Abelard - Meta Valley
By Jerry Herrera
Existing between an incredibly catchy midtempo dance EP, and a pained meditation on the two dimensionality of modern life, Abelard’s Meta Valley EP strikes a very deep, if a bit funky chord within me. It’s wonderful night driving music that reminds me that I am, in fact, driving alone. Musically, it’s infinitely pleasing to the ear, and for that reason alone it is simply a Must Listen but in listening you’ve only completed half the journey. You have to let Meta Valley speak to you.
'In the Rain' is full of fat retro basses and satisfying claps, with glittering synths cascading all around the track. It’s an easy going, feel good track that continues on a predictable pace until the end where we hear a snippet of a phone conversation. A man and woman look forward to seeing each other, yet their voices are deadened and hollowed by their medium of speaking. The title track picks up again, happily. With a bassline that is reminiscent of Sussudio and instruments and vocal snippets layered absolutely sky high, the music is absolutely bursting with synth joy. Yet interspersed among the breezy waves and funky keys are some heartbreaking moments from Pretty in Pink. The juxtaposition would be absolute genius if the impact didn’t hit me right in the gut. Out of context, the words in the argument between father and daughter ring true for many people, for many reasons.
'Cheap Talk' is powerfully lush and funky and I almost blew out my eardrums because the composition of the track just compels you to crank up the volume. Using distorted vocals from a BB&Q song called 'On The Beat' Abelard creates an impossibly catchy vaporwave dance track. It’s fun and joyous and really evokes the feeling of being lost at the club, in a sea of party people having a good time. Only, aren’t you just lost at sea, and are you really having a good time? 'Look Around You' featuring Cade is a slower, spaced out song that features melancholy vocoded vocals. It’s an alien made R&B track musing about love and loss, and perhaps something more permanent and terrible than a breakup. Taking us directly away from whatever low, sad place the last track left us, 'Dance In Space' features more distorted vocals (this time from a Carmen track called 'Time To Move'), clavs, cowbells and so many snares and claps that one really must resist the urge to get up and dance. To move from one emotion to another takes a bit of work but the emotional rollercoaster I found myself on is one of the most intriguing things about Meta Valley.
A bit of teenage uncertainty from the movie Girls Just Want To Have Fun opens 'Waiting By The Window'. Again, Abelard creates truly catchy retrowave but also at work is something deeply affecting. The music and little vocal clips are a springboard into a pool of the listener’s own emotions and memory, and that’s always been what drew me into retro synth, but Abelard crafts that springboard without forcing nostalgia or introspection. It’s, as I mentioned, a brilliant yet humble juxtaposition of two themes that triggers an inner dialogue.
'Edie’s Theme' closes out the Meta Valley EP and like 'Look Around You', is markedly more melancholy than the other songs. The vocals are barely intelligible, but there is laughter and crying and conversation and rants; it’s human noise beneath the uneven heartbeat of a machine. It’s an odd, meandering song that is possessed of a unique, static filled beauty.
Abelard crafts a fascinating facsimile of our world, one where the cracks in the facade are equally visible as what we see at face value. There is a perception of humanity, that is what we see online and in commercials and print ads, what we are supposed to believe about ourselves and each other, that doesn’t quite make sense. Because the reality of humanity is that we’re flawed and cracked and heartbroken people. We don’t really interact the way people do in the Coca Cola commercials or the multi-million dollar music videos. But rather than attack the corporate image machine, Abelard suggests through his music that we embrace each other and understand that the breadth and depth of human emotion eclipses any neatly packaged, focus grouped slice of “life” portrayed on TV. As I said, if I’m just judging the music, this is one of the most luscious, listenable, crank the volume EPs I’ve heard this year. But that’s just looking at the surface. There is so much emotional content to be enjoyed if you just do as Abelard is asking, and look deeper.
Abelard presents the Meta Valley EP, which is available on his Bandcamp page here, and is very, very highly recommended by Synthetix.FM.
