Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Synthetix Sunday

Ahoy Synth Mateys! Marko has mysteriously disappeared! Only a Who Ha has the power to save the radio day! And it'll be live! Tune in to the Radio Pure Gently channel on Mixlr here and chat along with all your fellow synthheads. This week I'm doing live Skype calls with The Northern Lights and Von Hertzog about their new releases and I've got an exclusive extended preview of one of the tracks from the upcoming The Summoner short film (which just met its goal on indiegogo!) presented by the director himself, James Secker. Plus all episode long, I'll be celebrating the 30th anniversary of Cobra with Sly Stallone. It's going to be a hoot.

And it'll all starts at 10:30am Central time, tune in LIVE here!

Catch the full replay in all its riveting madness here:

The Summoner 

The Summoner crowdfunded campaign on IndieGoGo has just achieved it's goal!!
This exciting project is definitely going to rock damned hard!

Get the lowdown on the project here while you're waiting for Who Ha's interview with the man behind it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Nickee B Goes Back To 1984

By Rick Shithouse

When it comes to the producers I've been ardently following and patiently waiting for them to release something there are few higher on the list then Nickee B. Much like Fanateek One, who's debut album came out last year this debut from Nickee B has been one I've biding my time for. And like Fanateek One's excellent debut record; Nickee B's debut EP delivers everything I hoped it would.

Ironically, both producers do similarly styled music with a focus on the funk and electrifying it in spectacularly 80s ways. Electro Funk is one denomination hugely underrepresented in the 80s inspired synth scene. For what reasons, I'm not sure. Perhaps it's the level of passion one needs to have for this particular denomination to ensure its authenticity? I've known many producers to do an Electro Funk track, here and there, but a full album or EP experience comes few and far between.

These street-style denominations of 80s synth music really capture a lot of what I love about the 80s and in the early 2000s I went back and educated myself on 80s pioneers of the genres; in no small part to my boombox collecting undertaking. After all, the right music is definitely required for the right machine. The originators of these sounds, like Zapp & Roger, Dazz Band, BB & Q Band, Newcleus, The Gap Band, Jonzun Crew and many others made a smooth blend of the streets and the clubs that continued on from the classic 70s funk sounds. The music is hugely bassline driven and has a suave coolness about it that is instantly identifiable.

Nickee B's homage to 1984 and the crossover between breakdance street culture and club R&B results in 6 original tracks of the slickest Electro Funk you're likely to hear in 2016. Kicking things off is 'Sweet Love' and its decidedly romantic air. The more R&B oriented Electro Funk makes for the perfect vehicle for smooth moves that make all the girls swoon. Nickee B's highly engineered sound space opens up with a wide, airy space that is driven by a tightly undulating bassline. Cymbal accents and percussion are placed in an understated manner along with complimentary synths while the vocals take centre stage. The vocal aspect is one of the most important ingredients in Electro Funk and making these work on the same high level as the music is something Nickee B's prided himself on.

The vocals of Satori In Bed is what makes this whole experience one complete whole and the delivery, tone and attitude is spectacular from track to track. The more laid back and crooning vocals in 'Sweet Love' are then given more energy and  vigour in the follow up 'Destiny'. The subtleties are what this record is all about. Smoothly choreographed instruments that offer differing shades of colours and sounds, sexily curved edges with sharp elements honed back to ensure the fit is tight but never uncomfortable. That balance is truly refreshing and when stripped back still finds the Nickee B sound pulsing with energy and vibrancy.

The title track pushes the energy levels even higher and the groove is kicked up a gear as the anthemic vocal refrain celebrates the year enthusiastically and synth star crashes, bass comets and percussive cosmic powers erupt as one into the night sky. The groove gets cut so deep you'll get lost in it and the sonic fireworks over heard enhance the experience even further.

Two instrumental pieces act as complimentary diversions on the EP with the first being 'Midnight Promenade'. In this sonically sumptuous stroll we allow Nickee B to unleash his creativity at the keyboards and illustrate a delectable range of beautiful passages. More organic piano sounds play off against sparkling synths and a golden embrace of wondrous strings make for synthual vista impossible to resist. The vibe is live and feels like an improvised jam session but then weaves an articulate and well defined story. The funk is strong but the mood is light and wistful.

Bringing back some more poppy hooks and those velvet vocals of Satori In Be, 'Cover Girl' makes for a hugely rewarding experience. The bassline hints at Yarbrough and Peoples while the percussion drives at a brisk and deliberate pace. These poppier tracks show Nickee B's true understanding of the Electro Funk genre's accessibility and you'll be hooked deeply by its innate pop magic that becomes deeply infectious.

The second instrumental track opts for darker tones that hit incredibly deeply. The emotional power of the synth melodies in this track are some of the most touching I've heard outside of a Tommy composition and the muted bassline adds an air of mystery that is absolutely entrancing. 'Night Thoughts' may lack the more obvious funk elements but the depth of presentation is an incredibly moving experience.

The EP closes out with a classically edited 80s style Dub Version of 'Sweet Love' that gives it a more dancefloor feel and opens up the elements for more exploration and delectation. A clever way to end the EP as a refrain of the lead track is definitely a worthwhile journey.

Nickee B's 1984 EP is presented by Cadence Records on their Bandcamp page here in the usual array of digitally downloadable formats. Finding funk likes this that is so authentically created with such passion and homage to the original sounds is a rarity and this EP delivers a perfect homage to those sounds with an all encompassing level of high calibre songwriting and performances. 1984 (like the year itself!) comes very, very highly recommended from Synthetix.FM.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Synthetix Sundays

Marko's rockin you all the ways you'd ever need with the final massive episode of Synthetix Sundays for this season. Marko's taking a couple of months off to head back to the U.S. so make sure you enjoy every second of this episode of Synthetix Sundays to tide you over! Rockin only on Radio Pure Gently!

We've made it a special edition for this last edition of the season as Marko and myself spend three and a half hours revisiting our favourite tracks from the Silver Age Of Synthwave. Focusing on music from the 2005 - 2011 period when much of the originators of the styles we love today came into being. We've chosen 12 tracks each featuring greats such as College, the Outrunners, Lifelike, Anoraak, Tesla Boy, MPM aka Multipac, FM Attack, Casio Social Club and many, many more. I've made sure all the tracks I've selected have never been on QTWS before, so make sure you tune in to relive those days or maybe visit them for the first time!

On top of this Marko's got three huge interviews as he rocks the mic with Kyle Resse (AKA Blooded The Brave), Italo journeyman Peter Zimmermann and the enigma Waveshaper all about their kick arse new records.

If this wasn't enough, Marko has three exclusive tracks to premier from Powernerd, Neon Shudder and Glitch Black as well as a tonne of download code giveaways for those listening live!

It's going to be one epic EIGHT hour show! So be sure to rock along and listen to Marko and myself and a new level of nostalgia to music based on an older period of nostalgia! Dive down the nostalgic wormhole with us!!

Tune in to Synthetix Sundays LIVE on Radio Pure Gently here, at 10pm Perth, Australia time. Please click here to find out when this is in your part of the world. As always the fully downloadable show will be posted here on Monday.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Stereo Sonic Electro Rockin Mixtape 2016

As mentioned in the show I'm now taking submissions for 2016's edition of the Synthetix.FM Stereo Sonic Electro Rockin Mixtape! This mixtape is all about high energy hard rockin breakdance and street anthems. If you'd like to submit a track for it please contact me via email or message. Tracks don't need to be exclusive or anything but do need to have been made over the last year. If you're not sure what I'm after please have a listen to the 2014 and 2015 editions below to get an idea of what kind of rockin's a goin on!

