Music Reviews


 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Jun 22 2018
Artist: Kate NV
Title: ДЛЯ FOR
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: RVNG Intl.
All the tracks on Kate NV’s second album have three-letter English titles and Cyrillic equivalents, which it seems I can’t reproduce on this website, so with my apologies the track titles will only be referenced in English.

Moscow-based NV has offered up ten extremely quirky bits of mostly-instrumental abstract synthpop noodling. Playful keyboard-sample melodies dance childishly through opening track “EAR”. The melodic primitivism is most notable on “HOW”, which really feels like it ought to be the underscore for a pre-school cartoon. Gentle marimba- and glockenspiel-like synth tones play gentle pleasant patterns, around which slightly more ‘grown-up’ electronica noises- sine wave pads and chords- lilt and meander. “YOU” is a more rounded example, featuring spoken-word vocals and delicate sonics that end up sounding almost Japanese.

The first half of the album was written in the Spring, the latter half in the Autumn, and while the change between the two isn’t as extreme as the press release may suggest, there’s a switch to more muted tones and slightly odder and more sombre melodic noises. The idiosyncratic sine-wave-noodling on “BUG” is nicely measured and expressive, and “SEE” is enjoyably mesmeric. The jazzy, thoughtful Rhodes keys of final track “WHO” are a pleasant surprise and wrap the whole work up like a child being wrapped in a warm blanket.

With a genuinely unique character, but perhaps just a little too childish for some tastes, “FOR” is an intriguing, small-sounding album that’s really rather endearing.

Zanti: Broken Hearted City

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jun 21 2018
Artist: Zanti
Title: Broken Hearted City
Format: CD
Label: Downwards Records
Rated: *****
When I received the Zanti CD I didn’t know what to expect from the music composed by two guys who were really famous in the 80s and which are still rockin’. Anni Hogan played with Marc Almond, being part of the Mambas, La Magia and The Willing sinners and in the years did several solo records where her piano was the main instrument. Three years ago, I reviewed „Millions Of The Mouthless Dead“, album she did with Attrition’s Martin Bowes where they composed an imaginary soundtrack that was focused on the dramas of the WWI. The album before that, „Mountain“, also was a particular one: it was a CD/DVD where she performed on her piano some tunes, Itchy Ear manipulated them on pre-production and then Robert Strachan re-imagined and remixed. The other guy of the Zanti duo is Derek Forbes. He played bass guitar with Simple Minds from day one until 1985 and again in the album „Neapolis“. After Simple Minds he joined Propaganda and from 2012 he’s playing bass with Big Country. Well, after listening to the eight tracks of „Broken Hearted City“, I can say that I’m amazed. Every song is a potential single. When they sing solo or duetting, they are able to create a magical atmosphere where you can feel how much of themselves they put into these songs. The opening „Scream Machine“ is a powerful tune where Derek’s voice is upfront. The surprise is that he has a really good voice and he's a good performer too. On This tune, guitar and rhythmical loops form a psychedelic vortex where bass and piano are like brushes which enrich a rough canvas. „Lonesome“ is a perfect song where the dualism of the couple create a really nice contrast. When Derek is singing we have light distorted riffs and his voice which is almost recitate. When is Anni’s turn, the song is turning into a ballad where a trumpet, strings, acoustic guitar and the piano soften the atmosphere. Really a great effect. „Will You Be Mine“ has a great melody, so 80s but the arrangement is modern, with a distorted bass going in and out and orchestral openings where the piano and the strings change everything. With „Head Sounds“ I couldn’t believe my ears… the bass sounds like „Theme From Great Cities“, from the „Sister Feelings Call“ album but this time all the other sounds are different, even if the atmosphere can recall that jewel recorded in 1981. „Head Sounds“ starts with a melody that recalled me Great Britain’s folk songs but in the background Derek’s vocals is treated recalling me the sound of a didgeridoo. Distorted guitars in the background, spare piano chords and Anni’s vocals make of this a song that you will want to listen again as soon as it’s over. “Planet Sweet“ recalled me Marc Almond’s songs of the „Enchanted“/„Tenement Symphony“ era and it’s really nice. „Broken Hearted City“ is a piano ballad so touching that Derenk’s vocals would be enough and you would be mesmerised anyway. „Paris Vortex“ is Anni’s moment. Into this one she’s a real diva. If this song would have been released back in 1985, it would be in the charts, you have my word! The piano, the strings, the robotic minimal rhythm are building the base of the track where her is singing a melody that will be stuck into your head for days, along with Derek’s simple chorus. „Universe Of Love“ closes the album with a sort of dreamy coda where all the other songs go to rest quietly until the next listening… and be sure, you’ll do many of them. Check it now! You won’t be disappointed!

