Saturday, July 30, 2016

Synthetix Sundays Returns!



Synthetix Sundays returns as Marko and the crew load up the big guns for the show you've been hungering for that you know will satisfy your synth cravings, only on Radio Pure Gently!

This epic return show features interviews with Dana Jean Phoenix, Tape Loader and Neon Shudder as well as a special roundtable discussion on the new 80s-centric TV series Stranger Things with Marko, Rick Shithouse, Dallas Dredske and Protector 101.

All the rockin regulars including Paul Dress2Kill Daly, Synthetix Spotlight and Quality Time With Shithouse return in a cavalcade of synthtacular celebrations!

Marko's got a massive playlist of killer tunes and there'll be a tonne of download code giveaways and all the shenanigans he can muster!

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.





Friday, July 29, 2016

Pacific Deep's Gain



By Andrew B White

Pacific Deep is a collaboration between San Francisco’s Carl Grace & Auckland’s Raymond Hayter. “Gain” is the fourth release from this musical TPP (trans-pacific partnership) and the duo has consistently released albums annually since 2013. These albums are essentially collections of individual tracks that have been previously released on Soundcloud; remastered and sequenced into full albums with the odd remix added.



“Gain” continues in the vein of Pacific Deep’s previous releases – mostly vocal-based synthpop, with a little Euro-pop influence thrown in. If you are immediately in need of comparisons then artists such as the Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, early Depeche Mode and Visage come to mind. “Gain” weighs in with a hefty 14 songs plus an additional remix. The songs are built around traditional pop arrangements and running times clock-in accordingly – they do not overstay their welcome or meander-on aimlessly.

The lyrics cover familiar love themes, often with a welcome quirk. For example on ‘My Friends Hate You’, a song about a domineering partner, Carl sings “my friends hate you, they don’t understand why I date you”. Indeed – we’ve probably all been there, and on ‘Rebellion Suits You’ the chorus states “you bring about rebellion, and it suits you, you wear it like a dress”. It both kind of dry, kind of nerdy and kind of fun, all at once.

There are a couple of slight deviations from the straight synthpop formula with the album’s only instrumental track ‘Found My Way Home’ and the darker and brooding ‘Under The Dirt’ but they both sit well alongside the other tracks.

In addition to the album’s opener ‘One More Day’, ‘My Friends Hate You’ and ‘Rebellion Suits You’ other highlights include ‘Tell It Like It Is’, ‘Crowded In Solitude’ and ‘Let Loose’.

‘Tell It Like It Is’ gets a little ‘DEVO’ on it and features some faux-rock guitar, a great synth line, a variation of timings in the chorus and some tasteful vocoder. ‘Crowded In Solitude’ sits in Depeche Mode territory both musically and lyrically – its not hard to imagine this song coming directly from the pen of M. Gore and co.

“Gain” is an upbeat, somewhat whimsical and endearing album of synthpop. Hardcore outrun or dark-synth fans might find the vocal-heavy material a little ‘lightweight’, however Pacifc Deep are a welcome addition to the current crop of modern synth artists, flying the flag for this style of music. This is the sound of two people collaborating together on music that they thoroughly enjoy making, with no egos on board, and it shows.


As with all of Pacific Deep’s albums, Gain is ‘name your price’ and is available on Bandcamp here and comes highly recommended by Synthetix.FM.


In an effort to find out more, I asked Pacific Deep’s Raymond Hayter to give Synthetix.FM a little background on the collaboration. Here’s what he told me:

In 2012, Raymond released an instrumental track ‘Natural Progression' on Soundcloud. It was primarily a collection of disjointed riffs that he liked, strung together into a semi-cohesive track. ‘Natural Progression’ was written using Propellerhead’s Reason 6.5 (music production software), not long after Reason started supporting ‘rack extensions’ which allowed third-party instruments to be used. The track featured a musical hook that used a new rack extension – an emulation of the Korg Polysix (1980s synthesizer). Carl happened to come across Raymond’s track online and liked what he heard, particularly the Polysix riff. Carl emailed Raymond asking if he was open to collaboration, whereby he would change the arrangement into a structured song, and add his vocals. Raymond was both thrilled and flattered that someone had listened to and liked his track, let alone wanted to work on it, and was quick to take Carl up on his offer.

The results were a success. Raymond was very happy with Carl’s structuring of the song, the additional vocals and enhanced arrangement. It was the start of what has become the Pacific Deep collaboration.

Since then, Carl and Raymond have been writing new songs together. Carl supplying the vocals and majority of the lyrics, with both contributing on synths, programming, arrangement, mixing and production. All collaboration to date has been via e-mail and swapping files on Dropbox. The two have spoken to each other on the phone only once!

