Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Paper Planes On The Aquawave

By Rick Shithouse

When listening to new producers of 80s inspired synth music I often hear good intentions without the knowledge base or experience in the sounds to really back it up into something I enjoy. I do have a very critical eye/ear when it comes to new producers but I always want to encourage them to be better at what they do and improve their craft. Nothing's to be gained by being completely negative or dismissive of anothers work and I'm very aware that the more encouragement I (or anyone else) can give someone; the more chance there is that their music will become something special.

Debut releases often show promise but rarely deliver a cohesive package and it's even rarer to have the cohesive diversity that Aquawave has in his debut EP, Paper Planes. Over the course of six tracks Aquawave takes his own wonderfully restrained time to explored retro-futuristic synth spectrums and work a sublimely refined sheen over his music. There's not so much of a story tying Paper Planes together as there is a motif that allows Aquawave to work in all kinds of directions while retaining those strong, cohesive elements that bind it into one complete suite.



When it comes to the new rockers on the block they often sacrifice atmosphere and mood for energy and vibrancy. I hear a lot of music from new producers that cranks up the BPM and goes all out into OutRun mania; unfortunately with wanton disregard for the elements that actually create the tension and energy in an 80s style. When I saw 'Tokyo Ride' as the first track title on Paper Planes I internally sighed a 'here we go again..' with another soulless high energy introductory piece. But oh, how wrong I was.

Taking it's time to build and using equal amounts of mood and energy Aquawave rocks a staccato bassline that is over lit with synths and guitars in equal measure. The tone is perfect, that balance of such an instantly complex scenario is effortlessly enacted and an essence of cool washes over the track's exciting and enthralling chapters.

The air of coolness flows to all new levels in the follow up track 'Skydiver' with Aquawave really making some space allows the track's story to unfold at a serene pace that enhances the hypnotic melody enrapturingly well. A tranquil air permeates the chill vibes and a nuances of each instrument make for a tantalising experience. Following on from this is the title track, 'Paper Planes' and the suave and distinguished passages elicit a more sensual experience. Uncomplicated in stature yet grand in its elements and sounds this piece really capture the aesthetic of Aquawave's laid back grooves.

This mood continues on 'Endless Space' as Aquawaves opts for a funkier sound courtesy of the bassline and guitars; but still rocks the inner synth peace throughout the cosmic journey. 'Power Boost' adds fuel to the funk fire with more pointedly inquisitive elements leading to passages of intrigue and then winds back in a tension filled space before rockin back into sharp, vibrant focus.

The final track on Paper Planes takes a turn darker as 'Mind Control' creeps in the shadows of conniving structures with untold maliciousness on its agenda. Things never become to overpowering however and instead hint at the foreboding eeriness; rather than bludgeon you over the head with sonic violence. Even when exploring these darker ends of the spectrum, Aquawave retains his controlled and chill disposition, letting the mysteries remain exactly that.

Aquawave presents his Paper Planes Ep on this Bandcamp page here in the usually array of digitally downloadable formats. I've been hugely impressed by this release as the depth and cohesiveness of the experience is richly displayed through each track, The stories may all be self contained but Aquawave's skills in songwriting and production make for an outstandingly engaging experience across the entire release. Definitely a rising star in the 80s inspired synth scene, Aquawave's Paper Planes comes very, very highly recommended from Synthetix.FM.










Saturday, August 29, 2015

Synthetix Sundays



Synthetix Sundays is back with another special edition this week! It's the Italo Disco Special #2!! This time myself and Marko do a special extended segment on our favourite modern Italo tracks. To compliment this Marko will also be interviewing Andy Fox and Vincenzo Salvia.

Marko also has an exclusive track to air from Dress 2 Kill, plus Synthetix Spotlight with Dallas and the album of the week focus with Paul Daly.

It's going to be one awesome show!

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, August 27, 2015

Duett Crosses The Borderline

By Andrew B.White


Duett is back with their second album Borderline. The album comes a year after the debut release Horizons which was very well received and a couple of singles.

