Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Glitch Black Is Dominus Infernus

By Lachie Hunt

When someone says darksynth in 2016, the most common thing to associate it with is hard distortion and hard hitting drumlines. A fringe element of this however is chiptune fusion, with artists like Volkor X having done tracks in that style before. The merging of the two genres is a logical one, as they both draw from 1980s darkness in different ways that compliment each other. Glitch Black uses these styles, and his mastery of unnerving synth lines mixed with some fine grooves makes for incredible listening. Danny Bourque, who goes under the alias Glitch Black, has released three previous albums under the Glitch Black moniker with Dominus Infernus being the latest.

The art for the album is classic creepy horror, with a skeleton and a neon throne, framed in front of a desolate city. This vibe continues into the album as a whole.

The first impression of Dominus Infernus is the opening track Event Horizon. A frantic sounding arp plays while drums play a complex beat in the background. Chiptune music influences begin here, and they take most of the attention until a dark distorted guitar kicks in with some harsh synths. It sets the mood perfectly, placing it between chiptune and darkwave, leaning more towards darkwave.

The title track 'Dominus Infernus' uses panning and a mixture of dark and lighter synths create a deeply moody creepy atmosphere. The breakdown later into the song is able to up the horror even more, making me feel like I'm on the run from Satan himself, catching my breath in the backstreets before trying to escape once more.

Secret Assassin Superstar certainly lives up to its name. The groove is insanely strong here, the track conjures up emotions of stealth, murder and fame. Small guitar parts in the background fill out the song, with harder sections of synth contrasting the bell melodies and quieter sections.

Midnight Scavengers goes further into game soundtrack territory than anything else on this album up to this point. A weak snare and small arp are joined by bigger counterparts and sliding leads. A tom solo also makes an appearance, keeping the tension high before a pulsing outro.

Skull Tower takes the album in a less bass heavy direction, with frantic synth work that flows into itself. Cinematic dark strings kick in in the background, giving it that extra movie feel. This is probably the most soundtracky of the bunch, feeling like a mid-80s horror movie in one of its more suspenseful moments.

A Dream of Stars features samples, and consequently tells more of a story. The vocals tell of the Voyager spacecraft's journey through space, and the music mirrors that. The horror here is different, the endless space is its own horror, unnerving the audience with ease. Synth solos and percussion keep the groove going through the whole thing. I got an almost Lost Years vibe from this one.

The more quiet vibe continues into Deception. The title once again perfectly describes it. The song is stressful, but still fairly slow. Vocoder vocals add to the mystery and chiptune influences shine through towards the end of the song.

The Zone brings it back slowly with a malevolent bass and use of bitcrushers, and a slow fade in of darker styles and synths, until the style is brought back to outrun levels. The title and feel gives me thoughts of cruising through deep space, and entering a restricted zone but continuing anyway.

Escape is somehow able to cool down for a minute in the middle with darker faster sections around it and keep its tone perfect. The stress levels just keep rising as we get closer to the unknown climax of this dark tale, but that doesn't stop the rolling bassline from creeping me out.

Descent begins in true darksynth style with a cool rhythm and wide snares and true to its name, descends into 8 bit and distortion. Rapid saw synths help to bring the speed up on what would be an otherwise slowish track.

Unknown Mechanical Anomaly sounds to me like this is the the moment when the robot turns on our heroes, as synth beats rise into a guitar lead and high synths. The more chiptune aspects are blended expertly here with some of the punchiest drums in the business.

Dark Sanctum takes the album down a notch in intensity once again, with percussion and strings. It sounds like an amazing film soundtrack, until it changes into yet another awesome soundtrack piece, one with rolling kicks and low guitar parts.

Shades of the Departed is yet another soundtrack styled offering, where instead of progressing in intensity in a linear fashion, the song moves up and down the scale and is able to pull off the changes perfectly. Bells help to convey the sense of finality here, along with an almost solo-esque use of toms.

A Brighter Tomorrow goes conventional OutRun, with deep sounds in the background and high strings that conjure up classic slasher movies in tone. It's a spectacular finish, an amazing way to end this album.

Glitch Black's Dominus Infernus is some of the best melodic darksynth I've heard in recent times. His combination of hard synths and distorted guitars alongside softer bells and other synths make him one of the lesser known artists that really deserve more attention. The melodies here are fantastic, and I couldn't recommend it enough. Dominus Infernus is offered on Glitch Black's Bandcamp here, and select tracks are available on his soundcloud, with more presumably to be uploaded in future. It comes very, very highly recommended by Synthetix.FM.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Tomorrow's Technology Is Format-440

By Rick Shithouse

Format-440 has had me as an ardent follower for just over a year now and the excitement of a full length release from this wonderful producer gave me immeasurable excitement. His previous EP came out at the end of last year and we missed giving it the love it deserved on here due to having the usual end of year break, but please make sure you get yourself up to speed on the Format-440 experience with the Interfaces EP here.

The Format-440 sound has been one that grabbed me instantly and contains a personality and polish that genuinely stands out. His propensity for using vintage hardware in his music production seems to really shine through his synthscapes in a way that few modern producers have mastered. There is character to the sounds and lack of processing that makes the mix more live-feeling as well adding immeasurably authenticity to his 80s escapades. His musical style has always been focused on the classically 80s Synth Library sounds while incorporating a groove and soul that flows through each track and enhances their inherent catchiness tenfold.

'The Road Ahead' sets the lovingly warm and inviting tones beautifully with a hugely hooky synth lead that RainSword channelling Steve Winwood directly would find hard to beat. The groove of the bass and the tactile tightness of the instrumental ensemble is dripping with gorgeous 80s nostalgia. It's a massively strong opener and the rest of the album always manages to keep up and on numerous occasions eclipses this superb opening chapter.

The library/soundtrack influence makes me find visuals that would accompany Format-440's music an instantaneous experience. His knack of getting the catchiness and detail of the melody just right so he can weave different stories around them is definitely one of his strongest talents as a producer. In 'Nightdrive' the excitement of future technologies today comes to mind straight away.

