Thursday, June 23, 2016
Tomorrow's Technology Is Format-440
By Rick Shithouse
Format-440 has had me as an ardent follower for just over a year now and the excitement of a full length release from this wonderful producer gave me immeasurable excitement. His previous EP came out at the end of last year and we missed giving it the love it deserved on here due to having the usual end of year break, but please make sure you get yourself up to speed on the Format-440 experience with the Interfaces EP here.
The Format-440 sound has been one that grabbed me instantly and contains a personality and polish that genuinely stands out. His propensity for using vintage hardware in his music production seems to really shine through his synthscapes in a way that few modern producers have mastered. There is character to the sounds and lack of processing that makes the mix more live-feeling as well adding immeasurably authenticity to his 80s escapades. His musical style has always been focused on the classically 80s Synth Library sounds while incorporating a groove and soul that flows through each track and enhances their inherent catchiness tenfold.
'The Road Ahead' sets the lovingly warm and inviting tones beautifully with a hugely hooky synth lead that RainSword channelling Steve Winwood directly would find hard to beat. The groove of the bass and the tactile tightness of the instrumental ensemble is dripping with gorgeous 80s nostalgia. It's a massively strong opener and the rest of the album always manages to keep up and on numerous occasions eclipses this superb opening chapter.
The library/soundtrack influence makes me find visuals that would accompany Format-440's music an instantaneous experience. His knack of getting the catchiness and detail of the melody just right so he can weave different stories around them is definitely one of his strongest talents as a producer. In 'Nightdrive' the excitement of future technologies today comes to mind straight away.
In the early 80s the fact that we were just 'in' the 80s was made a big deal (check out this classic Energizer ad for what I mean) and in 'Nightdrive' I can see this being the perfect soundtrack to some Space Age new oil formula beings used in the cars of today. Lots of vector graphics, scientific technology and the lab coats all chin-stroking in front of and 80s desktop PC. The whole magic of science making the future now and the end shot with some gorgeous future fantasy car getting this divine oil poured into it while 'Nightdrive' plays is just totally rockin to the max.
Conversely, Format-440 is just as adept at getting back to streets and laying down his killer grooves with an urban flair that is much more suburban than ghetto but always honest and engaging. 'Break Away' feels like it belongs in an after-school special with the innocence and joyousness of kids breakdancing in the most wholesome and family friendly way; before the bad kids come along for the show's lesson. The 80s naivete is coursing vibrantly through this piece and the whole experience is a smile inducing example of pure nostalgic delirium.
The lights dim lower and the darker part of the after-school special is explored in 'Terminal'. The groove is still powerful but the melodies hint at darker aspects. Perhaps it's the old kids pushing drugs in the local arcade? Maybe it's that mustachioed dude in the van that keeps going around and around the block slowing down as he goes past those breakin' kids? Whichever way, the mood is dangerous and music retains its library chops while the hooks make the danger a hugely attractive option.
The concept of Tomorrow's Technology (Today!) really ties all of the flavours on the record together and each piece genuinely offers something new to the experience and details another facet of exciting times and a future full of incredible possibilities. The pure scientific drama of 'Rising Waters' illustrates heavy scientific testing in montages with number crunching and explosive personalities working together with a common goal. The dramatic beats and inquisitive synths share the stage with a flowing, rolling bassline that brings a seriousness and gravity to these important experiments.
I really do find it just impossible to listen to this album without entire visual scenes forming in my imagination. 'Back In The Game' gets back to the purest bouncy, boppy Library Synth magic possible. It's a sun dappled walk through the neighbourhood on the way to the local basketball court. The make-believe Harlem Globetrotter moves while rockin down the street saying Hi to Mrs Thompson while she tends to her flower garden. The air of the afternoon, warm and coloured with golden light. It's thoroughly idyllic, entirely unrealistic and the definition of 80s magic all in one.
Bringing back the drama with defiant synth melodies and a thunderous drum track the powerhouse 'Flash Point' exudes 80s cop-show incidental music with a street-edged good guys versus bad guys vibe strung tightly through the bright orchestral stabs and radical bassline flourishes. The track remains tense from beginning to end and focuses on a small story amid much larger constructs but by keeping this focus so tight Format-440 ensures he achieves maximum excitement from the on screen action.
The album goes back to its delightfully enrapturing commercial jingly roots in 'Non Stop Summer' as endless summer days turn into eternal summer nights. The upbeat breaks just demand your attention and the neon bright hooks elicit tropical flavours and sweetly scented nuances of summertime magic. The colours are so bright and inviting one just can't help but feel that 80s warmth resonating deep within.
In a true display of Format-440's showmanship he finishes the album on an epic high that rocks super hard with an energy that strikes like lightning cranks hard like you want it. 'The High Rollers' is brimming with gorgeous synth excitement and a powerful percussive track that enhances the phasing melodies no end. The tightness of the synthscape gives so much impact, much like the entire album, the music is a steel trap of highly engineered 80s homage.
Format-440 presents the Tomorrow's Technology album on his Bandcamp page here in the usual array of digitally downloadable formats. This Library Synth oriented exploration of classic 80s themes and scenes is a breath of fresh air and brings back that bright 80s glow to light even the darkest corner of 2016 and comes very, very highly recommended from Synthetix.FM.