Based in the UK, Duet is essentially a one-man band with Ben Macklin at the helm. Macklin has an impressive amount of production work under his belt covering a range of styles as well as being part Cassette Club with Tom Hammond. With this new release, the high production values and depth of experience in Duett’s work raises the bar in terms of what a quality release is.



I’m not sure if the album’s title was intentionally inspired by the Madonna song of the same name but it’s a nice nod to the era that Duett seem to get their inspiration from. Like Horizons, before it the new album is predominantly instrumental but vocal tracks also feature this time around. Stewart Lockwood deftly contributes lyrics and vocals to two tracks – ‘Running Scared’ and ‘Julienne’ – creating some excellent synth pop moments. The instantly memorable opening chords to ‘Running Scared’ are timeless and lift you right off the ground. This is a bonafide hit that deserves a suitable music video (which I’m sure most listeners can already picture in their heads). If you can’t get enough of the song head to Duett’s Bandcamp and pick up the 80s-style extended dub version of the track.

The album's other vocal track ‘Julianne’ is a restrained but more up-tempo pop song where Lockwood channels a little of A-Ha’s Morten Harket. ‘Julianne’ also features electric guitars courtesy of Cassette Club’s Tom Hammond.

Borderline is not an outrun or sci-fi themed instrumental album although fans of both styles will find something to like here. None of the songs get to full-on four-to-the-floor territory apart from ‘The City’ and ‘Channel’ the latter of which slots right in to Miami Nights 1984 territory, especially with its bendy synth solo. On that note, as far as comparisons go, its best to make them with contemporary artists of which the obvious choice is Sellorekt/LA Dreams. If you are a fan of the LA Dreams, Rain Sword and Timecop 1983 you’ll surely be making room on your list for Duett, if you haven’t already.

Where Duett set themselves apart is the attention to song arrangements, the choice of sounds and setting the mood. All of these things are expertly combined with a kind of effortless musical ‘common sense’ that invokes repeat listenings and ingrains the album into your mind. This is an album you’ll come back to, not play once and forget.

Aside from ‘Running Scared’ the personal highlight on the album is ‘Provision’. This song paints the scene of driving around LA circa “Beverly Hills Cop” with its Harold Faltermeyer sound of DX7 vibes, 808 percussion and subtle synth stabs. For a point of difference it features an atmospheric vocal sample reminiscent of artists such as early William Orbit.

Of course it would be easy to roll out the standard lines of “these songs would be great in a John Hughes film yada yada”. Yes the songs are all that and more, but Borderline is evidence that if you combine the right elements – the music, the vibe, the artwork you can create a style of music that has a universal core, no matter if you made it in Antartica or Guatemala. The grey days of the UK are no exception to a sunny disposition.

To get a little more background on Borderline I asked Duett’s Ben Macklin a few questions:

ABW: Considering you produce a range of different musical styles was it a conscious decision to create the Duett sound or did it evolve on its own?

Duett: I had always produced 80s influenced music, with my Cassette Club project. Tom and I were working on music together less, and I wanted an outlet for some of the ideas I was working on. I also didn’t always want to be under pressure to produce vocal tracks either, so starting something fresh felt like something I wanted to do. It happened that on Borderline I brought Stewart Lockwood in to feature on a couple of tracks, but I have freedom to do what I want. Tom features on the guitar at the end of ‘Julienne’, so we always still work together if we get the chance.


ABW: The first Duett album was all instrumental but with Borderline you have added vocals on a couple of tracks. Given your experience with vocals would it be fair to say that is nothing new or do you see Duett focusing on vocal tracks in the future? Or is the instrumental side of things equally important?

Duett: I don’t have any set ideas when I’m making a track. Borderline could’ve been an instrumental album again if I hadn’t linked up with (vocalist) Stewart. I do think though that albums I’m influenced by have a mix of styles, textures and feelings, and that if someone writes a vocal that works I’m always open to giving it a try.


ABW: How/why did you come to use Stewart Lockwood for vocal duties?

Duett: Stewart and I have been friends for a long time, and I knew he could sing, but it wasn’t until I started working on the Duett stuff that we got talking about a collaboration. We have an almost identical taste in music, so we come at these tracks from the same place. What I like most about working with Stewart, is that his lyrics are really interesting, and he always understands what I’m trying to do with the tracks.


