Music Reviews

Circuit3: The Price of Nothing & The Value of Everything

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Nov 18 2019
Artist: Circuit3 (@)
Title: The Price of Nothing & The Value of Everything
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
It's been awhile since we've heard from Circuit3, but it's good to know that Irish electronic musician Peter Fitzpatrick is still alive and well and turning out good stuff. 'The Price of Nothing & The Value of Everything' is his 3rd album under the Circuit3 moniker, and essentially, a very good one. Fitzpatrick's electronic music pedigree goes back to the '80s, and parts of this album sounds steeped in those times. In the 10 tracks that comprise this album I can hear influences of Gary Numan, Ultravox, John Foxx, Human League, Visage, and of course, Depeche Mode. Fitzpatrick's voice is well-suited to the material, appealing enough, perhaps even more than some of the Euro vocalists I've heard of late. As for the songs, there's just the right amount of melancholy without the compositions sounding dreary. While there aren't any "barn-burners" on 'TPON&TVOE,' there's lots of great melodic content and plenty of hooks. It's kind of a moody album that might be best listened to at night. Of course, the first track, "Safe To Sleep" is the likely hit single, but not the one that's going to move 'em on the dancefloor. We're still waiting for that one. A worthy album maybe best purchased in the numbered, limited edition coloured vinyl version because that's just too cool.

Projekt Ich: By Train Through Counties

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Nov 18 2019
Artist: Projekt Ich (@)
Title: By Train Through Counties
Format: CD + Download
Label: Echozone (@)
Rated: *****
Projekt Ich is a synthpop endeavor spearheaded by Ulf Muller from Rosenheim/Barvaria. Since 2011 he's released numerous singles and EPs, but this is Projekt Ich's first full album. In order to execute his concept ('By Train Through Counties') Muller asked various vocalists across Europe from other groups to sing his compositions. The travelling party includes: Wolfgang Kemmerling / PLEXIPHONES (DE), Marcus Mokuso / Rename – Mindmodvl (DE), Mick L. Angelo / 5TimesZero (DE), Erik Stein / Cult With No Name (GB), Catrine Christensen / SoftWave (DK), Manfred Thomaser & Alex Braun / !distain (DE), Michael Draw / Otto Dix (RU), Caroline McLavy (GB), Oleg Degtiarev / Lilith My Mother (CZ), Markus Kühnel / Elandor (DE), René & Susan Mußbach / Analogue-X (DE), Asia Wolf / End Of New (IR). Lyrically, the songs deal with social problems and personal stories between love, dreams, longing as well as grief, fury and despair. Most of the songs were pre-released as singles in order to appreciate and acknowledge the singers involved with their very own release including remix versions by international artists. Therefore, this album presents a summary of Projekt Ich’s conceptual work of the last two years.

So there is a lot of talent on this album, and also variety in the vocal department. My problem is with Projekt Ich's compositions more than their execution. Muller is a competent, though not particularly innovative synthesist. The songs lean toward the more twee side of synthpop or else become melodramatic, but lack the edginess to have much of an impact. Too bright, too light, too much fluff and not enough substance. One exception, a darker song titled "The Sleepy Time" sung by Caroline McLavy repeats the phrase "We live in sleepy times" over and over again. What does that even mean? Projekt Ich seems to take itself too seriously for my taste, and no matter how hard the vocalists try with this material, it lacks punch and the poignancy it is often trying to portray. If René & Susan Mußbach put a track like "Forgotten Dreams" on an Analogue-X album, it would be an easily forgotten track. Maybe one needs a Euro perspective to enjoy this sort of synthpop, but to use a distinctly American idiom, 'By Train Through Counties' doesn't really cut the mustard for us here.

Psy'Aviah: Soul Searching

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Nov 18 2019
Artist: Psy'Aviah (@)
Title: Soul Searching
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Alfa-Matrix (@)
Rated: *****
First, I should mention that the subtitle of this album is 'Musings and Notes Taken from a Soul Searcher's Mind'. 'Soul Searching' is Psy'Aviah's ninth album, masterminded by Belgian music producer Yves Schlepe. Once again a cool cadre of vocalists is employed to breathe life into the songs, and the line-up this time includes Dirk De Wachter, Roeland van der Velde, Alicia May, Kyoko Baertsoen, Saydi Driggers, Marieke Lightband, Addie Nicole, Lis van den Akker, Mari Kattman, Mark Bebb and Ellia Bisker. I wonder how Yves finds these people; does he scour the internet for talent, or do they send him demos? I do know that a good number of them are vocalists that have participated in past Psy'Aviah albums. On 'Soul Searching' every single one of them is just right for the song they sing. The format is somewhat along the lines of modern Delerium/Conjure One- sophisticated, orchestrated synth-pop, with a tinge of New Age, positive vibrations, and a more adult, radio-friendly commerciality in mind. Schlepe's arrangements and orchestrations are gorgeous, lyrics are intelligent yet uncomplicated, and there's plenty of hooks. Not a bad, or even mediocre track on this album.

