By Rick Shithouse
The love affair with 80s music from peoples of Eastern Europe has existed since the 80s themselves. The end of the Cold War and Communism in the late 80s seems to have freezeframed an era that is associated with much love, celebration and idealism and it never ceases to amaze me how this transcends generations and seems to just be a part of their instilled musical history.
When it comes to some of the most authentic 80s inspired synth music Eastern Europe always seems to be at the top of the heap and the most genuinely in love with sounds of this particular era. With the new release from Block 35 this theory is reinforced as this Romanian producer captures the spirit, energy and emotion of the 80s in his new album Central Control.
Although apparently based around a conceptual narrative I found a great diversity in the feelings and atmospheres present in each track and Central Control provides a real showcase for Block 35's talent and understanding of 80s motifs. The moods swing from bouncy playfulness to deep introspection and everything in between and among the seven pieces you'll find a wonderful degree of depth and movements in all directions.
The album ignites with favourite track of mine from 2014 from Block 35 in the thoroughly epic 'Skyline'. This really sets a massive scene amid a spectacularly conceived melodic lead. The structures are built purposefully and deeply around the initial passage and delve inquisitively into detailed levels that are entirely hung off that totally platinum lead. 'Skyline' is an exercise in musical exploration and storytelling and done so with much care and craftsmanship.
Shifting into high gear Block 35 rushes into the high energy 'Grid Line' next. Massively frenetic percussion and crunching guitars join in the synth panic as the drama is barely kept under control. The difference in palette and tone to the opening track is vast but both still seem be of the same universe thanks to Block 35's careful attention to the overt details as well as the underlying strata that hold the tracks together.
The universe is expanded even further in next track, which is easily one of my personal highlights on this album. 'Arcades' has an incredibly lively and positive hook that is impossible to resist. The music rises; uplifting and full light as the melody imparts positive vibes to the point of elation. You get to feel a whole new side of Block 35's sound in 'Arcades' with its golden tones ringing throughout the galaxy like an unstoppable chorus chanted by billions of beings at once.
'Dragon's Nest' takes a very interesting turn next as it holds onto some of the threads and base ingredients of 'Arcades' and then re-purposes them into something much more elusive and thoughtful that takes the idea onto new grounds; sung in new voices. This partnering of tracks together, when done as well is this, is deeply rewarding to experience and for all my love for 'Arcades' it would somehow be incomplete without its less verbose but more ethereal cousin 'Dragon's Nest'.
The drama continues down a path of questions and few answers in 'Central Control' as darker colours become dominant but right when you think the atmosphere is getting too close a huge electro synth lead ignites the scene, unleashing a blinding contrasting vibrancy to proceedings. These two elements play off each other beautifully as much back and forth between light and dark completes this part of the story.
In 'Metro' Block 35 takes things to even more new territory as he manages to fuse classic Italo and Electro Rock elements together into an amazing new beast of brilliance. The bassline pulses with the flow of the streets and the synths inspire romance and affection while the percussion some how brings both wolds together in a massively grandiose manner. A thoroughly enrapturing combination of 80s sounds that totally rocks.
The final piece of Central Control is a vast seven minute epic that shows yet another side to Block 35's skills. 'Secret Police' presents a beautifully sparse yet brightly detailed adventure into the mind of Block 35 himself. The slow build of 'Secret Police' is utterly transfixing as the refrain shines new light into realms previously unexplored on the album. Tension is palpable, underpinning many of the sequences but it's the clean, light piano that steals the show with airy, echoing pinpoints of aural light in the darkness. The narrative on this track in particular is immensely deep, you'll be taken in to the world wholly and become one with its superbly crafted details.
Future 80s Records presents Block 35's Central Control album on their Bandcamp page here. I found this album to be a thoroughly enjoyable and often elevating experience. There are so many very strong tracks out of the seven chapters that it never allows you to drop your gaze or lose your concentration on what is happening in the music. The stories presented are diverse and full of life and wonder, something that always brings out those gorgeous 80s colours and makes this release very, very highly recommended from Synthetix.FM.