ABW: Duett is based the UK yet the music evokes the feeling of the west coast of the U.S. The stereotype of the UK is that it is quite grey and rainy, even in the summer, so how do you create the sunny vibe?

Duett: A lot of early 80s music in the UK was from an industrial, cold background, but it was packaged with bright videos shot in hot countries (Tears for Fears, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet), so a lot of the time I automatically think about palm trees and beaches when I think about electronic music.


ABW: Briefly, what are the most influential artists of the 80s that make their way into Duett?

Duett: The biggest influences for me are Propaganda, Arif Mardin, Paul Hardcastle, Sophie & Peter Johnston, Jam & Lewis, Art Of Noise, Howard Jones.


ABW: Considering your music shares a similar sound, do you consider Duett to be the UK’s answer to Sellorekt/LA Dreams?

Duett: I don’t think of myself as being a UK answer to anything. Those guys have got such a great sound, but I think we’re probably all influenced by a lot of the same things, and just want to make music we’re in to.


Duett's Bordeline is thoroughly a Synthetix Reference Experience and you can find it on Bandcamp here in the usual downloadable digital formats and they are now taking preorders for a limited edition cassette release.









Tuesday, August 25, 2015

AIRBORNE


By Rick Shithouse


Sunset 23 - Chrome, Palm, Drive EP



I featured one of Sunset 23's tracks off his first EP on Quality Time With Shithouse a few weeks ago, but the rest of the EP is also something worth exploring too. This producer's first foray into 80s sounds does a great job of covering different themes and moods over the four tracks and doesn't become formulaic, which is often something I find in debut EP's.

Creating a moody night time atmosphere in 'It's OK' we get breezy synths that cool things down to a sultry tone. The leads are something that really had me with Sunset 23 and his leads on synths and guitars are a huge draw, adding much energy and colour. The highlight of the EP is still, definitely, the title track with its big hooks and heavily flaunted 80s love, but 'No Rush' still has a lot to say and moves into a laid back night mode that rings with disco guitars and sweetly tuned accents on the melody. The final track, '10,000 Hours' keeps things chill and brings in some more tropical elements that flicker in beach side torches amid the fruity and fresh seaside night.

It's great to hear a debut EP that experiments more with atmosphere than energy and Sunset 23 will be someone whom I'll be following closely along his 80 synth journey. Pick up a copy of Chrome, Palm, Drive on his Bandcamp page here.




Oedo - Panic



Oedo's new EP is great little exponent of creating music channelled by direct inspirations for the first two tracks and then taking on a more experimental approach for the last two pieces. The overriding theme of 'Panic' is very well represented as a driving theme through all of them however.

Opening with the Terminator inspired 'Killing Machines' Oedo's choice of sample is spectacularly implemented and refreshing as Michael Biehn's Kyle Reese gives Dr Silberman an earful of classic dialogue. It's such a great scene that it really surprises me it's never been used before in 80s inspired synth (to my knowledge). The energy of the music stays surprisingly under control though and doesn't get nearly as explosive as Biehn, but it's the mechanical, unstoppable and deliberate pace that captures the Terminator's spirit so well.

The second track is from another 80s favourite, this time going directly to Saturday Morning Cartoon magic with Jayce And The Wheeled Warriors. This series (which I'm currently enjoying) has a spectacular soundtrack and Oedo's done a very nice job indeed of capturing the wonder and adventure of the series in 'Monster Minds'. It evolves effortlessly and brings in some totally rockin bassline progressions that will definitely have you yearning for the Lightning League.

'Halo Funk' finds Oedo going on a journey into the the unknown across a near eight minute groove that stays ambient, although doesn't stay in an 80s galaxy and feels more 90s in flavour for much of it. Parts of it remind me of the 80s Twilight Zone series music too, but I found myself longing for more vintage sounds.  'Warehouse' treads a similar path as the off kilter melodies echo around a darkened spaces and have you peering into the shadows to make out the shapes. The tweaking to the bass melody definitely has a more 90s edge to it but there's a great vibe of early 90s budget sci fi movies which certainly appeals to me. Get a copy of Oedo's 'Panic' EP via his Bandcamp page here.




