Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Bart Graft's Universe

By Andrew B. White

It’s a long way to Tipperary, but fortunately, thanks to the internet you don’t have to trek all the way there to hear the terrific music of Bart Graft. Hailing from Ireland, Bart Graft has released over a dozen albums and EPs since early 2015 – no mean feat it itself but a commendable effort given the consistent quality of the material. His new album “Universe” contains a solid 12 tracks, or 15 if you count the short opening track ‘Intro’ (somewhat obligatory for synthwave releases) and ‘Palladian Sky’ and ‘Outer Limits’ which are both ‘interlude’ type tracks. If you are already a fan of Bart Graft’s previous work you’ll already know the sonic goodness that’s in store here.

As mentioned, the album starts off with the instrumental track simply titled ‘Intro’. This is a very atmospheric track focusing on spacey, late-80s Roland D-50 type sounds and the addition of a subtle vocal sample. Next-up we have the album’s title track ‘Universe’, launching big drums and tasty melodic rock guitars at you, played by Mr Graft himself. Its “action sequence” city here folks!

Bringing things back down is ‘Altitude’ – a romantic, instrumental synthpop cut which is followed by another guitar-heavy track ‘Angel’s Rose’. Here, the guitars are complimented by ascending synth pads giving the track a ‘wide-open’ feel. ‘Outer Limits’ clocks-in at a mere 1:21, a suitable number for framing a scene in a mid-80s Madonna movie, and just like 80s Madge, it’s a bit of a tease, leaving you wanting more.

‘The Blue Planet’ gets funky with a nice RnB/pop vibe, solid bassline and a small dose of hammer-on guitar. I can imagine Axel Foley mincing-about in a montage scene in “Beverly Hills Cop” with this one. With ‘At Aphelion’ things change direction completely with a drum-less, outer space, soundtrack bent. Apparently Aphelion is the point in the orbit of an object where it is farthest from the Sun. With that in mind, the music for this track is beautifully representative of it’s title.

‘Grand Designs’ evokes “Top Gun” with its half-time drums in the verses and sprawling electric guitars, before building into a solid 4/4 beat. This is a suitably romantic track that counter-balances male blow-waves with enough testosterone for action stations if need be. I’m picturing aircraft hangers, aviator sunglasses and an epic sunrise here…

‘Fields of Bezhin’ presumably takes its title from a 1930s Soviet film “Bezhin Meadow” which was never completed. The juxtaposition of 1930s communist Soviet Union and 80s music is an interesting one. Check Bart Graft’s video of the song featuring stills from the film here. 'The Killing Joke’ in an obvious reference to the band of the same name; you can clearly hear a homage their song ‘A Love Like Blood’ in this. But sans-reference, the track still sounds like a solid original with a catchy melodic synth line.

‘Fair Is The Light’ is a play-on-words, being that the track is built on the sound and feel of the Fairlight CMI (Computer Musical Instrument). This is a fun track and nails the Fairlight drum sound that is well known across so many hit songs. According to Wikipedia “Hiraeth is a Welsh word for which there is no direct English translation. The University of Wales, Lampeter attempts to define it as homesickness tinged with grief or sadness over the lost or departed. It is a mix of longing, yearning, nostalgia, wistfulness, or an earnest desire for the Wales of the past”. So it is no coincidence then that the next track ‘Hiraeth’ emulates these emotions. A flowing instrumental track with only a little percussion and a sprinkling of Enya if I may say so.

Nicely following-on from this is ‘Lowest Winter Sun’ with it’s variating rhythm and tinkling polysynth melodies. Finally, the short interlude ‘Palladian Sky’ introduces us to to ‘The Eternal’, the last track on “Universe” – a mid-tempo instrumental and similar to ‘Grand Designs’, the style of which Graft has a real knack for successfully composing.

Bart Graft pays attention where it counts in terms of song arrangement, his choice of sounds and melodic structures. He combines these with great drum programming and skillful guitar chops. I sometimes think some instrumental tracks would be better off for having vocals but that isn’t true in Bart Graft’s case. The combined ingredients result in strong instrumental songs that come together very well. When artists are consistent across their releases, fans tend to come back for more. In that regard, those who are into melodic, feel-good 80s music will find lots to like about “Universe”. It comes very highly recommended by Synthetix.FM and is available digitally on Bandcamp via Rain Dragon Records here.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Synthetix Sundays

Synthetix Sundays is finally back!! After some horrnendous failures with technology we're able to present a new show! Please bear in mind this is a couple of weeks old now, but no less relevant and we hope entertaining, only on Radio Pure Gently!