Both Carl and Raymond immensely enjoy music of the 80s, primarily synthpop, and that has become the default basis for Pacific Deep’s sound. They also share an interest in the technology of the 80s and 90s – the Commodore 64 and Amiga computers in particular, electronics and other “techy” things. Some of these influences come through in the themes of the music.

Pacific Deep also collaborate with other musicians. A frequent collaborator is New York-based Ed Castro who produces under the name GEM. He has remixed several Pacific Deep tracks, reinventing them with his own style and ideas.

Pacific Deep are aware of the synthwave scene but are not directly a product of it. Primary influences are citied as Jean-Michel Jarre, Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, early Thomas Dolby, Depeche Mode, New Order, Pet Shop Boys, Jan Hammer, Yello, the Human League, Pseudo Echo and Soft Cell, along with some 90s euro-disco acts such as 2-Unlimited.

Production-wise, their DAW (digital audio workstation) of choice is Properllerhead’s Reason, mostly using soft synths and “Refill” sample and synth patch libraries.

Favorites include the Korg Mono/Poly and Polysix soft synths, Rob Papen’s Predator and Vacto, Propellerhead’s PX7 and Parsec, the Synapse Antidote and a refill of Fairlight and synth samples called “Way Beyond Fairlight”.

They also use hardware which consists of Carl’s guitar, a vintage Roland JX-8P synth, the new Roland JP-08 and JU-06 boutique synths and aDSI Mopho X4.

Given the physical distance factor between Raymond and Carl the are no plans for Pacific Deep to play live at this point. In the meantime the two intend to keep collaborating via the web and release more tracks and eventually another album.





Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Crockett's City Of Ghosts


By Jerry Herrera

Crockett’s City of Ghosts begins in familiar territory with “Safe House”, taking a cue from “Tick of the Clock” to build an otherworldly but gentle rise in tension and atmosphere, setting the scene for us. City of Ghosts takes place in a place as brightly lit as it is cast in darkness, a place not of our time but perhaps just beyond, where there are many stories to tell.



The title track breaks from the noirish pulse of the first track for a bit of cool synth funk, with an immediately bouncing, catchy bassline. It’s one of my favorites and goes far to show that City of Ghosts isn’t an overwrought piece of sci fi wank, but a believable place in fiction or film. Still, a synthwave release wouldn’t be the same without some good mid tempo outrun and “Lost Soul” and “Informer” deliver in spades, the latter with some ethereal guitar work adding to the neon cruise. “Changing Lanes” is more outrun but stands out from the previous two with some really wonderful melodies and thin layers of sound that come together to produce a gorgeous vision of the Skyline of Ghosts. These tracks represent travel to and from and within the titular City and all its cold, dystopian beauty.

From the streets of the City of Ghosts to perhaps the skies, we journey upward. Here Crockett blends space synth with heavy doses of ambient and minimal influences on “Fading Away,” “Dreams of Home” and “Isolation.” “Isolation” is more so of a departure from the last two because of the sad wailing of the guitar. It’s a perfect balance of a power ballad by an ‘80s hair band and the emotionless musings of a sentient machine. I think it may be my favorite track on the album because I found myself lost in the music, reflecting on nights I myself may have spent lost in the City.

Back down into the streets for some more outrun for the next several tracks which, I will admit got a bit samey on occasion but Crockett is very smart when it comes to instrumentation and will bust out that sexy guitar JUST when I was about to tune out. I suppose this is somewhat of a backwards compliment but I think it goes to show great awareness in composition and knowing the flow of your music and your overall album “map” if you will.

The final track “Out of the Shadows” revisits the same pulsing intensity that began the album. It’s the credits roll track if City of Ghosts was a film about the lives (or afterlives) of the City’s citizens. I think City of Ghosts follows a certain rhythm, a rise and fall, a guided tour of this fictional yet all too real place. It’s full of inspired moments and melodies, from cool guitar licks to progressions that take me down to the ground level and all the sights and smells one might encounter in Crockett’s vision. City of Ghosts is most definitely tech-noir, as cyberpunk as it is cybersophisticate. Wherever you fall on the synth spectrum you will find some little bit to latch onto, some line of one of City of Ghost’s many stories, and suddenly be drawn into its shimmering skyscrapers and down it’s sickly pink neon streets.

Crockett presents City of Ghosts, available for purchase on Rain Dragon Records Bandcamp page here and comes very, very highly recommended by Synthetix.FM.



