Thursday, August 7, 2014

Evanton Are Highway Lovers

By Jazzi Marzcat

Evanton is a duo from Athens, Greece that has been on the synthwave scene for some time now.  Formed by Evangelos Zacharopoulos, and Anton Manetas (notice how they cleverly combine their fist names to form their group name!), who are both producers in electronic music, and each bring their own expertise to the group's creations, mixing up Italo disco and funky beats.  As Evan told me: ". . . (the songs) reflect our constant love for 80s electronic/italio/p-funk and the classic italio disco sound!"

 I first discovered Evanton several months ago with their songs 'Living in the 80s', and 'Beverly Hills Pop', and after falling in love with their dreamy synth melodies, and funky dance beats, I always looked forward to their releases.  Highway Lovers is the ninth album to be released by Evanton, quite a feat  not only in quantity of music, but also does not fail in quality.  Listening to this album, I felt that there was a concept behind it.  Being influenced by the album's title, and it's cover showing the blurred lines of headlights, and tail lights, I felt that it must be about tales from, and of the road.  I asked Evan about this, and he replied, "Like all our previous albums, Highway Lovers is more a collection of tunes released before as singles/EPs or simply uploaded on our Soundcloud than a concept album. However most of the tracks included represent our aspect of the outrun genre and we think they really fit with the title and the aesthetic of the album."  Although I still couldn't get the road out of my mind, I started my journey on a synthwave road trip.

The title track 'Highway Lovers' begins this journey.  Like a love affair for adventure, the song starts with a thumping bass drum, and a delicate melody teasingly enticing you to come join it for a ride.  As soon as you get in, a road traveling rhythmic bass keeps a luscious italio disco beat.  A synth melody flashes along with a spacey guitar lead, like passing lights on night time drive.  Three minutes into the song, the bass drops out, and a light percussion with the melody soar to immortalize a drift in that moment of time. The bass, beat and melody all return with much more vigor, and  carries you to the end of your ride, only to leave you craving for another spin!  A very catchy and delightful tune to remember a drive through the night with!

'Jet Set Punks' takes on a more serious tone.  A fat bass shows who's boss and takes control, while a snare drum keeps the beat, much like a defiant punk. An outrun melody gives the song a certain degree of intensity.  I really liked how a spacey synth guitar leads through the song, with echoing moments that take your aspirations high.  A commanding song indeed! Can't help but walk with attitude with this song!

Rev those engines on your Teterrossa!  The third song, 'Rockers Lane', goes into full OutRun racing mode!  Maintaining the fat bass from the previous song, it is much more faster now.  So fast, it sounds like the notes are literally colliding into each other!  Besides the beat pumping the intensity level into heart stopping gear, a harsh synth chord hits in, and keeps you alert and awake!  Before looking at the video for this on YouTube, (which Evanton has it's own channel and features a number of videos for their songs here), I couldn't help but think of cars racing through the empty streets of the city at night.  Sure enough, the video shows a heart stopping chase scene from Miami Vice. You can catch that video here). Every now and then there is a cool ping, like that from video games, which gave me a smile through all this intensity.  I really loved the increased tempo for the outro, ending with dueling spacey guitar duets.  A really exciting song, sure to keep you on your feet!

After that adventure, it's time to chill, and what a better way to chill than to hang out with a group of break dancers! Pull out your boomboxes, and pieces of flattened cardboard.  We're being introduced to the 'Beat Freaks', as the robotic voices call out in the intro of this song by the same name.  Synths swirl, and a funky bass keeps the grooviness going.  Unique percussions sound like garbage can lids clashing, adding more to the sense of being out on the city streets!  The percussion is also very reminiscent of Art of Noise's song 'Close (To the Edit)'.  There's also a chord strike at the 2 minute mark that I'd say is not exactly similar to New Order's sound, found in it's song 'Bizarre Love Triangle', but it's enough to give this fangirl of 80s new wave a thrill!  It's probably no surprise that these bands could have influenced the song, and more of Evanton's music, as they does gives thanks to these two bands, and more, on their Bandcamp page. I also loved the variety of synths used to build up the melody, much like a kaleidoscope; bringing out lots of color to the song.  Much like the breakdancers spinning on their mats in colorful 80s fashions.  There's an awesome remix of this song that Evanton offers as a free download here on soundcloud.  I have to say, that 'Beat Freaks' is easily my favourite on the album.

'Taking Me Higher' continues the funkiness!  Slowed down this time, this song has more flashy, thumping bass.  The breakdancers have picked up their boomboxes and are headed uptown. Taking it easy with this synth melody, we're sauntering uptown, to see all the glitz and glam.  Robotic voices echo through out the song, giving it quite the surreal feel.  Even the melody's synth elements have a magical feel to them, and has just a hint of a slowed down version of the melody of Daft Punk's 'Around the World'.  A sparkly kind of song, but with a beat that exudes confidence. Lots of fun!

During these travels, true love is found, and it's decided that the only choice is to run away together.  The tempo shoots way up, and chase is underway for the track 'Young Hearts Theme'.  Fast snare drums keep beat as a fast light bass carries through the playful melody.  At an OutRun track's pace, it brings up images of young lovers, trying to run away to be free of whatever obstacles are trying to get in the way of their desire to be together.  Evanton even has a video for the song with a pic of a nice red Testarossa.  (Hey if you're going to runaway, you might as well do it in style!) A rather short, but very light and airy, feel good track.  May those young lovers who believe nothing will get in the way of their happiness have their day in the sun.

And out into the sun we go.  'Mediterraneo' slows down the pace again, this time into a more softer tone.  I felt this song was a bit of a departure from the rest of the album, as it seems to take a break from the road.  A sweet gentle melody gets the song started, followed by a seductively thumping bass, bringing it into a gorgeous italio disco beat.  A nice break in the middle of the song really showcases the melody, much like the sun glistening on the Mediterranean Sea.  A song to remind you that it's good to take a break every now and then from the race of life, and just soak in the beauty of the world around you.  A very pleasing, and relaxing track!

Closing out this journey, the beat jumps back up, for 'Hot Summer Nights'.  Starting off kind of spacey, with sparkly synths and pretty arpeggios, the bass comes in, and keeps a unique beat that slides between Italo disco and hip hop.  Right there this song is promising a lot of variety, not unlike how many summer nights usually do.  The centre break of the song really takes advantages of this, pulling back on the bass, but then a roar is heard, much like a car racing by, (or a ship launching?), followed by more sparkly, alien like synths.  Can't help but think, even though our journey on the road has come to an end, a new, perhaps extraterrestrial journey has now begun!  Well, even if you don't come away with the thought, it's still a fun song indeed.

Evanton present Highway Lovers on Bandcamp, iTunes, and now Amazon. It's a very enjoyable album, and offers a lot to stay on the dance floor, whether you're going to whip it out Italo disco style, make a spin on the street, or break it down doing the robot.  It also goes without saying that it's a great album to bring on the road, and take a drive with.  The songs pack a lot of attitude, and with the influences of 80s beats, and alluring synth melodies, Evanton's music an exceptional example of all there is to love of synthwave music. A very, very highly recommended album from Synthetix.FM!

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