By Jerry Herrera
Even before I dove headlong into the oceans of synth and retrowave, I was aware of Robots with Rayguns. Being a fan of EDM and electronic music in general since I was a teenager, I am always on the lookout for standout producers: people who have a distinct, inimitable voice and sound. Robots With Rayguns is one of those guys I found just poking around YouTube, and what an insanely happy accident that was.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, Robots with Rayguns, whether with his original tracks or his many, many remixes, combines warm, fuzzy bass with ethereal strings, glitched, stuttered, cut up vocals, virtuoso keyboard work and pure sunshine to make happiness in the form of music. That’s the best way I can describe it. He has a distinct style and while this means his sound is unmistakable, this also means that his challenge is to keep his sound fresh.
Fresh As It Gets is his third full album release and upon first listen it’s very clear that he’s come a long way from cutting up old classics and repurposing them. This album proves that RWR is a producer with genre range, technical talent, and the ability to produce original tracks that appeal to people outside our synth community.
Having said that, it’s hard to judge this album. Sure, there are highs and lows, some tracks I wasn’t too crazy about and others that I’d want played at my funeral. I also get a heavy Daft Punk vibe, from the way the album is structured to the titles of some of the tracks. This is not a bad thing and I would compare this release to that magic Homework/Discovery era if I was to describe RWR to non synth loving people.
After a short intro, we get into 'One More Time' and 'Summer Dreams' ft. Keith Masters. Both tracks are signature RWR style with cut up vocal samples over warm synths and a unique blend of hip hop and retrowave respectively. To me this is RWR saying, “this is what I do, hope you like it.” Things don’t really get going in my mind until 'Rhythm Tes't, which brings more complicated cuts and breakbeat stylings into the music. 'On the Groove' is the first track to really set the mood with a mid tempo, buzzing bass, glittering synth cruise love theme. RWR is best when working real emotional content into his music while keeping the elements simple but effective.
'Get Over U' feat. She’s the Queen is another perfect example of RWR magic. Full, beautiful vocals that he still pitch changes and cuts up without getting in the way of the vocalist’s power and solid synth work with a more reflective, powerful tempo. Tracks five and six are must-listens. However, with 'On the Groove' and the subsequent tracks RWR hits an amazing stride where everything seems to fall into place. It’s as if the first few tracks were warm ups, or he's is getting the feel for what he wanted to do with Fresh as it Gets.
The back half of the album is full of everything that makes him a unique artist in the genre. 'Freestylin’' is a perfect example of the Robots with Rayguns dance magic, full of uptempo beats, rocking vocal cuts and excellent keyboard work. The rest of the album is reminiscent of older RWR work but with a more mature sensibility, and it’s clear that he’s worked hard to develop his sound and not rely on what made him intially catchy and different.
Although part of me does want more 'Sugarbaby' and 'Bed Head' sounding music, I know that RWR has to grow and race against his own self to keep up. This album is a huge step for him, both as an artist and producer. It’s got the polish of a studio album while remaining very much a community based collaboration of love and synth. That being said, I can’t say I absolutely loved the full vocal tracks on Fresh As It Gets, with the exception of She’s The Queen and the ALWAYS welcome Patrick Baker. That’s really my only gripe and even then I understand that those tracks have their place on the album.
Either way I’m a die hard Robots with Rayguns fan and I have been from the second I heard his music. I think he stands in a category all his own, with a grasp on both synth and dance as well as a third, unknown sound. The sound of frenetic joy, sunshine and breeze. Fresh As It Gets is another slice of happiness served up by a very hardworking artist.
Robots with Rayguns presents Fresh As It Gets on his Bandcamp here in digital formats (and also on CD in a limited edition of 100) and this album is very, very highly recommended by Synthetix.FM