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.

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