Lock and load and get ready for a synth onslaught as AIRBORNE brings you all the most rockin recent EP releases!
Magic Dance - Haunting Me EP
By Andrew B. White
“Haunting Me” is the fourth release from NYC’s Magic Dance (Jon Siejka) and comes hot on the heels of the Kiss Scene EP which came out in late 2015. For this new EP Magic Dance changes direction slightly by adding a healthy dose of electric guitars into the mix. However, all the elements that have gained Magic Dance a steady and loyal following are still intact – a mixture of vocal and synth-based instrumental tracks with highly melodic arrangements, wrapped-up in a conventional pop song structure.
The energetic instrumental track ‘Last Light’ opens the EP and is an uplifting mix of soaring synth and electric guitars. If I’m beginning to sound like I’m cutting-and-pasting the same line in my reviews about this style of music, well… this track would be perfect in an 80s John Hughes-style film. So, Enough said!
Title track ‘Still Haunting Me’ is the first of the three vocal tracks on the EP and Jon’s voice is in fine form. His vocal style perfectly suits the style of music he creates. There’s a passion and an energy required to give these songs the authenticity that is needed to pull them off, and there is plenty of that going on here. Guitars are pushed to the fore and there’s a great solo by Tim Mackey on this.
‘I Wanna Know’ is next up and is a highlight on the EP for me. With it’s big synths and rocking guitars you’d expect to see this as a video on MTV, wedged in between Journey, Heart and Foreigner. Not only is this a great sounding song but Magic Dance manage to complete the whole package with the use of sublime breaks, builds and bridges — going the extra mile in overall songwriting craft.
‘Another Life, Another Time’ closes out the EP and is a classic rock ballad lamenting a love lost. Chugging guitars, piano, a healthy dose of chiming synths and layered chorus vocals set the scene here. I can picture the music video for this now – a girl, a guy. Rain. Longing looks, hands breaking apart in slow motion. May a little extra hairspray. A solo shot of the guy fading to back at the end… Casting calls are going up at model agencies now…
On this EP there are no remixes or alternative versions — it’s just four new strong, right-on songs. It’s great to see more artists embracing A/C rock and exploring the Top 40 chart sounds of the 80s that are not solely synth pop focused. Fans of Lachi James, Kristine and Work Of Art should definitely check this out!
The “Haunting Me” EP is currently available on Bandcamp in CD and digital formats here and comes very highly recommended by Synthetix.FM.
NeodroneX - The Core
By Lachie Hunt
After two full length LPs, American synth producer NeodroneX is back with a new EP. NeodroneX (or Giancarlo Montalbano as he is known outside of the scene) has a history of creating lush rich sounds in his previous albums, and The Core is no exception.
My personal favorite tracks on The Core are Cyberscaper and Grid Slave. Both have incredibly strong lo-fi sounds to them, and are expertly done. Grid Slave features awesome synth solos with a whining saw and high pitched plucks. Cyberscaper manages to blend piano with synth stabs and a rolling bassline that is able to compete with some of the best.
The other four tracks are pretty damn fantastic too. Chromium is funky as hell and sounds like the perfect loading screen to all your grid exploits. Tetra is a very bass heavy and once again piano heavy track. D1s1ntegr8te has an epic feel to it and also features some heavy bitcrushing in the background. Core Eater revisits the synth stabs and brings the EP to a close in an amazing tense fashion.
The Core is worth your time and money for sure if you're a fan of Lost Years or anything in that style of the synthwave genre, pick up a copy on his Bandcamp page here.
The Complexity of a Man's Vision and the Consistency of an Android: An Exploration of Android Automatic's Visions EP
By Michael CA L
The word "consistent" gets thrown around a lot, and while I don't believe any single adjective (especially one so lacking in creative substance) should be the definitive descriptor of any artist and their work, there's definitely something to be said about consistency when it's coupled with terms of higher value and significance. When an artist is willing and able to explore new terrain, go in unique and innovative directions with each new work, and yet maintain a certain quality and poised follow-through in the design of each of his efforts that elevates them in a manner that is striking to the receiver, regardless of the new directions being explored, then maybe the word "consistent" gains a bit of leverage. Such is the case with Detroit's Michael Gene Graham, more commonly known among retro-synth fans as Android Automatic, and his latest effort, the Visions EP, is a perfect example of consistency coupled with innovation and a succinct, precise clarity of vision.