Nightboat – Freedom Of The Night
By Chris 'Python Blue' Day
The new release from Nightboat, Freedom Of The Night, proves they're definitely ahead of the game. The album as a whole has a very fun atmosphere despite the moody title.
'86 Prom' and 'Freedom Of The Night' both easily give an impression of the Pet Shop Boys just before they moved into trance music, while the other two tracks in the EP are nice downtempo songs to unwind to, especially 'Dream Sequence', a song that also has a nice touch of fretless bass alongside the usual electronic sounds.
Each track is also admirable because, unlike for some other producers, including myself, Nightboat seems reluctant to keep repeating the same chord progression (and even key) over and over in a track, which does well in being original and keeping a listener’s attention to the piece even after a minute or so in, especially as the changes actually flow very well in the tracks.
Nightboat’s Freedom Of The Night comes very highly recommended by Synthetix.FM, and is available on his Bandcamp page here.
Robert Parker - Cardinal
By Matthew Neophytou
Hitting a us with a full force of disco-infused synth is Robert Parker’s Cardinal. Anyone who loves their retro tunes lined with synth and kicked with funk will certainly fall head over roller-skates with this EP.
Title track “Cardinal” lines us up for some synth train action, hitting the ground on the first second. Instantly, you can't help but want to get in on the distorted rhythm but just wait 'til the guitar hits - expect the playfulness to really shine on this one without losing the grasp on production. “Run” is what we were most probably expecting from at least one of the tracks off the last Daft Punk album. Filtered vocals edge the grinding melody at an active pace creating a raw piece of electronic music that kicks with raw sounds bouncing on a dotted beat.
“Flashback” reigns things in for a gentle skip base, with a weave of synths that string the track together into a cool Malibu-esque evening soundtrack. “Waiting” accompanies the previous track perfectly, maintaining the coolness yet upping the groove with funky notes and a beat that just won't let you go.
“Fortress” leads us off in a synergy of Synth and thumping beats, a guaranteed repeat-player on anyone’s playlist. Telefuture presents Robert Parker – Cardinal rightly deserves a very, very highly recommended from Synthetix.FM for his melding of synth disco that is as retro as it is refreshing. Available for name your price at Telefuture's bandcamp page here.
Occams Laser - A Sides
By Rick Shithouse
Occams Laser has been featured numerous times in my Quality Time With Shithouse picks on Synthetix Sundays and this producer has just released a new EP titled A-Sides which gives us a great new spin on his musical ideas and refines the Occams Laser sound deeper.
The theme employed for this EP is having each track titled with the letter 'A' but the concept goes far deeper than this ephemeral tie in as the four tracks tell a wonderful story as one experience. Beginning with the mood setting 'Atomism' shades of the opening theme from Escape From New York introduce a carefully constructed but cautious scene. The synths used on this EP are all from the same palette in and in this Occams Laser forms a vivid stylistic direction that then works through the melodic structures and ties them together more and more as the story progresses.
The second track, 'Alacrity' continues, initially, as morosely as the opening track but this time Occams Laser introduces brighter and lighter details to push the shadows back ever so slightly. The sweet nuances of the flutey synths add a great deal to the story and the interplay between the shining details carries the track into a warm tonal space.
Track three continues in a similar vein that offers a great deal more positivity in the melodies and the story continues to add more and more colour to the rising passages. The pace of all these tracks is kept to a very similar speed however, and this plodding, almost down beat rhythm adds even more impetus to the melodies' trials and tribulations.
The final track of the EP is really a climactic point that all three previous tracks seemed to be leading us to. 'Alterity' has a spectacularly evocative synth lead that climbs further and further into the heavens as it unfolds. Having this as the final piece elevates it even further as a genuine sense of triumph reigns over the synthscape.
Occams Laser continues to hone his synth craftsmanship in every successive release and in A-Sides he's definitely reached a new level that ties together numerous ideas and packages them as a complete story. This EP is definitely something that requires listening to in one complete session to appreciate its narrative, and I encourage you to do so and pick up a copy on his Bandcamp page here.