Thursday, July 21, 2016

AIRBORNE



London Lazers - Tide You Over
By Rick Shithouse



London Lazers returns to captivate your heart with waves of synthually deep chords of emotion on his new EP Tide You Over. This five track affair is something special indeed as it takes much of synthwave-trappings of previous London Lazers releases and forgoes them for raw, emotional compositions that move and evolve of their own volition rather than stay grounded to templates and formulas.

From the opening piece 'Juliet' we're presented with a vastly, sprawling open wound of synthsitivity. A crushed out, blunted bassline maraudes like a haunting spectre while shivering caresses of the faintest melodies say the words you want to hear but can't bear to say. The use of guitars through out add even more humanity and presence to the experience. It sets a tone that is then further explored.

The music remains deeply rooted in London Lazers Synth Romance fascinations while revelling in what makes the music so emotionally connecting. 'Sentiments' has a tortured guitar melody that is just barely able to be kept conscious with echoing bells inducing a completely wonderful confusion. Influences from some wider sources echo through the synth-space too. For all the decanted minimalism of the melodies darker threads add rough textures in 'Nobody'. The glacial pace verges on complete distension but the emotional hope of the beautiful melody remains the guiding beacon whilst all around is disintegrating. The production on this piece in particular adds even more raw power to the feelings. It's not sugar coated and glossed but instead scarred and weeping, obtaining something beautiful in between.

London Lazers takes subtlety to even greater depths in 'Minus' as uncentred tones unbalance the synthscape entirely. The bassline becomes background to the background noise which reminds me of an extended vintage payphone dialtone. The melody staggers gracelessly amid the down turned passages but completes the thought beautifully.

Finishing off the EP is my favourite experience on it, 'Somebody'. The sheer ethereality of this chapter in particular is transfixing in a similar way to classic My Bloody Valentine songs. The completely unstable melodies hanging off even more unstable rhythms. It threatens to become catastrophic but instead becomes wholly enriching. Hypnotising and altering the space around you in ways only music can.

This five track EP is a really expressive and impressive release and adds much to the concepts of how emotionally driven 80s inspired synth music can take leads from other directions to create something fresh and full of possibilities. Get in on the evolution now and pick up a copy to Tide You Over on Bandcamp here.




Faint Waves - Slippin’ Away EP
By Jerry Herrera



Faint Waves is a very prolific producer with a broad spectrum of influences that he draws from on a whim and manages effortlessly to convey whatever imagery or emotion he aims for. This time we’re on our way to a coastal paradise, the scene of many a synth release, but in this case Faint Waves takes a slightly different approach with the Slippin’ Away EP.

Of course on a beach themed EP you’re going to have to have an upbeat outrun track or two and maybe some more chill, sunset stuff. You want cars, palm trees, and babes to float around in the listener’s head. You want the tracks to be something you would actually hear if you were in Miami in the ‘80s. But Faint Waves instead, to me anyway, decides to tell the story of the beach. Not in the way one might score a film but I took each track to be a different narrative of all that is possible in the sun, by the sea.

There are moments of hammock swinging and drink sipping, moments of tender love, moments of heartbreak, and even moments of danger. Slippin’ Away is full of texture and emotion, forgoing typical song structure to create layered and nuanced audio narratives. That being said, it’s an easy listen, but not quite chillwave. There are a lot of instruments one doesn’t normally hear in a synth release and the ones that are staples of the genre are used thoughtfully and correctly, instead of just being included in the track because they’re “industry standard.” Indeed, on my favorite tracks, World Wonder and Roses Never Fade there are some beautiful compositional moments that elevated the EP beyond just another synth release. This isn’t just “generic beach vibes” but afro caribbean latin tropical jungle beach vibes. There’s a relaxing depth to this that I haven’t seen in other similarly themed releases.

Faint Waves is a talented producer and musician and chameleon and this is his latest and perhaps best example of non literary storytelling or non visual painting. I look forward to seeing what new inspirations strike him next, and what the results are.

Pick up a copy of Faint Waves Slippin' Away EP on Bandcamp here.



Hollywood Burns - First Contact EP
By Rick Shithouse




As 2016 officially becomes the year of Dark Synth music and Slash Electro in the scene, one of the brightest (or is that darkest?) talents I've heard thus far is Hollywood Burns. From the moment I heard the absolutely monstrous 'California Nightmare' months ago I knew this rocker was going to be something special.

