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 a 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 an 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.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

CTRL ALT ESC's Commencement

By Jerry Herrera

CTRL ALT ESC is a Canadian duo from Toronto that have entered the synth pop/rock arena with both some catchy tunes and somewhat ironic sensibilities. It’s always an interesting and enjoyable challenge to decide whether an act is making music one would hear in the ‘80s or making music inspired by retro influences. It’s a fine, ever shifting line between the two and I don’t think many artists have a clear idea themselves. What we get then, are moments where the music takes us back to that era and moments when the genre is pushed forward by retro inspired creativity.

Commencement is an album that does both, sometimes in brilliantly timed shifts or additions of instrumentation, other times it can be a bit like a kid playing with a light switch. I think this is more a symptom of the vocal synthpop genre than anything else. It’s difficult to be a “serious” band when your influences can be seen as cheesy or “lol so retro.” You can’t really write a pained love song when you’ve got video game blips on the track, for example.

However, Commencement hooked me right away. Access is the cyberpunk intro to the album that does a great job of getting those hairs on the arms standing up before dropping us into Your Love Is Dangerous, which is itself full of ‘80s swagger and confidence. It’s definitely Robert Palmer through a dystopian lens. The following tracks are in both theme and construction similar to the first proper song. There’s not a question that these dudes are talented and have an ear for that retro sound, across the board. There’s both rocking guitars and synths, a little bit of pop and R&B flavor, plenty of 8-bit arcade accents and lyrics about fast women and guarded hearts abound. Indeed, I kept thinking of Shattered Dreams by Johnny Hates Jazz when listening to Commencement.

This is also the album’s (only) weakness. Every song has vocals and I fully admit to being a hypocrite for simultaneously loving vocal synth and also using that as a mark against an artist. But a top to bottom album featuring vocals is going to blend together at some point. Even vocalists I love deeply aren’t featured on every track by a given artist. This is also meant to say that I think the musical content on the album is plenty meaty, and some instrumental tracks here and there would be most welcome.

 All that being said I think that the foundation is there for an amazing synthpop band and I get strong Chromeo vibes from these dudes. Probably the most praise I can give them is for their cover of Bizarre Love Triangle. It’s a wonderful homage to the original without trying to outdo it, or take it in a boring, twee direction. Remember Frenté? The last track, One Shot, is an emotional synth ballad about being a tough dude with a broken heart that evoked some bromotions from me.

Commencement is above all things, a pop album. From the production value to the songwriting, the aim is clear that this act wants to go places on retro synth wheels. Their sound for the most part seems to aim to be mistaken for actual ‘80s pop hits, as if seeing their name on the charts next to Hall and Oates, Glenn Frey, and Robert Palmer wouldn’t raise any eyebrows. I’m already picturing their music featured in the opening credits of a crime/romance drama, the title of the film spelled out in neon cursive as CTRL ALT ESC sings about mean streets and tough women. An enjoyable first effort, and enough genuine artistry to warrant an excitement for what comes next for these guys.

CTRL ALT ESC presents Commencement, available for purchase on their Bandcamp page here and comes very highly recommended by Synthetix.FM.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Synthetix Sundays

Marko's back and rockin another massive episode of Synthetix Sunday for your listening pleasure, only on Radio Pure Gently!

Thia episode features interviews with the slasherwave visual artist of choice, the one and only Ariel Zucker-Brull. Marko's also getting down to business with the Bishop Of Battle himself, Bob Battle!

The usual peanut gallery of regulars is also rockin the scene with Paul Dress2Kill Daly, Dallas' Synthetix Spotlight and Quality Time With Shithouse all ready to rock you how you need to!

There'll be tonnes of hot new tunes and a whole mess of giveaway download codes for those listening live too!

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:

Thursday, August 11, 2016


Alpharisc - Alpha Dream

By James Mann

Within the last several years the world of synthesizer based music has grown immensely. Bedroom artists are emerging through the plethora of digital audio workstations and managing to produce retro and 80s inspired music right at home. (I will admit some more memorable than others) Alpharisc is what I would call Australia’s not so hidden gem. Shane Yates has been producing music for years. His powerful and confident range of sounds demonstrates this proficiency with such clarity, and anyone who has had the fortune of listening to his extensive discography knows what I’m talking about. Beautiful production, dynamic arrangements and an overwhelming nod to the sensibilities of yesteryear with undeniable excitement and energy. However, the approach in producing Alpha Dream was quite different for Shane, and the sounds will not only change the way you think about Alpharisc, but music in general.