In the early 80s the fact that we were just 'in' the 80s was made a big deal (check out this classic Energizer ad for what I mean) and in 'Nightdrive' I can see this being the perfect soundtrack to some Space Age new oil formula beings used in the cars of today. Lots of vector graphics, scientific technology and the lab coats all chin-stroking in front of  and 80s desktop PC. The whole magic of science making the future now and the end shot with some gorgeous future fantasy car getting this divine oil poured into it while 'Nightdrive' plays is just totally rockin to the max.

Conversely, Format-440 is just as adept at getting back to streets and laying down his killer grooves with an urban flair that is much more suburban than ghetto but always honest and engaging. 'Break Away'  feels like it belongs in an after-school special with the innocence and joyousness of kids breakdancing in the most wholesome and family friendly way; before the bad kids come along for the show's lesson. The 80s naivete is coursing vibrantly through this piece and the whole experience is a smile inducing example of pure nostalgic delirium.

The lights dim lower and the darker part of the after-school special is explored in 'Terminal'. The groove is still powerful but the melodies hint at darker aspects. Perhaps it's the old kids pushing drugs in the local arcade? Maybe it's that mustachioed dude in the van that keeps going around and around the block slowing down as he goes past those breakin' kids? Whichever way, the mood is dangerous and music retains its library chops while the hooks make the danger a hugely attractive option.

The concept of Tomorrow's Technology (Today!) really ties all of the flavours on the record together and each piece genuinely offers something new to the experience and details another facet of exciting times and a future full of incredible possibilities. The pure scientific drama of 'Rising Waters' illustrates heavy scientific testing in montages with number crunching and explosive personalities working together with a common goal. The dramatic beats and inquisitive synths share the stage with a flowing, rolling bassline that brings a seriousness and gravity to these important experiments.

I really do find it just impossible to listen to this album without entire visual scenes forming in my imagination. 'Back In The Game' gets back to the purest bouncy, boppy Library Synth magic possible. It's a sun dappled walk through the neighbourhood on the way to the local basketball court. The make-believe Harlem Globetrotter moves while rockin down the street saying Hi to Mrs Thompson while she tends to her flower garden. The air of the afternoon, warm and coloured with golden light. It's thoroughly idyllic, entirely unrealistic and the definition of 80s magic all in one.

Bringing back the drama with defiant synth melodies and a thunderous drum track the powerhouse 'Flash Point' exudes 80s cop-show incidental music with a street-edged good guys versus bad guys vibe strung tightly through the bright orchestral stabs and radical bassline flourishes. The track remains tense from beginning to end and focuses on a small story amid much larger constructs but by keeping this focus so tight Format-440 ensures he achieves maximum excitement from the on screen action.

The album goes back to its delightfully enrapturing commercial jingly roots in 'Non Stop Summer' as endless summer days turn into eternal summer nights. The upbeat breaks just demand your attention and the neon bright hooks elicit tropical flavours and sweetly scented nuances of summertime magic. The colours are so bright and inviting one just can't help but feel that 80s warmth resonating deep within.

In a true display of Format-440's showmanship he finishes the album on an epic high that rocks super hard with an energy that strikes like lightning cranks hard like you want it. 'The High Rollers' is brimming with gorgeous synth excitement and a powerful percussive track that enhances the phasing melodies no end. The tightness of the synthscape gives so much impact, much like the entire album, the music is a steel trap of highly engineered 80s homage.

Format-440 presents the Tomorrow's Technology album on his Bandcamp page here in the usual array of digitally downloadable formats. This Library Synth oriented exploration of classic 80s themes and scenes is a breath of fresh air and brings back that bright 80s glow to light even the darkest corner of 2016 and comes very, very highly recommended from Synthetix.FM.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Volkor X Means War

By Rick Shithouse

It probably comes as no surprise to anyone paying attention to the 80s inspired synth scene in 2016 that the darker end of the spectrum has become much more prolific this year. The seeds sewn over the last couple of years seem to have sprouted a bountiful crop of producers taking their music to the worlds of horror and monsters instead of vacationing with palm trees and sports cars.

I believe it would be an insult to call this a 'trend' as that word as we know it is about marketing, not about creativity in its modern milieu but whatever forces have been summoned have definitely put a lot of producers under their diabolical control. What I, personally, have found interesting with this influx of evil is that my own expectations have been raised exponentially as a result in what is being released. Many releases have fallen flat on me as a segment of the dark synth producers have eschewed much of the 80s inspirations and instead opted for more mechanical or industrial styles. This is all a wonderful exploration of music and something I wholly encourage every producer to experiment with, but for me; it isn't something that I enjoy listening to.

Which brings us to Volkor X's much awaited and sublimely promoted new record This Means War (which I always read in a Bugs Bunny voice unfortunately..). I wasn't quite expecting what I got with this record as from much of what I took from the marketing and direction was that Mr X was going full-dark synth, in a way which I interpreted in abandoning the 80s influences based on current styles. Instead, what I got was an absolutely splendid homage to darker sounds; still infused with tonnes of 80s homage, but refined in a way that genuinely engaged and impressed me.

I'll be using the word refinement a lot throughout this review as I find it does the perfect job of describing the entire This Means War experience. The most obvious refinement is in the number of tracks which initially made me think this was more of an EP, but it's definitely a full LP experience upon listening to it in its entirety. That this consists of 'only' seven tracks is not a negative. It's a positive. The refinement and weight given to each of the tracks gives perfect pacing and content from beginning to end. Over arching story elements contained in some of the more spacey themes tie the chapters into succinct set pieces while Volkor X tightens up the structures of the tracks themselves into high tensile titanium towers of unbreakable musical fortitude.

What took me on the journey of This Means War through its seven movements and beyond was the richly textured passages of each track, describing a specific part of the story beautifully. The set up and story are classic schlocky sci-fi with aliens taking over the earth and the rest of the universe. It's tropey as all get out, but that's not the point. The story and plot are familiar but in the context of the music they're made vital and engaging. I must say, personal bias of my own comes into this a great deal when it comes to this kind of concept as the 70s musical experience of Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds was one of my absolute favourite things to listen to growing up and in many respects Volkor X follows on from Wayne's work in a delightfully contradictory modern yet retro way.