I've heard a lot of Dark Synth channel the new masters of the genres often this year, homaging the homage if you will, be it by way of a sidestep experiment or something more obviously derived. None of this is something I'm seeing as negative, mind, I'm all for dabbling in the dark arts for fun and profit as much as the next malcontent. But Hollywood Burns takes things further. The intensity is something the this producers nails to the cross and then incinerates in the pits of the abyss. But this is never, ever at the expense of the melody or groove and never to the point of making a sound to just make a sound.

The depth of intensity rides through the melodies and the synthscape. The influences of vintage theremin styled horror soundtracks in the melodies as refrains while deftly switching paces around tracks without losing their flow or groove is a spectacle unto itself. Sure, the sidechain compression is set to explode through out the EP but there are hugely melodic parts to all the extremeties that make everything work together as one wall of intricately exacted audio violence.

The horror schitck is thoroughly engaging with tracks separating back to heavenly choirs and apparitions of ghostly haunting only to then shatter the sky with chainsaw melodies and then rise and rise further with intensity through the climax. Hollywood Burns writes his music exceedingly well with clear directions and balance held through all his music. He knows when to hit the synths hard on the violence and when to cut back for an off-screen murder. It's not all in your face and it knows when to obfuscate things just enough to keep your attention and excitement set to the maximum levels possible.

Special note needs to go to the absolutely rockin to the max basslines that are a real hallmark of the Hollywood Burns synthscape. The tracks all contain different flavours and colours but those highspeed OutRun-esque basslines are always there to rock you into whatever dimension Hollywood Burns decides to explode. Through every action packed and exhilerating act of the six tracks you're treated to death defying thrills and esoteric chills with the incredible density of the of the storytelling feeling like an experience far greater than what you'd expect. How Hollywood Burns handles a full length album is one explosion I can't wait to walk away in slow motion from.

This EP is easily the most complete, adventurous, exciting and totally rockin Dark Synth/Slash Electro experience I've had thus far in 2016 and cements Hollywood Burns as a producer that I for one will be champing at the bit to take me back to Hell again whenever he's ready.

Grab a copy of this totally rockin EP on his Bandcamp page here.




Division - 2083 EP
By Sarah Halloran


Timecop1983 is dead! You heard it here first folks. It’s a sad day for synthwave lovers everywhere...we can’t quite believe it...wait, we’re getting an update through now....false alarm...temporary hibernation for his own safety...and ours...something about a division… Okay folks, well I don’t know what to tell ya, but it seems Timecop1983 is very much alive, and that he’s left us a little something while he takes some errrr...necessary time out. Don’t touch that dial.” 

The year is 2083. Timecop1983 has slipped over to the dark side, and been taken over by a malignant, menacing alter ego by the name of Division. Let go of everything you thought you knew. Division is in the driving seat now. I managed to speak to Timecop1983 before he went bye-bye for a while, and he told me that his darker side always seems to emerge when playing hardware synths. If the 2083 EP is anything to go by, then we’ll forgive him just this once.

First track Act.1 sets the scene for the darkness to come, pulling back the curtain and revealing an ominous undercurrent and a pulsing, hypnotic whump-whump-whump. A few seconds in, and you forget all about Timecop1983, or drawing any parallels. This is something entirely different altogether.

New Wave is up next, and delivers clean yet edgy sound that just oozes dystopia, and visions of the world we once knew, now eroded and hostile. Through the rubble, the machine lurches forward in time to the beat, searching for life, programmed to kill. AI-driven choppers fly low, locked and loaded. All hope is gone. We cannot beat them.

Okay Division, don’t hurt me, but I’m just going to say this. Just hear me out. The start of Lost In Time? Kind of sounds like Gunship’s Tech Noir on speed at the start, but that’s okay! That’s where the similarity ends, but it’s just one of the reasons why this track is my favourite on the EP. Where New Wave served up despair, Lost In Time reveals that glimmer of hope, that glitch in the mainframe, that line of code that will unravel the machines one by one. Uplifting, victorious and bad ass, this is one track you’ll have on repeat often.

Don’t you just love it when a Blade Runner quote is tossed into the synthwave salad? Yeah, me too! Deja Vu is your go-to track if you have some replicants to track down, and it needs to be turned up loud as you cruise slowly through the mean streets. Epic synths are laid down here, alongside a punchy kickdrum and a sublime melody that gleams like a beacon amongst the smog and destruction.

Final track Escape From Orion (feat. Sonic Synergist) just blew my headphones apart, metaphorically speaking of course! Beautifully echoing the Terminator theme in places, this is easily my second favourite track on the EP, and one I’ve listened to many times. It’s a stomping assault on the senses, featuring a driven, merciless bassline and an intensity that never lets up.

