume EPs I’ve heard this year.  But that’s just looking at the surface.  There is so much emotional content to be enjoyed if you just do as Abelard is asking, and look deeper.

Abelard presents the Meta Valley EP, which is available on his Bandcamp page here, and is very, very highly recommended by Synthetix.FM.

Nightboat – Freedom Of The Night

By Chris 'Python Blue'  Day

The new release from Nightboat, Freedom Of The Night, proves they're definitely ahead of the game. The album as a whole has a very fun atmosphere despite the moody title.

'86 Prom' and 'Freedom Of The Night' both easily give an impression of the Pet Shop Boys just before they moved into trance music, while the other two tracks in the EP are nice downtempo songs to unwind to, especially 'Dream Sequence', a song that also has a nice touch of fretless bass alongside the usual electronic sounds.

Each track is also admirable because, unlike for some other producers, including myself, Nightboat seems reluctant to keep repeating the same chord progression (and even key) over and over in a track, which does well in being original and keeping a listener’s attention to the piece even after a minute or so in, especially as the changes actually flow very well in the tracks.

Nightboat’s Freedom Of The Night comes very highly recommended by Synthetix.FM, and is available on his Bandcamp page here.

Robert Parker - Cardinal

By Matthew Neophytou

Hitting a us with a full force of disco-infused synth is Robert Parker’s Cardinal. Anyone who loves their retro tunes lined with synth and kicked with funk will certainly fall head over roller-skates with this EP.

Title track “Cardinal” lines us up for some synth train action, hitting the ground on the first second. Instantly, you can't help but want to get in on the distorted rhythm but just wait 'til the guitar hits - expect the playfulness to really shine on this one without losing the grasp on production. “Run” is what we were most probably expecting from at least one of the tracks off the last Daft Punk album. Filtered vocals edge the grinding melody at an active pace creating a raw piece of electronic music that kicks with raw sounds bouncing on a dotted beat.

“Flashback” reigns things in for a gentle skip base, with a weave of synths that string the track together into a cool Malibu-esque evening soundtrack. “Waiting” accompanies the previous track perfectly, maintaining the coolness yet upping the groove with funky notes and a beat that just won't let you go.

“Fortress” leads us off in a synergy of Synth and thumping beats, a guaranteed repeat-player on anyone’s playlist. Telefuture presents Robert Parker – Cardinal rightly deserves a very, very highly recommended from Synthetix.FM for his melding of synth disco that is as retro as it  is refreshing. Available for name your price at Telefuture's bandcamp page here.

Occams Laser - A Sides

By Rick Shithouse

Occams Laser has been featured numerous times in my Quality Time With Shithouse picks on Synthetix Sundays and this producer has just released a new EP titled A-Sides which gives us a great new spin on his musical ideas and refines the Occams Laser sound deeper.

The theme employed for this EP is having each track titled with the letter 'A' but the concept goes far deeper than this ephemeral tie in as the four tracks tell a wonderful story as one experience. Beginning with the mood setting 'Atomism' shades of the opening theme from Escape From New York introduce a carefully constructed but cautious scene. The synths used on this EP are all from the same palette in and in this Occams Laser forms a vivid stylistic direction that then works through the melodic structures and ties them together more and more as the story progresses.

The second track, 'Alacrity' continues, initially, as morosely as the opening track but this time Occams Laser introduces brighter and lighter details to push the shadows back ever so slightly. The sweet nuances of the flutey synths add a great deal to the story and the interplay between the shining details carries the track into a warm tonal space.

Track three continues in a similar vein that offers a great deal more positivity in the melodies and the story continues to add more and more colour to the rising passages. The pace of all these tracks is kept to a very similar speed however, and this plodding, almost down beat rhythm adds even more impetus to the melodies' trials and tribulations.

The final track of the EP is really a climactic point that all three previous tracks seemed to be leading us to. 'Alterity' has a spectacularly evocative synth lead that climbs further and further into the heavens as it unfolds. Having this as the final piece elevates it even further as a genuine sense of triumph reigns over the synthscape.

