Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Synthetix Sunday

Ahoy Synth Mateys! Marko has mysteriously disappeared! Only a Who Ha has the power to save the radio day! And it'll be live! Tune in to the Radio Pure Gently channel on Mixlr here and chat along with all your fellow synthheads. This week I'm doing live Skype calls with The Northern Lights and Von Hertzog about their new releases and I've got an exclusive extended preview of one of the tracks from the upcoming The Summoner short film (which just met its goal on indiegogo!) presented by the director himself, James Secker. Plus all episode long, I'll be celebrating the 30th anniversary of Cobra with Sly Stallone. It's going to be a hoot.

And it'll all starts at 10:30am Central time, tune in LIVE here!

The Summoner 

The Summoner crowdfunded campaign on IndieGoGo has just achieved it's goal!!
This exciting project is definitely going to rock damned hard!

Get the lowdown on the project here while you're waiting for Who Ha's interview with the man behind it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Nickee B Goes Back To 1984

By Rick Shithouse

When it comes to the producers I've been ardently following and patiently waiting for them to release something there are few higher on the list then Nickee B. Much like Fanateek One, who's debut album came out last year this debut from Nickee B has been one I've biding my time for. And like Fanateek One's excellent debut record; Nickee B's debut EP delivers everything I hoped it would.

Ironically, both producers do similarly styled music with a focus on the funk and electrifying it in spectacularly 80s ways. Electro Funk is one denomination hugely underrepresented in the 80s inspired synth scene. For what reasons, I'm not sure. Perhaps it's the level of passion one needs to have for this particular denomination to ensure its authenticity? I've known many producers to do an Electro Funk track, here and there, but a full album or EP experience comes few and far between.

These street-style denominations of 80s synth music really capture a lot of what I love about the 80s and in the early 2000s I went back and educated myself on 80s pioneers of the genres; in no small part to my boombox collecting undertaking. After all, the right music is definitely required for the right machine. The originators of these sounds, like Zapp & Roger, Dazz Band, BB & Q Band, Newcleus, The Gap Band, Jonzun Crew and many others made a smooth blend of the streets and the clubs that continued on from the classic 70s funk sounds. The music is hugely bassline driven and has a suave coolness about it that is instantly identifiable.

Nickee B's homage to 1984 and the crossover between breakdance street culture and club R&B results in 6 original tracks of the slickest Electro Funk you're likely to hear in 2016. Kicking things off is 'Sweet Love' and its decidedly romantic air. The more R&B oriented Electro Funk makes for the perfect vehicle for smooth moves that make all the girls swoon. Nickee B's highly engineered sound space opens up with a wide, airy space that is driven by a tightly undulating bassline. Cymbal accents and percussion are placed in an understated manner along with complimentary synths while the vocals take centre stage. The vocal aspect is one of the most important ingredients in Electro Funk and making these work on the same high level as the music is something Nickee B's prided himself on.

The vocals of Satori In Bed is what makes this whole experience one complete whole and the delivery, tone and attitude is spectacular from track to track. The more laid back and crooning vocals in 'Sweet Love' are then given more energy and  vigour in the follow up 'Destiny'. The subtleties are what this record is all about. Smoothly choreographed instruments that offer differing shades of colours and sounds, sexily curved edges with sharp elements honed back to ensure the fit is tight but never uncomfortable. That balance is truly refreshing and when stripped back still finds the Nickee B sound pulsing with energy and vibrancy.

The title track pushes the energy levels even higher and the groove is kicked up a gear as the anthemic vocal refrain celebrates the year enthusiastically and synth star crashes, bass comets and percussive cosmic powers erupt as one into the night sky. The groove gets cut so deep you'll get lost in it and the sonic fireworks over heard enhance the experience even further.

Two instrumental pieces act as complimentary diversions on the EP with the first being 'Midnight Promenade'. In this sonically sumptuous stroll we allow Nickee B to unleash his creativity at the keyboards and illustrate a delectable range of beautiful passages. More organic piano sounds play off against sparkling synths and a golden embrace of wondrous strings make for synthual vista impossible to resist. The vibe is live and feels like an improvised jam session but then weaves an articulate and well defined story. The funk is strong but the mood is light and wistful.

Bringing back some more poppy hooks and those velvet vocals of Satori In Be, 'Cover Girl' makes for a hugely rewarding experience. The bassline hints at Yarbrough and Peoples while the percussion drives at a brisk and deliberate pace. These poppier tracks show Nickee B's true understanding of the Electro Funk genre's accessibility and you'll be hooked deeply by its innate pop magic that becomes deeply infectious.