“Doctor...he’s...he’s waking up. Shall I sedate him again?” Will Timecop1983 recover, or has the darkness taken him forever? You’ll have to wait and see... The 2083 EP comes very, very highly recommended by Synthetix FM.




Slanger - Paradiso
By Rick Shithouse




If you've listened to any of the Quality Time With Shithouse segments on the last season of Synthetix Sundays you'll be familiar with my amusement over the nostalgia we now have for the 2007-10 era nostalgia influenced music. But the fact is we're nearly 10 years away from this point now and the music has changed and evolved in that time in great strides in many genres deemed 80s inspired.

Which brings us to Slanger's new Paradiso EP. This EP really struck me as it takes a lot of the nu-disco and French House sounds from the 2010 period and breathes life into them once again. Heavily vocoder-ed vocals, tropical atmospheres, summery vibes, big synth hooks and a vibrant fruity falvour make for a wonderfully refreshing EP in the middle of 2016.

'Give Me Sign' ramps up the funky energy to near-Televisor levels while the groove rocks steady and the sweetly vocoder-ed vocals layer in infectious refrains you'll be singing along with on the second pass. The upbeat and uplifting energy is just so compelling and enriching you can't help but get that feel good magic.

Slanger goes late night alright with the help of Stuart Lockwood (of D U E T T fame) in 'Mountains' with empassioned vocals winding upwards with the bright poppy synths. The funk's made a tad more 80s-chart-friendly in this track but it accentuates Lockwood's spectacular range and just enough modern flavours are mixed into to ensure the groove rises to new heights.

'Coast To Coast' has become my favourite track off this EP as it's format of looped samples and an absoloutely intoxicating bassline proves an enrapturing combination. Those 2010 vibes rock hard in this track but Slanger's groove is sure to take you to those warm, tropical afternoons on the beach right now; wherever you are.

More vocal talent joins Slanger on 'Let You Go' courtesy of Late Nite Cable that produces a more authentically 80s pop sounding and mixes in a little bit of Book Of Love for good measure. The sound is mournful and reflective and overflowing with delightful 80s melancholy showing a different side to Slanger's sound that works just as successfully.

The EP completes with a more vaporwave inspired piece that's the perfect companion piece to 'Coast To Coast' albeit it mixed for dimensional exploration than for pure pleasure. It's a great finish to the proceedings, however, and ensure Slanger's infectious, bass driven, summer vibe is planted firmly in your consciousness as a parting gift.

A great EP that covers surprisingly varied 80s influences but always keeps the rad levels turned as high as possible from beginning to end, pick up a copy on Slanger's Bandcamp page here.










Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Celebrate International Boombox Day With Synthetix.FM!




July 20 marks International Boombox day and that also means the third annual Stereo Sonic Electro Rockin Mixtape!

Twenty producers have made this community mixtape a spectacular success with tonnes of boombox rockin action mixed for your pleasure.



Many thanks to all those that submitted tracks and made this killer mixtape all it is. Full track listing:

1, Boombox Day Intro - Batch Sound
2, Back Alley Beat - Takahashi Jones
3, Do Work - The Warhorse featuring Pigeon John & Chris Henry
4, I Dream In Neon Lights - Damokles
5, Boombox Fever - Beat Ratio
6, The Last Cardboard Warriors - Laurence McFunk
7, Djynth - Meteor
8, He's Still Out There - Videogram
9, Back To Nowhere - 7DD9
10, Galactic Cats - TSTR
11, Ananthar - Fixions
12, The Chase Is On - Batch Sound
13, Kids Want Retro - Megahit
14, The Mango Thief Cometh - JP Hardboiled
15, Electroboys - Cosmo Cocktail
16, Cyberbreaker - LeveL-1
17, Get High - The G
18, Arnold's Revenge - Hyboid
19, The Night Belongs To The Night - CWIOK
20, Rockin - Rad Rush Crew
21, Ghostbusty - Mythical Vigilante
22, Bad Boys Dance Too - Powder Slut
22, Myoki Night Kids - Tanimura Midnight

You can also download the artwork in full resolution here and in wallpaper sized format here.



Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Lucy Disguised In Endless Echoes


By James Mann

Immersing yourself in a cloak of comfort through sound. Traversing the line between dream and reality. Remembering what it feels like to really be human. Emotional. Mysterious. Beautiful. Lucy In Disguise throws a one way ticket in your direction for what will likely be THE sonic and daring trip of your musical lifetime. Through a mesmerizing and captivating journey across a vast landscape of beauty and darkness, this artists manages to redefine the current synthwave genre with such cinematic and atmospheric tact, it’s nothing short of astounding. From downtempo, chillwave, to ambient, even post-rock and beyond, this album pulls so much together for a cohesive and united front of landmark musical achievement. Drawing from a range of influences spanning several decades, analog warmth and room spills over each composition with tasteful and vibrant updates to really create a sound (nostalgic albeit modern) on his own.

