Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Lost Years' Venom

By Lachie Hunt

Lost Years is best known for his work on the 2015 film Kung Fury, which is how I discovered him. A friend was actually given one of the tracks from Kung Fury as an example of what he should try to aim towards in his own soundtrack work. Seeing that really made me take notice of Kung Fury and Lost Years' effects on the retro scene in general. Kung Fury has now almost become synonymous with the retro synth scene, and Lost Years is a large part of it.

As far as new full length releases go, a new Lost Years hasn't come out since 2013 with Amplifier. The first release from Lost Years was a super strong 3 track EP, setting the precedent for his trademark hard rolling bass and synth stabs, along with his unique of percussion and panning. Nuclear EP was then followed by Black Waves, a fourteen track, one hour long beast of an album. Tracks like 'West Side Lane' and 'The Harbour Heist' were fantastic continuations of the styles built into Nuclear. Meanwhile, tracks such as 'Temptations' and 'Cold' were of a slower, more emotional style.

Amplifier in contrast was a shorter more danceable release, with ten shorter tracks. The one-two combo punch of 'Breacher' and 'Red Horizon' are still my favourite tracks Lost Years has made. The more ambient style continued through into a few tracks here still, with seemingly less action in them to make up for the more intense tracks. All through these releases the production has been on point, with every track's mix something to look towards for aspiring producers such as myself.

That brings us to now, early 2016. Venom, released with little fanfare, and the only promotion I could see being done by Rosso Corsa before launch was a post saying a new Lost Years release was incoming. That being said, for Lost Years that was probably enough. The cover art, as always, is fantastic although this time it seems to be a little harder on the eyes, although I'm not complaining.

First up, 'A Start Is the Beginning of an End'. This is where the first difference between this and the other releases come in. The production in general sounds much clearer and louder, and it's obvious that Lost Years has decided to go for quality over quantity in his tracks. The track itself is a thirty two second long intro that features a fast arp and really just showcases the improved sound. Its sole purpose seems to be exactly that, as it appears to be the only real filler track Lost Years has done.

'Cross the Line'is where the real release begins however. The intro features a bassline arp that's capable of dredging up old memories from 'The Harbour Heist', with what sounds like a Jupiter bass in the background, the droning adding to the vibe of the song. The usual synth stabs and panned percussion hits mixed with a few different styles of lead help to keep the song fresh along the length of it.

'Skies of Blood' is a little of a misleading title for this sort of song. If you're familiar with previous Lost Years releases, the closest track to this is 'Park Avenue 1989', a song heavily featuring samples from 1989 talking about the Berlin Wall. Fun fact - both these tracks are the third tracks on their releases, which leads me to believe that this was intentional, a sort of spiritual successor if you will.

'Skies Of Blood' is the most chilled out song on the release with a low bass constantly going in the background and an almost saxophone sounding lead tying it all together through the song alongside a plucked synth that sounds amazing. The use of reverb here is astounding, every part of the song is drenched in it.

'Snakebite' feels very different to other tracks Lost Years has produced. The use of additional percussion here is minimal apart from a few tom fills, which is a welcome break. It features the brass stabs and varied synth leads most of his songs do, but here it feels more chilled out, and the bassline feels a little more relaxed.

'The Connection' is the most nostalgic track for me out of the bunch, while 'Skies of Blood' sounds familiar; this song just fills me with the feelings I had back when I started getting into synthwave, trying to produce a track with a plucked string VST in an open source Digital Audio Workstation. The song just takes me back and of course it's markedly in execution than my attempt.

The song itself seems underwhelming at first, a trademark Lost Years bassline with a hard sync lead below it. However at around the 1:30 Mark, a powerful pluck kicks in that is one of my favourite melodies of the year. The arp used in the background in between these sections is classic Lost Years, fast with gaps in it. This track is easily my favourite from the release.

The title track, 'Venom', wastes no time into throwing the listener into a hard bassline and some neat background pads alongside a heap of nice plucks and a large use of synth leads. The melodies here are fantastic as well, constantly being switched out for new lines and sounding great at every turn.

'In Vain' features a vocal sample leading into the main track. It reminds me of something like Crockett's tracks, but with a unique Lost Years element to it. The toms used here are far harder, alongside the reverb 707 that almost clips. The song really just sounds frantic and dark, possibly the darkest Lost Years has ever gone. However I feel the changeover of a few melodies and parts could have been made a little smoother, though that's just my personal opinion.

Venom as a whole is a future classic that should be looked at as an example of how to do fantastic synthwave that covers a variety of tones while keeping the same sound aestheically. Every song here sounds far more memorable as a whole than past Lost Years releases, not that those were forgettable at all, but in those tracks like 'West Side Lane' over shone the rest. Here every track feels up to the same high quality.

Rosso Corsa Records presents Lost Years' Venom on their Bandcamp here.  It's also available on  Lost Years' Soundcloud here and will presumably show up on Spotify at some point. This release comes very, very higly recommended from Synthetix.FM.

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