Submissions MUST be in MP3 format and tagged and titled correctly. Please double check all track information is correct before sending it through. The deadline is July 4th so get rockin!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Astral Stereo Project Says Farewell To Paradise

By Sarah Halloran

Hey there synth citizens! If you’re in the mood for a synthwave album that has you smiling, swaying, raising an eyebrow (in a good way!), tapping your feet, nodding your head and sighing in reminiscence,  Farewell to Paradise accommodates all of your music-based bodily functions perfectly!

Hailing from Newcastle-upon-Tyne (home of the stottie, Newcastle Brown Ale, and’s probably best not to mention the football team right now) The Astral Stereo Project doesn’t have palm tree-lined LA streets or the pastel-brights of Miami to give him inspiration. What he lacks in 80’s backdrops, he certainly makes up for in musical inspiration. Citing greats such as Pino Donaggio (Body Double, Carrie, The Howling soundtracks) and FM Attack, The Astral Stereo Project draws from many different influences, and the result is spectacular!

Okay, enough of the geography and history lessons. Let’s hit play and do this!

The Astral Stereo Project has produced a number of great concept albums, and Farewell to Paradise is a “romantic soundtrack to a late 70s/early 80s European film set somewhere exotic”. First track ‘Islands’ is a jaunty little number featuring joyful melodies, bittersweet lyrics and punchy percussion. If this doesn’t make you smile, I’m afraid I’m just going to have to tag you, bag you and inform your next of kin.

If Andy Bell from Erasure ever visited an 80’s game arcade, ‘Night Flight Arrival’ is the track I think he would have gone home and made. I love this! It’s full of OutRun-esque synths with an almost 70s style running through in the background. As I’ve said before in my reviews, I’m not technical musically, but there are some really interesting sounds here, and lots of fun little melodies to keep you interested.

Okay, time to set the record straight about something. Next track ‘Scirocco’ is NOT about the Volkswagen car of the same name. The Astral Stereo Project did NOT have a love affair with his car and write a song about it. I know because I asked him, and cleared that rumour up. The first few notes put me in mind of the soft tones that Hello Meteor is so famous for, and they are soon overtaken by monumental synths, thumping bass, a little heavy breathing and fabulous 80s chords.

Usually I listen to music over headphones, but halfway through listening to ‘Sheltering Sky’, my headphones died, and so I listened to this track over speakers. You didn’t really need to know that, but it is a bit relevant. There’s cracking bass on this track that I’m not sure I would have appreciated half as much over headphones. If you like slightly melancholy tracks with a disco beat, you’ll love this.

Pino Donaggio’s influence is strong on ‘Body Heat’, and it’s a track full of wistful longing, regret and lost love. The production and arrangement is just beautiful, and full of soft breathy effects and bright synth melodies.

Title track, and my favourite on the whole album. ‘Farewell to Paradise’ really put me in mind of the opening credits of a show I watched in the 80s, and I can’t for the life of me remember what it was. It’s a track packed with smartly arranged synths and guitars, and it’s sure to push your nostalgia meter to the max! Distant memories aside, this is the track that really shows you the musical genius of this producer. What was that show?! That’s going to bug me.

‘A Rose For Annie Belle’ is a slight detour from synthwave, but a wonderful one nonetheless. This track put me in mind of Pink Floyd and those corny, wistful moments in cop shows. You know, where our law enforcement hero is driving through the night, windows down, moustache gently quivering, and having whimsical flashbacks about his lost colleague. Beautiful guitars on this track.

A little reggae pulse kicks off ‘Anything That Moves’. I love the synths and slap bass effect on this track. A catchy melody and vocals dripping with 80s references like “electric dream”, “videodrome” and “VHS” make this my second favourite on the album, and one that I’ll return to often.

‘Frivolous Lady’ features a bright and sentimental melody, light-as-air vocals, and an almost 70s vibe. I love how there are so many different genres and subgenres on this release, and how they all tie together so well.

I’ll leave you with ‘Forever Laure’, and its gentle goodbye. You can’t help but sway a little to this track, and it’s the perfect closer to an absolutely awesome album.

‘Farewell to Paradise’ educates, enthralls and entertains. It’s intelligent in production, courageous in experimentation and comes very, very highly recommended by Synthetix FM. Pick up a copy on Astral Stereo Project's Bandcamp here in the usual array of digitally downloadable formats.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Objet D'Rad

By Rick Shithouse

I've been looking forward to doing this particular Objet D'Rad for more than a year as my passion for this object in particular and the complete lack of shared knowledge about them on the internet has made it a very difficult to even begin to document. But where there's enough passion and tenacity there's a way and I finally get to share my love of a true icon of 80s style and design with you: the alluringly fascinating Wave Machine.

The Wave Machine was developed by Lava Lite, the same company who had much success marketing Lava Lamps throughout the 60s and 70s. The machine consists of a base and vessel. The vessle containing two liquids that don't mix, the colour being a water base and the clear being a spirit base. This is then mounted on a base that contains a motorised powered mechanism that gently tilts the vessel up and down; causing the fluids create waves as the inertia flows from one side to the other. The result is a very transfixing and highly kinetic aesthetic that soothes as much as it entertains.

I, personally, remembered seeing Wave Machines in a local games shop in the mid 80s. As I began collecting many things from this period that were sold as novelties, puzzles or 'undefinable' I remembered these things fascinating me in the store window and I thusly began my quest to try and get one of my very own. Little did I know, at that stage, that there were really two ages of the Wave Machine and my original discovery was right in the middle of the second wave.

Wave Machines first came about in the mid 70s and were advertised in many catalogues of the day with Lava Lamps and other kitschy classics. These Sears Wishbook pages from 1979 and 1980 are the earliest sightings I've come across at retail, but prior to this a Wave Machine can be seen being used as a thinly disguised prop in numerous episodes of Space 1999 from 1976. Ironically this first introduction of the Wave Machine seemed far less enticing to the general public and history proved that it was released well before its time

For it wasn't until the mid 80s that the Wave Machine received new appreciation and adoration. This definitely came in part from the likes of catalogue stores such as The Sharper Image that seemed to all of a sudden give this object a time and place that was incredibly relevant. This ad from April 1986's The Sharper Image catalogue speaks volumes and now it appeared the Wave Machine had found its true home.

Exactly the same item, marketed in much the same way but now given a time and audience that appreciated these wondeful items and embraced them as truly distinguishing objects of taste, lifestyle and status. And it didn't take long for them to start appearing in music videos and movies and TV series. A spectacular shot, which was the jarring epiphany that ignited my fascination, is showcased in the Eurogliders 'We Will Together' video from 1985. And although I can't provide visual evidence a Wave Machine also appears in an episode of Miami Vice, if I manage to see this again in my rewatching I'll be sure to include it in this post at a later date.

Once one begins 'looking' for Wave Machines I began seeing them in lots of other places inadvertently and it seems the 1988 was one of the high points for Wave Machines to appear in movies. 1988's 80s-design-tastic classic Remote Control focuses on a beautiful Wave Machine in its opening shot, replete with other icons of 80s design.

And revisiting the classic Miracle Mile, also from 1988, one is also seen on the museum counter in its opening scenes.

Perhaps the most famous role of a Wave Machine comes from the 1990 action classic Die Hard 2 where a Sharper Image-alike store in the airport makes sure the Wave Machine is pride of place. Indeed, these two frames are capture seconds apart and it becomes obvious the Wave Machine has moved from the podium in front of the counter to being placed direcrtly on the floor. Whether it be a continuity error or somehow intentional, it certainly makes sure the contrast of the public in panic and the calming waves of the undulating Wave Machine don't go unnoticed.