The second instrumental track opts for darker tones that hit incredibly deeply. The emotional power of the synth melodies in this track are some of the most touching I've heard outside of a Tommy composition and the muted bassline adds an air of mystery that is absolutely entrancing. 'Night Thoughts' may lack the more obvious funk elements but the depth of presentation is an incredibly moving experience.

The EP closes out with a classically edited 80s style Dub Version of 'Sweet Love' that gives it a more dancefloor feel and opens up the elements for more exploration and delectation. A clever way to end the EP as a refrain of the lead track is definitely a worthwhile journey.

Nickee B's 1984 EP is presented by Cadence Records on their Bandcamp page here in the usual array of digitally downloadable formats. Finding funk likes this that is so authentically created with such passion and homage to the original sounds is a rarity and this EP delivers a perfect homage to those sounds with an all encompassing level of high calibre songwriting and performances. 1984 (like the year itself!) comes very, very highly recommended from Synthetix.FM.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Synthetix Sundays

Marko's rockin you all the ways you'd ever need with the final massive episode of Synthetix Sundays for this season. Marko's taking a couple of months off to head back to the U.S. so make sure you enjoy every second of this episode of Synthetix Sundays to tide you over! Rockin only on Radio Pure Gently!

We've made it a special edition for this last edition of the season as Marko and myself spend three and a half hours revisiting our favourite tracks from the Silver Age Of Synthwave. Focusing on music from the 2005 - 2011 period when much of the originators of the styles we love today came into being. We've chosen 12 tracks each featuring greats such as College, the Outrunners, Lifelike, Anoraak, Tesla Boy, MPM aka Multipac, FM Attack, Casio Social Club and many, many more. I've made sure all the tracks I've selected have never been on QTWS before, so make sure you tune in to relive those days or maybe visit them for the first time!

On top of this Marko's got three huge interviews as he rocks the mic with Kyle Resse (AKA Blooded The Brave), Italo journeyman Peter Zimmermann and the enigma Waveshaper all about their kick arse new records.

If this wasn't enough, Marko has three exclusive tracks to premier from Powernerd, Neon Shudder and Glitch Black as well as a tonne of download code giveaways for those listening live!

It's going to be one epic EIGHT hour show! So be sure to rock along and listen to Marko and myself and a new level of nostalgia to music based on an older period of nostalgia! Dive down the nostalgic wormhole with us!!

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.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Stereo Sonic Electro Rockin Mixtape 2016

As mentioned in the show I'm now taking submissions for 2016's edition of the Synthetix.FM Stereo Sonic Electro Rockin Mixtape! This mixtape is all about high energy hard rockin breakdance and street anthems. If you'd like to submit a track for it please contact me via email or message. Tracks don't need to be exclusive or anything but do need to have been made over the last year. If you're not sure what I'm after please have a listen to the 2014 and 2015 editions below to get an idea of what kind of rockin's a goin on!

Submissions MUST be in MP3 format and tagged and titled correctly. Please double check all track information is correct before sending it through. The deadline is July 4th so get rockin!

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.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Objet D'Rad

By Rick Shithouse

I've been looking forward to doing this particular Objet D'Rad for more than a year as my passion for this object in particular and the complete lack of shared knowledge about them on the internet has made it a very difficult to even begin to document. But where there's enough passion and tenacity there's a way and I finally get to share my love of a true icon of 80s style and design with you: the alluringly fascinating Wave Machine.

The Wave Machine was developed by Lava Lite, the same company who had much success marketing Lava Lamps throughout the 60s and 70s. The machine consists of a base and vessel. The vessle containing two liquids that don't mix, the colour being a water base and the clear being a spirit base. This is then mounted on a base that contains a motorised powered mechanism that gently tilts the vessel up and down; causing the fluids create waves as the inertia flows from one side to the other. The result is a very transfixing and highly kinetic aesthetic that soothes as much as it entertains.

I, personally, remembered seeing Wave Machines in a local games shop in the mid 80s. As I began collecting many things from this period that were sold as novelties, puzzles or 'undefinable' I remembered these things fascinating me in the store window and I thusly began my quest to try and get one of my very own. Little did I know, at that stage, that there were really two ages of the Wave Machine and my original discovery was right in the middle of the second wave.

Wave Machines first came about in the mid 70s and were advertised in many catalogues of the day with Lava Lamps and other kitschy classics. These Sears Wishbook pages from 1979 and 1980 are the earliest sightings I've come across at retail, but prior to this a Wave Machine can be seen being used as a thinly disguised prop in numerous episodes of Space 1999 from 1976. Ironically this first introduction of the Wave Machine seemed far less enticing to the general public and history proved that it was released well before its time

For it wasn't until the mid 80s that the Wave Machine received new appreciation and adoration. This definitely came in part from the likes of catalogue stores such as The Sharper Image that seemed to all of a sudden give this object a time and place that was incredibly relevant. This ad from April 1986's The Sharper Image catalogue speaks volumes and now it appeared the Wave Machine had found its true home.