Deck Rickard - Nigth City Dreams EP



I thought the days of reversing the first letters or syllables of famous 80s names was over, which I was a bit disappointed in as there were so many great names that came out of the last few years (where's some new Rolly Mingwald music?), I was always hoping for more of these amusing combinations. Thankfully, Deck Rickard is here to save us as he goes replicant hunting all over the goddamned show with his debut EP Night City Dreams.

After greatly enjoying his 'Vector Skyline ' track on the latest Future City Records Compilation I was very interested to hear what he could come up with in his own release. The Deck Rickard sound has a definite atmosphere to it which he adheres to in all four chapters of the EP. The sound has a dreamlike ambiance to it and allows his melodies to really drift into each other and rarely become a driving focus for the music. The layering of his synths is what really shines and the balance he controls through all the scenarios is highly engaging. The gauzy feel he brings to the elements captures that Blade Runner climate where everything feels like it's shot through moisture of some description.

'NCPD Pursuit' brings a more focused culmination to the story as the drama is great cranked up and the melody becomes sharply honed and invigoratingly dangerous, while the final track 'Neon Highway' tells a hybrid story that has bright details yet recedes into hazy structures that give an inquisitive ambiguousness to the story in a beautifully satisfying manner. Deck Rickard's debut EP promises much, and delivers enough to tell you a very engaging story yet I still think the best is very much yet to come from this rockin new producer. Get a copy of Night City Dreams on Future City Records Bandcamp page here.




Thomas Barrandon - OST



Thomas Barrandon has been a Synthetix.FM favourite for many years now and his work has always been an exemplary display of 80s homage. Gravitating more towards the soundtrack ends of the spectrum Barrandon's recent outing is a five track accompaniment to the Ninja Eliminator 4: The French Connection project. Although I'm unsure as to whether all these tracks on OST are from this production I've not seen anything to say they aren't and I can't find the movie to watch anywhere to prove/disprove this (but you should check Le Matos rockin Ninja Eliminator I & II here to get an idea of what you're in for).

Back to this EP and Barrandon's created two monstrously epic and atmospheric opening pieces in 'Abri 17' and 'RAM'. The former sets a massive amount of foreboding that builds to fever pitch halfway through 'RAM' when the climax builds beyond its epicentre and into a lush dimension of 80s synth magic. This continues through the more acoustically textured 'Hero' as Barrandon explores deeper tones and more modern ideas during its evolution.

This brings us to the last two tracks, and these two tracks are absolutely stunning examples of Barrandon's 80s love and musical talents. Sprawling pieces that illustrate incredible dexterity and rock like you wouldn't believe. Simply put, 'Ninja Eliminator 4 - The French Connection' and 'Feed To Kill' are killer cuts that give you everything and 80s inspired synth fan craves. These two tracks alone warrant immediate purchase, classic Barrandon rockin harder than melonfarmer.

OST is presented on Thomas Barrandon's Bandcamp page here and not checking it out immediately is doing yourself a huge disservice.










Saturday, August 22, 2015

Synthetix Sundays













It's Synthetix Sundays time again and Marko's back with a killer show full of the hottest action from the 80s inspired synth scene!

This week Marko interviews Beardmont, Vector Hold, Silent Gloves and LA Dreams!

Plus Paul Daly and Dallas with Synthetix Spotlight (there will be no Quality Time With Shithouse this week).

As usual there'll be tonnes of hot rockin tunes and a bunch of giveaways so make sure you listen live!

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












Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Stallone Jones Gets Some

By James Mann

Summer is here. Bronzed bikini goddesses line the beach. Rays of light filter through palms to reveal something much more enticing than any tropical drink or buxom beauty. Enter Stallone Jones. Finding a release that inspires and evokes such a variety of moods and emotions is increasingly rare these days. Each scene is saturated with artists producing sounds partial and similar to their counterparts, falling short of identifying a sound that is memorable and unique.