The work of Android Automatic first gained my attention with the Watching Stars EP, which was released in late 2014. With its slick and streamlined compositions and production, perfectly optimized mastering by David Klug, and vivid, glossy, cybernetic and steel-plated cover art courtesy of Basil Murad (aka Blood + Chrome), I was hooked from the very first listen and have looked forward to and thoroughly enjoyed each subsequent release. With Visions, the listener is treated to the same detailed and deliberate production and song-design (and the same precision mastering from David Klug), and yet Android Automatic (as is the recurring trend) manages to configure his latest effort with fresh sounds, unique songwriting angles, and the vivid, expressive cover art of Alexandre Lemoing at Neon Dreams Designs.
Saturday Night in the City
Appropriately titled, the opening track on the EP has a kinetic gravity to it that draws the listener into the light/dark flickering strobe of urban nightlife. Rolling along on a disco-inspired beat that is complimented by a thumping bass line, the listener is propelled onward into the nocturnal machinery of the city. Above the street-level flow is shimmering, melodic synth work and sleek guitar riffs, while subsurface there's a sweeping spaciousness that the listener could get lost in. It's a smooth, striking track that burns with a kind of steadiness, surety and vintage elegance that's rich with sensation, confidence and texture.
"Distant Eyes" is a track that resonates with my love of strong arpeggios that center a track and add a certain element of control and deliberation. At two minutes and twenty-five seconds in length, it's the EP's shortest track and one that seems to end just as soon as it begins due to the attention-grabbing bounce and vitality that shines through it. The distinct combination of boisterousness and focused organization is unique, and the contrast between the two ensured that my focus was singular and unwavering throughout the song's brief but memorable duration. We've all heard songs before that left us wanting more. Well, listen to this one and start begging.
The EP's eponymous track brings the tempo down to a slower speed, and inspires visions of murky, densely-packed underground 80's social venues - places where smoking was permitted, and smouldering looks and hazy thoughts were part of the ritual. Make no mistake, though. The downtempo nature of the beat isn't meandering, nor is it lost in a fog (which is more than can be said for the clientele which frequent the darkened establishment within the imagined vision). On the contrary, it's a beacon through which the listener can trace a clear path to the forefront of their own lucidity. With an arpeggio synth and lead melody that are clear, strong and purposeful, and a bass line that is robust and unwavering in its measured steps, "Visions" is quite a trip.
Long Way Home
The final track on Visions brings the listener out from the underground and into the light. It maintains a downtempo step, but gone is the haze and fire-glow ambience, replaced instead by a kind of crystalline virtue that fades into view and re-acclimatizes the listener with a breath of cleaner air and a clearer headspace. The track steers gently but steadily towards a moment of singular, cumulative radiance (you'll know it when you hear it) that is truly something to behold. This moment is more than just a powerful and striking piece of music - it's one that's encapsulating and paradigmatic, in which each of the four visions on the EP seem recollected, reviewed, re-appreciated and yet one which is also beautifully distinct and in and of itself. It's a thing of beauty, and due to its sheer power and all-encompassing sound, a fantastic and perfectly-suited way to finish the EP.
The ability of Android Automatic to move within his sweet spots while at the same time reconfiguring and expanding his sounds is one of the reasons his music is so continuously appealing and, sure, for the sake of wrapping things up neatly, let's return to the word "consistent." With the Visions EP, the artist takes four snapshots that are framed within his own style and sound but works with them in such an inventive and dynamic way that they burst far beyond their borders; in doing so, Android Automatic delivers another masterful exercise in synthetic expression, reaffirming himself as a truly notable force within the retro-inspired scene. The result? An EP that comes very highly recommended by Synthetix.FM.
Visions is available here through Android Automatic's Bandcamp website.