Thankfully the Wave Machine has not been relegated entirely to history. The 2010 series 'In Treatment' featured a Wave Machine during its introduction and also as a prop in the office. If you look hard in many place you'll see Wave Machines. Indeed, how many hundred times had I enjoyed the video for Stardust's 'Music Sounds Better With You' before I spotted one on the top of the bookshelf in the family's living room.

The sale of Wave Machines continued well into the 90s with numerous variations being produced, including rounder cylindrical models, others with floating objects such as dolphins and even some models with ocean sound effects built in to compliment the visual display. The original style rectangular Wave Machine was also sold in different sizes throughout its lifetime, some up to 30 inches long.

Wave Machines are certainly one of the true icons of the 80s, albeit an unheralded one. These wonderful objects may have dropped of the radar due to many drying up or breaking over time and therefore have only survived in small numbers. Thankfully we have the passionate and devoted Torrey Hughes to come to the rescue as Hughes Wave Machines have been instrumental in rejuvenating vintage machines as well as designing his own Wave Cell that is available for sale in many colour options. Torrey's also developing full Wave Machines of his own design which I can only hope comes on sale as soon as possible. I've been following this wonderful man's work for years now and have had the pleasure of buying a vintage machine off him as well as one of his Wave Cells (which I have customised onto my vintage base). If you have any interest at all in Wave Machines be sure to Like and Follow his page on Facebook. It's been a fascinating journey thus far and promises to be even more so in the future. 

My Wave Machine is easily one of my most favourite objects I own, I've had it for around three years now and always remain fascinated by its movement and colour. These are one of the penultimate 80s Objet D'Rad and I hope you've found my Wave Machine fascination an interesting little insight into one of the lesser popularised icons of decade.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Synthwave LA Gets Encrypted At The Echoplex

By Jerry Herrera

When I first began writing about synthwave, the retro revival, or however you’d like to characterize it, I honestly did not see it going further than being a small but beloved subgenre of EDM that only the biggest nostalgia nerds listened to. That was fine with me honestly. The community was made up of producers and artists who were also fans of each other so there never really felt like anyone was “above” anyone else, so to speak. But as the fan base grew and word started getting around, different producers started getting recognition on blogs, in mixtapes, getting featured in video games, movies of all budgets, and while I wouldn’t say the “scene blew up,” it was apparent that we were all aboard a train that was gaining momentum.

One thing that was a bit tough to nail down, however, were live performances. Sure we saw an odd DJ set pop up here and there but these were guys and girls creating in their bedrooms and basements, fans of the ‘80s look and sound that were deeply talented, but perhaps not performers or set up to perform. Also, the music itself was more stylistic and thematic, telling a story moreso than getting people moving. Not that there weren’t some danceable pop and italo disco homages, but I daresay the music was fueled by film and artwork, not club sweat.

Still, I think we all as fans and producers wondered at the possibility of live shows. Either for the glory of wearing sunglasses at night and making vintage synths wail, or just so we would be able to gather together for a common interest, many people began putting plans into motion.

Enter Synthwave LA. Originally another group of like minded retro freaks and artists on Facebook, it began the way many other groups did, as a space for artists and fans alike to connect and share music.  It was founded by Ernest Mancia and Julie Chang, whom you might also know as Future Holotape. This talented duo not only sought to produce their own music, but to promote their local music scene, as well as further the popularity of our beloved genre in general. 

It’s difficult for any artist to promote themselves, let alone an entire style of music, on their own. While I believe the synthwave community to be incredibly supportive of each other, getting Synthwave LA off the ground wasn’t easy. Ernest and Julie have done a lot of legwork promoting themselves and other artists, spending money out of their own pockets and playing small shows as much as possible. Their persistence and perseverance paid off when they met with Spaceland, a company that promotes and presents LA artists at a number of venues. Having a precise vision of what they wanted to do, they proved that they were ready for something a bit bigger in scale. The venue they’d be playing at was The Echoplex, a staple in the LA music scene. It would be oversimplifying to say that “everything fell into place” after this, but it did start a chain reaction. Ernest and Julie still had to do much of the promotion work on their own through Synthwave LA, with huge assists from Drive Radio and New Retro Wave to spread the word.

They reached out to their friends, Dance With The Dead and Protector 101 to do the show with them. Protector 101 then put them in touch with Syntax, and he was brought on board as well. Syntax then brought Joe Seifert in to do the visuals, and even though there were still a million things to nail down, the foundation for the night had been built. 

Where do I factor in all of this? I was merely a face in the crowd, a witness to the evening. The Echoplex is on Sunset Boulevard in a neighborhood called Echo Park. Over the past few years Echo Park has become a beacon for artists of every kind, partiers, drinkers, misfits and outcasts while still maintaining a bohemian harmony. It was the perfect place for this show. It was very clear the moment I walked in that synthwave appeals to all kinds of people. I have never seen a more eclectic bunch gathered together. It was oddly heartwarming to see goth cyber punks rubbing elbows with shy music nerds who were drinking with Miami Vice wannabes, who in turn were hanging out with neighborhood hipsters who were in the mood for something different.

Future Holotape
The performances themselves were more than I could have ever hoped for. Syntax perfectly crafted a retro vision with hints of modern dreamwave, drum n bass and IDM and his performance alone was worth the price of admission. Future Holotape not only sounded the part but look the part as well, facing each other but rocking the whole crowd with their impressive array of synths, denim and shades. I should mention that Ernest was performing with a slightly slipped disc, but you would have never guessed. Both Protector 101 and DWTD absolutely electrified the crowd. I spent more time looking at the faces of awe than I did the artists.

One paragraph won’t do the night justice but there is plenty of video and photographic evidence, thanks to Allan Zepeda. Apparently the night would not have been at all possible without Manny Montiel, who did everything from loading and unloading gear, setting up and running the merch table, and DJ Codexx who kept things going in between sets. Another thing that was apparent was just how much people love the music. After each performance, every artist that came offstage and went to grab a well deserved beer was met with handshakes and praise, and they themselves were excited to see the other performances. It was a personal high water mark for me personally, to be able to meet the people I’ve written about, who I’ve come to admire, who are actually great drinking buddies.

Protector 10
April 22nd, 2016 really was a monumental night. It was our night. The talent was there, the people were there, the overall mood was full of positivity, and we showed the city and the people that said yes to Ernest and Julie that this is only the beginning. Indeed, Ernest and Julie are working on launching their own label, Room Robot Records. Not stopping there, they hope that the momentum from the Echoplex show will lead to more shows, and more money to bring out other synthwave acts.  Julie jokingly wants to have a synth festival (jamboree?) but I don’t see why not someday. One thing she said is for sure, LA is ready for synthwave.
Dance With The Dead
I’d like to thank Ernest and Julie for all their hard work and James, Jake, Tony and Justin for mind blowing performances. Oh, and shoutout to Street Cleaner for actually being a cool dude who reigned in his urge for vigilante justice long enough to hang out with me. Of course, all of this would not have been possible without Synthetix and every other like minded writer, producer, blogger and fan out there who has a passion for synthwave. I can’t wait to see what we achieve next.

Keep up with all the most rockin happenings with Synthwave LA on their Facebook page here.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Synthetix Sundays

Marko's back with another massive edition of Synthetix Sundays this week, only on Radio Pure Gently!

This week Marko has another two huge interviews as Absolute Valentine and Compilerbau both come by for a chat about their recent musical accomplishments.