The use of a specific melody or refrain to keep the story tied together is used exceedingly well throughout the album and the opening introductory passage. But it's much more than that. Calling it an 'intro track' is really insulting the depths that 'Prelude To War' explores. The malicious tone is established immediately but it's the light, echoing spacey synths that intimate the callings from a distant galaxy so beautifully. These sounds summon visions. They're entrenched in the shared musical memories of generations.  But then the rest of music kicks in and the plodding swagger gives unerring focus, direction and intention. All of the parts of the music work together as one well oiled machine of interstellar destruction and, again, the refinement of the songwriting makes this opening piece the perfect stage setter. Before the opening credits are even halfway through you know this is going to rock damned hard.

This Means War makes each track speak for itself in a verbose and eloquent way that doesn't require segues or much in the way of set ups. Volkor X drops from the star filled heavens with explosive force and you're right in the middle at ground zero.  And the reason this works so well, and flows so effortlessly from track to track is the contrasts Volkor X uses in every single piece of music he's created in this album. For all the foreboding dread and impending annihilation promised in 'Masked Death' there is also a soaring beauty in the synths that is comforting and warm. The churning maliciousness is right there in front of you alright, the death machine isn't pretending it's anything else, but that hope and humanity is ever present; regardless of how black and bleak the set pieces become.

Even better is that This Means War switches tempos often, repurposing ideas in new formats that give entirely new angles to the story and give the listener fascinating insights into the broader aspects of the story. In 'Run Away' we're given a bouncier and energetic part of the story that feels like it's introducing a young protagonist into the story who's being set up to be the narrative's hero. The melodies are energetic and engaging and a slight moroseness lines the atmosphere more than dominating it. The structure of this piece is incredibly rewarding as it rolls on with a grandiose and inspiring build. A hugely rewarding experience that exudes a refined flavour all its own.

The beauty of Volkor X's melodies is really what drew me into this album so much. Keeping dark forces threatening to explode at every turn while tempering them back with absolutely soulful and uplifting melodies becomes something incredibly powerful in 'Beacon'. This track is absolutely stunning in presentation and execution and works every single element to perfection, delivering the kinds of thrills I'd expect on something like a Tommy album, but in a different universe entirely. Haunting, moving, inspiring and rockin to the max; all at once. Powerful music delivered by the most powerful means. As the middle point of the record this track is astoundingly climactic and a perfect example of darker synth music being completely emotionally fuelled.

Following 'Beacon' we're given a more OutRun flavoured piece of the story next in 'The Bomb'. An obvious influence from Carpenter Brut can be felt throughout the opening stages but Volkor X reintroduces those gorgeous thematic elements of space oriented synth into the mix to tell the story in crisp, clean electronic dialogue against the thundering back section. It must also be stated that the use of samples throughout this record really give it a charmingly kitsch atmosphere that really nails that schlocky sc-fi invasion motif. Not to mention the spectacularly well incorporated guitars which really give ample amounts of another kind of voice to the story.

Volkor X strips things back and rebuilds again from scratch in the hauntingly massive 'Hypersleep'. The neural hum of the synths build deeper and deeper with the percussion coming on like megaton explosions amid the skittish memories and flashbacks that fragment in quick succession before our eyes. The stasis psyche goes deeper and deeper into fitful slumber until huge choirs of synth beauty cascade into the mind's eye. Deeply meditative and full of character, 'Hypersleep' provides a aural human nightmare to the album that one can't be sure of being real or fantasy.

And then the aftershock lands with full intergalactic force with 'This Means War' finally bringing on the high energy explosive action we've been promised throughout the preceding chapters. The final track really takes the story into a more crystallised vision of the all out attack with subtlety giving way to frenetic energies and high powered sonic assaults. The melodic narratives sketched out in previous tracks evolve into bigger, powerful entities and live and breathe with synth fuelled mayhem.

It's interesting that Volkor X decided to make the final track of the record essentially three movements permanently fused together. The middle movement slows down and delivers some more delicate pieces of the story outside of the furious melee and then takes both worlds and slams them together in a genuinely vast finale that is as powerful as it is triumphant with a synth guitar grandeur you can't help but be inspired by. This is like the synthwave equivalent of symphonic metal. Synthphonic, perhaps? Epic, regardless.

Volkor X has crafted something very special in this record. To call it dark synth would be tantamount to a slap in the face as it's much, much bigger than that. It's soundtrack based in many respects of its writing yet loves to switch gears from high energy OutRun into deeply atmospheric ideas without losing the focus of the plot or incorporating anything remotely jarring. As I've stated numerous times throughout this review it's the refinement of every facet of production and songwriting that stands out so much from beginning to end. This record may not introduce any wildly obscure new elements or influences into the fray but it doesn't need to. This Means War gets everything it sets out to do done absolutely perfectly.

Volkor X presents This Means War on his Bandcamp page here in digitally downloadable formats, CD, Cassette AND vinyl! Catering to all lovers of physical formats in a way most befitting of such a spectacular record. This Means War stands out from the crowd and the passion and ability of the producer shines through every single second, making it a Synthetix Reference Experience of the highest order.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Synthetix Telegenic

By James Mann

#5 Luigi Donatello (Moskva-Kassiopeya - Decay)

Luigi Donatello is without a doubt a benchmark in the synthwave scene. With his prolific channel and taste for artists and music that delve into the deepest depths of moods and energies, he has claimed a position as one of the most dedicated and hard working guys in the scene. What NewRetroWave or the (now defunct) Maniac Synth did not offer, Luigi digs, scours, and successfully taps into the best in synth based retro inspired music. (Along with a sweet collection of chillwave/vaporwave tunes)

One fact about Luigi is that he is an extraordinary editor. Although the majority of his tracks entail a custom animation/graphic and images, don’t let the seemingly simple edits fool you. He knows what he’s doing. So this wizard of all things synth embarked on creating a true masterpiece. He threw down a spectacular edit combining Moskva-Kassiopeya’s “Decay” set to the eponymous movie (Decay) from 1974. The track itself is a space synth opera. Spanning over 7 minutes long, the piece is a sonic wonder in analog beauty from start to finish. Meandering and winding through a wonderland of Moog vibes, the track is reminiscent of a late 70s sci-fi analog soundtrack. I hear tinges of Italo horror interspersed, with Fulci, Argento and Susperia coming to mind. The moods evoked are indeed tense and foreboding, yet there is a sense of beauty and wonder in the execution of such an ambitious piece. Intermittent with a tape warp/pitch effect, the track steers through segments; the listener feels as if they are in a foreign world, isolated space, somewhere cold and distant.