What I’ve come to sincerely appreciate about Alpharisc is the range of influences he employs when it comes to producing music. Electro, house, ambient, downtempo, soundtrack scoring and much more. Through each piece there are tinges of these inspirations present, yet the majority of his work under this moniker has suggested a strong love affair with the 80s…until now. ‘The way I put together the release was noticing a theme with a handful of the tracks I had been making, so I decided to keep the feeling similar. Soundtrack, chilled out ambient nostalgia. The tracks were all made around the same time, with a few of the chord progressions coming from projects from the late 90's (Body Swap & Exactly Where I Was Sitting).

Alpha Dream delivers the most mature and flushed sounding tunes I’ve heard from this Melbourne based producer. A remarkable and memorable foray into a wonderland of sounds, touching on horror and Italo themed compositions, early 90s world house, dystopian David Lynch soundscapes, downtempo and psy-chill, music that would hang with the best of Twin Peaks, Mulholland Drive and beyond. This release has such detail, thought and atmosphere as each track truly stands apart with it’s own identity. There is simultaneously a sense of cohesion and umbrella of moods which tie everything together effortlessly, while instilling an overwhelming sense of nostalgia and contentment.

Body Sweep opens the dream and strikes through the senses with a Fulci/Italo inspired masterpiece, arpeggiating through your fears and vulnerability while evoking such strong imagery. It’s updated from a late 70s analog horror wonderland with a percussion backing that pulls the composition years ahead. A unique pairing of sounds that Alpharisc creates for himself and listeners. There is a roominess and space which occupies between the notes, as his production and equalizing allow for such beautiful effect. What a strong opener, as the ominous melodies of horror make it for an ideal score. I’m dreaming already.

Switching gears and blasting through world house sounds of the early 90s with downtempo and breakbeat finesse, Heart Breaker takes you to those better years. Already I love that Alpharisc isn’t pinning himself down in just an 80s sound, he unapologetically steers you into music he loves and what he is inspired by. It makes these beautiful and brassy chords and licks that much more appealing. Underwater sounding plucks over gorgeous and open floral pads immediately take me back in time with a smile. There is a nostalgia here with the playful melody that dots the synthscape, and I fully relate to this. Fantastic.

Exactly Where I was Sitting channels the true Lynchian side of Alpha. Mulholland Drive comes to mind. Analog and gorgeous glassy synths create a telling landscape with vibrancy with ominous overtones. Staying true to his love affair with video game inspired music, a chip tune/NES synth lays over the arrangement to make for a unique and telling combination. He really manages to nail such a strong chord progression. Another facet of the Alpharisc project that satiates the ears and demonstrates the versatility of this producer. Already the notion and memories of his past work are temporarily forgotten, these are new sounds and they are simply scrumptious.

Free Fall immediately signals a strong Boards of Canada sound. Atmospheric, downtempo with a cyclical percussion. Being that BoC is one of my all time favorite bands, it’s no surprise that I adore this track. Touching on their influence with his own interpretation makes for an entirely refreshing and new experience. The bridge is highly emotional and executed so well. I just LOVE that Shane is taking his project in such a new direction. This is honestly a sound I wouldn’t have expected to hear from Alpharisc, but the need for an artist to not just reinvent but also produce music for themselves and not just to satiate fans is paramount. I had a chance to catch up with Shane and he told me this about the work and some of the Boards throwback sounds.’The difference with this release is the two decades of Boards of Canada influence that some may be able to identify, I have been quite fond of their music since I accidentally discovered them in 1996 with their EP Twoism.’

Living in Misery is a downtempo beauty. Hypnotic, emotional and reminiscent of early Massive Attack with an almost dark wave approach. Combining elements of Clan of Xymox with an ethereal draw playing out, I simply love this. A trip hop beat drifts through the swirling pads and creates a confident and stunning arrangement I just get lost in. Pensive and sad at the same time, Living In Misery is one of my favorites on Alpha Dream. This is the essence of dreaming.