The playlist is going to be a massive ones and regular segments from Paul Dress2Kill Daily and Dallas's Synhetix Spotlight are programmed for your maximum pleasure. Due to my internet being out for most of this weekend there won't be a Quality Time With Shithouse this week, but next week's SPECIAL edition QTWS segment will hopefully make up for it!

Marko's got tonnes of giveaway download codes and you can expect all the most rockin tunes imaginable to keep your weekend moving all he right ways.

Tune in to Synthetix Sundays LIVE on Radio Pure Gently here, at 10pm Perth, Australia time. Please click here to find out when this is in your part of the world. As always the fully downloadable show will be posted here on Monday.

Thursday, May 12, 2016


Lee Rosevere - Synthcronicity

By Andrew B. White

Synthcronicity is the newly released EP by Vancouver’s Lee Rosevere. If Sellorekt/LA Dreams had any competition as far as releases go, then Lee Rosevere is his nearest rival with over two dozen titles to his credit. Granted, not all of those are synthwave, but many are electronic and ambient based with titles like “Music for Podcasts” and “Music For Malls” – you get the picture. However, Rosevere also has a dedicated synthwave project called Rocket Maxx with two releases under his belt, so there is definitely a large proliferation of music stemming from his fingertips.

Synthcronicity contains five songs in total and of these two (‘Dreaming’ and ‘User Friendly’) are reworks of older songs. First track ‘Dreaming’ (Body Electric Mix) gently drives a long with a melodic synth lead, some bubbly arpeggiations, chunky synth drums and spoken vocal samples. Second track ‘Neon Skies’ is slower and sparser and rises and falls with layers of instrumentation. ‘User Friendly’ (Future Mix) is features more arpeggiated synths and a restrained four-on-the floor beat that successfully puts it into outrun territory. ‘Telecom’ steps over into a more lightweight pop vibe and, very much like the title suggests, could be telephone hold music or the backing on an ’80s demonstration video. Last track on the EP is ‘Star Song’ and reminds me of William Orbit’s “Strange Cargo” series, pushed in a synthwave direction. This track also features a spoken word sample of Ruth Golding reading excerpts of the audio book "Star Song” by Gladys Cromwell, giving weight to the William Orbit comparison.

Synthcronicity is a ‘friendly’ and inviting EP, very much in the major key of things with great melodies. A little light in the dark and most enjoyable. I’d definitely check out Rosevere’s other releases to hear more of his varied and interesting work.

One other thing about Rosevere’s is that most of his music is released for free under Creative Commons (or name your price via Bandcamp) and much of it can be used royalty free in some instances.

Synthcronicity is available on Bandcamp here and the Free Music Archive here. If you are quick you can also get one of five (yes, only five!) cassette copies of the EP which interestingly enough have been dubbed in real time to one side of the tape only. Each of the five cassette shells comes in a different color!

Paradise Walk & Morgan Willis EP

By Lachie Hunt

Cardiff based synthpop duo Paradise Walk teamed up with Morgan Willis to bring us Paradise Walk & Morgan Willis EP, a four track synthpop slice of bliss.

My favorite track on the release by far is Last Call. It does such a good job at emulating the 80s sound that I could imagine it playing on the radio in the mid eighties. Reverb vocals and acoustic guitar mixed with beautiful synth help to create an amazing atmosphere. The little guitar solos through the song are fantastic too, keeping the groove rolling.

My other favorite is Knife Edge (Against it All). I love it for the same reasons as Last Call, but the guitars are used more repetitively here, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The chorus of this track is legendary, some of the best vocals and lyrics I've heard in the synth scene.

This EP reminded me of Sebastian Gampl's Winner, although with a much more modern approach to production and a more poppy feel. Still very much worth your time and money. Paradise Walk & Morgan Willis EP is available through Paradise Walk's Bandcamp for £5 here, and available to stream on Soundcloud here.

Kattch - Retrorush EP

By Rick Shithouse

Kattch's latest EP is a transfixing and mesmerizing work that does a magnificent job of taking small things and turning them into something vastly epic. How epic? The fact the title track has a 'Side B' goes to show how deep Kattch's investment is in his music. Coming from a very Tommy-esque school of 80s inspired synth Kattch works the subtleties and nuances of his melodies into sprawling monolithic creations that completely enrapture the listener. 'Retrorush' itself is as hypnotizing as it is addictive as the synths and percussion take you on a journey far from where you currently are. The 'Side B' version of this piece adds some battlefield sounding samples, which definitely surprised me, while the track gets tweaked into slightly different shades of itself. I fell in love with this track on first listen and I find myself going back to revel in its thoroughly delightful details time and time again.

Following from the duo of Retrorush's Kattch then moves into the atmospheric 'Hopes (VIP)'. It builds with beauty and that familiar vastness into a far more experimental range that is refreshing and alluring. The synthscape swirls and fades into and unto itself with a percussive track that has more in common with modern hip hop than anything traditionally associated with 80s inspired synthwave music but it works. The sparseness of the scene painted allows for these avant garde mixtures to blend and support each other throughout the story which climaxes with a deep and triumphant final phase.

'RT-85', although clocking in at the shortest track, became an instant love affair with me as the Tommy on Com Truise aesthetic created an absolutely wonderful synthscape. The heavily accented percussion and utterly bewitching modulation kept me spellbound for its duration. A magical and completely enthralling experience.

Rounding out the EP is 'Modern Vintage' which is also given a remix by Dashcam. It's kind of ironic that 'Modern Vintage' is one of the more complete songs on the EP yet isn't quite as experimental as the previous expositions. Nonetheless this track hits superbly hard when lands as the beat thuds with impossible power and the synth melodies layer in with beauty, feeling and a sense of awe. The Dashcam remix changes the geography of the track with a distinctly Asiatic piquancy that really gives the story an entirely different tone and direction. Definitely a remix that respects the original's intention and story albeit with a different cast and location.

Kattch's Retrorush EP is available in the usual array of digitally downloadable formats via Future City Records' Bandcamp page here and is definitely one of the most complete and worthy EP releases I've had the pleasure of listening to in recent times. Definitely worth your expenditure of time and currency.

De Lorra - Chances
By Sarah Halloran

De Lorra - Chances EP De Lorra may be fairly new to the scene, but trust me, this is one artist that I hope we are going to see much more from. There’s been talk this week on a few Facebook threads of synthwave producers churning out the same sounds, and not pushing themselves musically, or the genre to new dimensions. I don’t know about that, but I can tell you that De Lorra has it all sussed, and has worked out the formula for creating stunning track after stunning track. Flawless production, a nose for what will hit us right in the feels and a few little surprises are all there on Chances. So, without further ado, let’s dig deeper to see what makes this EP really stand out.

Title track ‘Chances’ has that dreamy, nostalgic air we all love so much about the genre. Synths melt like butter and build up into heavier, punchy bass and crisp kicks, slowly fading out and teasing us with what’s to follow. Boom! No hanging around here, and we’re straight into the thick of things with ‘See You Again’, a track awash with beautiful reverb, a simple, yet captivating lead synth, and a surprisingly aggressive bass that pulls it all together perfectly. ‘License To Drive’ is a fun track featuring a catchy little melody, and a nice percussion arrangement with plenty of expertly positioned claps, and a tight and dominant kick drum that gives this track some real meat on the bones. ‘License To Drive’ does exactly what it says on the packaging and is just begging to be pumped out through your car windows.

