By Rick Shithouse
Timing is everything, it would seem. It's amazing how things come in waves and the timing of certain things in one's life pushes you in a direction that opens you up to something that's a wonderful surprise but also something you were totally ready for. This past couple of week's I've been existing of a musical diet of predominantly 80s and 90s AOR and revelling in its sublime and unabashedly vintage flavours. I just love following my musical muses and being taken on journeys into new territory and although I've supped at the golden chalice of AOR before I've never drunk quite so deeply nor ravenously of it. Even still, my AOR appetites are far from being sated but this week along has come a release that just felt exactly on point. Like The Cars said, it's just what I needed.
Certainly not particularly rockin' AOR vibes directly but nonetheless creating guitar driven 80s inspired music comes Gaspard Vaude into out musical lives. This French musician has just unleashed his Another Day In LA EP and boy does it tick all of the boxes on how to construct a soundtrack to movie that doesn't exist that explores exhaustively many different aspects and tones of 80s inspired music of guitar and synth denominations.
The first track makes the rock the primary goal and allows the synths to fill in more of the background details whilst the riffs crunch out in an addictively aggressive manner. This is all business and swings hard with both hooky melodies soaring changes. The use of this lead refrain gets worked into a tonne of different emotional and contextual spaces that enhance the pure good rockin of its very essence. The pace of this piece is cruisey but full of positive inspiration and brings to mind many of the works by the masters of 80s guitar instrumentals like Vai and Satriani. There's a soul to Vaude's melodies that sings through his strings and allows a beautifully free flowing groove to take us through the many scenes of this opening piece. This title track does a fantastic job of setting the scenes and places in which the rest of the EP exists, but is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the musical reward on offer.
As a brash and thoroughly energetic opening 'Another Day In LA' sets the perfect tone which is then explored deeper in the more synth driven piece 'Endless Night'. Vaude knows his 80s moods and the sounds to create them as this piece sounds like it's torn straight from an episode of Miami Vice. Night driving shots, silhouetted embraces, desperation and passion and a heat you can feel through each impassioned chord. The build on this track is exceptionally orchestrated and the numerous times it strips back to barest essentials wholly engrosses the listener in the thick of the plot and atmosphere. Of special note in this track is the percussion work. Vaude's drum programming feels live and jazz trained with sublime dexterity in the beats and details that enhance the vibes beautifully.
The flow of this EP is one of its strongest attractions with Vaude's lengthy introductory passages and his tendency to allow the tracks to finish in no rush whatsoever, giving them the space to complete in their own damned time. After the languid passion of 'Endless Night' the heat moves just a little south of the border and elicits a bit of a latin escape with guitars searing as high as the day time temperatures and passions rocking back and forward in the 'Pavement Princess'. The narrative of this track is absolutely incredible, dragging you into the smooth, promising waves only to suck you into the violent undertow before letting you back up once more to breathe. Vaude's varying guitar sounds really come into play here as at least four very different six stringed personalities trade dialogue and blows amid the scorching city streets.
Another Day In LA peaks, almost through the meter, in the fifteen minute epic 'Officer Down'. The entire EP seems to lead up to this incredibly well executed track. The soundtrack elements grow and smoulder in an enticingly delicious slow burn that draws the listener in gradually. Again, many, many shades of Miami Vice are brought to mind through the guitars and synths and the picture painted becomes more and more fervent in energy and direction. The absolutely riveting drama rises to new heights in the second act, at around 3:20 until the groove takes a swerve from the head on traffic into a new direction that allows the synths to build with the guitars beautifully. Vaude's riffs and solos are just blindingly eloquent and his ability to use his guitars in such illustrative ways is stunning to behold.
The final act of 'Officer Down' kicks in with a higher tempo and the action becomes a high speed chase through inner city streets lined with flashing synth melodies and shredding guitars. The piece is never allowed to get fully out of control though and Vaude does a sublime job of pulling the camera back just enough to ensure the story never gets lost in the chaos. Bewitching synth melodies hypnotise and the journey takes yet another turn with even more intrigue layered into action. The final act rises triumphantly to the sky in the most rewarding and supremely rockin way imaginable with Vaude letting himself off the chain entirely and breaking through the stratosphere powered by synth magic and guitar excitement.
For all the love and incredible artistry I experienced in 'Officer Down' I found my most favourite chapter of Another Day In LA to be the movingly transfixing 'South Central Riots'. The slow and deliberate introductory pieces take you into a space full of danger and excitement that evolves into one of the most rockin anthemic passages I've heard in 2016. The build is what makes this rock so hard, detailing small parts of the music, subtly working nuances into the guitars and synths until the full wave hits in an overpowering rhythm that rocks so damned hard you'll be enslaved by its beauty completely unawares. The last four minutes of this track are just a flawless example of guitars and synths working in 80s harmony. You'll feel the love, passion, excitement and wonder like it's the first time and be left breathless by its completion.
The final track of the EP gets a little more futuristic with 'Muscle Memory' walking a totally rockin line somewhere between the Terminator and Escape From New York soundtracks. But its much more than intentional homage. Vaude takes things rockin into a clear blue sky, beyond the refuse and ruins on the ground and finds beauty in the melodies that he explores with passion. The riffs scintillate, full of vigour and frenetic energy, pulsing with a coolness that the synths accent majestically. Running the full gamut of emotions and energies this track climaxes in the third act with a melodic passage you'll feel more than hear. Absoloutely stunning and the perfect finish to an amazing record.
With little fanfare or promotion, Gaspard Vaude presents the Another Day In LA EP on his Bandcamp page here in the usual array of downloadable formats. Perhaps it was the fact that I found this with a completely blank canvas before me that made it such a surprise, or perhaps it was that timing where it just hit me right where I needed it, right when I needed it. Irregardless, this EP is one hell of a goddamned amazing experience that speaks the love of the 80s in synths and guitars exceedingly beautifully. It takes me back, once again, to C-Jeff's work of soundtrack perfection Big Steel Wheels in just how much of an impact this release has had on me, personally. Your mileage may vary, but one thing is definitely for sure and that's that this EP comes very, very highly recommended from Synthetix.FM.