Release My Army is an exceptionally well crafted tune that evokes strong images of a video game OST, but not just any game. Uncharted 4 and up when it comes to caliber. Arp oriented lines build around a somber mood while a breakbeat builds in the background. Steel and icy sounding pads come together for a powerful piece that comes in waves. Again the craft and innate song structuring Alpharisc has honed in on over the years plays out in splendid order. Industrial tinges and airy bursts of chords accentuate the orchestra inspired piece. Spectacular.

Paying homage to the one and only Erik Satie, Alpharisc embarks on his own interpretation of Gymnopedies. This has a Burt Baccarat sound, a jazz styled grounding of chords while a brassy lead take us through the familiar journey of one of the most lasting and beautiful pieces ever written. Instead of evoking feelings of sadness, there is a vibrancy in this though Alpha’s choice of synthesizers. Lasting and new, this is redefined in such an endearing manner. Massive points and impeccable choice to close out my dream.

What Alpharisc has managed to do in Alpha Dream is something exceptional. He demonstrated a remarkable proficiency in genres outside of previous releases, and the results are spectacular. Staying true to music that most inspired him in producing Alpha Dream, as an artist he broke through barriers and boxes, notions and assumptions that he may indeed just be one “kind” of producer. How terribly wrong could you be? As punishment I suggest looping Gymnopedies for a full day to instill a new kind of thinking. A different way of approaching music and expectations, as the two can coincide in not such an attractive manner. This came from the man who blew us all away with strong 4/4 130 BMP synthwave tracks we could only listen to while palm trees and beaches flew past, right? For shame. As for what’s next in the Alpha World? Lots. 'In the near future I’ll be creating some more Italo inspired beats, remixes and soundtrack themes. I am very happy I have a group of people following me, listening and sharing kind words about the music I make. To be able to make music I truly love and have others enjoy it, is a very rewarding feeling.'

The moods and results of this beautiful release take you through a different kind of nostalgia, and one that makes it one of the most appealing and varied releases of the year. Burgeoning synth artists, please take note. Different is OK. Different is good. Different is fantastic. Make sure you when you fall asleep tonight, you choose the Alpha Dream, it’s a game changer that will have you opening your eyes in an entirely new way.

Alpha Dream is available through Future Retro Music here and comes very, very highly recommended by Synthetix.FM,

Brighter Than A Thousand Suns - Alazia

By Andrew B. White

“Alazia" is a five-song EP of collected singles released by Brighter Than A Thousand Suns (BTATS) between 2015-2016. The band is essentially a three-piece made of husband and wife Angelika and Randy Roswell, Angelika handling the lead vocals and synths with Randy on synths, programming and guitars. Third member Andre Tangredi contributes some very powerful and tasteful drums, moving things away from a strictly programmed environment. It seems that BTATS have recently relocated cities and unfortunately Tangredi has not come along for the ride. Hopefully the band will be able to find a drummer with the same talents, and judging form the band’s YouTube videos, this could be a tall order as the man has some serious ability!

The ‘Suns note that the songs on this EP sit in more in synthpop territory while future releases will be more “darker and harder rock orientated". It’s not hard to see the band making this transition as many of those elements are already present here, although somewhat restrained. Angelika’s voice is powerful and definitely has the chops to sit along bands such as Paramore (which I’m assuming is the type of direction they intend to take). There are also similarities with other contemporary synth-based pop acts such as The Naked And Famous in evidence – the large choruses and hooks on ‘Reach Out To Me’ for instance.

Make no mistake – the songs on “Alazia" are big, professionally produced, polished and nicely arranged; the point of difference to other contemporary acts being the subtlety-honed 80s influences. There’s a lot of DX7 making itself felt on ‘Reinvent’, both in the marimba lead and synth bass, and that continues across many of the other tracks. Overall the EP sits somewhere around 1987 in terms of production and sound but has been brought fully into 2016 in terms of execution.

All of the songs are very good – catchy, well written and the performances are top notch. Again, I must mention Andre Tangredi who brings some real energy to the songs with his drumming. The music might not be to the liking of those looking for outrun or more retro 80s vocal pop, but if you are a fan of the later 80s and its sophisticated, heavily studio-produced sound, there is plenty to enjoy here.