Final track on the EP, ‘The Night Was Ours’ is my favourite, and boy does it take some wonderfully sneaky twists and turns! I love it when a track lulls you into a false sense of security and surprises you with something completely out of the blue, and De Lorra certainly delivers here. Starting off with beautiful, soaring synths and a lifting melody, we’re suddenly thrown into pounding, choppy bass that splinters away into an almost darksynth vibe that would be terrifying on its own, but which works so well with the melody swimming gently above it. Great stuff! In terms of production and sound, for me De Lorra stands up there with greats like Timecop1983 and FM-84. If you’re looking for beautifully arranged and produced synthwave that sneaks in something a little unexpected, check out ‘Chances’ and De Lorra’s other stunning releases on Bandcamp here.

Memphis Raines - The Enforcer

By Rick Shithouse

Memphis Raines's style of hugely movie influenced soundtrack synth work has manifested itself into The Enforcer EP and it's never sounded better. This producer in particular really 'gets' how to structure soundtrack pieces that illustrate scenes and emotions while keeping his synthscape heavily rooted in traditionally 80s aspects. Much like the master of this genre, Professor Zonic Zynth, Memphis Raines has really made his own full soundtrack for a movie that only exists in our imaginations. And though technically an EP this is definitely a full score in every sense.

The scene is set with the title track (originally teased nearly a year ago) and the music is built deliberately and slowly with aural texture bending around darkened structures; leading into brighter and lighter passages. There is a lovingly crafted humanity in the lead melody that is then used as a device to explore more dangerous scenarios. Memphis Raines has a real talent for understanding the necessary timings in soundtrack music like this and is never keen to show all his cards too early and paces his works in an exemplary manner.

This theme continues into the far more intimate yet also foreboding 'A Bullet For Memphis'. This slow motion collapse is full of poignancy and emotion. A serene beauty emanates from the chords as the colour slowly fades from the image and a hand lays motionless on the cold, hard concrete.

'Wall Of Fire' takes a new direction with a more Jeean Michel Jarre flavour attached to the proceedings in some elements and the percussion really does all the story telling. The melodies hang of the drums in a way that magnifies the drama spectacularly.

The more muted presentation of 'Desert Eagle' details the hot, barren wasteland where a man's resolve is all he has. A hugely inspirational synth lead brings to mind a Death Valley montage complete with ritual katas from the leading hero against a saturated orange sunset. They tried to kill him once; that's the last mistake they're going to make. Vengeance builds with satisfying determination through the melodies and you just can't help be uplifted by them.

The Enforcer finishes with the climactic slow burner 'Payback'. The plotting of the pieces to ensure revenge is exacted as quickly and as deadly as possible, rising with more and more power before exploding. Guitars shred with avenging force as a one man army rocks the syndicate to its foundations. Memphis Raines leaves no stone unturned and no justice undelivered with a final act of classically trained vendetta action.

The Enforcer EP is available for download on Memphis Raines Bandcamp page here at a name-your-own-price point. So dig deep and make sure The Enforcer gets the sequel it richly deserves!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Synthetix Telegenic

By James Mann

The last several weeks have seen a flurry of activity in the Synthetix Telegenic headquarters. Apart from a consecutive stream of outstanding releases blasting through headphones worldwide, we have also seen an output of video production that is setting phasers to stun. Remarkable visual achievements which continue to push the boundaries in editing and high end production, gracing our screens and speakers with hard work and remarkable confidence.

These artists have managed to put themselves into a class of their own, having the drive and talent to assimilate beautiful and moving compositions with remarkable representation, storytelling and awe that transcend so much more than what is experienced in our daily lives. Those who made the list of Synthetix Telegenic’s spectacular second edition have something special, and like the almighty Ferris says, life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. Do yourself a good one, and don’t miss these gems.

#5 Miles Prower “Who Needs Real Life Anyway”

Every so often an artist delivers not just a lasting and memorable piece of music but also finds a way through collaborative effort to have a true marriage of unique and compelling visuals, taking the listener on a journey in sight and sound. This UK artist manages to release an intimidatingly solid video which shows just how well a pairing can work together.

Commissioning the graphic artist Beeple for his sensational track Who Needs Real Life Anyway, Miles Prower delivers on all fronts and states a claim as one of the freshest and most capable producers in the scene. The track itself is pure and emotive 80s. Through a somber chord progression reminiscent of OST work in a sci-fi journey traversing through galaxy upon galaxy, floral synths dot the lead in arpeggiated fashion and build for a monumental piece. With each measure the intensity grows and I get an immediate impression of steadfast and building energy, as it’s clear this artist is no novice to synthesizers and song structuring.

It’s difficult to put into words the level of inspiring imagery seen throughout the video; as the color, dynamic and movement can only be seen and not impressed upon through writing. I’ll give it a go in best synth forward fashion. Beeple (as an artist admittedly I am not familiar with) lays out space inspired realms of beauty full of movement and motion.

Each scene places the viewer in a first person perspective as you navigate through a variety of worlds. The first of which are crystalline type structures, launching into a hypnotic and sizzling journey through other dimensions. Immediately the music and visuals come together in unison as if they were made for each other. A rare and beauteous moment where both are sharing a 50/50 split in accompaniment, as the song builds upon on itself and so does the art.

I have to mention that the range of color and detail in the work of Beeple are mind blowing. I find it hard pressed to believe there’s an artist so talented out there. Fortunately Miles brings the best to the table and all my preconceived notions in capabilities are obliterated with this video. At one point you are traveling through a tubular sphere which enables you to completely get lost in the sound and imagery. What a wonderful drug. Music and art. This cornucopia of sounds and color take me into another dimension full of wonder. (I’ll try and digress on the floral prose) But it’s astounding! I can only imagine the amount of time Beeple spent on these scenarios is nothing short of painstakingly long and intense. The labor of love shines through with each frame and edit.

Prower is able to take a magnificent piece of music and find a perfect home for his authentic and pleasing blend of 80s. With a daring and immensely strong piece he has set the bar higher for artists embarking on a visual journey, as discovering and teaming up with an exceptional graphic artist just provided a near checkmate for anyone else attempting to rise to the occasion of such a stellar piece. Well done guys, the journey is tremendous and a pure delight.

#4 Neros 77 (Miami Nights 1984 - “Accelerated”)

As fast as the name suggests, it’s hard to keep up with the output of Neros77. The work ethic of this golden benchmark in the retrowave scene continually finds the most pleasing and aesthetic of ways to marry both audio and visual components. Not afraid to embark on a wide variety of moods and territory, the product of this prodigy just continues to get better and better with each subsequent and signature release. Finding and channeling venues through space, roadways, buxom beauties and far beyond is just a smattering of the subjects Neros77 tackles, albeit with the utmost craft and care.

In Accelerated, a stunningly beautiful track by the accomplished Miami Nights 1984, our hero Neros takes us on a adrenaline pumping race through mountainous terrain, each edit elevating the emotion and energy in the composition. The track begins with a powerful and almost tear inducing chord, opening up it’s oscillators for a lush synthscape that gives way to a massive kick to let you know MN84 has never left, he’s just been perfecting his sounds for an upcoming release that will likely include his best material released as of yet.

The leads and progressions in this beast of a track entail some of MN84’s most honest and heartfelt work, culminating with a guitar solo that shreds through every heartstring. Neros is in the driver seat and carefully cuts his edits to compliment the arrangement. We get a nice first person perspective behind the wheel, and the determination, energy, and flow through the screen is sensational. Something truly incredible happens in this particular edit of Neros; he creates separate editing boxes among a black screen to pop the pictures up in fragmented form. Each edit hits the beat to the nearest millisecond, and the visual roller coaster crests and depends though every peak and valley with astounding accuracy.