Exactly the same item, marketed in much the same way but now given a time and audience that appreciated these wondeful items and embraced them as truly distinguishing objects of taste, lifestyle and status. And it didn't take long for them to start appearing in music videos and movies and TV series. A spectacular shot, which was the jarring epiphany that ignited my fascination, is showcased in the Eurogliders 'We Will Together' video from 1985. And although I can't provide visual evidence a Wave Machine also appears in an episode of Miami Vice, if I manage to see this again in my rewatching I'll be sure to include it in this post at a later date.

Once one begins 'looking' for Wave Machines I began seeing them in lots of other places inadvertently and it seems the 1988 was one of the high points for Wave Machines to appear in movies. 1988's 80s-design-tastic classic Remote Control focuses on a beautiful Wave Machine in its opening shot, replete with other icons of 80s design.

And revisiting the classic Miracle Mile, also from 1988, one is also seen on the museum counter in its opening scenes.

Perhaps the most famous role of a Wave Machine comes from the 1990 action classic Die Hard 2 where a Sharper Image-alike store in the airport makes sure the Wave Machine is pride of place. Indeed, these two frames are capture seconds apart and it becomes obvious the Wave Machine has moved from the podium in front of the counter to being placed direcrtly on the floor. Whether it be a continuity error or somehow intentional, it certainly makes sure the contrast of the public in panic and the calming waves of the undulating Wave Machine don't go unnoticed.

Thankfully the Wave Machine has not been relegated entirely to history. The 2010 series 'In Treatment' featured a Wave Machine during its introduction and also as a prop in the office. If you look hard in many place you'll see Wave Machines. Indeed, how many hundred times had I enjoyed the video for Stardust's 'Music Sounds Better With You' before I spotted one on the top of the bookshelf in the family's living room.

The sale of Wave Machines continued well into the 90s with numerous variations being produced, including rounder cylindrical models, others with floating objects such as dolphins and even some models with ocean sound effects built in to compliment the visual display. The original style rectangular Wave Machine was also sold in different sizes throughout its lifetime, some up to 30 inches long.

Wave Machines are certainly one of the true icons of the 80s, albeit an unheralded one. These wonderful objects may have dropped of the radar due to many drying up or breaking over time and therefore have only survived in small numbers. Thankfully we have the passionate and devoted Torrey Hughes to come to the rescue as Hughes Wave Machines have been instrumental in rejuvenating vintage machines as well as designing his own Wave Cell that is available for sale in many colour options. Torrey's also developing full Wave Machines of his own design which I can only hope comes on sale as soon as possible. I've been following this wonderful man's work for years now and have had the pleasure of buying a vintage machine off him as well as one of his Wave Cells (which I have customised onto my vintage base). If you have any interest at all in Wave Machines be sure to Like and Follow his page on Facebook. It's been a fascinating journey thus far and promises to be even more so in the future. 

My Wave Machine is easily one of my most favourite objects I own, I've had it for around three years now and always remain fascinated by its movement and colour. These are one of the penultimate 80s Objet D'Rad and I hope you've found my Wave Machine fascination an interesting little insight into one of the lesser popularised icons of decade.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Synthwave LA Gets Encrypted At The Echoplex

By Jerry Herrera

When I first began writing about synthwave, the retro revival, or however you’d like to characterize it, I honestly did not see it going further than being a small but beloved subgenre of EDM that only the biggest nostalgia nerds listened to. That was fine with me honestly. The community was made up of producers and artists who were also fans of each other so there never really felt like anyone was “above” anyone else, so to speak. But as the fan base grew and word started getting around, different producers started getting recognition on blogs, in mixtapes, getting featured in video games, movies of all budgets, and while I wouldn’t say the “scene blew up,” it was apparent that we were all aboard a train that was gaining momentum.

One thing that was a bit tough to nail down, however, were live performances. Sure we saw an odd DJ set pop up here and there but these were guys and girls creating in their bedrooms and basements, fans of the ‘80s look and sound that were deeply talented, but perhaps not performers or set up to perform. Also, the music itself was more stylistic and thematic, telling a story moreso than getting people moving. Not that there weren’t some danceable pop and italo disco homages, but I daresay the music was fueled by film and artwork, not club sweat.

Still, I think we all as fans and producers wondered at the possibility of live shows. Either for the glory of wearing sunglasses at night and making vintage synths wail, or just so we would be able to gather together for a common interest, many people began putting plans into motion.

Enter Synthwave LA. Originally another group of like minded retro freaks and artists on Facebook, it began the way many other groups did, as a space for artists and fans alike to connect and share music.  It was founded by Ernest Mancia and Julie Chang, whom you might also know as Future Holotape. This talented duo not only sought to produce their own music, but to promote their local music scene, as well as further the popularity of our beloved genre in general. 

