Thanks rockers, keep on rockin,
Sebastian Gampl Hunts The City
by Mike Mendoza
My first official Synthetix review. To say that the retro synth community at large has come a long way since I started to get involved in 2012 would be an absolute understatement. I’ve tried my best to listen to music released in the years before I became a Synthetix member to understand the history of what we’re all doing here. It’s been quite an exhilarating journey, the ride has its ups and downs, but like my first improv teacher taught me: If you buy a ticket, you have to ride the ride.
Sebastian Gampl’s City Hunter album is, by far, one of my favorite releases ever to hit my ears. It doesn’t just aim for that "synthwave" sound, it exceeds the mark by being so authentically nostalgic that I get the same feeling that I get when I discover a new 80s movie I haven’t seen before and think to myself “OMG, it had this actor? and this music is amazing! How haven’t I ever heard of this before, I’m going straight to youtube and listening to the soundtrack over and over.” Go ahead, listen to City Hunter, I dare you. You won’t ever want to stop.
It begins with 'Intro', which completely sounds like it states. It starts off with a low energy, but by the end of it, it gains all this extra energy that makes you excited to experience what the rest of the album will be like. Then 'One On One' featuring Tommy Reeve sounds like such an authentic 80s pop/film track that you wonder if Gampl is really just a high profile 80s artist/producer secretly saving his old music for release later on. 'City Hunter' only reinforces this idea. Listening to it is like my being a little kid in the late 80s/early 90s and my mom just lit some incense and started cleaning the house with the radio on. It’s a great mixture of pop and retro R&B and just the right amount of smooth jazz.
'Clara' is more of the same. These vocal tracks are kind of what I was hoping would come out of our community. It’s one thing to keep releasing “synthwave” sounding instrumentals, but to take it to the next level, with the songcraft and vocal timbre (both Julian Williams and Tommy Reeve knock it out of the fucking park), it evokes and even surpasses the nostalgic value you might expect from something we would hear in our community.
'Interlude' sounds like the introduction music to a specific cop drama from ‘88-’91. Nay, it captures that feeling of every cop drama intro from that time all rolled up into one somehow. Then “Freedom Fighter” not only brings us back into full film territory, I’m pretty certain (as I write facetiously) he lifted this from a montage from something, whether it was a teen high school movie or an action explosion fest. It’s like Rocky fight training meets Karate Kid fight training. I think this is my favorite track. I do house chores to this music and it elevates everything around me. Have you ever fist-elbow pumped “YES!”d while doing dishes? I can say that I have.
“Midnight Run” feels like it’s straight off one of the many Miami Vice soundtracks. It’s got tons of energy and even without vocals, it will make you dance, or at least shimmy around in your chair a little bit. And if you weren’t moving around to that one, 'Under Control', featuring Tommy Reeve again on vocals, is guaranteed to make you want to put on leg warmers and get ready for work at your high paced cocaine fueled late-at-night neon Wall Street stock broker job.
'Outro' starts off with the high energy that 'Intro' ended with and slowly winds its way back down to the low key moments that you started the album with. All the instrumentation on this album is so genuine, complete with bass instruments producers clamor on all the production boards to ask so they can emulate, and all the bell and electric keyboards kick ass in the sense that they just feel so as emotional as original 80s music contained. This album isn’t about the synth work or the amazing drum mixing, it’s about the sum of all the parts, and good god is that sum completely retro and mind blowing.
As a producer myself, I’m always listening intently to melodies and chord structure. Too often, many music releases have melodies that just sound like a person is hitting the same five keys to some relevant timing without thinking about that last lingering key or making sure that each new riff connects with the last. Gampl’s City Hunter exceeds my expectations on every count, in every bar, and in every measure. I urge you to listen to every single note of this album in its entirety. There’s an ultimate feeling of hope for the future of what can be accomplished in our retro synth community if one works hard and channels their inner badass.
Sebastian Gampl presents the City Hunter album on his Bandcamp page here in all the usual downloadable digital formats. Simply put, this is a 10/10, Synthetix Reference Experience and you need this album in your life; end of story.