Marko's rockin and extended interview with Arcade Summer this show as well as the regular segments with Paul Dress2Kill Daly, Dallas's Synthetix Spotlight and Quality Time With Shithouse.

There's oodles of hot tracks and download code giveaways so be sure to tune in for a great time.

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 along with the featured tracks from Quality Time With Shithouse.

Quality Time With Shithouse Feature Tracks:

As mentioned in the show Synthetix.FM is partnering with Boombox Magazine. If you're a producer who'd like to have their music used in the magazine's video features please visit the site here and hook up with them on Facebook here.

The 4th Annual Synthetix.FM Rhythm Vivisection Halloween Mixtape!

As of now I'm also taking submissions for the next community mixtape. The Halloween Mixtape's become a bit of a favourite for many now and I'm hoping 2016's is rockin to the max. The stipulations are few: the music must be towards the darker end of the synth spectrums (horror synth/slasherwave/dark synth/giallo disco/etc) and have been created in the last 12 months. It doesn't have to be exclusive or unreleased, as long as it's been made since the last Rhythm Vivisection Mixtape it's all rockin.

All music MUST be sent via email to with Halloween Mixtape in the subject and the files must be MP3's (preferably 320kbps) and tagged/titled correctly with producer name and song title. Only one track per producer. Tracks must be original work, no covers, no remixes.

The cut off for submissions is Monday the 17th of October, which gives you a month to get something rockin if you don't already have something in mind.

All tracks that meet the criteria will be included in the mixtape, so please be 100% happy with your track before sending it through.

I'll be posting updates in the Synthetix Music Facebook Group so keep up with the developments there or if you have any questions please comment to this pinned post in there. And if you're new to this thing be sure to check out last year's Rhythm Vivisection Halloween Mixtape here.

Friday, September 2, 2016

A Palace For The Master Of The Universe

By Rick Shithouse

As I've well documented over the last few months I've become enlightened, entertained and entranced by a new awareness of many current bands making 80s AOR music. This is being done in such a completely authentically 80s way that it blew my mind. I finally found the the guitars and vocals to go with the synths I've been loving from the 80s inspired synth scene. Which leads us to this point; the first (hopefully of many) reviews we'll be covering on Synthetix.FM of this wonderful new generation of 80s inspired adult oriented rock.

And what an album we'll be covering first. The debut album from Palace is a virtuoso performance of 80s homage from start to finish and serves as a spectacular initiation into what all these styles are capable of. Master Of The Universe is eleven tracks of beautifully written and performed melodic rock that would fit beautifully into any classic 80s genre movie.

The lead single and title track was something I already featured on a recent Synthetix Sundays and this song on it's own made me fall in love with Palace's sound. In a true move of brash confidence the album opens with this song and sets you up for a ride that rises to a fever pitch and stays there for the entire record. 'Master of the Universe' begins with a synth loop pulled straight from an early 80s Nick Rhodes library and then rocks into huge chords and catchy riffs. The vocal performance of Michael Palace is absolutely one of the strongest aspects of this entire release and this man's voice and phrasing homages all of the best strong male vocalists of the 80s. This golden voice speaks some of the most incredibly awesome 80s cliche lyrics you're likely to hear outside of 1989 and it is an experience to behold.

Switching gears slightly the second track 'Cool Runnin'' pours even more drama into the synth and guitar maelstrom. Power, passion and fuelled by an elegantly restrained vocal performance 'Cool Runnin'' is an action/cop show/movie montage extravaganza of epic proportions. The huge chorus and story laden lyrics paint a picture that's defined by its clarity and detail. There's a genuine soul you can feel in Palace's music that resonates through each layer and especially during the solos. It's an honesty and reverence for the classic 80s sounds that comes across innately.

