Tuesday, March 25, 2014

MUSCLE Flexes The Pump

To think that more than a month ago the name MUSCLE was unknown in the 80s inspired synth scene and today has one of the best EPs of the year out on Future City Records shows how fast things can move in this day and age. The fact of the matter is that MUSCLE broke out with his very first track and captured hearts and imaginations instantaneously with huge experiences that demand one's attention.

I often think about 'the 80s sound' and what it means and feels for something to be so recognisable as being from the decade we love so much. One thing that I find is integral to the enjoyment of this kind music, the aspect that really gets me into is quite simple. Fun. Pure and simple fun. Music from the 80s is fun, it brings a level of joyfulness to the sounds, the fun is there in the melodies, in the lyrics and in the energy. It's what makes this music so vastly enjoyable to me personally a great deal of the time. One should never discount 'fun' as being shallow or trite. Having fun in your life is integral to genuine happiness, and being able to get this in music is something 80s inspired synth does for me oh so very often.

I'm sure if you listen to this music around people unfamiliar with it you'll experience a sneer, or some back handed comment about it being 'cheesy' or 'corny' music. For some people out there music has to be serious and meaningful beyond base emotions. I really think this is a shame. One need only look back to your childhood to songs you loved, songs you now think 'my god, that's so embarrassing'. As adults we're apparently supposed to find deeper meaning in everything, something just can't 'be' what it is.

We need to understand it and judge it based on our intellect and what we believe to be 'good' or even 'cool'. Where does fun come into this? It doesn't. I think this is a big problem a lot of people develop in their relationship with music over the years. That pure joy you felt as a kid hearing some bubblegum pop track suddenly makes you ashamed. Why is this? The same song should take you back to those days, the days when music was just fun and you didn't give a damn about what other people thought about it.

For probably a multitude of reasons, now it doesn't. Sometimes you'll let the joy show through the cracks when enough alcohol is consumed and you drop your guard or some other situation, but really, why can't we get that feeling any time? When music has so much wonderful power to effect us so quickly and so deeply, why do we not allow it do so as often as possible? These awful limitations we place on ourselves are something I hope the 80s inspired synth scene changes in people and brings them back to what music is all about.

Being able to experience fun in music is one my own personal favourite pleasures in life. I can feel that glow, smiling both inwardly and outwardly, with each chord and note resonating and rockin me to the core with it's magical essence. For me, personally, this is a great deal of the magic I experience in this music in particular and I'm sure many of reading this feel the same way, well, I hope you do! Which brings us to MUSCLE's debut EP The Pump.

Really spending some time over the last week listening to this EP has inspired much of what I've previously written in this review. MUSCLE gets the 80s. MUSCLE gets that fun vibe, he takes it to all manner of other dimensions in this EP too, but the overriding element that gives this release in particular  such a rad atmosphere is, pure and simply, that it is great fun to listen to.

Right from 'Feel The Steel' with it's brash bravado of dramatic synths we know this is going to be something special. The chords ring deep and triumphantly. Searing leads ooze sensuality and the energy of MUSCLE begins to pulse and flex with each beat. Melodies radiate 80s brilliance in shining, vibrant colours and the music takes over full control of our imaginations.

The whole gym/workout gimmick that MUSCLE works is thoroughly convincing and encompassing. We're not talking about a single track that's based on 80s workout music, no, no. We're talking about the ultimate soundtrack to every aspect of physical training crystallised into one sweaty fantasy of body worship. On the title track of the EP MUSCLE enlists some seriously sexy vocals that writhe in passion along wailing guitars and sensuous synths to create a perfect experience in everything that makes the 80s rock.

'Our Bodies In Heat' gets the heart rate moving even faster as bright, sparkling synths work the body's natural rhythms in time. The instruments explore all kinds of energetic routines and are held together with a bassline that refuses to give and pushes beyond the limit. This track is pure inspiration and builds to a climax that delivers some incredibly rockin satisfaction.

The rock aspect of MUSCLE's sounds are brought out into the open in the following track, which has the totally kick arse name of 'All My Ex's Died In Texas'. Electric guitars chug out huge riffs that create a new kind of heat in the MUSCLE soundscape. This time they aren't riding shotgun but are instead planted firmly in the driver's seat. The bluesy rock adds a whole new dimension to the sounds, charged with energy and telling a tale of love, double-crosses and emotions running high in the scorching noon sun.

The cool of night ushers in Italo Disco synth action and MUSCLE takes to the dancefloor in the laser filled 'IL Stallone'. Melodies are purely refined Italo magic, scintillatingly catchy and arranged with the sole intention of getting you hooked on their addictive, glossy lustre.  The middle section of this track winds things down beautifully for a break in the intensity and giving a close, personal interlude before returning to the laser lite dancefloor and tearing it up in an Italo frenzy.

The final chapter of The Pump is the salaciously rockin 'Sexin' In The Steamroom'. Arnold himself divulges all manner of personal intimacies about his real workout proclivities and making his own steam powered fun factory. The music is rife with alluring melodies that contain lush flavours of classic 80s Synth Erotica while the guitars straddle and gyrate with a sensual dexterity that is as arousing as it is hypnotising.

For all the rockin good times on this EP and all the different modus operandi that MUSCLE employs it is always the aspect of pure fun that courses through every track. You just know MUSCLE had a tonne of fun writing and creating this EP and it translates to listener directly. The fun is honest and upfront, it doesn't use pretence or masquerade as something else, the EP is just pure 80s fun and really that is what makes this so release so goddamned kick arse.

Future City Records presents MUSCLE's The Pump EP on their Bandcamp page here and these six tracks epitomise what the modern take on the 80s listening experience is all about. In his debut EP MUSCLE has instantly become one of my personal favourite producers in the scene. He just seems 'get' what this is all about. The Pump EP is the definition of a Synthetix Reference Experience and is one of the most rockin releases of 2014 thus far. Let MUSCLE personally train you in the magic of pure 80s fun.

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