By Rick Shithouse
What brings someone to write 80s inspired synth music? What is it, in 2015, that lights that spark to say in the musician's muse within: '80s synth, yes, that's for me'. This is something I often think about when listening to a producer for the first time. By picking out elements and themes sometimes it becomes wholly apparent what brought them to this music. Other times, the deeper one delves into the art of a producer the more the glowing soul of 80s love becomes apparent.
Sometimes this love is shrouded amid other influences, other times it takes time to be coerced and nurtured from a tiny glow to an uproarious fire over their musical journey and sometimes it can be a bright spark that blinds in supercharged neon brilliance only to then gradually fade and trail into a memory.
With a producer like Bart Graft, whom I know nothing about beyond his two Bandcamp releases, the path and story are still yet to be walked and written. One thing I do know is that this release grabbed me in a way that felt warm and familiar yet still exciting and full of promise. This self-titled eight track release contains many of the hallmarks I dearly love about 80s inspired synth music and mixes up a couple of things in ways I found very endearing. Bart Graft definitely knows his was around 80s melodies and has a superbly tuned ear for the right sounds too.
From track one you know what you're in for in quick time. The synthscape is clean, uncluttered and very authentic. You won't be hearing any modern production techniques on this record. The instruments used are bright, colourful and energetic, lacquered in mirror like gloss that sparkles tantalisingly. Bart Graft, like many producer's has used Miami Vice as the base inspiration for this record from the apparent track titles and such but the music goes deeper than that. 'Gespaard's Poolside' brings to mind the musical magic of Synthetix.FM favourites like Spacious Sweep, Plaisance, Jacques 'James Baker' le Boulanger and Sternrekorder with its simply gorgeous 80s naïveté. It is in the melodies that Bart Graft crafts other elements into the musical tapestry as his own hallmarks begin to show.
There is a wonderful amount of guile and mystery in many of the tracks on the album. Some pieces begin in a manner that alludes to all the cards being placed squarely on the table but all too often Graft then pulls a rabbit out of the hat mid-track to turn the experience in a great new direction. 'Rico's Vice' begins with a cascading waterfall of a synth melody that soon becomes and emotional deluge of beautiful 80s magic. Graft is never in a rush and allows his introductory passages to work in a very soundtrack oriented style that coerces the listener into hypnotising worlds, he also has a keen sense of how to give instruments the exact weight and force needed for maximum impact. The snare in 'Rico's Vice' is absolutely huge, but you never lose the details or mood of that synth waterfall melody. By keeping his selection of instruments to the necessities only a different kind of dynamic range comes into play.
'Marina Soiree' continues the sparkling seaside melodies with structures of beautiful synths being fabricated into dancing glass shards in the sunlight. On this piece an inference of Library styles come into play also, the feeling that this could happily be the background music in an after-school 80s kids TV show is impossible to ignore. Conversely, in 'Graft's Theme' he goes for a more silhouetted mood that hides the grandiose nature of the melody behind thin, muslin veils. Airs of romance rise in words not said but intentions felt.
The next track delivers the hit you've been waiting for in 'Chase On Brickell'. Graft hits the accelerator and rockets into the action with a totally rockin melody that is all suited up and ready for excitement. I absolutely love the introduction of the guitars in this track as the tone provides the perfect foil for the synths. So much of this track reminds me of my favourite 80s TV soundtrack music and the likes of Mike Post and Pete Carpenter's classic work. The combination of that oh so wonderful naïveté and all out rockin action is intoxicating to the end.
The chase continues into the energetic 'Testarossa' and the guitars return with good measure. This track takes a few more cues from other directions and the midpoint change comes from nowhere to blow your mind in ways only the 80s knows how. A more reflective tone is created in the aptly titled 'Quayside Dreamin' 84'. The melody meanders in a loose, dream like haze. Saturated colours of the sunset become overpowering and the rippling waters provide just the right amount of lull.
The album finishes by going deeper 'Into The Miami Sunset'. The melody is perfectly accented by the energetic percussion and sauntering bassline with an air of justice and triumph rising in the halting synths. The guitars make a welcome return, this time in a far more poignant manner that befits the arrangements to a T.
Over the course of this record one thing that I was constantly reminded of was how clearly Bart Graft dictated the moods to me of every piece of music using barest of elements and instruments. This in itself is testament to how totally 80s his melodies and progressions are and how each piece of music hangs entirely off that chrome 80s hook.
Bart Graft presents his self-titled album on his Bandcamp page here in the usual array of digital formats. This album comes very highly recommended by Synthetix.FM and sure promises that Bart Graft's 80s soul will be burning bright for a long time to come.