Following 'Cool Runnin'' is 'Man Behind The Gun'. The rock spreads deeper in this piece as the Def Leppard-esque opening salvo moves into more contemplative movements packed with dramatic vocals and uplifting melodies. The riffs are still up front but the rawness is dialed back in a similar way to how Asia worked their AOR magic in the early 80s. It's great fit for Palace's vocal style and adds another dimension to their sound.

In a similar manner, the next piece changes tack once again this time opts for the classic 80s rock ballad as their modus operandi. And what an epic it is, 'Part Of Me' is part gentle seduction and part a rousingly uplifting celebration of love. This is the 80s love theme you wish your life had running in the background. The imploring vocal performance is a huge highlight but one can never deny the awesome emotive power the synths, guitars and drums illustrate the scene with.

'No Exit' begins with a more progressive rock flavoured opening before moving into more lovelorn passages of undying love and the realisation of an eternal togetherness but not moving forward. The melancholy air of this track with its very tortured chorus add a bittersweet taste to the experience and, as always, the drama is magnified beautifully through all the band's performances.

The slower pieces on Master Of The Universe I've found to be deeply rewarding as the repeated listens bring out so many more dimensional qualities weaved into the sound. In 'Matter In Hand' we get a beautifully orchestrated anthem that shines with positivity and character while the vocals add a new kind of delivery to the story. Palace's singing becomes almost conversational and intimate yet then pulls back for an unrestrained and powerful chorus. It's inspiring and heartfelt and completely rockin to the max.

The musicianship in the band really does elevate this record beyond my expectancies. The attention to detail to every second and every instrument is like its been done by seasoned veterans and there's an element of control that exists on every sound to keep it as true the 80s as possible. A great example of this is the guitar solos. They're devoid of modern rock or metal trappings and instead make every note and chord count. This goes the same for the drums which adhere beautifully to traditionally 80s patterns with each fill and flourish being crafted with love and care. 'Path To Light' is a wonderful example of this, especially in regards to the drum performance. The soundscape just comes together with superbly refined detail without breaking decades.

'Rules Of The Game' brings back the melancholy love song but this time goes much darker and the broken hearted voice gives a soulful performance in front of the musical drama. The song is thoroughly fraught and wrought with openly wounded emotions and comes straight from the heart. It's an engaging and also pained song that will have you remembering the last person who broke your heart all too vividly.

The breaking up continues into the next piece 'She Said It's Over'. This track in particular I've really fallen love with over my many listens of this album. The beauty of the opening passages lead into some of the most eloquent lyrics on the record and the melodic refrain is the perfect foil for the stunning chorus. The hook of which runs deep and its interplay with the verse refrain is a huge payoff. The mix is intoxicating and the story is a great take on the emotional roller coaster of a break up that fails to bring closure with the raw nerves of love unable to find solace.

Things begin looking up on the album's second last track 'Stranger's Eyes'. It seems like there's a little four-track story in Master Of The Universe of a particularly bad break up and this is the final chapter. I fell in love with the begining of this track with it's beautiful acoustic details and magnificent backing harmonies. This lyrics once again recall lost love, and the familiar deja vu others can bring us. Drowning in a stranger's eyes is a powerful lyric and you'll  be reminiscing and feeling nostalgic along with Palace the whole way through.

The album finishes with a resurgent celebration of love, life and rock'n'roll after the previous chapters of hearbreak. The Palace sound is reborn with passion and fervour. The energy of this song is almost blinding in its completely overpower magic. The chorus alone is sure to inspire even the most jaded listener with its brazen postivity and unapologetically rockin presence. The back end of the track is full of gorgeous vocals that get more than a little dangerous and as the music fades out you'll be feeling just a little 'Young, Wild And Free'; guaran-damn-teed.

Palace's Master Of The Universe album is presented by Frontiers Music on their site here on CD, as well as through Amazon here and for digital download on iTunes here. You can also stream it on Spotify via the page on Frontiers Music site . This record is definitely one of my favourite musical experiences this year. As someone new to modern generation of 80s AOR sounds this has been a wonderfully rich initiation into this heavily rewarding music. If you're any kind of fan of 80s movie soundtrack singles, early 80s AOR, late 80s chart rock or any music that wears its 80s heart on its sleeve for all to see, unabashedly and shamelessly, then this is an album you need to experience. Here's to more good times and great rock'n'roll and this album comes very, very highly recommended from Synthetix.FM.