LNDRMN - Concept EP
By Sarah Halloran
So, when you think about artificial intelligence, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Man vs machine in a post-apocalyptic landscape? A quick game of Global Thermonuclear War? But what if a mechanism became self-aware and developed a fascination with humans and human emotions without wanting to automatically destroy them?
LNDRMN’s concept EP is a “collection of stories centered around a very special, technological creation - a sentient mechanism that can think and feel just like a human being”. Fans of the vocoder will instantly fall in love with this EP, and each story or track is told from the point of view of the sentient mechanism, or Alphadroid as he eventually names himself.
There are beautifully bright moments but also a dark undercurrent to this EP that suggest feelings of confusion, love, enlightenment and futility - in other words, what it’s like to be human. Stand out track for me was “Alphadroid”, but more of that in a moment. “We Are Human” starts us on our journey through Alphadroid’s self-awareness, and delivers crisp percussion, a cosmic melody and plenty of electronic angst. It’s a shame I can’t include the backstory and lyrics for each track here, but they really are worth a look while listening to this EP. You really do get the whole package with LNDRMN.
The artwork is pretty awesome too. We are carried through the EP on a wave of detailed and beautifully produced melodies, well thought out lyrics and rocket-propelled beats. And throughout, I was rooting for Alphadroid and hoping he’d find what he was searching for. I do love a happy ending! The EP culminates in a real stomper in the form of “Alphadroid”. The beats thump, the bass bangs and there is an almost ominous mood to the melody and lyrics as we realise our sentient hero may be becoming a little too big for his metal frame. The final line “I am the Alphadroid. A superior humanoid” leaves us hanging. Is he about to give the T-1000 a run for its money, or settle down in a beautiful cottage and lead a peaceful and happy life? I’ll leave you to decide.
LNDRMN's Concept EP is available on his Bandcamp page here in the usual array of digitally downloadable formats
VHS Glitch - Chrome Death OST
By Lachie Hunt
This release is a bit different to most we cover in that it's actually an OST to a video game. However, there's a lot to love about VHS Glitch's Chrome Death OST. The way a producer approaches this kind of project is always interesting, as writing for a purpose and with a motive is a skill that definitely has to be crafted. VHS Glitch can add another feather to his synth cap as he creates a befitting soundtrack to this particular game. Need more convincing? Check out the trailer.
The real standout track here is Chrome Death itself, beginning the five track OST in powerful form. The synth stabs and sliding leads are able to make the listener feel an intense feeling of speed, despite the slow BPM of the song itself. The guitar that enters later in the track feels both chill and fitting. Written as the theme to the game this does everything possible to make sure you know what you're in for. My other favourite track here is Pedal to the Metal, which has hard hitting drums to it and also has a much more Dark Synth style sound to it.
The three other tracks are also worthy; Burned Asphalt is equal parts ambient and OutRun, with incredible synth stabs thrown in. Moment of Silence is a slower paced heavy guitar track and The End with its running bassline also somehow manages to stay fairly calm for the most part. In the context of the game however, all the tracks take on a personality all their own, just how a game soundtrack should work.
This OST/EP release is available for purchase through VHS Glitch's Bandcamp here and the game itself is available on iTunes here.
Absinth3 - Retropolis
By James Mann
I could preface this introduction with cliche phrases like “Fasten your seatbelts” or, “Prepare to have your mind blown,” but I won’t. While this is entirely tempting mostly in part because these make perfect sense when describing the new album Retropolis from Absinth3, I’ll leave it with this. It’s time to set your sights for a new year, a new era, and a new kind of artist that delivers some of the most emotionally driven 80s retro themed music you have heard before.
Gracing each track with such care and utmost sophistication, this music prodigy who is just 16 years old is packing top notch compositions with an astounding ability to hone in on dynamic melodies and grooves. The signature Absinth3 sounds allow you to drift off into another dimension. A better time. The 80s. Impeccable and crisp production deliver rich and full bodied, glistening works of art that aren’t just soundtrack worthy, but across the board outstanding and intimidatingly talented pieces. Notable varieties in tempos and energies are evident after a full listen, and each subsequent spin outlines more layers and surprises than before. The release steers the listener through a maze of grooves and emotions, touching on glassy synths, funky beats reminiscent of ABC, Roxy Music, warm pads, arpeggiated base lines and tapping into an unmistakable Teena Marie, 80s should disco sound with lush female vocal accompaniments.
