Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Wavepunk Of The TCR

By Sarah Halloran

Taylor Christian Russell, also known as The TCR (can you see what he did there?) is somewhat of a veteran on the synthwave scene by today’s standards. With more releases and collaborations under his belt than The Terminator has guns, this guy knows what sounds good and who to work with. Make no mistake though; quantity has never diluted quality where The TCR is concerned, and you can always be sure of some top notch production and killer classics.

His latest release Wavepunk is no exception, and features collaborations with names that synth aficionados will definitely be familiar with, and which newer listeners really need to hear. Chris Stilz AKA Stilz and Chelsea Owen AKA Oceanside 85 are featured here, and I also need to mention Ben from the Dust Collective for doing an awesome job on the mastering side.

So, onto the album, and what has become one of my most listened to albums in recent weeks. I’m not the only one. The album has enjoyed some great success on various charts, and first track ‘Terraform’ was also featured on NRW this week. There’s a good reason for that. It’s a beauty. With it’s smooth and steady pace, percussion as sharp as a slap to the face, and glittering, sinuous synths that undulate their way through your brain, this is an epic driving track.

‘You Get Me High (Featuring Oceanside 85)’ is up next. Chelsea belts out her fabulous voice with compelling and edgy enthusiasm alongside growling guitar and high energy drums. This is a song for lovers, a song for taking chances and for forgetting the world outside exists.

And onto third track ‘In Too Deep’ we go. Okay, think F14 Tomcats pushing out onto hot tarmac, as the blood-red sun rises and the heatwaves shimmer. Heavy bass, bouncy toms and crisp kicks lead us by the hand into a howler of a guitar track. Talk to me, Goose!

Well, ‘Desert Rose (Featuring Oceanside 85) is a nice surprise. Oceanside 85 kicks things up a notch in this robust, fast-paced roller coaster packed with bass, bass, bass and strong, but sultry vocals.

‘Nightbreed’ is one of my favourite tracks on the album. It’s also one of my favourite horror movies of all time. Dark and menacing, and just like Decker, the bad man in the movie, this track jabs its sharp edges into you, tormenting you and toying with you. The TCR certainly knows how to make darkwave, and has a real knack for driving up the tension and making you want to run like your life depends on it.

If Wavepunk was a person, he would be one of your best friends. Feeling down? He’d stick on ‘Darth Spader II’, grab you by the hand, tell you to get a grip and just dance! This track is totally unexpected, and I love it when an album is a little schizophrenic and changes moods faster than Jack Nicholson in ‘The Shining’. I really must stop using so many movie references! Pumping with energy, some wicked guitar shredding and a bright, disco-fuelled lead synth, this is a song that is just begging to be danced to.

I find it impossible to listen to ‘From Underground’ without thinking of the awesome video created by The 80’s Guy - you can find it on his YouTube channel here. Taking footage from ‘The Driver’, ‘Drive’ and ‘Fear City’, the video sits perfectly with what to me is one of the most beautifully arranged synthwave tracks of all time. I have listened to this track many, many times in the past, and it’s one of those blank canvas compositions that melds itself with whatever mood you might be feeling at the time. My top track on the entire album, and possibly in the entire TCR back catalogue.

Next track ‘Death Disco (Dread Beat)’ is another foot-tapping concoction full of energy and very pleasing melodies. This track also put me in mind of an old favourite of mine, ‘Tiger Tiger’ by Duran Duran with its incredibly indulgent and rich synths.

Up next, it’s another TCR collab, and this time it’s Stilz jumping up into the saddle. Twangy guitars and eerie whistles duel it out in this western-inspired, synth-laden offering. Those things shouldn’t work together, but they really do!

Interlude time, and we’re given a brief respite with the gentle and hypnotic ‘Wicked Waltz’ before being thrown headlong into penultimate track on the album, ‘We Are Electric’. Low, guttural guitars growl out their intent as this track slowly builds upwards into a shred heaven power crescendo of epic proportions. I have no idea what that last sentence means, but, oh just take a listen and you’ll get it.

Final track ‘After The Burn’ is my second favourite track on the album, and definitely worth waiting for. If you’re a fan of Kebu, the synths here may put you in mind of his crazy yet genius stacked-synth antics, and the glorious sounds he produces. Love the drums in this track too, which have an almost live quality.

Rocking guitars, honeyed vocals, kickass synths, belting percussion and carefully selected collaborations make Wavepunk one of the best album releases this year. If you’re looking for an album with a few surprises in store, Wavepunk has it covered, and is offered Rain Dragon Records’ Bandcamp page here. It comes very, very highly recommended by Synthetix.FM.

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