DJ Marcelle / Another Nice Mess: For

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Jun 19 2018
Artist: DJ Marcelle / Another Nice Mess
Title: For
Format: 10"
Label: Jahmoni Music
DJ Marcelle’s tribute to old friend Mark E. Smith is a wilfully punky bit of lo-fi electropop that chucks in sampled conversations from Smith, short snippets of John Peel, and out-of-time ringtone samples, and lays them loosely over a relentless drum machine pattern. Despite being called “For”, it’s six versions of the track “Two Walls” acting as a lead single for a forthcoming album.

The John Peel sample in particular gives proceedings a distinctly Cuban Boys feel, though where the Cuban Boys can be playful and poppy, this has a grumpier, punkier attitude and a much darker sense of fun, bordering on no fun at all.

The original nearly-five-minute track is padded out by five dub versions, all under three minutes long. The first two of these are 80’s style rough cut-and-paste style mixes that take all the original elements and reproduce them in a different order with some different effects but not necessarily any new ideas. The Problematic dub is notably thumpier thanks to delayed drums. The “Listen! BELP Dub” is more experimental, concentrating on the atmospherics and dubby sounds built out of backwards kicks, while the “Studio Door Dub” ups the found sound percussive effects over a quirky proto-industrial groove. The “Emerson Lake & Palmer Symphony Dub” is a deliberate bit of ironic naming, a squelchy acid sound and one particular ELP-referencing part of Smith’s dialogue forming something that seems deliberately intended just to weird out people who innocently search for the words “Emerson Lake & Palmer” on Spotify.

It’s a rough hewn track with a lo-fi aesthetic that Mark E. Smith fans are likely to find appropriate, though by modern standards it does seem a bit dated and done.

Kuhl: The Circus of Outrageous

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Jun 12 2018
Artist: Kuhl (@)
Title: The Circus of Outrageous
Format: CD
Label: Ubertanz
Rated: *****
“Nothing living should ever be treated with contempt. Whatever it is that lives, a man, a tree, or a bird, should be touched gently, because the time is short". The medley of the thought-provoking track "Civilization", opening "Circus of Outrageous" (some sonorities could vaguely resemble another notorious circus by Death In Vegas) by Kuhl - an interesting musical idea by Cas Greenfield and Mikey Cooling -, quotes "Green Dolphin Street", an old movie by Saville, inspired by a novel of Elizabeth Goudge. In spite of the excessively lovey-dovey tone of some moments of this movie, the quotation seems to be a sort of manifesto for the aesthetic self-assigned mission by this band (later on, they sing "There is power in beauty in the songs we have bought/Bringing order to chaos, we create not destroy/We fight hatred with love/What we learn makes us strong/We crush the spirit in the rivers of blood"). Maybe they took themselves too seriously, but the fact we live at the peak of a really decadent age, where someone like Kuhl (maybe they're not that original) could invite to a violently delicate riot, is almost unquestionable. A delicate riot, we said, as the ones that some 80ies pop bands that could have inspired Kuhl's sound (Yello, Pet Shop Boys, Spandau Ballet) as well as some nostalgic contemporary actors (such as Blue States - check tracks like "Headrush" to feel some similarities with the very last outputs by that pleasing bath of British nostalgia - or other pushers of lazy space or contemporary folk grooves of the 90ies) were maybe dreaming. I wouldn't consider "Circus of Outrageous" a genial album, but it's a multifaceted emotional pack, where the meaningful moments prevail even when they intentionally explore seemingly kitsch or cliched styles ("Uber", Kashablankha" or "You, Me, The Start and Love" - one of those song where a featuring by Louie Austen could be perfect! -). The way of singing some songs like "Zsa Zsa" or "Space Cake" managed to resemble the style by Earl Zinger. Nicely eclectic stuff.

Fauna: Infernum

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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May 26 2018
Artist: Fauna
Title: Infernum
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Ventil Records
“This is my second album and it was recorded under dangerous circumstances”- so begins Rana Farahani’s second full-length, which unfolds into something sonically much more relaxed and casual than the prelude may suggest. This is gentle synth work, mostly very calm, sometimes bordering on slow old-school trance (“Exit”), sometimes wandering more closely to full-on synthpop (“Death Fly”, “Went Home Got Lost”), sometimes more stripped-back and rumbly with glitch and post-dubstep influences but still in perky synthpop soundspace (“Drive-By”, “Holle”), sometimes going deeper into rumblier industrial techno structures (“Unbehagen”) but never really going ‘hard’.

The bitterness is in the lyrics, often sparse and spoken-word affairs infused with a fair amount of cynicism and resentment that plays cleverly against some of the quite optimistic synth sounds running underneath. Apart from the expletive in the chorus, “Lonely At The Top” is a bright, perky, fairly radio-friendly bit of electropop

It’s got a healthy blend of variety and consistency in a compact 34-minute, 10-track dark synthpop album that never really shines extremely bright, but still draws you in with some deceptive complexity and authentic emotion that’s not writ so large as to be discouraging. Interesting stuff.

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