I would be hard pressed to say there are current releases which allow me to press play and step back without skipping, forwarding or manipulating. This however, falls into a category of its own and speaks entirely for itself. Impeccable production value on top of blazing and though provoking compositions really makes Endless Echoes a rarity and true treat. Ambitious and somewhat daring, but understated in many respects, the full length album from Steven Romeo (LID) creates a harmonious balance in sound, enticing and capturing the full attention of anyone who loves electronic music. Each track delivers it’s own mood and graces the ears with such finesse, you can hear the inspiration reveal itself through each synth pad and layer. There is an honesty in Steven’s composing that not only captures and embodies an innate talent for songwriting, but also a style that some artists are afraid to show. The results are highly emotive compositions which create so much more of an impact than the average electronic/synth based tune. Mixed and mastered by the synth wizard Tonebox, the production is indeed genius and compliments the sounds of Lucy In Disguise flawlessly. As the name may suggest, Endless Echoes is in fact a lasting work of art that plays in your head long after the music has stopped.



'The Trigger' is the first track on Endless Echoes, and introduces a somber yet beautiful arrangement from Lucy In Disguise. Open and spacious notes breathe for an ambience that is cinematic and breathtaking. Immediately I am pulled into a world away from my own, and closing my eyes evokes such strong imagery and emotions. Already I can tell this is no standard synthwave album, this artist carves a sound and name on his own and I’m gleefully following the trail with Lucy.

'In the Shadows' gives us a taste of the Lucy In Disguise some of his fans have come to know since 1987 (His powerful EP release through Innerworks Records last summer). Reminiscent of AIR and Trentemoller, the atmosphere is minimal and beautiful. After a seductive introduction, the percussion and symphony of sounds kicks in for a chillwave/ambient wave theme which combines elements of analog sic-fi/horror into a spectacular and driving arrangement. Arpeggiated notes float through the open space with each instrument and synths fitting seamlessly. Dystopian and future vibes bounce through the speakers with an addictive and pulsing beat. Playful melodies meander through with control and ease, the LID sound is huge and effortless. What a killer balance to have. I’m sold.

'Endless Echoes' shows a more introspective side of LID. Thoughtful and airy moods saturate this downtempo gem with incredible grace. Tycho inspired melodies layer over one another, getting me completely lost and in a hypnotic trance. A groove based beat keeps a 4/4 rhythm while samples of children playing and police sirens work manage to work their way in for a contrast in sound. I ended up jamming this on repeat while driving around town with the windows down. With momentum and energy behind Endless Echoes, there is a calming sense of peace and chill I sincerely appreciated. A very appropriate delivery and vibe for the eponymous track.

'Velvet Dream' encompasses a debonaire and classy mid 80s sound that I imagine playing through a runway show. (With the highest of in line fashion of course) A haunting lead dances over a driving bass and beat for a truly memorable track that is indeed one of my favorites on the album. I wish I could identify the kind of synth used, but it is perfect and highly representational of that classic 80s sound. Restrained in his delivery but creating such a full sound, the composition and crafting of this is incredible. The variety I’ve heard so far demonstrates so many capabilities Steven possess that enable his music to fit so far out of any box. I just love that, and listeners will too.

Tonebox and Lucy In Disguise team up for 'Theme', a spectacular homage to early 90s world house chords and the chillest in downtempo progressions. Smooth as ice with electro tinges coming through the speakers (compliments of Tonebox), a comfortable and appealing ambiance lies behind this confident arrangement. The Tonebox and LID team are no strangers, as Tonebox not only mastered the album but also has his own project. (who anticipates a full length release coming in the near future, so you will want to stay tuned for that) The two sounds are seamless, and a joyful piece on Endless Echoes that demonstrates just how well these two work together.

'Cloud Beach' is a dreamlike tune saturated in early 90s world ambience. Bright and full chords create and build a soundscape to usher in a downtempo beat which puts me in a state of pure haze and bliss. Wind effects swirl around the deliberate lead synthesizer, as LID slinks into an arpeggiated, glassy arrangement. Hypnotic and brief, I love this sound and sincerely appreciate him bringing other genres to the table. My only regret is that this piece isn’t a bit longer.