Occams Laser continues to hone his synth craftsmanship in every successive release and in A-Sides he's definitely reached a new level that ties together numerous ideas and packages them as a complete story. This EP is definitely something that requires listening to in one complete session to appreciate its narrative, and I encourage you to do so and pick up a copy on his Bandcamp page here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Searsly Spuhghetti

By Eddie Spuhghetti

Beer commercials back in the day were known to be a bit more theatrical and interesting.  Sometimes it would be just some dude in a plaid shirt clocking out after work and heading to the local watering hole with his buds; inside, they'd be celebrating how great their cheap domestic beer tastes and that it's the only one for them.  Odd time, you'd come across a commercial with a bigger budget that allowed for more creativity: a movie tie-in or celebrity endorsement, to even mainstream bands performing a unique song about the brew.  Now-days, we're too politically correct: this sorta thing wouldn't fly and you wouldn't see a popular group promote an alcoholic beverage on national television.  You also wouldn't see as batshit insane of a beer commercial as this.

"This Bud's For You" was an ad campaign throughout the '80s that started off using blue-collar joes raising their glass high in the air and saluting their common man with a Bud.  The ad managed to evolve itself and was placed into the hands of various celebrities: sports stars, actors, and musicians would burp the catchphrase in their own unique way.  Oingo Boingo at the time was becoming very popular and while sometimes defined as "nerd punk", they had a more ska-ish sound with rock and the '80s synths we all know and love.  Helmed by future film-score composer Danny Elfman, Oingo Boingo became a household name thanks to their appearances in films like Back To School (which Elfman also scored) and this here Budweiser commercial.  If you want a general idea of how impressive/timeless this thing is, here's some hops for thought: I came across this a few years ago and it actually got me to go try Budweiser for the first time.

The magic of Oingo Boingo mysteriously takes over an entire apartment building and two window cleaners witness it all while on the job.  One floor, it's a full gym, complete with neon lights, babes and muscle dudes just pumpin' away.  A few flights up is a race-track: a Budweiser endorsed car is being revved-up by Elfman himself while in the passenger seat sits a bulldog as the band (and another Elfman) play on a stage nearby.  Before you can say "This Bud's For You!", Boingo takes over a WWII bomber plane and ram into the confused cleaners; making them wonder if they've had a few too many themselves.  Hey, is that what the commercial is trying to tell us?  That if we all chug back a few Buds, then we'll be in this weird fantasy land with Oingo Boingo?  If so, here's my Canadian Express card and you can just write yourself the ticket to Hollywood.

Searsly Spuhghetti - 'This Bud's For You' Oingo Boingo Commercial from EddieSpuhghetti on Vimeo.

Too short of a song?

Why not toss on some Who Ha and crack open a cold one!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Pavement to Penthouse: Chuck Shumann and Trevor Bennett’s LEADERSHIP

By Robin Ogden

News. Sports. Business. LEADERSHIP is the inaugural library music offering from Chuck Shumann and Trevor Bennett, who’ve previously released retro-electronic inspired soundtrack offerings under the moniker Vania De Bie Vernet. The lack of publicly available information on the producers, and their elusive (or perhaps more accurately virtually non-existent) social media presence, only serves to fuel the high concept nature of this album.

With few exceptions, production music writers exist outside of popular recognition and almost certainly circumnavigate celebrity, some even choosing to excise their library music efforts from their main musical ventures, consciously composing under pseudonyms and sobriquets. Despite this, they are arguably the most successful musicians in history: their compositions are heard by audiences of millions, soundtracking the adverts, idents and news report underscores that we as listeners consume incessantly. LEADERSHIP is an austere celebration of the 1980’s sound of success, a powerful reverie of sculpted coifs and power dressing in the world of news, sports and business.

It’s a rare pleasure to experience a conceptual release so finely tuned. LEADERSHIP holds the sound of corporate welfare close to its heart, and whilst the tracklisting reads like a would-be Patrick Bateman’s self help book, I would argue that this offering is a sincere celebration of success without the usual 80s haute capitalist substance abuse. This is a carefully considered recollection and homage to televised media, a world away from the well trudged Penthouse and Pavement satirical commentary, inspiring visions of early 3D logos, stock footage and sports montages.

Musically, this is the slam to punk’s anti-aesthetic aestheticism. LEADERSHIP’s crisp high production value exclusively embraces the use of synthesisers to wonderful effect, firmly aligning the album with the suits and sleek ponytails that populated the world of commerce and media. To subject this album to a track by track analysis is in all honesty to do it a disservice. I firmly believe it should be experienced as a full audio visual phenomenon, and would suggest listening whilst perusing wonderfully oversaturated footage of sporting prowess, consumer products and stock exchanges, (in fact Super Apes has kindly done this with the track Jetlag). That being said, I’d like to share some of the highlights and coups from LEADERSHIP that are driving the writing of this review.