On a side note, I sincerely appreciate the signature logos and visuals Neros makes from scratch. There’s always splashes of color, worn VHS head effects and other surprises in his bag of tricks… but never becoming remotely cliche, it’s just the right amount of touch. He is a man who is always inspired, has a newborn baby, works full time and manages to channel his love and spirit for all of us to enjoy. He actually snagged me into the scene with a powerful Lazerhawk edit some years back, and I couldn’t be happier for him and the scene that’s grown immensely since his continual and lasting contributions.

Neros77 has been around for a while. He traces us back to when he first got involved in his craft and how Miami Nights 1984 gave him all of the inspiration needed to embark on the journey of securing the most respected editor in the retrowave scene. Well I think my main inspiration when it comes to MN84 is that for me when I think about synthwave I think about Rosso Corsa Records and MN84. After all MN84 was the first artist I encountered on MySpace back in the days around 2008-09. It's not about nostalgia but I feel the MN84 sound is one of the best things on the scene and especially OutRun themed music is some of the best things out there in my opinion. Touche Neros. We just so happen to think you are one of the best things to happen to our scene as well.

#3 Peter Zimmermann and The Partimers “Destiny”

In recent years, several artists have managed to recreate and actually embellish on something dear to the hearts of those who don’t just love electronic music, but the premium stash of the best melody lines and chord progressions ever created. Italo. Disco. The emotive compositions, dance floors and lights are forever etched in the minds of listeners who were lucky enough to experience the genre. Having the finesse, tact and execution in delivering these retro inspired pieces found in the early to mid 80s are far from common, they are actually quite rare.

Enter Peter Zimmermann. Italo king of the synthwave scene. Overstated? Not one bit. With heavy nods to Bobby Orlando, Fancy, Baltimora and the accompanying spine tingling progressions that are sorely missing from our scene, Zimmermann captivates the senses in high class Italo fashion with his extraordinary video and song, Destiny.

A beautiful and thoughtful time warp to a better time, the video opens with a signature Italo kick coupled with night lights blending with the motion of a ferris wheel. A woman donning the most authentic jean jacket, pants and hairstyle emerges in the night with haunting and memorable vocals fit for any Italo anthem. She gets situated in a nightclub, back against a mirrored wall while lights and music are the only true inspiration (and love) for her as the sonic wall of Italo energy saturates our speakers. Are my ears deceiving me? This is simply massive, the pulsating bassline and Hi-NRG emotions with that Orlando-esque lead and kick put me in the zone. Is it 1983? Who cares…It is, however pure bliss.

The tune is a personal one for Zimmermann, as the emotions behind it are well placed behind the surface. Destiny is about how it feels, when you get your heart broken by the same person, over and over again and music is the only thing that keeps you alive. The unapologetic lyrics and moods don’t just hit home for Zimmerman, but the listener as well. This lonely and distraught character finds solace in her words, and the love that “fell apart at the seems” has given her courage for a future where she will be happy. In the meantime, we get to enjoy the rapture and joy through Peter’s heartfelt song that deserves top European radio play. Tonight perhaps I can dream that Italo Disco will indeed make a comeback, and with artists like Zimmermann leading the pack this hope will likely one day become reality. From Germany with Love, as our Italo protagonist signs out with. Peter, I’ll happily counter that with, From the USA with *more* love.

#2 Diamond Field (f. Nina Yasmineh) “Neon Summer”

With an overwhelming number of artists who have jumped at the opportunity to produce music directly inspired by the 1980s, it’s easy to get saturated in the sounds which at times don’t far stray from a similar and accessible formula. Fortunately, us audiophiles of all things authentic have Diamond Field, a one man musical prodigy who embarks and delivers some of the must authentic, well produced and polished sounds from our favorite decade. The dynamics, tones and rhythms shine through in spectacular form with each track and grace our hearts and minds with nostalgia overload.

Neon Summer is a powerhouse track, something so refreshing and real; not only exhibiting the highest proficiency in song writing and structuring, but also managing to keep his sound completely unique. This track accompanies with it a memorable and smashing video, taking the viewer through the innocence and beauty of romance, regardless of risk or cost. It’s emotive. It’s beautiful. It’s a work of art that fulfills every facet of awesome when it comes to production.

Diamond Field is a busy man. Living in New York City, this artist manages to produce a continual stream of music that is remarkably sophisticated and yet simultaneously catchy and accessible. Truly a great balance to have, and Neon Summer is no exception. Teaming up with Nina Yasmineh, who provides a spectacular vocal performance that is mesmerizing and captivating, Diamond Field produces a heartfelt piece that pairs extraordinarily well with his music.

Diamond Field was set to initially shoot the video in New York City with Coney Island as the backdrop. After debating on using the vocalist for the subject as the video, Field worked something out with a friend of his in Los Angeles who happened to be getting some test video with models. After gathering footage in Santa Monica, he sent back footage for Diamond Field to evaluate. "He said if the shots were any good I’d be free to use them. Totally awesome! He even FedExed the footage on a hard drive to me. Even more awesome! It turned out that the shots were great and so were the models. As soon as I saw them together I knew this would work as a video." Indeed it did, and the results are spectacular.

The on screen chemistry of this couple enjoying and soaking up every second of life is moving, each edit bringing together a harmonious and inspiring marriage of music and visuals. The shimmering synth chord progressions, tasteful and restrained guitar shreds, warm pads and a signature kick glue the piece together for a fantastic foray into the talents of this artist. His bridge captures your ears and so does the colorized and emotional cuts of this couple enjoying each other as if they could be gone tomorrow. The editing process consisted of piecing a sequence of shots together to follow the music, adding a few stylistic filters/treatments and adjusting the speed of the clips to appear to be shot in slow motion. All of this helped to create what I think is a classic movie ‘montage’ scene which does hard back to those 80s movies but is also contemporary.

Neon Summer is a substantial contribution for the synth books. Capturing the essence of a decade with such love and emotion takes a huge amount of talent and ambition. Diamond Field has it all. Structuring premium tracks as the listener weaves through a maze of 80s, he keeps your undivided attention with effective layering, melodies and vocals (which seem to be sorely missing from a great deal of tracks) That’s a debate for another day, in the meantime I will happily press replay and drift away to the sounds and sights of the beloved Diamond Field. A+.

#1 Arcade High (Cool Inc.)

Arcade High was one of the first artists to tackle the true synthwave genre. Each track of theirs immediately played off heavy nods of nostalgia, the past, and beautiful and flowing electronica with an overall journey towards the future. Plain and simple there is something incredibly honest and inspiring about their work which has garnered the respect of many a fan and artist across the world.

Over the years they have become a familiar name for those who enjoy fantastic synth based music. Consistently producing incredibly well crafted pieces with highly emotive melodies, the group (now two strong) always delivers the best, and also manages to achieve something sadly other artists aren’t able to; the ability to evolve and grow.

When taking a good listen to past Arcade High releases, in particular Pixel Passion (which I have on rotation in my collection) there is an overwhelming sense of dedication and thought with each composition. Addicting and sensible melodies play through each song, and the results are spectacular. When I heard Ryan (the original frontman of the Pittsburgh based duo) mention and promote a new album in the works, I naturally got very excited. I was genuinely curious to see what it would sound like, would we get heavy lending to past sounds, progressions and structuring? Or would dedicated listeners experience something quite different…a powerful and momentous evolution in sound, one that places the once retrowave group into an entirely different category? The outcome is extraordinary. A true force that hones in the best in production skills combined with a whirlwind of updated AND retro sounds. It can’t get much better than this. That’s where Cool Inc comes in.