I should mention that there are actually two albums in this deluxe set - the first titled 'Soul Searching' which contains 12 tracks and clocks in at 50 minutes, and that 50 minutes goes pretty fast. There is a aura of spirituality running through the songs that is innate to Psy'Aviah's conceptual theme. While simple song titles such as "Train of Thought," "Voodoo Love," "Hold On," "Dream Fever," and "Lucid Bliss" may not convey this fully, the lyrics and music certainly capture the feeling. There is plenty of variety in mood and temperament as well, although nothing so far afield that could be called experimental.

Moving on, the second part is titled 'Kindred Spirits' and is a remix album of 8 of the songs off of 'Soul Searching,' but 16 tracks total as some of the songs are given multiple remixes. Normally I'm not a big fan of remixes but in this case I think it works pretty well as the remixes are more beat-oriented and conducive to club play. This really give the songs a whole different vibe making it a worthy addition to the main album. Even in the more rhythmic mode the conceptual loftiness is not lost. Remixers include SD-KRTR, Metroland, Rob Dust, 11grams, Mind.Divided, SNVFF, J.Wolf, The Gothsicles, Studio-X, Cosmic Armchair, Noire Antidote, Maerten Pels, Tom Bro, People Theatre, KGproject, and French Skies. There were some remixes I preferred more than others, but really, it's all good, and that's a rarity to be sure. Both album have a lot of replayability, and come highly recommended. I believe 'Soul Searching is Psy'Aviah's best effort yet.

C.A.R.: Pressure Drop EP

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Nov 13 2019
Artist: C.A.R.
Title: Pressure Drop EP
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Ransom Note Records
Chloé Raunet, as C.A.R., successfully blends elements of experimental punk-pop with electronica. I rated last year’s “Pinned” album. This is the first new material since then, and it’s from the some sonic world, but with perhaps an extra shade of maturity in there as well.

The main track has a steady, slightly U.N.K.L.E.-ish groove that mixes straight brooding rock-ish beats with ultra-epic pads and atmospherics, which the spoken word talk of loneliness matches well.

The Suzanne Kraft remix spins it really nicely, keeping the overall vibe not too dissimilar but shifting it over to a chugging electro pattern that’s steady, workmanlike, but varied enough to keep it all interesting.

Final track “Suture” is classic B-side / album track territory, a chance for something a little more experimental to see the light of day- in this case a grumbling ballad-like number laden with bleeps, effects and some quasi-ethnic melodic sounds. The “stop my heart!” mantra that comes in halfway through is really strong, but this feels like a strong standalone idea that couldn’t find a box to sit in.

It’s a welcome and fairly prompt return from C.A.R. and it bodes well for future releases, for sure.

Daybehavior: Based On A True Story

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Nov 07 2019
Artist: Daybehavior
Title: Based On A True Story
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Swedish pop-trio Daybehavior’s history stretches back over twenty years- their first album was released in 1996- but their album releases are far from regular. This is only their fourth, and their first since 2012. Listening to it, you can easily believe that this is due to long gestation periods in which the band are aiming for synthpop perfection- because they’re very close to achieving it.

From the bright opening chords and purposeful groove of opener “Burning Slowly” and onwards, this is timeless synthpop work, the kind that was born in the 1980’s, sonically perfected in the 90’s, but which now exists outside musical time. It’s rarely concerned with modern pop techniques or standards, and revels in the joy of synth chords, drum machines, and catchy verse-chorus female vocals that, being from Sweden, are inevitably excellent. There’s something in Swedish DNA that makes them better at writing choruses than anyone else, and it’s on display here.

The single “Tears That Dry”- for which the YouTube video is available now- is a strong example of what to expect. Other highlights include the extremely motorway-friendly “Driving In My Car”, and coincidentally, and the mostly-spoken nostalgia of faintly more industrial-sounding “It All Started With A Train”. The most-hummable-hours-after-you’ve-heard-it-melody award has to go to the utterly dreamy, Xenomania-esque “Change”- the YouTube video for which is now more than four years old, showing again what a long birthing period this album has had.

If I were deliberately trying to find fault, I might suggest that across 12 tracks, there’s a slight shortage of variety. Tracks like “Solitude” and “A Perfect Day” give you standard slow ballad numbers, complete with plenty of emotive synth-strings, but it still feels quite conventional and they are the album’s weak points- as though it’s a contractual obligation that every album is obliged to have a ballad, rather than something they really wanted to do. When each track is followed by a thumping 4/4 beat and rolling bass, it’s an energising relief. There’s no real sign of the band pushing the boat out and trying something genuinely different or experimental. This is all comfort zone stuff, clearly- though for many fans I expect that’s precisely what they would want, especially so long after the last new material.

The list of famous acts who you could cite in a “recommend if you like” list is almost too extensive to make it worth attempting. There are shades of OMD, and more than a little bit of Pet Shop Boys. The wistful breathiness of the vocals in tracks like “Driving In My Car” is sometimes quite Saint Etienne-y.

This is absolutely premium Swedish synthpop. It’s a touch weak in the ballads but it’s more than made up for by some stomping singalong tunes.

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