The video itself is a beautiful fit with the depth and richness of the track. Haunting and rich imagery from this film (which I couldn’t find much information on) seems to tell the story of the USSR space exploration program and journey in fictional format. A group of scientists travel to space and find themselves in a foreign world, reminiscent of Dali and a surrealist environment. They return to the ship and become overwhelmed with gas and fumes when their ship malfunctions. The headlines at home print articles mourning the loss of the crew. It’s hard to describe exactly what is unfolding and under what context, but the imagery is so fitting and strong for the kind of music set as a foundation. The power of this analog monster track combines for a flawless experience and journey through space with the selective shots Luigi lays down. The skill and taste in carefully crafted and choice edits set Luigi ahead of the majority of YouTube channels. Apart from his dedicated fan base, it’s nice to know he can put together an exceptional composition. Keep up the great work LD. You mean so much to so many.

#4 Flores - Bath Salts

Flores is one of the most promising of younger producers who is pioneering a pristine homage and representation in the best of pop 80s music, but also bringing dreamy Vaporwave inspired vocals to accompany his tracks. Bath Salts is an incredible arrangement that has the best of both worlds. Using analog hardware with minimal digital accompaniment, the quality in sound and knowledge in tasty chord progressions is evident with this one man show from Menifee, California.

The track begins with joyous and bubbling synthesizers lapped over a classic breakbeat/clap combination, digging deep into the nostalgia and love of the 80s soundtracks in our favorite John Hughe’s movies. There is an innocence and sophistication in the music of Flores. He manages to capture the senses with beautiful arrangements, as a haunting and reverbed voice splays over the piece with an ominous yet comforting effect. The precision is sharp, as this producer has the innate ability to craft memorable pieces. I just love this, and actually have had the tune on repeat for a while now.

The visual accompaniment to this splendid work is indeed the best part of the package. Flores has managed to capture our hearts and ears with a surreal video of himself singing over a green screen of underwater splendor. Through water, fish, radiant light and spectrums of blue, our vocalist shines through in tasteful fashion, giving us a glimpse of the man himself. Emotional and honest, I sincerely appreciate the level of attention Flores gives you. It’s clear music is close to his heart, and sharing that with us with such a wonderful visual creation really does add to the experience in a way other artists fail to do. I feel comfortable and engaged when watching this video that doesn’t shine for it’s ability to be high budget, but because it’s creative, emotional and above all *real.* Thanks for your gifts Flores, your work is fantastic.

#3. 20SIX Hundred - Critical Momentum (presented by Anony Muzsic)

20SIX Hundred has established himself as a heavy contender when it comes to making horror, sci-fi inspired and darker retrowave tracks. This artist has a knack for tapping into influences from pioneering artists such as John Carpenter, Tangerine Dream and even Emerson and Palmer (when you take a closer listen) Spectacular and detailed melodies, arpeggiations and sonic soundscapes of wonder and journey really just begin to touch on the many facets Darren Jones (the man behind the skull and black leather gloves) has to offer. Whether dark or atmospheric, the range of sounds is indeed impressive and almost transcending…as he has a propensity to touch on ambient textures within his songs.

With a brand new track, Critical Momentum, 20SIX Hundred fires pistons to take you on a ride full of light and wonder. Fast and determined, this powerful arrangement shows what 20SIX Hundred has in his arsenal of sounds. Beautiful, layered melodies combine for an out of body experience. Swirling arpeggiations surround a heavy and driving beat. I can really feel the purpose behind this, and the guitar that enters halfway through is gorgeous. It’s clear to me Darren was made to make music, and those who are fortunate enough to dig a bit deeper into his work will be rewarded.

The video that accompanies this track is mind blowing. It’s a perfect example of what found footage can become. Quick edits with a tasteful manipulation in imagery, layers, speed and subject matter all combine for a visual experience that pulls you in for each frame. Canvassing an array of moods and subject matter, the video flashes between so much it’s difficult to put it into context. Traveling through tunnels made of light, surfing through analog layers of tape and boom box heaven, researching the human body, flying through space…see? Now I’m sounding weird. It’s just something you will have to watch and absorb in your own time. You won’t be disappointed. Top notch pacing and editing make this found video collage in life and sound a work of art. Synthetix Telegenic is proud to feature such strong work.

#2. Meteor - Escape the Fate

2016 is the year of Meteor. He took the synthwave scene by storm with his monumental release Parallel Lives. (Without a doubt some of the best 80s driven inspired works of art to come out in some time.) The force, momentum and talent behind each of his tracks are incredible. Dynamic would be an understatement. With his ability to connect us to the best in soundtrack themed tunes, this artist has an exceptional talent with guitar, which tastefully shreds through select compositions.

In Escape the Fate, Meteor delivers his signature brand of suave, finessed and complex synthwave. Polished drums lead the way for a symphony in sounds. Beautiful leads, pads and bass come together for an energetic and moody piece that is so lush and tasty. I can see this well placed in a movie with our hero battling evil to reclaim the city. Funny, it’s a theme I place with Meteor on more than one occasion. Exceptional.

The video is a foray into the world of Meteor. It’s nighttime. She walks alone. He waits. Professionally shot and debuted through the NewRetroWave channel, the video is sleeked with noir themed tinges throughout, spellbinding and compelling in addition to the music coaxing the story along. We are introduced to our protagonist, he is shown through an ominous blend of lights. (and of course behind shades) A woman at night walks to her car and encounters what could be her last moments alive. A man flashes a knife and threatens the woman. Our hero emerges from the shadows and delivers her from harm. Quite fitting, Meteor does the same thing with his music. With careful shot selection and a grasp of edits, this video stands apart from others with a seamless blend of visuals and audio efforts. Stellar and well applauded Meteor.