The track itself is an explosion of confidence and sounds. A pulsating electro styled bass and heavy kick layered with shimmering chord progressions all come together for an incredibly tight and danceable number. (One of my favorite synthesizers the SH-101 launches it’s bubbly magic on top to take the energy and vibes to another level.) This massive composition ushers in the Arcade High sound to a completely different level in production. Not only would this hit garner radio play, it’s hard pressed to not be aware of the time and talent put into this number. There’s only one thing that could get better than the track, and that would be the most epic in visual accompaniment. For more than several reasons, this production is hands down the top competitor in the scene at the moment.

The video is a stunning arrangement that compliments the track with an intensity that keeps you glued to the screen. It takes several views to digest the high level of awesome that is unfolding. (I believe it’s simply because the concept and execution is so amazing that it’s almost unbelievable.) I chatted with Pat and Ryan earlier in the week and he broke it down for Synthetix Telegenic. "The concept and execution were entirely by the production team (Dragon's Wake) and their incredibly skilled hands and minds. The concept was this loose idea of a post apocalyptic world, wherein a home-fitness instructor has gone mad trying to achieve and enforce body perfection. These male guards capture women and force them to work out to their old tapes, as a sort of training/auditioning thing. When somebody fails to keep up, they're presumably disposed of."

With each edit in Cool Inc., I fell deeper and deeper into the sound and moving images. There is a sense of dread throughout the video as the girls each begin to fall victim, yet the determination and coming together of the remaining potential victims turns the tables and serves up Jane Fonda workout justice. They are in survival mode. The crisp and thorough shot selection with remarkable continuity gives this piece more than just a professional feel. You are indeed in a short movie, full of terror that ultimately rewards the survivors with the most satisfying scene. (I’ll leave it to you to watch) I must give a huge congratulations to the production company who slayed the production with the finest choreography, lighting, shot choices, makeup, effects…hell this thing is a certified Hollywood production! (and shot in 4K no less)

When it comes to evolution as an artist, I will digress a bit from writing and give a small personal take on this. Having the ability to create sounds and moods you feel reflect what is inside of you is (or at least I feel should be) the primary focus. Artists I don’t believe make music solely to make listeners happy. If this is indeed the case I would predict a sad and isolating experience. There will always be inspirations and almost strong needs to take an artist away from a familiar (and to be honest) an “overused” and “predictable” sound. If each musician released work that sounded the same as the previous one, well, it does happen. Not only do critics destroy and pan the work in publications citing the “predictable and rehashed” sounds, but chances are you won’t be happy yourself with little to no development and growth in sound.

Back in the saddle…the new Arcade High I feel is their best. Pat (one half of the synthtastic team) shared this with me. "There was a consistent struggle to find a healthy balance between "Old Arcade High" and "New". It couldn't sound old and recycled, it couldn't sound too new as to alienate old fans. We needed to prove that we're able to push the boundaries of our sound and style, while showing we know what our roots are." I couldn’t agree more with Pat’s assessment. When asked the same question, Ryan offered this. "I have always been of the mindset that artists need to expand and evolve their art apart from "scenes" or "genres". Music draws emotion out of the listeners, but that emotion must first come from the artist themselves. I feel the Synthwave scene has slowly become stale through repetition and tropes. Ever since I started Arcade High, I felt I was somewhat of an outlier within the scene due to the Chiptune elements. I eventually just stopped caring, and realized that the music has always been genuine, and that's what matters. Bringing Patrick into the mix was the next step in the evolution of Arcade High's sound." As a fellow artist I find his words extremely comforting and true. There is great merit in this.

I wanted to address a bit about the video premiering on the NewRetroWave channel. I did in fact notice the reception was mixed, some commentary and banter was dismissing the video because it was not in the homogenized, retro feel that some listeners of the channel have sadly come to expect through a repetitive stream of similar sounds. The reception the video got was super mixed, which led to some amusing banter on YouTube. "At first we were a bit disheartened, but then we were kind of honored to have people give such a visceral reaction to something we created."I wanted to offer a bit more perspective on that.

As a listener and viewer I was completely blown away at the production AND music. The track itself is more than formidable and ushers in an intimidatingly strong execution of work and confidence, whereas I do believe those “boxed” in the retrowave scene aren’t comfortable accepting off the bat because they digest the same style of music without opening up their boundaries to improved sounds. I can think of a handful of channels who would have had their subscribers and listeners deliver nothing but glowing reviews towards the duo that has in fact changed the retrowave genre for the better. I hope in the future these listeners are able to expand their tastes and abilities to appreciate music that doesn’t play off the same sensibilities each and every spin. This (and in my humble opinion) may lend clarity and a bit of evidence to lend towards Ryan’s assertion that the scene may have a bit of staleness to it. Not for the lack of music getting produced, but the staunch and intense guidelines listeners need to satiate while their hand quivers over the like and dislike button on a particular channel. Having the ability to open yourself to something outside of your familiar territory will help you along in life, I hope some of these kids can catch on. (It’s what all the Cool Inc. kids are doing….yeah I did just go there) Arcade High is so much more than a like or dislike, they are the next BIG thing. Congratulations on a beautiful number one spot guys.

If you'd like to submit a video for possible inclusion in Synthetix Telegenic please contact me via email here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

FM-84's Atlas

By Lachie Hunt

California based synthwave artist Col Bennett, better known to the synthwave community as FM-84, has been around in the scene for the past year. His debut release, Los Angeles EP, was a fantastic cinematic release full of chilled out drum beats with some saxophone thrown in, and that all drenched in heavy reverb. He then took an extended break, while occasionaly posting a remix or a standalone track. These were all folded into ATLAS, his debut album.

The production quality here has been stepped up several notches, with the sound seeming much fuller and clearer while still keeping the dreamy vibe. The main difference here from Los Angeles EP is the addition of vocal tracks, featuring Ollie Wride and When In Rome's Clive Farrington, alongside a remix of Timecop1983's collab with Josh Dally. This serves to make the album feel more like the synthpop it imitates than a modern record, which is a good thing in my book.

The most important part of an album to me is it's first impression. Enter the first track on the album, 'Everything'. Here the first impression is a beat that sounds like it was sequenced in the mid 80s on a drum machine that gently fades in to a more evolved sound similar to the tracks on the Los Angeles EP. The use of bells here is still fantastic and also incorporates more synth keys towards the end of the song. The high hat usage here is as fantastic as ever, with the velocity being used to great effect.

Now onto my favorite track from the album, a sentiment many people seem to share. 'Running In The Night' is the first in a set of three collaborations with British synthpop singer Ollie Wride. The song is drenched in reverb and background vocals, giving it an almost epic feel, before transitioning back into quiet stuff. As a whole the track almost feels like some of St Lucia's work from their latest album. Here though it feels much more close to the 80s sound, due to the the heavier use of synths and reverb. The lyrics are incredible too, they seem to fit the music incredibly, calling back some of the pop greats of the eighties.

'Tears' is a track that really lives up to its name, the music conveying heaps of emotion inside every second. The use of sliding and bells is excellent here. Guitar is also used to great effect here, bringing the whole thing to a more old school vibe, before anyone could load up a piece of software and make music.

'Chasing Yesterday' also brings the old sounding vibes, but the guitar work here sounds far more skilled, the guitar's arpeggio sounds magical with the soft synths in the background. When the drums do come in, the heavy layer of reverb helps to make it sound more authentic. The electric guitar parts are just icing on the cake in this one.

'Let's Talk' is actually a remix of Timecop1983's song from one of his albums, featuring Josh Dally as a vocalist. As a remix it works quite well. The original is fantastic too, so this is more of a conversion into FM-84's more cinematic style.