It’s difficult for any artist to promote themselves, let alone an entire style of music, on their own. While I believe the synthwave community to be incredibly supportive of each other, getting Synthwave LA off the ground wasn’t easy. Ernest and Julie have done a lot of legwork promoting themselves and other artists, spending money out of their own pockets and playing small shows as much as possible. Their persistence and perseverance paid off when they met with Spaceland, a company that promotes and presents LA artists at a number of venues. Having a precise vision of what they wanted to do, they proved that they were ready for something a bit bigger in scale. The venue they’d be playing at was The Echoplex, a staple in the LA music scene. It would be oversimplifying to say that “everything fell into place” after this, but it did start a chain reaction. Ernest and Julie still had to do much of the promotion work on their own through Synthwave LA, with huge assists from Drive Radio and New Retro Wave to spread the word.

They reached out to their friends, Dance With The Dead and Protector 101 to do the show with them. Protector 101 then put them in touch with Syntax, and he was brought on board as well. Syntax then brought Joe Seifert in to do the visuals, and even though there were still a million things to nail down, the foundation for the night had been built. 

Where do I factor in all of this? I was merely a face in the crowd, a witness to the evening. The Echoplex is on Sunset Boulevard in a neighborhood called Echo Park. Over the past few years Echo Park has become a beacon for artists of every kind, partiers, drinkers, misfits and outcasts while still maintaining a bohemian harmony. It was the perfect place for this show. It was very clear the moment I walked in that synthwave appeals to all kinds of people. I have never seen a more eclectic bunch gathered together. It was oddly heartwarming to see goth cyber punks rubbing elbows with shy music nerds who were drinking with Miami Vice wannabes, who in turn were hanging out with neighborhood hipsters who were in the mood for something different.

Future Holotape
The performances themselves were more than I could have ever hoped for. Syntax perfectly crafted a retro vision with hints of modern dreamwave, drum n bass and IDM and his performance alone was worth the price of admission. Future Holotape not only sounded the part but look the part as well, facing each other but rocking the whole crowd with their impressive array of synths, denim and shades. I should mention that Ernest was performing with a slightly slipped disc, but you would have never guessed. Both Protector 101 and DWTD absolutely electrified the crowd. I spent more time looking at the faces of awe than I did the artists.

One paragraph won’t do the night justice but there is plenty of video and photographic evidence, thanks to Allan Zepeda. Apparently the night would not have been at all possible without Manny Montiel, who did everything from loading and unloading gear, setting up and running the merch table, and DJ Codexx who kept things going in between sets. Another thing that was apparent was just how much people love the music. After each performance, every artist that came offstage and went to grab a well deserved beer was met with handshakes and praise, and they themselves were excited to see the other performances. It was a personal high water mark for me personally, to be able to meet the people I’ve written about, who I’ve come to admire, who are actually great drinking buddies.

Protector 10
April 22nd, 2016 really was a monumental night. It was our night. The talent was there, the people were there, the overall mood was full of positivity, and we showed the city and the people that said yes to Ernest and Julie that this is only the beginning. Indeed, Ernest and Julie are working on launching their own label, Room Robot Records. Not stopping there, they hope that the momentum from the Echoplex show will lead to more shows, and more money to bring out other synthwave acts.  Julie jokingly wants to have a synth festival (jamboree?) but I don’t see why not someday. One thing she said is for sure, LA is ready for synthwave.
Dance With The Dead
I’d like to thank Ernest and Julie for all their hard work and James, Jake, Tony and Justin for mind blowing performances. Oh, and shoutout to Street Cleaner for actually being a cool dude who reigned in his urge for vigilante justice long enough to hang out with me. Of course, all of this would not have been possible without Synthetix and every other like minded writer, producer, blogger and fan out there who has a passion for synthwave. I can’t wait to see what we achieve next.

Keep up with all the most rockin happenings with Synthwave LA on their Facebook page here.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Synthetix Sundays

Marko's back with another massive edition of Synthetix Sundays this week, only on Radio Pure Gently!

This week Marko has another two huge interviews as Absolute Valentine and Compilerbau both come by for a chat about their recent musical accomplishments.

The playlist is going to be a massive ones and regular segments from Paul Dress2Kill Daily and Dallas's Synhetix Spotlight are programmed for your maximum pleasure. Due to my internet being out for most of this weekend there won't be a Quality Time With Shithouse this week, but next week's SPECIAL edition QTWS segment will hopefully make up for it!

Marko's got tonnes of giveaway download codes and you can expect all the most rockin tunes imaginable to keep your weekend moving all he right ways.

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.