You can pick up “Alazia" along with several other releases from Brighter Than A Thousand Suns over at Bandcamp here.

2DCAT - Regressions 

By Jerry Herrera

I have no trouble admitting I was drawn to 2D Cat because of the vocals. Vocal synthwave artists are becoming more popular and I think we have some extremely talented voices contributing to our scene and it’s very exciting to hear a new one, though from what I understand they have existed in some form for a few years now. Those of you that have already listened to Regressions will make the comparison to other female vocalists in the genre but I’m not here to compare and contrast. 2D Cat is perfect pop blended with bright synths and echoed snares, reminiscent of the heavy hitters of popular New Wave, but with more neon and lasers.

There are moments during Regressions that I feel like I’m someplace with lots of marble columns and billowy curtains, other times I think 2D Cat have taken space synth and given it pop sensibilities. Instead of long voyages across alien expanses, we’re gleefully planet hopping on autopilot because the crew is too busy dancing. I think this is more them incorporating a mountain of influences rather than deliberate track design. Still I think 2D Cat is an exciting project and I believe that “Believe” could have been a hit on the radio back in the ‘80s, or at least a retro inspired film/series. Take note, Duffer Brothers.

2DCat's  Regressions is available for purchase through Bandcamp here.

The Northern Lights - Into The Flames

By Andrew B. White

The Northern Lights have had a handful of very popular tunes on Soundcloud and it’s easily to see why. Along with a number of EP and album releases over the last several years, The Northern Lights have firmly established themselves as synth stalwarts with a lush, dreamy and emotional 80s sound tied together with some solid hooks.

Hailing from California, The Northern Lights loosely sit alongside fellow residents Sellorekt LA Dreams and FM 84 in terms of musical kin. As far as comparisons go, The Northern Lights get a little deeper and denser than LA Dreams’ freeway escapades. Unlike LA Dreams, on “Into The Flames” all tracks feature vocals that are presented in a less traditional way – positioned back in the mix, rather than out-front. They have a textural quality, somewhat reminiscent of the way Liz Fraser sang in the Cocteau Twins. There’s a melody and an obvious voice but you can’t really work out the words. This delivery helps to set The Northern Lights apart and give them their unique character. Everything is also awash in a lovely reverb that enforces the dream quality of each song and although that may imply ‘dreamwave’ territory, the music here definitely rooted in nostalgic 80s magic.

The four songs on “Into The Flames” make for repeated listening. Previous fans will not be disappointed. You can get the EP now for free (or name your price) at Bandcamp here and it's worth noting they have just released a mixtape “The Lost Cassette” featuring 16 outtakes from various Northern Lights projects available here.

Alleron - Mirage

By Rick Shithouse

Ahh nostalgia. Those intoxicating memories that bring forth such powerful and fanciful future fantasies. I've recently found a growing facet of my nostalgic passions is for that late 2000s period that ushered in the new generation of 80s sounds. One of my favourite crossovers back then were the 80s driven nu-disco/house sounds that have turned into Future Funk today, but the late 2000s iteration of these styles kept equal balances of funky 80s groove-centric homage and modern French House influences of the day. If you, too, yearn for the sounds of Casio Social Club, Breakbot, DigiKid84, Bestrack and a whole generation of other producers that were rockin the scene with these inescapably groovy sounds then you'll be wanting to grab Alleron's Mirage EP as soon as possible.

Spread across the four original pieces and three remixes are some heavy duty funk house sounds that roll like a summer tide and sway with a flow that's infectiously satisfying. Opening with the pulsing energy of 'You Should Not Come' we're given highly refined funk basslines cut up with precision and dexterity in the melodies and completely on point vocal samples.

The title track, 'Mirage' walks in with a funk fuelled swagger and more pefectly sliced and diced vocals. The music is hazy and full of summery vibes and takes its own very good time to land with a beat your just champing at the bit to feel. The choppy elements rock in perfect time with groove of the bass delivering thrills and chills in beautifully generous portions.

'Cobra' takes the rockin to dramatic highs and breaks things down in a superb display of stripping things back and building them back to incredible highs in that classic late 2000s style. It feels just as fresh and new as it did then, ironically. This kind of style had such a short lifespan before it moved into other directions that I'd find it very hard to believe anyone fell out of love with this sound due to over exposure to it, so that nostalgia level runs awfully high and true throughout the Mirage.