Stallone Jones's 'Get Some' not only hits the mark with incredible dynamics and proficiency for a new kind of sound throwing the listener into the comfortable bask of the most nostalgia of dance eras, but also transporting you through a land of not just gorgeous and flowing melodies, but darker and more electro/big beat themes. Quenching the much needed thirst of variety in music is real. Fortunately this one man act from Cardiff, UK provides that needed relief, and it's just as good as the first sip of that poolside summer strawberry daiquiri. Fasten your seat belts for a daytime coastal cruise and boom box poolside stereo goodness, 'Get Some' will have you satiated just as much as…Well. I had mentioned those curvy bronzed babes.



'Pastel Pink and Baby Blue' is a fitting and beautiful opener/intro track for Get Some, one that transcends imagery of Molly Ringwald in an electro discotheque. Doing the Molly Ringwald. A poignant and thoughtful melody combines effortlessly with a crunchy 8-bit sound that creates a sonic wall of 80s themed romance scenes. Impressive and colorful composition that has piqued and primed my ears for more Stallone. And this summer cruise has just only begun.

'Super/Sexy/Summer' delivers a timely sensation of sun, love, and drinks for the summer season. A beautiful arpeggiated synth filters in and gives way to an Orbital like beat and synth lead, reminiscent of some really great 90s tinged and themed dance music that has been shelved and forgotten. 'I've purposely taken myself back to the early 90s where I began to discover music, films, and girls. I've tried to inject some of that into the album. But it also has some of my most recent experiences in there, such as trips to Mauritius and Miami.' Stallone Jones knows music, as he manages to revisit a feel and nostalgia of a better time in dance music. The song crafts into an anthem of sorts, while an appropriate breakdown allows the momentum to regroup as the track culminates in a full on banger with a UK style vocal sample. Full on ear candy and one of my favorites on the album.

'Naked Polaroid' follows suit with a gritty, pulsating electro bass line and accompanying breakbeat, setting the scene for an ominous, exploratory track. Stallone Jones really switches gears and dots this gem with finessed and detailed synths. A playful and perfect balance between the dark vibes and the arpeggiated lead play into a memorable track that demonstrates Stallone's ability to venture far outside the box of synth wave/outrun, and carve a sound that combines elements of the best into one sound, and the result is spectacular. I love this track dearly.

'Slut Drop', I can't write the name without a chuckle, it only plays into exactly what Stallone wants. An unapologetic dip into the world of babes, dancing and I would dare say a pole to enable 'Slut Drop' activation. That's one of the best things about his tracks and this release, it really is up to the listener to create the visions for the track. A breakbeat blazes through with marimba, tropical sounding synths and an intermittent vocoder. The hi-hats pick up and the pulsing electro bass ramps up in intensity, creating a wonderful buildup and wall of sound that is nothing short of awesome. Fantastic track, and wonderful in the car with the windows down.

'Pool Pong Party (Mauritian Sun)' shows a more restrained version of Stallone Jones, and it's an emotional ride displaying layers of talent and influences. A smooth, delayed synth fills the speakers with a comfortable and soothing melody. I really like where this is going. Laid back drums compliment and a lead synth layers on top that will send chills through the body of any listener with 80s sensibilities. I hear a Roxy Music sound, the only thing missing is some Brian Ferry-esque vocals. A gorgeous track that has inspiration and meaning behind it. Stallone Jones tells me his recent trips to Miami and Mauritius inspired him for the smoothed out sound in this track, encompassing both awe and beauty. Without hesitation my favorite track on the album.

Suzy has the moves. As she walks down the beach men trip and spill drinks behind, yeah she knows she has it. Any guy lucky enough to talk with her can check off the bucket list for life. 'She's Got the Moves' is a catchy track that touches on the 90s sounds Stallone Jones is so familiar growing up with. A breakbeat/electro sound blasts through with a confident move while synths dance in the background. The track has a nice break where a beautiful lead emerges and the track regains momentum into an addictive, playful melody and beat creating images of sweet Suzy showing all her moves. This is one for the win, no one is getting their hands on my Suzy.

