Thursday, January 29, 2015


Tape Loader - Space Travel

By James Mann

Cosmic energy. Black holes. Energy soaring through galaxies at unimaginable speeds. Traversing layers of space, mystery, and travel, Tape Loader sets ignition interlock sequence to lift off and escort you along a remarkable trip in his galaxy with an astounding sense of depth, mood, and an 80s Euro-esque nostalgia overload that's truly joyous. The debut album Space Travel from this wizard of synths and samples is an impressive one. Unapologetic rhythms and a perfect blend of both heavy and light synthesizers work in unison for a range of sounds I've yet to hear from any artist in the scene. Tape Loader has an ability to vary his sounds from track to track, creating journeys with his exceptional understanding of layering that are addicting and so sweet to any synthficionado.

The first two tracks on this gem of a debut are the aptly titled 'Space Travel' and 'Rogue Comet.' Tape Loader takes a different approach with his tracks, an incredibly satisfying way of layering bass, melodies, samples, and little touches here and there which all work in unison for a momentum which builds and keeps your attention undivided. 'Space Travel' has an incredible Euro style melody that reminds me of the French duo Air. Interspliced with samples and a gradual build, the whole track has touches of simplicity, yet a sophistication that's undeniable.

 "Rogue Comet" is perhaps my favorite on the album. One thing worth mentioning before delving into the beauty of this gorgeous track is that nothing about Tape Loader is formulaic. 'I went full on with samples from this CBS sound library that I found at a garage sale ten years ago (a 3 LP box set - vinyl) from the 70s.' This is just one examples of the many layers of creative depth this artist has, and is able to incorporate into his wide variety of sounds and melodies. 'Rogue Comet' has such a confidence in it, and the arpeggiated melodies and delay on the percussion will send chills up and down. There's is a good deal of inspiration in Tape Loader's tracks, as he told me some of these compositions have been in the works for 'quite some time.'

'Jupiter Jazz' is another stunner of a track that reminds me of watching shows like Belle and Sebastian as a child in the 80s. There is once again that trans European feeling of a theme pertaining to perhaps a show from my childhood? Quite possibly a more current feel of an 80s hit from a French artist? I am meandering a bit, but the feelings evoked are so unique I can't quite put my finger on it. This is a good thing. I absolutely love this.

'The Martian Conflict' was a close second for best track. Shimmering melodies, driving beat and rhythm prompt the listener to do one thing, dance. (or at least gyrate) The buildup once again is evident, and the layers keep coming until, explosion. Now Tape Loader has taken you through his dimensions of the vast array of space he's familiar with, and is no longer an introduction to you. The coordinates are set and turning back is near impossible. These synth laden treats he lays out in trail fashion are too good not to follow.

'Love on a Real Spaceship' is a mesmerizing track, fittingly so since it's an homage to the Tangerine Dream classic from the Risky Business soundtrack. Emulating the depth and dimensions of Tangerine Dream isn't easy, but Tape Loader nails it. This track demonstrates his versatility as an artist, venturing into more soundtrack based themes with dimension, depth, and appeal. Excellent job on this one, it was among my favorites on the album.

Space Travel is an exceptional debut album from Tape Loader. Gorgeous sounds and percussion take you through the spacial realm of this artist's vision and convey a deep interpretation of the unknown and beyond. There were moments I felt almost lost in the sound, a trance like feeling that put me in a warm, comfortable place. When asked about future or current projects, Tape Loader confirmed that he is in fact working on another themed project at the moment. Expect some collaborations from him as well.

Tape Loader presents 'Space Travel' and it is available here and it comes very, very highly recommended from SynthetixFM. "Are you so nostalgic that you might go insane? Have a Tape Loader, it will make it all better!" Well put, Tape Loader.

Cosmo Cocktail - Endless Waves

By JamesTheSuperGeek

Endless Wave is the debut EP from producer Cosmo Cocktail. Cosmo creates an immersive dreamscape. Filled with lush synth lines and catchy melodies this EP portrays the feeling of 'the perfect summer' and an 80s Miami beach, and also has quite a strong early 80s new wave vibe to it. Standout tracks on this EP would have to be 'Sail Through The Storm', 'Endless Wave' and 'Passing Cape Horn' but it's certainly a great whole experience.

The EP opens with 'Sail Through The Storm' which is driven by solid melodies and a nice bassline with some shimmering arpeggios on top to glisten it up a bit and a solid way to kick off the EP. Next is the title track 'Endless Wave' which slows things down a bit and incorporates a more dreamy, romantic vibe. 'The Unknown Route' brings the pace up a bit and is a really neat track which fills me with an uncontrollable urge to get up and dance.