Completing the EP is slightly different take on the stylistic approach. 'Stratosphere' slows things down just a touch and in doing so brings in just a tiny shade of vapor aesthetics. The fit is like hand in glove and proffers many possibilities using vaporwave styled samples within the context of these movements,  travelling in a French House direction; not a Future Funk one. 'Stratosphere' rocks and pops along with a hypnotising momentum that takes you deep into Alleron's crafted Mirage.

The EP contains remixes from Absolute Valentine, Alpharisc and Niky Nine who each add their own little nuances to the original tracks and in particular Alpharisc's more direct French House remixing of 'You Should Not Come' even gives an authentic to the period nostalgic remix experience.

Alleron's Mirage is a vision that will satisfy those nostalgic cravings for a lot of different facets of 80s inspired modern music, get the vibe rockin and feel that flow on Lazerdiscs Records Bandcamp page here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Occams Laser On The Grid

By Andrew B. White

Tribute albums in synthwave are not new. There have been several releases over recent years on a variety of labels; Retro Promenade’s “Twin Peaks”, “Tron”, John Carpenter and “Batman" tribute compilations immediately come to mind. In addition to this, many synthwave artists have created concept albums that pay homage to classic movies and themes from the 1980s.

“The Grid”, the latest release from the U.K.’s Occams Laser, and continues along these lines. In this case it takes the form of a tribute to the movie “Tron", specifically the original 1982 film. Occums Laser is no stranger to tributes. In addition to having his tracks ‘Flynn Part I’ and ‘Flynn Part II’ included on the aforementioned Retro Promenade “Tron" tribute album “Grid Knights”, many of Occurs Laser’s own releases have also been tributes; “The Road To Fury” (“Mad Max"), “Judgement Day” (“The Terminator”) and “Midnight Escape” (TV and B-horror soundtracks).

In his own words from his Bandcamp site, Occams Laser (Tom Stuart) explains that “The Grid” is a concept album based on the 1982 film Tron. Comprised of 17 instrumental tracks all designed with the aesthetics and feel of the original 1982 film… the tracks are completely original, and written specifically for this project. The album as a whole is designed to work almost as an alternative soundtrack to the original film. With the names of each track providing some sort of ‘CLU’ to what part of the film it was made for.”

Stuart also notes that he used many ‘modular' based (synthesizer) instruments in making the album, as a homage to the movie’s original composer Wendy Carlos, who primarily used modular synths for the score.

The sound and production on the album is excellent. Stuart has lovingly and respectfully crafted music that fits the scenes that each piece has been written for – if you’re familiar with the movie, it is fairly effortless to picture the accompanying visuals in your head. Song titles such as ‘Flynn’s Arcade’ and ‘He Fights For The Users’ immediately give you an idea of their respective scenes. (Personally ‘He Fights For The Users’ is also one of the standout tracks – heroic and uplifting with a driving melodic synth riff). When reviewing a title such as this it seems rather pointless to write a track-by-track overview, and indeed it is. Instead I suggest getting into “Tron” mode with a pair of headphones, putting on the original movie with the sound muted and seeing where things take you. As a side, It would be safe to say “The Grid” would work just as well as an alternative soundtrack to “Tron Legacy”.

So, “The Grid” stands up as both fitting tribute to “Tron” the movie but also as a standalone piece of instrumental synthwave. It was in this manner that I first approached listening to this album, quite by accident I might add. I was auditioning several albums for review and had the music player window hidden. It was not until I was near the end of listening to “The Grid” that I checked the title and liner notes and became aware of the “Tron” connection which made complete sense. As the album has also has a classic 'synth soundtrack' feel to it I couldn’t help thinking that several of the tracks would easily work in the Netflix series “Stranger Things”. Maybe fans of that show might want to check out Occams Laser to get their synth fix since the actual soundtrack for the show does not exist (as yet). Who knows - maybe that will be Occums Laser’s next tribute project…

“The Grid” is available on Bandcamp here,  iTunes here and Spotify here and comes very highly recommended by Synthetix.FM.