The album’s opener ‘A New Market’ is a pounding corporate anthem. You’re transported back to one morning in the early 1980s. The tightly gated drums and beautifully quantised chorussed bassline are fuelling your morning regime. You select your cufflinks with care, diligently tie a full windsor knot as the synth brass works in glorious harmony with the lead line. The chordal switchup signifies you’re running late, the gated toms and frenetic hi hats soundtrack that woefully busy rush hour traffic. But don’t worry, by the end of the track, you’ve arrived safely at the board meeting with your identikit yuppie colleagues, primed, ready to shake hands and capitalise on some new markets.

Your career in the office may have only just begun, but LEADERSHIP promises to pluck you from the bullpen and show you the euphoric and often heady success that only an 80s corporate lifestyle can offer. If you’ve always fancied experiencing Wall Street, and the money and power associated with it, then ‘Important Project’ and ‘Stock Exchange’ will fulfil, and undoubtedly exceed, every expectation. 

I’ve never really been one for sports, but if ‘Difficult Challenge’, ‘Teamwork’ and ‘The Will To Win’ could soundtrack my woeful performance on the Racquetball court I’m sure I’d feel like a champion regardless of the outcome. The longest track on the album, ‘The Will To Win’ is a staggering tour de force of synthesiser music. The arrangement itself is exceptionally strong, symptomatic of writers with an intimate knowledge of compositional techniques. It is dynamic and responsive, the musical journey ebbs and flows and it tells a story of overcoming all odds. The penultimate chordal dénouement, and the final flourish of tonal brass chords is a sublime resolution. Moreover, it  really does make me want to try my hand at Jai alai. 

There’s a wonderful dialectic relationship being explored over the course of the album. Without a few emotional troughs there couldn’t be any high points, as everything would simply be at the same bland pitch. You can’t have success without a fear of failure, after all. This is one of the things that really excited me about this release - the meta arrangement of the album, which has been carefully considered by Shumann and Bennett.

For this reason, one of the standout tracks for me personally is ‘Jet Lag’. Not only is it applaudable from a production standpoint, exploring the chronologically correct but oft overlooked possibilities of sync leads (and sounds that have typically become to be associated with acid music) that were pervasive in 1980s electronica, but the arrangement is exceptionally strong, and subverts the all too easy verse chorus formula. I’d argue that the track name is a slight misnomer in some ways, as this song is truly engaging. Emotionally I’d consider this a low point in the album - you’re overworked, clocking up both serious air miles and an equally severe sleep deficit. The relentless, saturated arpeggios interact with the chords and basslines in a syncopated and rhythmic manner. It is frantic, much like your lifestyle, but the song concludes with a musical release like no other.

LEADERSHIP makes me want to season every sentence with buzzwords like ‘rejuvenation’, ‘networking’ and ‘synergy’, flex my shoulder pads, and not feel too guilty for advocating a lifestyle historiographically associated with greed and vulgar excess. Truthfully, I feel this release is a wholly positive affirmation of success, a celebration and soundtrack of your personal triumphs. This album is packed with narratives of your own devising, which I feel is testament to its strength as a library music release.

My interpretation, placement and application of the tracks that I’ve touched on in this review are not concrete, and the music could suit a whole plethora of different imaginary, fantastic, or indeed real scenarios. The whole thing is beautifully cohesive and flexible, wonderfully mixed, mastered and produced with a firm emphasis on authenticity. LEADERSHIP comes very highly recommended by Synthetix.FM, and is available to buy on CDR and download as pay what you think it’s worth via the Super Apes Label Bandcamp page here. I wish Chuck Shumann and Trevor Bennett all the best with their LEADERSHIP venture!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Professor Zonic Zynth's Lessons In Cybernetics

By Rick Shithouse

There is sometimes a veil over music produced in the 80s inspired synth scene. A veil that obscures reality and gives an impression that distorts it. The veil that can convince one that they are actually listening to actual music created in 80s is like the uncanny valley of synthwave and Professor Zonic Zynth is fabricating this veil by the yard in his new album Cybernetics.

Unlike the uncanny valley of CGI the synthwave equivalent isn't unsettling or repulsive but is instead glorious and creates a parallel universe of musical possibilities. The Professor has been ardently pursuing the recreation of the truest 80s forms in relation to synth based 80s soundtrack music and in Cybernetics I think he's cracked the alchemic code; spilling nostalgia in smoke filled neon waves of refined aural gold.

I can't really give this record a track-by-track review as I'm oft to do on Synthetix.FM. I think that compartmentalising the tracks does them a disservice as they really create the most magic as one complete experience. This isn't just creating soundtrack oriented music; this is properly written scoring. Scoring for vision that doesn't technically exist yet surely inspires visions worthy of a great late 80s action sci fi blockbuster.

