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.

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