Thursday, March 6, 2014

Tommy Broadcasting On FM

When it comes to Tommy, this producer has always been one of the true mainstays of the 80s inspired synth scene and here on Synthetix.FM. Upon listening to his new record, I went back, to see when I first covered Tommy on Synthetix. FM. It was in early February 2012, I quote "One of the real goals of Synthetix is to cover the up and coming artists making 80s inspired synth music, and hopefully expose their work to a wider audience. Tommy is one of these such artists." In 2014 it's hard to think of Tommy as an up and coming artist only two years ago but it's in this time that he has become such a revered talent and one whom is adulated by many.

With his new full length record, Frequency Modulations, we get to hear a new Tommy sound. We get to experience a plethora of new ideas and while the soul and essence of the music has that intrinsic Tommy-sound, it now has greater amount of depth and to it. In abandoning much of the production styles of his previous work Tommy has found something all together new. It's still Tommy and it still rocks damned hard but even more than that it shows a new kind of clarity that is bold and reaches new high water marks.

If you're expecting a direct sequel to 2013's High Fidelity you're going to be in for a surprise. The Tommy sound of last year may as well have been aeons ago. In terms of tone and texture the new synthscapes Tommy creates on Frequency Modulation may have the DNA of his previous works but now has evolved into a new lifeform. The first track of the album, 'The New Wave' is the perfect title as  Tommy takes his sounds both into the future and back to the past all at once. Moods of progressive 70s arrangements, combined with 80s emotion and 90s loops and are all then dimensionally warped into a futuresphere of timelessness. You can hear times and decades becoming entirely irrelevant as all manner of electronic sounds distill into a new and vital essence.

The sounds are so relaxed on this album. There is a defined groove and natural motion that Tommy works within beautifully. The second track 'Sonuvagun' in previous Tommy incarnations would still be a killer track, but the new refinement to sound has given the experience less crush and injected expansive crispness in it's place. Dana Jean Phoenix's vocals layered on top the mix is tantalising, while Tommy's music does the real talking.

'Lets Funk Tonight' is one of the true high points of the album and really takes Tommy out of any perceived comfort zones with jamming instruments giving breezy interludes before fireworks of utterly gorgeous synth melodies light up the night sky. Flashes of spectacular neon colours dance in rhythmic ecstasy and bring a serene, uplifting mood instantaneously. This piece in particular is so divergent from Tommy's previous work, yet still so Tommy like in it's personality, this dichotomy is absolutely exhilarating to experience.

Something Tommy has really been working on over the last couple of years is making his tracks as full as they need to be, in both time and space. His continuation of this development is evidenced on this album in numerous six-plus minute pieces and taken to all new realms in the epic 'Globetrotter'. Allowing the music to tell it's story and keep the narrative engaging is a skill that I find to be  a rarity in the scene but in this track in particular Tommy lets light years elapse while the adventure encounters exciting and beautiful new spectacles. Driven by some Italo bass lines and cruising outer space with a tranquil nonchalance the 'Globetrotter' just keeps on rockin.

Throughout Frequency Modulations this feeling of serenity emanates and raises our spirits in such beautiful ways. Tommy's own 'Vision Of The Future' gives us such cool blue worlds of glittering seas and melodic enchantments that it's impossible to resist this lucid positivity. The music unfolds visions of beguiling wonders, orbiting structures of impossible architecture and resonating with vast depth. Continuing the voyage into dimensional weightlessness and dreamlike visions is 'Nocturnal Wanderings' which allows the sun to set on this future world in a deeply relaxing interlude.

Returning back to more earthly visions with 'Night Of The Crime' and the Tommy synthscape rolls into an urban atmosphere that continues to inspire. The distant sirens don't instill fear or panic but instead add a familiar city ambiance to the piece. Slow motion electro rock percussion keep the heart beat of the city alive and the apparent hysteria; somewhere in the city seems light years away. From the top of this skyscraper Tommy conducts his own synthesized orchestra and his soundtrack to this night is the only thing that matters.

Tommy's newly developed pop sensibilities reach a new level of greatness in his track with Sally Shapiro, 'Why Did I Say Goodbye'. Smoothly delicate electronic disco complements the vocal melodies delightfully and the rhythms hypnotise in a manner that is sweetly delicious. Definitely the most modernly conceived and realised piece on the album this will no doubt crossover into other electronic music worlds and carry the Tommy magic to a whole new audience.

Slipping back into a mood that reminds me of Tommy's Outer Space Adventurer album, comes it's spiritual evolutionary sequel 'The World Is Gonna End Today'. Possibly the most old-skool Tommy track on the album the music is inspiring and beautifully crafted into a refrain that cries out in a universally understood exclamation. A culmination of all that history has acquired and the future promises, this epic eulogy is inspirational and praises the inevitability of everything rather than cower from it. Absolutely triumphant.

The album completes with another spatially vast piece that feels just a tad like a reflection on Tommy's Tuned Into The Future, as if it's melodic oscillations have now transferred to a new dimension and reinvented itself. Vibrant structures of synth brilliance cascade in a captivating natural wonder of electronic bedazzlement. The second chapter of this piece is definitely cut from a darker cloth however with the refrain becoming measured and remorseful, its once buoyant joyfulness now moving into a final requiem as the light fades slowly into the distant darkness.

Girlfriend Records presents Tommy's Frequency Modulations album on their Bandcamp page here and this record is a genuine high point, not just for Tommy, but what retro synth sounds are capable of achieving in the scene all together. The clarity of Tommy's vision is incredibly acute and utterly wonderful to experience. This is a Synthetix Reference Experience on every level appreciable and gives so much aural and spiritual happiness that I find it overwhelming in the most thrilling way music can be.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic review, Rick. Detailed, expressive and expansive - much like Tommy's music. Thank you!