#1. Beverly Girl - Contagious

This sleeked out retro pop/new wave outfit from Finland dazzles and amazes listeners with their latest visual masterpiece and song, “Contagious.” Kicking off with the most authentic of 80s sound (reminiscent of more current retro-themed artists like Sunglasses Kid and Phaserland) the music is undeniably sweet and pleasing.

Funked out with a breakbeat, clap and Linndrum bass, the track layers just the right amount of beautiful and shimmering synths choreographing a splendid blend of “contagious 80s sounds.” (And we haven’t even touched on the singing.) A powerful and flawlessly produced set of vocals explodes with one of the most talented voices I’ve heard before. A bubbly and incredibly catchy refrain turns into emotive verses that capture the best of the 80s. Structure wise, these guys understand how to put a song together. A spine tingling bridge with the momentum of 80s full force behind allow me to close my eyes and be transported to a better time. I activate Wayfarer and bleached jean jacket mode, sleeking back the hair one more time to make sure it’s in place. I’m ready to drive. This is just too awesome.

The video itself is a masterpiece. Three enigmatic musicians on stage emerge from a haze of purple. The lights, editing and arrangement of these rockers in action makes for splendid edits and pacing. Each artist is performing the track “live” on a nightclub stage, and the range of cutaways and choreographed moves sets this in a professional category of it’s own. The crafting of each moment with detail and focus on the beautiful lead vocalist immediately captures your attention. Through swirling lights and dissolves, my reaction is nothing short of enamored and stunned. The bridge switches gears effortlessly and a deeper mood of shooting unfolds, a silhouette against the dazzle of purple and white spectrum of light. What a delicious arrangement and video, completely deserving of the number one place on Synthetix Telegenic for this edition and a genuinely stand out experience for the Synthetix.FM vaults.

If you'd like to submit a video for possible inclusion in Synthetix Telegenic please contact me via the Facebook Synthetix Telegenic page here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Orax's Cometa

By Jerry Herrera

ORAX has been, to me, a fixture of the synthwave scene, releasing tracks here and there for as long as I can remember. There is a darkness to his sound and I think that while he’s been a prolific and great artist, the channels (literally) through which his music has been released have gotten him all wrong. Forgive my criticism but I’m very tired of a “retro” image and a logo slapped onto it passing for a video.

Enter Cometa, the first full length album from ORAX. It’s one of those albums that grabs you right from the beginning and makes you wonder why our little genre isn’t bigger than it is. It’s ten beefy tracks long and full of a lot of imagination and intricacy. Broken is the first track and it’s one of those songs that you start off listening to and maybe you nod a bit and say “okay I like this” and then it hits its stride and you go “GOD DAMN” and suddenly you’re a fan.

The way the album is constructed is very smart as well. Each track is its own entity but as you go through the album you notice certain hints of a theme, recognizing certain instruments and progressions as though you were reading an author who wrote ten different novels but you understand his style. ORAX figures out a way to weave his signature into every one of the songs on Cometa.

I also feel like these songs are incredibly personal to ORAX. Maybe I’m reading too much into it but each track, with their succinct titles, is meant to convey a certain emotion or atmosphere. I think that the person behind the music went very deep into his life and experiences and composed from the gut. I say the gut, as opposed to the heart, because the heart heals extremely quick but I can remember every single time I’ve been punched in the stomach.

Cometa is thusly an album full of darkness and plodding, thundering noises. Even though there are jazzy, R&B inspired songs on the album, they still stick to the roots of morose wandering. This album is the perfect soundtrack to a broken hearted exploration of your nearest gathering of tall buildings.

Here is where I begin my criticism of Cometa. It’s not a synthwave album. There’s nothing resembling synthwave tracks at all, anywhere. I didn’t feel like I was breezing through a coastal highway during the sunset, I didn’t feel like I was being chased through grimy city streets, I didn’t picture myself at the club where the Terminator finally caught up with Sarah Connor.

What I did experience was a dark journey down the avenues of an odd mind. All the thumping kicks, the glittering, glassy melodies, the sad horns, all came together in a strange way and while ORAX is a synthwave artist I think this effort goes further beyond genre and the trappings you’d expect.

Is it game changing? No. But there is a lot of meat to Cometa and it is not so easily tasted or digested. It’s a very different album than what we are used to and I think it’s also very personal as well. It’s an achievement in that the retro sound is used to explore the heart of a man as opposed to setting the scene of a cheesy narrative. Of course it’s been done before but ORAX has composed an album that is unique in how personal it is.

ORAX presents Cometa, which is available through New Retrowave Records here and comes very, very highly recommended from Synthetix.FM.

Thursday, June 9, 2016


Absolute Valentine - Police Heartbreaker 

By James Mann

For anyone who has paid attention to or immersed themselves in the synthwave scene, the name Absolute Valentine should ring a bell. A big one. This artist has been delivering top shelf, driving and memorable electro themed compositions for several years now. Gracing us with the finest synth-based tracks which are nothing short of massive, this producer from France has an innate ear and talent for melodies; percussion and bridges that play up the speakers without any teasing to bring you finesse, flair and noir themes which immediately tug at the sensibilities.

One of the first things I noticed about Absolute Valentine was the level of production. Each instrument and synth sits so nicely. Achieving a balance between compression, limiting and loudness is a picky war of words in the producer world, but with releases like Police Heartbreaker, (Absolute Valentine’s latest LP released through Laserdiscs Records) a benchmark for production seems to have been established. A tour de force in sound, analog moods marry digital touches for one of the best releases of the year. Swinging the pendulum from emotive and heartfelt, to pulsating and driving electro, this release has it all and is guaranteed to satiate all facets of the discerning synth lover.

Bad News comes full throttle and scorches terrain as an electro and arpeggiated masterpiece. Within seconds you are pulled into the Absolute Valentine sound, as dynamic synths dance around a huge kick and clap combo. Inspirations from other artists and a French touch can be heard, but this powerhouse of a musician stamps the product for himself. Ethereal melodies float above as proof AV can bring the heat but also delve into more emotional material, combining different aesthetics in a cohesive manner. It’s short and sweet, giving the listener a sense of anticipation for the next track.