Right from the beginning though, from the Professor's own studio ID, we're taken into a world of action, love, lust, danger and deception. The tight control exacted over Zynth's tools of the trade becomes evident immediately. The tone of the opening tracks are absolutely refined to a crisp brilliance.  The power and drama of 'New Los Angeles' is utterly dominating. The scene is detailed within an inch of you actually seeing it and to add even more to the experience the guitar tracks sing like a vocalist; heartfelt lyrics in chords and notes wail over that desolate concrete jungle backdrop.

The opening chapters of Cybernetics bridge the old and the new that typified this era of late 80s soundtrack with mirror like homage. The electronic elements from contemporary music mixing with the dramatic cues of synth based scores then layered with cool, jazzy guitars makes for an all encompassing feast of flavours that are smooth and languid when they need to be and also fiercely energetic when required also. The construction of pieces like 'Urban Mayhem' are so smooth flowing and organic they breathe with life amid the bustling street level humidity.

The Professor knows exactly how to make tense drama a tactile musical experience, using the bassline to fake left as the percussion lands peppering blows and synths pace menacingly in the background. His use of hugely varied toms add tribal fury to the synthscape and guitars that once whispered sweet nothings can be turned into vicious weapons and then reduced to a weeping aftermath.

For all the intensity of tracks like 'Neon City Lights' and the stunning 'Air Strike' I find the most rewarding music on this album to be the more spaced out experiences. Zynth has a free-form approach to his pieces that gives them life and colour, jamming seemingly innocuously only to then bring moments into tight focused set pieces. The instruments used can vary greatly from track to track but everything is always in-decade, you just have to bear witness to the jazzy late 80s R&B sounds of the delightfully titled 'Boobie-Trapped' to get that 88 groove running deep and cool.

This is where the real genius of Zynth begins to become apparent. You are presented with so many varied scenes of genuine 80s sounds that are engineered to vintage perfection and beautifully convey both the familiar and the brand new in that glorious uncanny synthwave valley. 'Grand Elevation' really sets this off like a time bomb as given more time to coalesce and gel its elements together creates a power of immense synth splendour.

The back end of Cybernetics allows the Professor to tie the musical plot lines of the previous chapters into a penultimate climax. Instruments are used like characters, taken advantage of, double crossed, out for revenge and then yearning for justice. The final scenes are just so rockin to the max that you'll want to hit rewind on your VCR and enjoy it all over again. The veil now somehow becomes completely transparent and all the matters is just how much fun you've had along the wild ride into Cybernetics.

Professor Zonic Zynth presents his Cybernetics album on his Bandcamp page here in the usual array of downloadable formats. Cybernetics is another fantastic record from this massively talented artist, one that expands his skill set even further. I can't help but wish this entire soundtrack was cut to existing vision to complete the whole experience, but on the other hand, the way this record inspires and ignites one's imagination is a more than enough of action filled roller coaster ride and comes very, very highly recommended from Synthetix.FM.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The NEW Synthetix.FM Mixtape Has Landed!

It's time again to rock some of the biggest hits in the 80s inspired synth scene with a brand new Synthetix.FM Mixtape! This month we have an EXCLUSIVE Synthetix.FM Extended remix from the one and only Flash Arnold, working his magic over 'The Pump' and giving it the full 12" treatment!

Full track listing:

1, Videoscape - B o d y l i n e
2, Running From The Past - Nitelight
3, Grid Bound - Format 440
4, Delorean - FM-84
5, Lovers In Time (Instrumental) - ORAX
6, Meta Valley (Extended Mix) - Abelard
7, Progress - Occams Laser
8, Tergiversation - Satori In Bed
9, Back To Basics - Tommy '86
10, Fortress - Moonphase
11, The Pump (Synthetix.FM Extended Mix) - Flash Arnold
12, Cardinal - Robert Parker
13, The Descent - Lapses
14, Pegasus Pro Ultra Fusion - Dan Terminus
15, Motivation - Dream Shore
16, Synthetic Highway - Sub Morphine
17, Everyday Workout - Auto Reverse
18, Effy - Carl Fuga
19, The Hunger - Lost Years
20, Disco Machine - Tommy '86
21, Guided By Moonlight - Betamaxx
22, Chase On Brickell - Bart Graft

Engineered to fill a C90 cassette to be played at high volume in your favourite home stereo, walkman, car stereo or boombox!