'Southbound' is without a doubt one of the highlights on Endless Echoes. With a beautiful ambient oriented backdrop of warm pads, LID launches into one of the most defining and memorable chillwave oriented tracks I’ve heard. Ever. Following suit with 'Cloud Beach', the vibes are similar, yet in 'Southbound' Lucy notches it up with a fascinating and repetitive groove which builds on itself. There’s never a dull moment as the piece steers through an almost transcendent atmosphere and switches tempo and moods on the other side. I am reminded of The New Deal, a live-tronica outfit I used to watch in the late 90s and early 2000s. Spectacular memories as a funky vibe and noodling high end synth bring me back to better days. It really allows me to relive those nights at The Bowery Ballroom in NYC or The Trocadero in Philadelphia. Beautiful. Lasting. This track is simply epic.

'Drifter' switches gears and delves into the emotional and the (seemingly) deepest facets of LID. An almost tear inducing chord progression captures your senses and takes you on a ride as one of the most shining and memorable pieces on the album. Isolating and warm minor chords spill over a mellow and sleeked out rhythm and bass. The track builds upon itself with determination and a sense of peace comes over me. Traces of Moby can be heard as a triumphant sounding synthesizer conveys the sadness and loss in 'Drifter'. What a gorgeous piece, there are so many components at work here. From 80s to 90s and even early 2000s, the range of influences and execution is evident in this masterpiece. LID isn’t afraid to venture into territory with tact and precision. Everything feels so right. I’m lost in space and have never felt so good.

'Signal' continues to drive the Endless Echoes one step further and takes an ornate and complex downtempo beat as the centerpoint. Strongly reverbed synths bounce around and create their own forcefield. Each revolve around so gracefully and yet so freely. There are nods to early Apex Twin with a playful sort of feel….but the music from LID is strongly grounded. Once again, that confidence comes through with each refrain. There is a break in the song where a beautiful melody emerges behind a subtle wall of analog tape hiss. It’s a short but memorable. Pure chills.

*Quick side note: I have made comparisons to LIDs sound with some heavy hitting and memorable artists. In no way do I intonate an appropriation in sound(s), there is just a perfect blend of familiarity and nostalgia that carry me back to my favorite artists of the last several decades. It’s rather incredible, as LID patents the sound for himself with an awareness from past electronic predecessors. A rarity indeed and definitely I felt worth noting*

One very important mention in regards to Endless Echoes are the remixes included by several of the genre’s most capable and stunning artists. Tonebox and Stilz. Each have managed to deliver a signature brand of synth driven music over the last several years that stand far apart from every other artist.

'In the Shadows' (Tonebox remix) is a cinematic and electro masterpiece that really redefines the song in more ways than one. A longing and touching orchestral styled introduction flows with such grace, it’s hard to imagine or hear something so beautiful from an artist who hasn’t already been snagged by the industry for scoring top films. The highly emotive and heartfelt intro yields way to the signature Tonebox electro/crunch wave that pans through each speaker with pure pleasure and love. This guys really does transcend feelings through his music! Spanning nearly 6 minutes, each second is a welcomed one. A blending of strings, warm pads, arpeggiators come together for such a mass effect it’s absolutely an incredible arrangement. Apart from the extraordinary talent of Tonebox, it’s evident why these two not only work so well together, they are also good friends as well. Spectacular and lasting results from two of California’s top tiered artists.

Stilz reimagines the emotional ballad 'Drifter', and launches into number that immediately gets the head nodding and the heart involved. But wait, within refrains he explodes into that signature Stilz pulsating electro styled chop bass that takes the track to another level. It’s amazing he can really bring the intensity and heat but retain the feelings and purpose of the original track. With other releases like Hyperspace Drifter (1 and 2), listeners have learned and respected Stilz’s ability to create atmosphere and ambience along with his driving compositions. It is the perfect blend, as he always keeps you guessing and never disappointed. This addition to Endless Echoes is a lasting one, what a great choice of artist to wrap up the masterpiece Endless Echoes.

Endless Echoes is one of those release you must absorb upon several listens to understand the full genius that is Lucy In Disguise. He is doing something that is increasingly rare, putting out tracks that encompass such a variety of genres, inspirations and moods while appealing to the emotions of the listeners through all around incredible composing. His sound is unique and unforgettable. Each track is beautiful, and stand out strong enough to be released as their own single, but the entire package is what makes this one of the most impressive, cohesive and lasting releases of the year. With so much uncertainty and stress in the world, do yourself a favor. Take the edge off and travel to another place with your headphones and that cloak of comfort I mentioned, Lucy will show you the way.

Endless Echoes is available through Innerworks Records here, and comes very, very highly recommended by Synthetix.FM.




Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Wavepunk Of The TCR



By Sarah Halloran

Taylor Christian Russell, also known as The TCR (can you see what he did there?) is somewhat of a veteran on the synthwave scene by today’s standards. With more releases and collaborations under his belt than The Terminator has guns, this guy knows what sounds good and who to work with. Make no mistake though; quantity has never diluted quality where The TCR is concerned, and you can always be sure of some top notch production and killer classics.

His latest release Wavepunk is no exception, and features collaborations with names that synth aficionados will definitely be familiar with, and which newer listeners really need to hear. Chris Stilz AKA Stilz and Chelsea Owen AKA Oceanside 85 are featured here, and I also need to mention Ben from the Dust Collective for doing an awesome job on the mastering side.



So, onto the album, and what has become one of my most listened to albums in recent weeks. I’m not the only one. The album has enjoyed some great success on various charts, and first track ‘Terraform’ was also featured on NRW this week. There’s a good reason for that. It’s a beauty. With it’s smooth and steady pace, percussion as sharp as a slap to the face, and glittering, sinuous synths that undulate their way through your brain, this is an epic driving track.

‘You Get Me High (Featuring Oceanside 85)’ is up next. Chelsea belts out her fabulous voice with compelling and edgy enthusiasm alongside growling guitar and high energy drums. This is a song for lovers, a song for taking chances and for forgetting the world outside exists.

And onto third track ‘In Too Deep’ we go. Okay, think F14 Tomcats pushing out onto hot tarmac, as the blood-red sun rises and the heatwaves shimmer. Heavy bass, bouncy toms and crisp kicks lead us by the hand into a howler of a guitar track. Talk to me, Goose!

Well, ‘Desert Rose (Featuring Oceanside 85) is a nice surprise. Oceanside 85 kicks things up a notch in this robust, fast-paced roller coaster packed with bass, bass, bass and strong, but sultry vocals.

‘Nightbreed’ is one of my favourite tracks on the album. It’s also one of my favourite horror movies of all time. Dark and menacing, and just like Decker, the bad man in the movie, this track jabs its sharp edges into you, tormenting you and toying with you. The TCR certainly knows how to make darkwave, and has a real knack for driving up the tension and making you want to run like your life depends on it.

If Wavepunk was a person, he would be one of your best friends. Feeling down? He’d stick on ‘Darth Spader II’, grab you by the hand, tell you to get a grip and just dance! This track is totally unexpected, and I love it when an album is a little schizophrenic and changes moods faster than Jack Nicholson in ‘The Shining’. I really must stop using so many movie references! Pumping with energy, some wicked guitar shredding and a bright, disco-fuelled lead synth, this is a song that is just begging to be danced to.

I find it impossible to listen to ‘From Underground’ without thinking of the awesome video created by The 80’s Guy - you can find it on his YouTube channel here. Taking footage from ‘The Driver’, ‘Drive’ and ‘Fear City’, the video sits perfectly with what to me is one of the most beautifully arranged synthwave tracks of all time. I have listened to this track many, many times in the past, and it’s one of those blank canvas compositions that melds itself with whatever mood you might be feeling at the time. My top track on the entire album, and possibly in the entire TCR back catalogue.

Next track ‘Death Disco (Dread Beat)’ is another foot-tapping concoction full of energy and very pleasing melodies. This track also put me in mind of an old favourite of mine, ‘Tiger Tiger’ by Duran Duran with its incredibly indulgent and rich synths.

Up next, it’s another TCR collab, and this time it’s Stilz jumping up into the saddle. Twangy guitars and eerie whistles duel it out in this western-inspired, synth-laden offering. Those things shouldn’t work together, but they really do!

Interlude time, and we’re given a brief respite with the gentle and hypnotic ‘Wicked Waltz’ before being thrown headlong into penultimate track on the album, ‘We Are Electric’. Low, guttural guitars growl out their intent as this track slowly builds upwards into a shred heaven power crescendo of epic proportions. I have no idea what that last sentence means, but, oh just take a listen and you’ll get it.

Final track ‘After The Burn’ is my second favourite track on the album, and definitely worth waiting for. If you’re a fan of Kebu, the synths here may put you in mind of his crazy yet genius stacked-synth antics, and the glorious sounds he produces. Love the drums in this track too, which have an almost live quality.

Rocking guitars, honeyed vocals, kickass synths, belting percussion and carefully selected collaborations make Wavepunk one of the best album releases this year. If you’re looking for an album with a few surprises in store, Wavepunk has it covered, and is offered Rain Dragon Records’ Bandcamp page here. It comes very, very highly recommended by Synthetix.FM.