Police Heartbreaker opens with a John Carpenter inspired horror synth line. The one big difference between the two is that Absolute Valentine charges ahead with a danceable and energetic piece showcasing prime chord progressions. Between scouting urban landscape for criminals, or getting a full pump with Mr. Metal at the gym, I’m torn on the possibilities. Simply put, this track is a sizzler and represents the best in dance electro with a huge 80s nod. Keeping the songs fit to a 3-4 minute mark, AV keeps your attention quite effectively.

As I progress through the album, I notice the strength in soundtrack inspired moods from Absolute. Tracks like Stake Out provide the best in 80s scoring. Pensive and moody arpeggiations with clever off claps, toms and kicks scream OST. (Original Sound Track) material. Fitting as a backdrop or front and center, these are impressive works that transcend so much more in terms of cinema based ear candy. The flexibility and versatility is astounding.

Extreme Drift is perhaps my favorite on the album. An unapologetic thrust of kick and clap bring me back to Patrick Cowley and early Hi-NRG numbers from the Paul PArker/Sylvester era. High end synths usher in a French House tinge, but again AV is able to craft something quite special and something so memorable for your senses. His excitement and love of production shows, it’s something not quite as evident on other releases I’ve heard building 80s inspired music from the ground up. Well Done.

I had a chance to catch up with Absolute and asked him what the album was all about. (In between managing the pioneering DRIVE Radio and CEO of Laserdiscs Records, this man is busy!) “The idea behind Police Heartbreaker was to do a real soundtrack for an anime so i have in my writing process a story, and give life to AV character.” Indeed the inspiration is clear, combining an audio representation for an AV element widens the perspective of this release. Clearly through the range of moods and progression to more downtempo and somber arrangements such as Fallen Rose, the storytelling of this character are in place. As far as inspiration goes, “I take my inspiration in some 70's music and a tend also to work on movie, as example i take a scene of a movie and design the music around. My main inspiration come from anime and sci-fi movies.

Powerful and stating, Police Heartbreaker brings an undeniable sense of confidence and perspective for the scene. The music speaks for itself; lasting, driving and crafted with care from the ground up. At times showing the finest in synth wizardry with ridiculously sweet and mind blowing leads, to more cyclical groove based leads, the album really does have it all. Spectacular and strong percussion solidifies a strong backbone for an impressive array of moods, and this guy can execute flawlessly. Never say Au Revoir to this French professional, it’s only the beginning of a long romance with Absolute Valentine.

The album is available on Lazerdiscs Records Bandcamp page here and comes very, very highly recommended by Synthetix FM.

Dream Fiend - Starcade EP

By Lachie Hunt

An arcade in the 1980s. A boy, with a magical entity only he can see. Dream Fiend's Starcade EP is a window into a story that never was. Dream Fiend, also known as Jay Babinall, has so far released one full EP and a few singles on the side, along with a couple more remixes of other artists songs.

The title track Starcade is the standout here, with an infectious 8bit lead keeping the song groovy. The drums seem to be more trap inspired here, with pitch shifting and woodblocks thrown in to spice the song up. I've got to commend the use of samples here too, especially in the intros of the first two tracks. They help set their respective tones perfectly.

The two other songs here are more lowkey quiet affairs, with a hint of romance to them with the same lovely 808 beats drenched in reverb.

This release is currently available on Dream Fiend's Bandcamp and Soundcloud for free.

Michael Vintage - Instinct Sensuel

By Rick Shithouse

Michael Vintage's new EP caught me be surprise as it grabbed my attention instantly. The smooth and highly sensual synths in the first introductory track  reminded me a great deal of Michael Cassette's own brand of musical tenderness with shades of Klockhaus's masterpiece Tinplate Ant echoing through the bassline. The attraction was immediate and Michael Vintage's synthual vista unveiled itself before my eyes.

The soundscape that Michael Vintage uses is equal parts synth romance and nostalgic melancholy. Subtleties in layers and tones are his tools of musical exploration as his tracks slowly unwind and descend into deep mysteries. The sparseness of the mix gives a great feeling of space and intimacy, the following track after the introductory piece called 'Love Machine' pops with a small bouncy melody over the top of slow moving haunting synths pieces. The percussion has a very complimentary style to blend with the darker synth elements with a sustained presence that Michael Vintage uses throughout the pieces.

The contrast of the inquisitive and tender melodies with swirling, melancholy synths in the backgroud allows Michael Vintage to  set up a mood instantly and work in and around the feelings. He has a real skill at working the balance between lighter and darker parts of the story to ensure the music is engaging and interesting. Stripping things back in 'Our Night' to a full stop at one point really makes you hold your breath; awaiting the rest of the scene to unfold.

My favourite track on the EP is definitely 'Sea Of Pleasure'. The previous tracks, including the intro seem to build to this piece as a climactic and important stage of the story. The flow of this track is bewitchingly smooth and every little detail is sublimely mixed into the passages. But yes, that bassline is the heart and soul of the experience, it's wonderful to hear the legacies of Michael Cassette and Klockhaus reborn anew in this producer's sound. The nostalgia is thoroughly intoxicating!

The EP's over arching story of passionately intimate tristes between lovers and the whole subtext of passionate feelings well below the surface interactions. Regardless of how smutty I'd like to make this review, it really isn't. The understanding of two people's feelings are real and felt directly through the music. It's expressive and beautiful. The final two tracks of the record go deeper into the afterglow with 'Sensuel' and 'After Sex' taking the mood into a relaxed dreamstate with an enveloping warmth and sensitivity moving in electrically charged waves.

Michael Vintage's Instinct Sensuel is a truly delightful concept piece that takes the synth romance sounds into some engaging directions. The haunting and tender nature of this music works to perfection over the six tracks in detailing an intimate situation between lovers. The overwhelming power of nostalgia for me, in regards to the two artists I'd previously mentioned, coloured my opinion in a very obvious way, however, and your impressions may certainly differ. But that's what it's all about. The memory, the feelings and the places the music takes you to. Definitely an experience for lovers of every kind and denomination. Pick up a copy of this EP on Michael Vintage's Bandcamp page here.