The EP takes a somewhat dark turn with 'Passing Cape Horn' which departs from the romantic vibes of the earlier tracks and creates a much more sinister vibe. This track really does stand out from the others and I really like it. When listening to this EP I created a small story in my head of summer romance and this track is the part of the movie that makes a complete 180 where a serial killer shows up looking for some victims (of course i doubt this was part of Cosmo's original intentions, especially considering the nautical theme of the track titles). 'Wind's Direction' is a very chilled out track with some very nice Lead synth melodies. The final track 'The Seventh Sea' is quite a relaxing track which serves as a fitting outro to this EP.

Cosmo Cocktail implements a warm, minimalist style for his Debut EP Endless Wave which is very dreamy, romantic and immersive EP. 30th Floor Records presents Cosmo Cocktail's EP on Bandcamp here and he is definitely artist worth following and I recall hearing somewhere that he's working on a new album, so stay tuned.

Gamer - Moon Base Europa

By Andrew B. White

Before we head to Moon Base Europa, here's little pre-game Gamer background. Anyone who has seen the pixel art music video for Mitch Murder's 'Interceptor' video will be familiar with Gamer's visual work. Gamer hail from New Zealand, the land of the two lords (Lorde and Lord of the Rings) and formed in 2012. Calling themselves a "Synth + Pixel Art project" and creating "visual sequences of a dystopian future", the duo is Phil Shaw (music production) and James Rowsell (artwork and animation). 

The two started working together after Phil had finished the debut Gamer track ‘Shaping Staff’ and asked James to animate a music video for it. Fired up with the results they decided to continue as a duo, incorporating pixel art projections into their occassional live shows. 

Phil moving to Melbourne, Australia in 2013 but Gamer continued to work together, releasing the animated pixel art music video 'Turbo' and the EP "Smoke Signals" in 2013. The two music videos for 'Turbo', 'Shaping Staff' the promo for 'Smoke Signals' and 'Ancient Cosmos' gained a lot of interest in the pixel art and synth communities, leading to the eventual hook up with Mitch Murder. Gamer's videos really are works of art and obviously compliment the music like nothing else could. I would suspect they field dozens of requests a day from budding synthwave artists for music videos!

In December of 2014 Gamer released their first full length LP Moon Base Europa. Consisting of ten instrumental tracks the album continues the Gamer sound which fits into OutRun territory. Despite the pixel graphics Gamer doesn't do chip tune music. Neither is this the overly-compressed type of outrun where all levels are pushing to melting point - rather a version that allows for space and dynamics to come through. None of the tracks are overly busy with instruments to muddy things up. Synth lines are melodic and there is a mix of plug-ins and real synths, which are mainly used for the key melody lines. The playing is right on and helps to add an air authenticity to the music - I sometimes feel like this could be something from the 80s with the synth sounds on show here. The song titles also seem to fit each song well - 'Planzers  Club', an uptempo number ,sets the scene for our space travelers stopping at some intergalactic dive bar en route to Moon Base Europa. Others give sensations of cruising the outer reaches of space ('Flame Out', 'Magentic Fields') and the up-tempo 'Get Away' is an equally good a fit for your car on earth as it is for your space cruiser. "Moon Base Europa" is an excellent album and really worth cranking up loud. If you have seen Gamer's videos (and make sure you seek them out if you haven't) you'll be creating your own Gamer-style pixel movies in your head when listing to "Moon Base Europa".

Moon Base Europa and the Smoke Signals EP are available on Bandcamp here.

Check out the Gamer videos at on their YouTube page here and follow their creative progress on Facebook here

Postscript: Phil from Gamer says 2015 will see a focus on live performances with the addition of an extra synth player along with collaborations, remixes and new music.

Irving Force - Undercover

By Jerry Herrera

Irving Force’s Undercover EP is one of the first real gems of 2015.  Not relying on his themes to carry the music, Irving has a great grasp on what makes darkness creep and what gives the music teeth.  This EP is like an action/horror Daft Punk.  It’s got the punch and the atmosphere of a great synthwave/electro album but also the thumping mid tempo kicks, snares and little stylistic touches that make our favorite robots so likeable.  

By far my favorite track is the first, 'Meat Grinder City'.  It’s an extremely intense and atmosphere heavy track but doesn’t overwhelm.  There’s a lot to digest because Irving Force knows how to layer a track, shift textures, throw in hooks and stabs and bring everything back to a relevant point.  The song travels, but never gets lost.  It just lets the listener wander in this sonic metropolis of villainy and brutality.

The rest of the EP doesn’t quite reach the intensity of 'Meat Grinder City', at least for me personally, but that certainly doesn’t mean that Irving Force doesn’t create a believable and grimly beautiful world.  'Stakeout' and 'Devoured by the Sunrise' are notable tracks as well, that demonstrate that Irving Force is in control of a thousand elements, great and small and they all have a home in the music.  Undercover is an enjoyable and nuanced journey from start to finish. Pick up a copy on his Bandcamp page here, turn it up and hold on for the ride!

