By James Mann
Sleek and undeniable. Smooth and confident. Romantic and tactile. When it comes to pumping out some of the best retro-vibed tunes in the scene, Martyn Stonehouse (DATAStream) is no novice. He is actually quite the opposite. A true audiophile and sound production specialist of sorts, he delves deep into the world of waves through modules, synthesizers; customizing sounds and patterns strictly for his arsenal of 80s weaponry with the utmost detail and care and orchestrating them into stellar work. As an FM wizard, crafting beautiful tracks that not only have the highest in production value, but also cast the highest in emotive retro themed spells, he takes the listener on a pure and unadulterated journey of poignant and extraordinary compositions.
DATAStream has breezed through the scene with finesse, detail and love over the last several years. All of his tracks seem to evoke such light and airy sounds and accompanying emotions, I dare say his tracks sound almost….well, effortless. Upon multiple listens it’s evident the talent runs deep, and song structuring and execution are the name of this game. His recent work is standing above so many others and truly in a class of its own with the glassy, funkiest sounds of the 80s and ultimately cross referencing several other genres. Groovy and determined bass lines, DX7 and choir pad symphonies, sharp percussion just to name a few. With the advent of Stored Energy Technologies 3, any 80s lover of smooth jazz, funk, synth pop and well rounded tunes must have this in their collection.
A must mention is Martyn’s clever packaging and promoting of his stunning release. Physical copies in tape format are available and get this, a MiniDisc that provides two tracks exclusive to the format. Wow. Not to date myself but rocking the nostalgia of a MiniDisc in college radio classes brought back tremendously sweet memories of the past. Well played, DATA.
'The Synthesizer (f. Dean Freidman)' kicks off this lush journey in sound with fantastic finesse. Immediately a sample and monologue of a man talking (about….fittingly, sound) plays wonderfully with a funky, smooth composition. Shimmering synths dot the beginning, and then a powerful and confident bass kick in in tandem with some lovely percussion and drum work which immediately kick the DATAStream machine into full gear. Ornate and detailed layering of pads seem to occupy their own space and leave a great amount of room for the listener. Exceptional panning allows maximum audio experience, as this technician knows exactly how to structure and execute. Love this track. I’m in the STREAM already.
'Downtime' immediately evokes moods of a warm isolation. A nice balance between the ambience of dark and hope. This instrumental introduction and atmosphere is shattered with an extremely tight and impressive composition that catches me off guard in the best way possible. The signature DATAStream vocoder carefully balances over the emotional range of progressions and melodies. Sleek, but an honest piece, and just on the verge of somber. The bridge and refrains come together for a unison that creates an incredible song.
Time to slip into something more comfortable. Pour a glass of your favorite adult beverage for that someone special (even if that’s just yourself) and drift away into a realm of romance with 'Lossless Lover', also brimming full of beauty and nostalgia. Sleeked out and incredibly sultry, the smooth vibes of bass, synthesizer and percussion dance around the room in tandem for one of the sweetest productions I’ve heard in quite some time. It’s that unique and glorious sound of DATAStream that he has truly patented for his own.
'Digital Daydream' opens with a melody and lick generating images of a scientist working late at night behind locked doors, the bustle of crowds through New York streets, a solitary walk into the void with an unsettled mind. This pensive oriented mood erupts into a full fledged wave of chills and emotions as the 'Digital Daydream' bursts into one of the sweetest sounding tracks I’ve heard in a while. The bass is a somber progression and immediately captures my attention as the DATAStream beats and synths cover the rich landscape of sound with accompanying feelings of sadness but also warmth. What a sweet balance to have and is something I strive to capture in the right tracks and artists. Incredible beauty and emotion captured with this, I found myself pushing the play button again and again. I must say this is my favorite track on the album.
'Employee Relationships' is an interesting title, and I quickly realized this was perhaps the most funky track on the album. The bass and rim shots from the snare with a sweet and playful lead orchestrate a head bobbing anthem destined to be played on your walkman and definitely in your car on a summer day. A wicked little synth solo clarifies this artist’s ability to rock a synthesizer with determination and dexterity. What a sweet little number, right on par with the exceptional and rocking sound that is DATAStream.
'Synthetic Hearts' is a slow jam that carries some of the most powerful feelings evoked from the Stored Technologies series. A vocoder winds through this synthscape with meaningful lyrics and tact. It’s refreshing to hear some vocals (albeit Synthetic) carry through a composition so lovely and romantic. Effortless and familiar sounds from our favorite 80s slow tracks become transparent and on display for all modern listeners to enjoy. A gorgeous and well crafted song, this came in a close second for favorite on the release.
Just when I thought Martyn couldn’t outdo himself on the caliber of music preserved in this splendid offering, 'Call Waiting' blasted through my speakers and I had to nearly take a seat. Inspired and incredibly groovy, the retro mood is huge in this. Appropriating some late 70s moods and techniques, the electro blend updates the genre and stamps it as a pure DATAStream production. Wonderful solos prance through the synthscape alongside that impeccable production value.
'Fast Lane Waiting Game' reminds me of a cinematic and heartfelt OST from a 1980s movie of the most authentic caliber. And by that I mean incorporating the best of elements and weaving an intricate and fitting atmosphere to accompany a wide variety of scenes. This is really a top notch track, and has the artist venturing off into a world he sounds so comfortable and familiar with. Powerful and inspirational, the progressions in this are nothing short of spectacular. It’s a side of DATAStream I hadn’t heard quite before. Incredibly unique and satiating, I’m just a second away from stripping first place song and re-awarding it with this gem. Simply superb.
A true journey in sound, DATAStream has managed to win our hearts with Stored Energy Technologies 3. Creating and blending small stories that bring out the best in our listener sensibilities, this album is a must have for anyone who enjoys synthesizers and a variety of genres stemming from the 1980s. This is a spectacular release which shines as one of the most welcoming and heart warming productions I’ve heard in quite some time, all coming from an artist who simply loves what he does. He is constantly immersed in sound production, teaching and creating masterpieces not just for his loyal and established fanbase, but for himself. The passion shows DATAStream, and we are all here to enjoy your gifts to the synth world.
Stored Energy Technologies 3 is available on Bandcamp here in digitally downloadable formats as well as the aforementioned limited edition physical releases and comes very, very highly recommended by Synthetix.FM.