Thursday, April 16, 2015
LA Dreams Opens His Paint Box
By Andrew B. White
It’s old news to anyone who follows the synthwave scene that LA’s SellorRekT/LA Dreams is a extremely prolific artist, releasing more music in the space of three years than there have been re-releases of the ABBA back catalogue.
Paint Box is the second full-length LA Dreams release of 2015 thus far and continues the same formula as previous releases - a mixture of up-beat melodic songs and mid-tempo/slower ballads. Everything has an authentic 80s sheen to it and to me, sees its feet firmly planted in a time zone somewhere around 1984/85.
Typical to an LA Dreams release, Paint Box has eight tracks as was common to many albums in the 80s, due to the time constraints of the vinyl LP. This gives you a sense that no ‘filler’ content was considered - only the good stuff was included here. Track lengths are just right for this sort of music too; long enough to keep things alive, get you hooked and fade out into the next piece of ear candy.
‘Flying’ is a great opening track. From the first bars of synth tom rolls and synths you know this album is going to be ride you want to stay on to the end of the album. Allow extra driving time if your journey is going to take less than 32 minutes…
‘Heard It All Before’ and ‘One More Step’ don’t let up and take you along with them, again with great arrangements, use of melodies and sounds with well thought-out production that allows you to hear what’s going on.
‘DX Heaven’ is a slow ballad, reminiscent of a teen movie romance scene complete with faux-saxophone and fretless synth bass. As the title suggests the song is heavy on DX7 use with that signature DX 80s piano. Crazy for you, indeed.
‘The Empty Frame’ comes as close to a ‘vocal’ LA Dreams track as you will get with the use of what sounds like a vocoder. It’s also more intense and darker, edging closer to outrun territory without being over-compressed. The retained dynamics and melodies keep the song more on a brighter pop edge.
The energy of ‘Go Get ‘Em’ gives you the idea that it could suitably appear in any number of 80s video montages: California beach life scenes, BMX racing action, surfers in full flight, aerobic classes. For anything that has action, this is the soundtrack.
LA Dreams always gives great titles to the songs which can give you more insight in to what the songs might about. ‘After Her’ implies someone in the aftermath of a break-up. She’s gone and now it’s time for consideration. There is nothing schmaltzy or desperate here though, it’s contemplative - imagine sitting on top of the hills at dusk looking out over the city and wondering just what happened.
Final and title track ‘Paint Box’ is a great way to go out. A rolling arpeggio with bright synths, chunky bass and simple melodic lines that remind me of the Psychedelic Furs’ poppier moments. This is not a case of saving the best for last, rather that the whole album is constantly good.
LA Dreams presents Paint Box on his Bandcamp page here. As with LA Dreams’ other releases you can hear many 80s influences his work but nothing that is a direct copy of any one song or artist. To me, this is the beauty of great synthwave, where an artist is not copying 80s music but takes many of its cues to create something new but familiar. If you are looking for dark, foreboding synth music LA Dreams might not be for you – Paint Box is all pastel colors, sun, sand, Raybans and romance. This is scene-stealing stuff, perfect for driving or playing in your walkman on your way to meet up with your date at the mall. Paint Box comes very, very highly recommended from Synthetix.FM.
LA Dreams’ Kevin Montgomery was kind enough to answer a few questions to go along with this review:
ABW: Your music seems ideal for freeway driving in a city like LA. Is that a conscious move on your part - to make music to drive to?
KM: I like the feel of nostalgia and driving to music gives me that feeling of my teen years.
I enjoy making music that sparks emotions and memories.
ABW: Were you ever involved in BMX racing in the 80s? LA Dreams’ music would fit perfectly alongside old school BMX videos.
KM: LOL, yes to be honest. My early years of having a Redline bike and riding through the neighborhoods with friends. We used to be around 15 bikers and skaters who would ride up to the local arcades and comic book stores.
ABW: You did a vocal collaboration, ‘Neon Nights’, with Femmepop. Are there any plans to do more collaborations and/or vocal tracks?
KM: Absolutely. Margaret (Femmepop) is awesome. I’m currently working with a very talented singer Joanna Wiśniewska that you all will be hearing soon.
ABW: What synths did you use on Paint Box?
KM: I used the Roland Juno 60, Yamaha DX7 IIFD, Roland D50, Roland Jupiter 4, and Oberheim OB8.
ABW: Your albums are the classic LP track length of eight songs. Do you feel eight track albums are a good way of retaining a listener’s interest, rather than bombarding them with 15 tracks?
KM: Well I think its up to the individual artist. Sometimes when I'm telling a story, the songs can often stretch through different tracks to capture different experiences. Sometimes it's told in 8 songs and other times more.
ABW: You’ve sometimes been accused of being “too prolific”. Does making music come easily for LA Dreams and do you plan to keep releasing albums every couple of months?
KM: I do what I feel, I don't operate under anyone else's format. I love my fans and those who look forward to hearing more from me. I don't think I will always make monthly music though, LOL.
I stay in a creative mode, I'm an artist.
ABW: It’s been said the synthwave scene needs to evolve and move away from the 80s sound. That doesn’t make sense to me, especially for an artist like LA Dreams. Would you ever consider changing you style or is the 80s music you like too much of an influence?
KM: Well I think that a lot of the newcomers need to understand and appreciate the origin of the music today. There are different composers and producers who take various routes in Synthwave, I can't complain about that. I do what I love and will continue to be LA Dreams.
Note from Rick Shithouse: "Thank you for being LA Dreams, Kevin!"