Vampire Step-Dad - Sweater Weather

By Sarah Halloran

So, your mother brings home this new guy, and he seems okay, nice even; not like the usual losers you’ve had to tolerate. Sure, he has some odd habits - sleeps during the day, remarkably camera shy, and he says the coffin is “just...umm...for storage”. Just your average quirky guy though, right? Only you’ve seen him slip out late at night, covert, pale and alert...a man on the edge, a man in need. You’ve seen that look before. Is it hunger? You’re starting to suspect, you’re starting to wonder. Could he really be...your Vampire Step-Dad?

I just love the whole Vampire Step-Dad concept, and the imagination it stirs up. On seeing the artist name for the first time I was already thinking out day-to-day family scenarios for our paternal hero with a thing for Type-O.

Okay, onto the music. That’s why you’re here. Vampire Step-Dad is relatively new blood on the synthwave scene, and seems to have a bit of a thing for fiendish family members. His debut EP, My Biological Father is a Werewolf, was released last year and it’s wonderful. Lastest offering, Sweater Weather, boldly released in somewhat sultry June (well, for some of us anyway) is a charming yet deadly mix of darkwave, smooth synth goodness, rib-rattling basslines and even a little sax which is always welcome.

First track, aptly named ‘The Beginning’ kicks things off nicely with a playfully twinkly intro before deftly switching gear into more menacing territory with some dark and dank chords of doom. This was a strong contender for second favourite track on the album, but more of that later.

Arnie fans will no doubt appreciate the nod to ‘Commando’ with next track ‘Green Berets for Breakfast’, and it’s an absolute stunner. Vampire Step-Dad really gives Carpenter Brut a run for the money on this adrenalin-charged, power-synth and guitar-packed showpiece. This is without a doubt my favourite track on the whole EP. I’m sure many others will agree.

‘I Want the Stars’ slips things down a few notches; a beautifully arranged track combining fierce kicks with a vibrant lead synth that projects an almost sad and lonely vibe at times. There’s a lot of warmth here, but it’s slightly offset by a melancholy jaunt across the minor keys. I admit to swaying a little to this track, and had I a lighter to hand I may just have held it in the air.

The last thing you want to do when there is a vamp in town is break curfew. Seriously kids, get home before nightfall. “Breaking Curfew” is another stunning track heavy on soulful synths, and if you love sweet sax solos you’re in for a little surprise. Personally, I don’t think sax is used enough in synthwave, and so it’s always great to hear. My only niggle, and it’s only a small one, would be to hear a longer solo, but maybe it’s a teaser for things to come in the future.

If you’re a synth-loving, pedal-pumping petrolhead with a penchant for driving fast (Synthetix FM in no way endorses or encourages speeding) and you’re wondering whether Vampire Step-Dad has any tunes just for you, you betcha. ‘Ten and Two’ has everything you need for a law-abiding and enjoyable drive. Dark synth stabs, crisp, steady kicks and rolling bass will have you putting on your bestest ever mean face and chasing down the horizon (whilst obeying all road signs and speed limits along the way).

Music arrangement aside, one of the biggest challenges for a producer is thinking up new and exciting names for their tracks. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better track name than ‘Please Jan Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em’, and again it conjures up all sorts of images. In my case it was an enraged Jan holding his Moog Voyager aloft before a terrified crowd. This is most definitely my second favourite track on the entire EP. Fat synths, robust percussion and heartfelt guitar merge effortlessly into a killer track thoroughly deserving of its promising title.

So come on, loosen those collars and stick on a little ‘Sweater Weather’ this summer. Just don’t loosen them too much. You know what vamps are like when those necks are on show. ‘Sweater Weather’ comes very, very highly recommended by Synthetix FM, and is available on Bandcamp here. Oh, and there are stickers too! We do love a bit of merch here at Synthetix FM.

Engines and Engineers: Examining the Machinery Within MoTER's Omegadriver

By Michael CA L

Firmly embedded in a corner of 80's-inspired culture are images of retro-futuristic road vehicles. Sometimes these machines are driving through empty desert roads that go on for eternity towards an unreachable vanishing point in the lonely distance. Sometimes these machines are actual production cars from the eighties era, brilliantly painted or fully-chromed and cruising fast along palm-lined coastal highways in a race against the setting sun. Sometimes these machines are airborne, hurtling through the void of space towards destinations unknown and for covert purposes. Sometimes these machines are moving at blinding speeds through the stimulus-choked streets of a metropolitan gridscape, the towering skyscrapers on each side of the median blurring into a barely broken flicker as the headlight beams bounce off of the endless reflective panes of glass or halogen signage that make up the street-level scene. The scenarios (of which these are but a few) are many, but whatever the vision, the concept of The Drive is truly a central feature within the 80's-inspired visual aesthetic, and as fans of synthwave and other retro-electronic music genres will tell you, it's also a fundamental aspect found within numerous 80's-inspired sounds.

Nearing the end of 2015, a new rider cruised into Retro City with a sound, feel and demeanour that made people take notice. Hailing from Greece, the oh-so-appropriately named MoTER (aka Konstantinos Karydis) introduced himself in October of last year with a self-titled debut EP. Arriving as a relative stranger in town, within several short weeks it seemed like very few hadn't become acquainted with MoTER's sleekly produced, finely-tuned, densely-packed and all-pistons-firing model of 80's-inspired electronic music - a model that contains a levelled and measured intensity, a kinetic propulsiveness, and an edge-riding element of threat to it that instantly brings to mind the vehicular side of retro-synth and has The Drive written all over it.

MoTER has now expanded on his sound by releasing his second EP, titled Omegadriver, which retains the same compactly-assembled chassis and built-for-cruising mechanical elements that made his first offering stand out, yet this time around he brings the listener a fresh set of wheels on a body that's been overhauled with new textures, colours, curves and lines. Opting for the trimmed and compact precision of the EP format once again, the four tracks on Omegadriver each deliver a powerful, punchy dose of fuel-injected sound.

Outside the melodic and structural differences in each track, there are several attributes shared by all four that create a cohesion like that of the finest machines that own the highways and passages of the real world as well as those of our fictional retro-dreams. Dense, precise kick beats and spiking snare hits pull the tracks forward relentlessly with the force of a warp drive, and dense, overdriven basslines veer up the center lane boldly with an arching, bending intensity that clears their own space between the differing melodies and are impossible to ignore. Cruising above the undercurrents of bass, melodic stabs, crystalline bells and shimmering chimes cast vivid, high-altitude glare over the low-frequency floods of synthspace that lie below.

