Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Synthetix Midweek Flashback: The System

I think it's about time for the inaugural Midweek Flashback on Synthetix.FM. This is something I'll be doing at semi regular intervals, when the inspiration takes me and serves as a bit of a revisiting to some classic tunes I love, usually with a musical link to something current as well.

When The System went back into production a few months ago I became very excited. I've been a fan of their classic synth funk from the 80s for forever, but a new album with a new sound was something I began looking forward to greatly. Unfortunately their new album was not to my personal taste, and the stand out songs were really more reworks of their classic tracks to my ear, but you know me, I'm so biased towards the traditional 80s sounds that it remains hard to be objective in such instances.

But this new record (which will be linked at the bottom of this post for your own perusal) got me right back listening to the classic music from The System I love so much. After being inspired by recent post by Ryan Sheridan on the Synthetix Facebook group I thought the planets are in just the right alignment to make it all rock on, it's time for The System, It's Passion.




One thing instantly recognisable about The System's sound is it's classic mid 80s synth funk sound. The melodies are dripping with sensuality and are raw with synth power. What makes this so exceptional is the record this is from, Sweat, was written in 1982 and was released in 1983. This is years before the synth funk mainstream success that flourished from 1985-87. The System are true originators of the now classic sounds with a huge reliance on the then brand new technology. There are even some sample loops amid all the funktastic synth brilliance, which was absolutely cutting edge at this time.

Technology aside, The System's melodies were the real hallmark of their soundscapes. Each hook sinks deep and refuses to budge, carving irresistible grooves up and down and back again. The System's Sweat album is packed with stunning synth visions and set the standard very high. The System also produced the now very well revered Baptize The Beat for the Beat Street soundtrack, cementing their place as leaders of the electronic revolution of the 80s.

Their follow up record, X-Periment, was very aptly named, this technology centric album pushed the envelope well beyond the safety zone. X-Periment feels like The System were given all their wishes in regards to production technology and the result was a massively detailed record that was full to the brim with the sounds of the future but often at the expense of their pop sensibilities. Some songs feel smothered under intricate layers of sounds that confuse the listener more than engage them. I, personally, love this album, it's a work of unbridled creativity with each song being a thrill ride into new electric dimensions. The song Dangerous of this album is a classic example of the manic nature of the record.



After the experimentation of the X-Periment The System came back in 1985 with the much more pop funk oriented The Pleasure Seekers. I find this album to be the quintessential The System experience with the perfect blend of the future and the funk that now felt fully developed for maximum rockin. From this classic album here is the absolutely perfect title track:





The Pleasure Seekers still sounds as fresh as the day it came out. The title track is an example of total pop synth perfection with some of the catchiest synth arrangements ever conceived. The party aesthetic, with the "jamming all night long, heading for the danger zone" lyric is just pure ambrosia making the energy of this experience riveting and invigorating. The music, for an essentially pop track, has such advanced arrangements that are engineered with a precision most uncommon at the time. Each track on the Pleasure Seekers is coloured with a futuristic energy that demands one's total attention to every nuance of the production. I consider this album, light years ahead of it's time and encourage everyone on Synthetix.FM to add it to their music libraries as soon as possible, if it's not in there already.

The System's next album, Don't Disturb This Groove was released in 1986 and found massive commercial success with the title track. This record was most definitely their most mainstream friendly production with a much greater R&B influence to the soundscape. But one can't deny the total synth magic of the title track, the sounds of the previous albums can all be heard in there, even if they are of a much more muted palette.




This high point then led to The System really fading into memory as trends changed and styles merged. It was only a few months ago that I discovered that The System had returned however, with a new album and the promise of exciting new sounds. As I mentioned, the album is not to my tastes, however there are a couple of tracks that are massively rockin, particularly System Overload.



This song is full of The Systems classic sounds with just enough modernity to appeal to a new generation. The new album also has a retelling of Don't Disturb This Groove with is quite engaging. If nothing else, this new record just goes to show how visionary The System were/are and I do hope it finds an audience that appreciates it.

The System Overload is available right now on their Bandcamp page here here and I encourage all Synthetix.FM readers to give it a listen, but if like me, it's not quite your scene I highly recommend picking up their back catalogue from the 80s for a real tour de force of absolutely stunning 80s synth magic.



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