By James Mann
Pulsating. Hypnotic. Ethereal. Dark. Blending such strong descriptives to culminate in an experience you could only dream of. Lush, vibrant and detailed craftsmanship evoking such powerful feelings and imagery emerge from an artist whose ability has never been in question. Proficiency and rhythms transport you to another world, the one you've been searching for to bring you to a better place. Finding that perfect balance between all of those genres you've so adored, the ones you grew up with now seem to all culminate in a cohesive work of art that satiates every facet of your musical sensibilities. Made for not just lovers of the 80s, but the 90s and anyone who appreciates danceable and most importantly memorable tracks packed with clever and emotional melodies. One of the strongest release of the year has descended upon all things synth. Blazing an effortless sounding trail through the retro-wave wilderness comes the latest LP from VHS Dreams, Trans AM.
This stunning, full length release blends the best of electronic music. Pure emotive and nostalgic tracks with disco based backbeats but housed in the best elements of the 80s. Progressive touches and late 80s dance and early 90s house blend for incredible arrangements this artist has a deep and knowledgeable understanding of. Delivering such a cohesive flow of memorable tracks from someone who has lived and immersed himself in so many other music sensibilities really pays off for this veteran producer, and those fortunate enough to hear this piece of art will most certainly appreciate every second this gem has to offer.
'Vice Point' revs the RPM's for pure 80s gold to start this fantastic beach and sun drenched voyage journey known as Trans Am. A strong melody creates the foundation for a memorable, driving arrangement which quickly layers the best instrumentation of our favorite era. Percussion and a confident dance oriented beat develops with a beautiful groove and emotion filled synth lead. It's evident that VHS Dreams knows arrangements, and he effortlessly layers the track so sensibly you are immediately hooked. I also might add that his production value is top notch. The instruments and beats sound so crisp and powerful through the speakers. What a fantastic start to this sweet ride.
'Miami 2K15'. A deep almost tech like house rhythm kick this track off and overlays an ominous bass to create nothing short of a deep groove. High string like synths dot the soundscape adding dimension to a building track. Excellent panning of percussive elements and a beautiful lead synth that is full of emotion emerges from the beat to pull the listener into a bridge between that sweet 80s and dare I say club house. (note the tactful use of cowbell and that signature snare crack). VHS Dreams pulls apart the track several times with breakdowns, finally delivering that full spectrum ear candy just after 3 minutes. I can feel the dance elements on this one, perfect for a full house packed with energy and lights. Pure bliss. Spectacular track and one you are destined to get lost in.
'Highway Lovers' brings a more pensive side of the VHS Dreams machine. Electro signals kick this gem off and quickly blend to a sweet 80s vibe with calypso sounding percussion. A deep, impressive baseline blasts through with a killer set of notes to create a full and tasteful blend of layering that work so well together and occupy all spectrums of your speakers. I can hear a Maethelvin influence in the breakdown and melodies, but this artists stamps his own unique craftsmanship. Hold that synth. Is that a sax? Mind blowing, the soulful and intricate saxophone work compliment this arrangement perfectly. Again, this artist has a deep understanding of bridging and combining his layering to create interest throughout every second. Without reservation one of my favorites on the album.
As a lover of house music, electro and dance music I was blown away to finally discover a track from a retro wave artist who encompasses all elements of the best in these genres. Enter 'R.E.D.M'. 808 percussion (among others) and a sleek, mysterious synth immediately pull the listener in with a vibrancy and freshness that I've been craving. Giving way to a female voice sample (in the style of early 90s Culture Club or S.N.A.P. for any retro dance lover who knows what I'm talking about) artistically infused and a gorgeous chord progression of synthesizers that send chills up the spine of anyone who recognizes and values incredible music. Such a sweet track and a contender for best on the album. The heat is accelerated and Trans AM is already proving to be a powerhouse with astounding arrangements.
'Trans AM' tops off your full tank with a slap, funk bass with claps that set the scene for beautiful, lush synth chords that remind me of Don Henley's 'Boys of Summer.' Ferocious claps layer on top of the bass to accelerate into a quick breakdown. VHS Dreams enjoys pulling you in with such effective handiwork and rebuilding the track with new elements to refresh layers of an already impressive tune. Thoughtful leads rejoin the base layer for an added dynamic range that comes together for a truly enjoyable, one that is full of emotion.
'Discorecord'. What a banger. Samples flutter over panned percussion and a gritty, deep electro bass gives way to a full on dance excursion. VHS Dreams steers you through his jungle of electronica and dance, delivering a confident track that's made for the night. This composition brings some of the best the Dreams has to offer, as the energy on this is incredible and ventures into new territory with a dynamic approach and execution. This is my favorite track off Trans AM.
For any synth lover who knows the scene, the name Alpharisc has been thrown around quite a bit, and for good reason. He's been dazzling the synth scene for several years now with his complex and nostalgic themed tracks full of fantastic and lasting melodies, arrangements and quite possibly the best production out there. (not to mention his healthy obsession with video games and OSTs) To think these two wizards would combine talents for a tour de force is quite exciting and welcomed. 'Shanglin 2K15' combines the best of both worlds, spacious ambient like sweeps with Kyoto based synths fuse into one of the sweetest sounds on the release. Again, that feel is just so effortless. Driving beats, funky bass and leads create a spread of sounds that appeal to all ears. This was a tough contender for best track.
'Nightdrive' showcases a keen ability of this artist to combine both driving, darker tones and beautiful, angelic like chords into one unforgettable song. He offers a mood and feel that is, should I say, accessible to all audiences. That's perhaps one of the observations of this release that is so evident and foremost for me, the music doesn't isolate one listener or genre, it manages to deliver work that appeals to lovers of all things nostalgia and those eagerly awaiting the future of music. Classy, timely, relevant and such a smooth track. Oh, and I've decided I can't get enough of that VHS cowbell. Simply epic.
'Ocean Heights' brings a downtempo occasion of sweet and sultry proportions when he combines efforts with Sartori in Bed. Glassy synths and toms dance across the speakers with imagery of slow motion bikini beauties, or simply a walk back home from school deep in thought. The wonderful applications of music like this is to create and secure your own ties and connections, as this particular one is a highly emotive piece gracing such impressive arrangements. I can't help but wonder when this will make it's big screen debut on a movie soundtrack. Cinematic and fresh, these two work seamlessly to deliver one of the greatest pieces off the LP by appealing to your Wham! and slow 80s synth ballads, bringing you down so gently for a ride that was nothing short of stellar.
'AM Eternal (outtro)' is a gorgeous piece that reminds me of Starforce's 'Summer of 2085' Those signature synths create a backdrop heavy in sentiment, that is quickly filled in with that distinct slap bass and light overlapping synth arrangements. Short, sweet and fitting. This track pulls Trans AM into your driveway, hits the automatic headlight covers and stows that baby away for a peaceful night of rest and sleep, giving you space and time to pour over the incredible journey you just embarked on full of wonder and escape.
Trans AM is a release that's one for the books. A stunner of synthtastic proportions. VHS Dreams manages to create a work of art with such detailed tracks that entail not only such unique identities, but also having the ability to appeal to so many listeners. A balance that is not easy to achieve. Any electronica lover would be remiss not to have this in their collection. Top notch production and execution place this artist easily in the forefront of music making when it comes to the scene, and the inspiration from his keyboard and production is dripping with a deep personal love of the genres this artist grew up not only listening to, but also playing as well. Trans AM is presented by Future 80s Records on their Bandcamp page here and comes very very highly recommended by Synthetix.FM.