Every time I listen to a new album there's always a song or soundbyte burned into my brain. In Atlas, that soundbyte is the intro to 'Arcade Summer'. Here the 8 bit arpeggio fades into a song that sounds both lush and nostalgic, like sinking into a sea of synth. The various pluck synths that come in are great, with a heavy use of sliding and arpeggios. The sax from 'Delorean' returns, filling the track with almost too much cheesy emotion. Luckily it feels like just the right balance.

Next up is a pair of vocal tracks featuring Ollie Wride, the first of which being 'Wild Ones'. This one flew under my radar at first, but after giving it another listen it grew on me. The vocals are as powerful as ever, with more of FM-84's influence in the song itself. The use of synth keys are simply beautiful here.

To contrast to this track, 'Don't Want To Change Your Mind' is a classic RnB song, with small amounts of synth thrown in. The only real synthwave influences here are in the reverb and bells, both of which are kept mostly low key. The tune is fairly downbeat, described by Col as a 'slow jam'. It certainly fits this description, however part of me wished there could be a less quiet section, but the end of the song is enough really. This song was also able to find mainstream appeal after it's inclusion in the Fresh Finds spotify playlist, where it recieved over fourty thousand plays.

The title track 'Atlas' is a short interlude, comprised mainly of vocal humming and light brass, with larger pads coming in towards the end. As an interlude it works great, with each second filled with effort and time, however it isn't a song I would go out of my way to listen to but in this context it serves its purpose well.

'Jupiter' is what I would call the instrumental feature of the album. It has an ambient feel, mixed with something like Tangerine Dream and strong punchy drums. The vocal background returns here later on in the song and helps to fill out the song's sound. It really sounds like a more evolved soundtrack song from the 80s, trancending synthwave and the artist himself to create a connection to a time that never existed.

The closer is 'Goodbye'. The aptly titled song features Clive Farrington on vocals. The song stays subdued for the most of its running time, but there's a fantastic saxophone solo at the end that combines itself with the vocals and manages to create a synthpop track that is much closer to something made in the 80s than something made today.

The spirit of synthwave today is to give a modern context to what we loved about 1980s synthesizer based music. In my opinion, Atlas is the one of the best examples of this today. It feels authentic, and detailed. The release is diverse, hitting RnB, soundtrack, synthwave, and synthpop.

FM-84's debut album ATLAS is available on Bandcamp here as well as  Soundcloud, iTunes, Spotify, and the majority of other music distribution platforms. This album is very, very highly reccommended from Synthetix.FM.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Synthetix Sundays

Marko's back with a hot new episode of Synthetix Sundays to thrill, chill and cure your ills!
So swallow the pill and say you will rock it until time stands still! Only on Radio Pure Gently!

This week's show is a thoroughly ridiculous SEVEN hours of amazing music and sterling interviews with Marko chatting to FM-84 and Dream Fiend about their totally rockin new releases.

Regular segments with Paul Dress2Kill Daly, Quality Time With Shithouse and Dallas' Synthetix Spotlight are sure to keep entertained, informed and excited!

Copious amounts of giveaways and the hottest music from the last two weeks are going to rock you to the core. Be sure to have an emergency crew on standby; cause after seven hours of this intense pleasure you'll be sure to need medical attention!

Tune in to Synthetix Sundays LIVE on Radio Pure Gently here, at 10pm Perth, Australia time. Please click here to find out when this is in your part of the world. As always the fully downloadable show and featured Quality Time With Shithouse tracks will be posted here on Monday.

Quality Time With Shithouse feature tracks:

Rock The Rise Of The Synths Documentary On Kickstarter!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Dream Fiend's Electric Isle

By Andrew B. White

If you have been following the synthwave scene over the last year or so, Melbourne Australia’s Dream Fiend probably needs no introduction. Primarily making a name for himself with a steady handful of singles, collaborations with the likes of Mythical Vigilante, and remixes for a long list of other artists including Miami Horror, Droid Bishop, Abelard, Phantom Ride, Killstarr, Futurecop! and Diamond Field (full disclosure- that’s my artist name so maybe I’m a little biased!). Dream Fiend is also half of the group Starbound along with fellow Aussie synthwave act Killstarr.

Electric Isle is the debut EP from Dream Fiend (or maybe it’s more of a “mini album” with seven tracks and no additional remixes). The Dream Fiend sound has always centered around several core attributes: upbeat, fun, melodic and solidly produced. The self-titled lead-off track on the EP reinforces all of these traits and ‘Electric Isle’ is indeed classic Dream Fiend. Synth melodies abound over a solid rhythm section that forces you to want get up and get down. It’s the sort of track that brings on instant feelings of good times and has ‘synthwave’ written all over it.

The second track ‘Night Flight’ maintains this energy while stepping things up a notch. It features a synth lead that reminds me of ‘Valerie’-era Steve Winwood, and the song itself hints at elements from Daft Punk’s “Discovery” album. It’s a feel-good night flight. ‘Morning Light’ pulls-in the funk and features Dream Fiend on the vocals, accented by re-sampled vocal hits for a bit of an Arthur Baker ‘A-E-I-O-U’ workout.

The straight vocals are then swapped-out for a Roger Troutman talk-box on ‘My Electric Heart’ which yet again brings some Daft Punk comparisons, along with a music bed akin to Mylo (remember him?) I’m of the opinion that this track somehow sublimely manages to combine synthwave/outrun with 2000s dance floor styles. Maybe this is a new sub-genre we could call ‘vocal club OutRun’? In any case, it works.

Moving on over to the instrumental ‘Indigo’, a light funk/synth workout featuring guitar by Matt Kwid that makes a complimentary segue into ‘Joyride’ for more of the same. Both of these tracks would make for excellent video game placements or backing on an ‘80s instructional video. ’Plateau’ literally ends the album with one – a plateau of sound akin to an introduction to a song from the late ‘80s club scene – think 808 State (and you can hear the bird samples already).

Overall, like any Dream Fiend release, there is a sense of positivity here, of the enjoyment of life and good vibes through listening to music. This may sound a bit twee, but the cute and fluffy Dream Fiend “cloud guy” logo graphically represents the Dream Fiend modus operandi. The music is damn catchy, often rather funky and always expertly arranged and produced. The tracks are lush but never cluttered.

What occurred to me over the course of listening to Electric Isle is that it goes on a stylistic journey whilst retaining a cohesive sound. This is of course not uncommon within the synthwave genre – with all the varied styles that are ‘80s music, artists are often influenced across the board and combine a number of genres together, or alongside each other. My thoughts were confirmed when I asked Dream Fiend about the idea behind Electric Isle:

Dream Fiend: “Electric Isle is a concept album which is intended to take the listener on a journey to find that inner happy place. In Dream Fiend’s world, this place exists on another ‘plane of existence’ and he stumbles upon it. Dream Fiend assists humans and other lifeforms while in their dream state to ensure their dream is a delightful one.

The goal behind this EP was to try and create a body of music where each was different to the next but also felt cohesive as a group. That was the hardest challenge. In the end I took a few risks like including fusions of styles that don’t really exist yet and also throwing down my own vocals. I wasn’t sure how it would be received but I'm really glad that people can appreciate it and enjoy it!”

It seems that Electric Isle is a whistle stop on the Dream Fiend train with many other projects on the go. In addition to more Dream Fiend music, he is currently working on the Starbound album and in the process of scoring several video game soundtracks. We can expect some exciting things then. In the meantime I’m sure Electric Isle will be getting plenty of spins.

You can get the Electric Isle EP and Dream Fiend’s previous single releases on Bandcamp here in digitally downloadable formats and on iTunes and Spotify. Electric Isle comes very, very highly recommended by Synthetix.FM.