SUNG -  Overizer

By Michael CA L

One of the best EPs to come out of the synthwave scene in 2014 was also one of the year's last. December 9, 2014 marked the release of SUNG's Overizer EP, a huge-sounding mini-album with all the attributes of a future (and futuristic) classic. The cover art is beautifully dark; reminiscent of Tron: Legacy's dark vision of cyberspace or perhaps the electronic netherworld that William Gibson's keyboard cowboys dare to dwell in the author's legendary Sprawl Trilogy. Beyond this enticing visual aesthetic, the EP contains five beautifully-realized tracks that range from being the musical equivelent of rocket fuel to mercury-smooth romance synth.

The EP starts with 'Neon Artery', a song with a thudding pulse like blood surging through the vessels of an adrenaline junkie in the middle of a high-risk stunt. A beautiful introduction to an album that's full of big moments, 'Neon Artery' brings to mind visions of too-fast travel through a vicious and volatile futuristic urban landscape, moving ever closer to the distant, glowing lights that radiate from the signage outside a neon nightclub outpost.

The second track, 'Skylane', begins with the sounds of rain pouring down, the drone of traffic rushing by, and the crash of thunder in a sky polluted with surveillance machinery and thick with contaminants. Solemn synth chords expand and build on themselves as they gather gritty, distorted sonic particles that are swirling around in the unclean air. With a marching, arpeggiated bass acting as guiding torchlight in the gathering storm, the pressure rises until the track explodes into a pounding onslaught of drums, bass synth and crashing drums. It's the march of heavy weather as it rains down from the skylanes above. It's the soundtrack of the survivors caught within the storm, beaten down and forever hunted in a city that is as corrupted socially as it is environmentally. It's a beautifully dark, mid-tempo track and one of several highlights on the album.

Slotted into the dead center of the EP and having the honour of being the album's titular track, 'Overizer' is the power-generating reactor core of the release. It's as tightly constructed as the rest of the tracks and has a similar tempo to the EP's opening song, but it has a rise-and-fall aspect to it that generates that special kind of response in listeners akin to being plugged into a wall jack that's simmering with electric current. 'Overizer' has it all: momentum, power-house build-ups, raw-sounding distortion and an eye-of-the-storm, temporary lull that gives the listener that classic, electro-esque sense of impending doom, right before said doom is unleashed in the form of a final, cumulated surge. One doesn't need to ask what it means to be "overized" after listening to this song. It all becomes readily apparent around the one minute mark.

As the power of 'Overizer' wanes into silence, the EP introduces its final two tracks: 'Night Cruisin'' and 'Sunset Drive'. These songs are the album's most gentle selections, with the first one being a subtle come-down and the final track being the absolute sweet-dreams finisher. The aptly-titled 'Night Cruisin'' opens with a propulsive bassline that rises up like a high-tech concept car pulling out of an underground parking garage. With its down-tempo rhythm centered around deep bass thuds and tense snare hits, it's a smouldering, slow-burning affair indeed. An elegant piano melody blossoms out of this, followed shortly by a gorgeous descending arpeggio at the 52 second mark. Accompanied 15 seconds later by string pads, this moment becomes a centerpiece within a centerpiece, inducing a near-euphoric state. The combination of sounds up until this point are riveting, yet there's more to see on this midnight odyssey. At 3:04 an overdriven guitar fades in to deliver a solo that's haunting, subtle, sensual, atmospheric, perfectly suited and among the best I heard in a year that saw plenty of rock-solid guitar performances in 80's-inspired music. All of the aforementioned elements contribute to making "Night Cruisin'" an album high-point and one of my favourite songs of 2014.

Whereas in the mundane world the sun must set before the night can arrive, in the world of SUNG's Overizer, sunset joyrides follow night cruises. The EP's final track, 'Sunset Drive', is a good closer that seems to contain all the warmth, beauty and sentimentality that could possibly be held within those fleeting moments before the sun slips beneath the horizon. An uplifting track, it radiates a calmness and tranquility all but absent from the EP's other, more darkly lit and heavy-toned tracks.

Despite repeating some synthwave themes that are well-worn (including the sound of waves lapping gently against the shore, cyberpunk imagery and a focus on night driving), there isn't a moment on this EP where I wasn't thoroughly impressed by SUNG's compositional skills or his ability to realize musical and thematic concepts beautifully using production skills that rival the genre's best. At under 20 minutes in length, it's a concise piece of work, and SUNG does a fantastic job of making the most of each second within this timeframe. Having come out late in the year, at a time when critics and fans alike may have already written up, sent off or otherwise made up their minds regarding their favourite music to come out in 2014, I'd hate to see this EP get overlooked. As mentioned at the start of this review, SUNG's Overizer  is one of the most engaging releases of 2014, and it's deserving of exposure as broad as the album is dense.

SUNG presents Overizer, which is available at his Bandcamp page here. The EP comes very, very highly recommended by Synthetix.FM

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