'Heaven Is A Bikini' is truly a fantastic arrangement. Stallone manages to artistically blend everything melodic about 80s inspired music and create something momentous and enjoyable. I'm hearing Orbital melodies that send you to the top of the highest mountain with emotion, as the synth work on this track is extremely detailed. I'm blown away at his ability to tap into such powerful grooves and note placement. The track breaks down and builds back for a crescendo full of vibrancy and life. I love this track, and it came in a close second for best on the album.

'South Beach Skatin'' is a banger. A dark, Crystal Method like baseline emerges with a driving beat and puts me back into the best electro from the 90s with a fresh, unique patent that feels current and even updated. Haunting and mysterious sounding synths top the darkness and come together for a sound that will get you dancing. Stallone Jones has a great ability to insert quite a few elements into each of his tracks, but never so much that it's overwhelming or too much. This piece is a perfect example of that, as the restraint and bass/synth sound choice is perfect.

Fractals of light from the disco ball hit her eyes. It's past 12 AM. Bodies gyrating on the dance floor while the deep, pulsating breakbeat and 808 percussion deliver one of the most impressive tracks from Get Some. 'Ladyboy' blends together (effortlessly) some wonderful elements spanning several genres for a track that will have you singing the melody long after it's over. It's confident. It's sexy. It was also hard not to place this as perhaps my favorite track on the album. My only reservation is the length. It's such an awesome track, I truly wanted a break down and monumental return with that ominous vocoder punching through such a timeless tune. It's emotional. It's raw. OK, fine I'll stop talking about 'Ladyboy'. It really is that good.

'VHS Voyeur' is a beautiful ballad that couldn't be more fitting for the end of this long summer journey. Full of pensive and thoughtful melodies, the sensual and sexy synths layer on top of a paced out rhythm that creates a more introspective and deeper side of Stallone Jones. Building up slowly and culminating in quite a powerful piece, this could be considered his chef d'oeuvre. The moans, oohs and ahhhs spilling over the track signify the end of this Stallone Jones ride. He lets you down slowly with the greatest amount of satisfaction and pleasure. Now it's your turn to make him breakfast in bed.

Get Some is truly a stellar release, one packed full of emotions, thought, and above all execution. Stallone Jones has mastered his sound, drawing from influences and themes dear to his heart, and it's more than evident throughout each of his tracks. Whether it's hot poolside days where the sun seem endless, or tucked away in the beach side cabana taking care of business, he manages to evoke such a wide variety of scenarios in the mind of the listener. Oh and the album cover. Well. That's the FIRST reason you should buy this album, after listening there are so many more. He also has a proficiency for melodies, layering, and above all…songwriting. The tracks are clever, original, unique, and ones I could hear in the background while I work or in the forefront on my stereo or in the car. That's a sweet balance to have, nothing too daring and nothing too bold. Except, well for that subject matter. Get Some? I just did.

So what's next for Stallone Jones? 'I'm already working on new tracks which will become the next LP. I would imagine that will come out early next year. I might possibly release a 4 track EP before then, but I've already got big ideas for the next album. This time round it'll feature more vocal based tracks.' Get Some is available through 30th Floor Records and is available here and the album comes very highly recommended by Synthetix.FM.




Sunday, August 16, 2015

Synthetix Sundays



It's the Synthetix Sundays Space Synth Special Number 2 this week on Synthetix Sundays!!


Marko is featuring a very special 2+ hour segment exploring the very best of 80s inspired space synth music and space themed Synthwave. City Hunter will be join him again as co-pilot in this intergalactic journey!

And as part of the segment I will interview premier Space Synth producer Anosphere, plus interviews with the OutRun and Dark Synth beast that is Castroe and a special interview with Synth Pop duo Stereospread!

Plus the usual suspects Paul Daly, Rick with Quality Time with Shithouse and of course Dallas with Synthetix Spotlight.

There's also an exclusive premier from Anosphere and heaps of download codes to give away.
Come join City Hunter and Marko as they take you on a very special voyage through the solar system and to the outer reaches of the galaxy!

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 feature tracks from Quality Time With Shithouse.





Quality Time With Shithouse Featured Tracks