Like any engine that's been pushed too hard across pathways that are too risky, at pivotal moments within the tracks there are rhythmic catches, shudders and glitchy irregularities that are at once perfectly timed and beautifully, refreshingly unexpected. And like any motor that's been pushed to its limit countless times, these moments are the sonic equivalent of red-hot cylinders that have burned themselves into a state of backfire, and sound off as if to remind the driver that no thrill ride can be sustained indefinitely without moments of mechanical slippage and the reorganization of timing within the fiery machinery.

MoTER's newest EP Omegadriver is quite honestly one of the few releases I can remember where each track is so well-crafted that selecting a highlight is a serious challenge. Could it be "Cathedral", with its absolutely blistering wall-of-sound and measured, deliberate idling speed? Maybe it's "Airstrip", with its ice-winged takeoff followed by its unforgettable chorus melody? Perhaps it's one of the album's opening tracks, "Oslo" or the eponymous "Omegadriver", with their steady, arpeggio-regulated atmospheres of controlled motion through harrowing obstacle courses. Call me indecisive or call me uncertain, but don't call me indifferent, because MoTER's second release, in all its revved-up machinery, is as powerful an EP as I've heard come out of the retro-electronic scene in many years, and this artist's efforts are bringing new meaning to the term "audio engineer".

MoTER's Omegadriver comes very, very highly recommended from Synthetix.FM and is available here through the Werkstatt Recordings Bandcamp website.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

OGRE & Dallas Campbell Go Beyond The Infinite

By Sarah Halloran

The year was 1968. It was a year of tragedy and triumph; the year that the world lost Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, and the year that America introduced the first Boeing 747 and orbited the moon. It was also the year that saw the release of possibly the best science fiction film ever made.

Based on Arthur C. Clarke’s story The Sentinel, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick's epic masterpiece, pushed the boundaries of special effects (no CGI in 1968 - just lasers, clever use of sticky tape and a giant hamster wheel), and indeed mankind’s quest to understand our very existence and the meaning of life. If you thought that Star Wars: Episode IV was the height of early science fiction special effects, you really need to see where George Lucas, at his own admission, got his inspiration from.

From the moment 2001 begins to the moment it reaches its mind-bending finale I guarantee you will be transfixed. Seriously, I have never rewound a movie so many times wondering “How the hell did they do that in 1968? 1968!” And to think, this movie was made a whole year before man stepped foot on the moon. That in itself is mind blowing. I toyed with the idea of giving up big spoilers in this review, but I decided against it. If you haven’t already seen the film, I suggest you watch it as soon as you can. You may not understand what it is about, you may compare it to other more recent sci-fi movies , but I think you just might be picking your jaw off the floor when you realise this is a movie that has been iconic for almost fifty years.

Fans of groundbreaking 70s and 80s sci-fi classics like Blade Runner, Escape from New York and Solaris will appreciate the importance of a brilliantly experimental soundtrack, and 2001: A Space Odyssey’s soundtrack is no exception. From the almost languid ballet of the spacecraft as they turn in orbit to the trippy “Star Gate” sequence, our senses are held hostage to stunning visuals and monumental soundscapes; soundscapes that will stay in the mind for many years to come, and which will always be associated with the key scenes of this groundbreaking movie.

The original soundtrack is very much orchestral in its arrangement, featuring classical pieces from Richard Strauss, Johann Strauss II and Sprach Zarathustra. It is a soundtrack that has been released many times over the years, and which has also been digitally remastered.

A question that many people have asked since the movie was released was whether it could be improved or appreciated in a different way if it were to feature a synth-based soundtrack. And why not? Moogs and moviemakers have enjoyed one hell of a successful relationship over the years with Apocalypse Now (Carmine and Francis Ford Coppola), The Fog (John Carpenter) and more recently Drive (Cliff Martinez) being some of the most noteable electronic soundscapes.

It’s a question that Robin Ogden (OGRE) and Dallas Campbell also pondered, and fortunately for us, they had the drive, tools and talent to give us the answer. Over two months (although you’d be forgiven for thinking it was much longer!), they worked tirelessly together to craft a “carefully composed alternate soundtrack created on analog synthesizers alongside more experimental techniques that spans 2001’s entire 134 minute run time.” With tools such as the Korg MS-20, Korg Mono/Poly, Roland SH-101 and RS-505 at their disposal, Robin and Dallas have created a masterpiece that really does need to be heard to be appreciated. My words simply cannot do it justice.

Beyond The Infinite is a stunning collection of 35 analog soundscapes that perfectly mirrors the flight of Discovery and its condemned crew. From the overture to the end credits, Robin and Dallas capture the very essence of ominousity, wonder, futility and enlightenment portrayed in this timeless cinematic classic. Huge black monoliths and whacked-out computers deserve dark, edgy music, and this is dished out in spades in what can only be described as a true labour of love, and a deep appreciation and understanding for analog instruments and effects.

There were many, many stand out moments for me on Beyond The Infinite, and what I really appreciated was how this soundtrack made me feel, and I mean really feel. That could only have been achieved through planning out each individual composition in meticulous detail and matching it flawlessly with the action on screen. You feel the terror, the abject panic, the relief, the realisation, the wonder, the loneliness and this epic journey across time and space in its entirety, and that’s what makes this soundtrack so brilliant, whether you are listening to it standalone or alongside the movie.

In short, this is a monumental achievement in both synth composition and experimentation, and it would be great to see more of this type of work in the future. If you have yet to watch one of the most influential movies ever made, I really urge you to do so, and to do so alongside one of the most influential synth soundtracks ever made. Just what do you think you’re doing, Dave?

Beyond The Infinite is the definition of a Synthtetix Reference Experience as it raises the bar for what producers are capable of achieving in retro synth soundtrack music. It's available through the Telefuture label on Bandcamp here and for a limited time you can also get your hands on 2 professionally duplicated cassettes in a black-on-black tall box. The first 50 sets also come with two buttons, an insert and sticker.