It’s evident this musician has a great deal of experience for such a young age, the detailed chords and symphony of instruments are well crafted, each layer occupying a relevant and fitting role to transport and usher you back to your favorite John Hughe’s scene, or nightclub when all the women were powdering their noses. One aspect of Absinth3’s music is the extraordinary usage of female vocals to accompany his arrangements. He switches tones and energy with a variety of guests such as Kaye Kiernan, Lisa Marie Perkins and Chelsea Owen. Each vocalist manages to add such a strong presence that the songs benefit greatly. It’s encouraging to see someone inspire and stack up to some of the larger names in the scene, bringing vocals to the table that truly work. There’s something about his music that’s years beyond his age, and undoubtedly one of the top contenders in 80s inspired music production.
In tracks like Long Island, Absinth3 manages to immediately capture the moods which are perfect indicators for the journey through Metropolis. Emotional and sensible chord progressions play in tandem, and dance across the speakers with a sense of joy and love. I can hear a Timecop1983 influence, but he already manages to own the sound with his unique blend of synths and well, his approach. The beautiful and haunting voice of Kaye Kiernan enter and bump this track up to one of the tastiest arrangements I’ve heard in a while. I’m amazed how this (dare I say kid) possesses such a mature, innate ability for song structuring. An incredible bridge and refrain seals the ends on a wonderful track, and the rest of the album manages to maintain the lush and powerful tunes.
Trust Is A Curious Word explodes with a highly emotive 80s syncopation of full on energy and nostalgia. A downtempo beat is layered with a rich almost calypso arpeggiation while a slap funk bass and glassy notes, warm pads and accents culminate in a audio delight. And….what’s that around the corner? Oh, just another spectacular female guest vocalist who is born for this arrangement. She (Chelsea Owen) manages to rock out a Teena Marie queen of soul vibe with a stunning pair of vocal chords that deliver a powerhouse accompanyment. This is dance floor worthy. Car worthy. Soundtrack worthy, it’s all around incredible. One of my favorites on the album.
Tracks like Metropolis steer you into a more introspective, thoughtful and mature side of Absinth3. Miami Vice vibes lace this pensive arrangement. Somber tones and pads swirl around to create an almost smoothed out ambient/funk 80s inspired track I really would prefer not to stop. It is short and sweet, his restraint is admirable but I could hear this extended into a 5 minute track with a powerful bridge. Forgive me Absinth3, you are at the helm and doing a mighty fine job. I’ll shut up now. Fantastic work.
Enter Dimi Kaye + Absinth3. You may know him as the artist who takes you down retro lane with crafted, addictive melodies on synths. Shreds guitar, and activates driving percussion for powerful and lasting tracks. You may also know him for his epic guitar arrangement that ushered one of the most massive tracks of the year by Volkor X. Regardless, the pairing of minds on the final track of Retropolis is the true chef d’oeuvre. For those who aren’t familiar with the expression, it’s the masterpiece and my favorite track on the album. Kraftwerk laden melodies dot the soundscape and bring in warm and lasting pads that evoke some seriously sweet emotion inside. It builds and raises octaves with more intensity and layering before….yeah you know the Dimi Kaye I mentioned? Guitar bliss and nearly tear inducing, tasteful shredding completes the full package and turns this beauty into among the best retro tracks of the year. Splendid arrangement and all around incredible collaboration between two amazing artists. Well done gentlemen, now Dimi….will you sign my guitar?
Delivering an exceptional release with heart and soul, the wizard known as Absinth3 managed to dazzle and wow the scene with one of the strongest releases of the year. Original and chock full of nostalgic vibes and detail, he went so far above and beyond any expectations and ended up doing what he loves most, making music.
This is a must buy for any lover of all things 80s. It’s a real treat to review this gem, I can’t imagine what the future holds for this musician but it looks bright and very promising. I can tell you first hand, I drank the Absinth3, and I don’t want to come back.
Retropolis is available on Bandcamp here and comes very, very highly recommended from Synthetix.FM.