Music Reviews



Fauna: Infernum

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
 Edit (10475)
May 26 2018
cover
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.
May 24 2018
cover
Artist: Semiotics Department Of Heteronyms
Title: s/t
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Avant! Records
When reviewing recent single “Tell Them”, I praised the 3-pack of slightly hard-edged synthwave-synthpop, saying “if an SDH album appears I will definitely check it out”. Now that the album’s here, my expectations are met, but perhaps not exceeded.

Here you get eight strong bits of synth songwriting, some pop-radio-edit length, others allowed to breathe a little more but never straying too far from conventional song structure. There’s a slightly lo-fi, proto-techno analogue feel to the warm analogue low end sounds and the sometimes rather echo-heavy vocal treatment that gives everything a gently raw flavour. Firmly rooted in the sonic values of the synth 80’s, it rolls along nicely but a little predictably at times, and by the time you reach “What Did I Come For”, you do begin to wonder whether more synth sounds might have been available.

The vocals are quite velvety and confident, but never really pushed very hard, tending towards whispered and even spoken-word vocal lines rather than anything bolder. The PR sheet’s comparison of the vocals to Dolores O’Riordan is a little ambitious, though you do hear the same celtic twang in “She Uncovers Before Me”.

Perhaps predictably for a first album there’s a feeling of defining a sound rather than pushing it here, epitomised by tracks like the strong “Guilty And Gifted”. “Mean” is the most ambitious track, a pulsing seven-minute affair with quite a cinematic feel.

A strong, relatively compact bit of dark synthpop with more than one foot facing to the past, SDH’s self-titled first full-length album is steady rather than amazing.
cover
Artist: Noisebrigade
Title: Selected Resistors
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Der Klang
A compilation of tracks from Maurizio Pustianaz’s Noisebrigade project from 2008 through to 2017, selected resistors is a thorough 76-minute pack of instrumental synthwave and synthpop sounds full of warm analogue synth sounds, pads and bleeps bent into making dark, cinematic and brooding music.

There’s a broad range of grooves spanning electro and a few different shades of techno, from the heavier Warp Records-esque breakbeat thumps of “I Robot” to the dystopian sci-fi drama of “Chemical Experiment”. There’s a consistency in how the pure, almost lullaby-like melodic tones play against

Text-to-speech vocals appear sparingly, such as on “Inside Trader” which has a decidedly Kraftwerk proto-electro flavour. The retro flavours are also prominent on “Hierophant’s Nebula”, which, perhaps due to my own nostalgic make-up, reminds me quite strongly of Keff McCulloch’s incidental Doctor Who music of the late 80’s- a perky and steady underscore at times.

There’s a generous helping of 7 tracks from the “Cathodic Dreams” album, and four completely unreleased tracks, with the rest picked from EP’s and various artist compilation exclusives. Despite the decidedly retro-facing general sonic make-up of it, it’s interesting to hear how the production values definitely evolve over time, with the later tracks sounding richer and pushing things a little further.

A very pleasant pack that will appeal to anyone with a fondness for analogue electro and synthwave.

C.A.R.: Pinned Up

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
 Edit (10440)
May 09 2018
cover
Artist: C.A.R.
Title: Pinned Up
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Ransom Note Records
After describing Chloé Raunet’s second C.A.R. album “Pinned” as “a blend of supremely confident post-punk swagger with electronica twiddles, steady-walking house beats and just a dash of synthwave”, Ransom Note Records have followed it up three months later with a 7-track remix collection giving some of the most prominent songs on the album over 50 minutes’ worth of reworkings into deep house and the softer sides of techno, that largely keep the song structures intact and adopt a very classic and always welcome classic extended house mix layout.

Generally I’d say that some remix albums work and others don’t- but this definitely has to go into the former, “it works” category. Raunet’s gentle, slightly husky and not-trying-too-hard vocal work really suits some long deep electronica workouts, and despite the repetition- over twenty minutes of this release is remixes of “This City”- you can listen to it from beginning to end as a coherent house album. It’s one of those that’s perfect for while-you’re-working, or for long drives, but has individual tracks that are properly DJ friendly and will fit well in the middle of relatively leisurely sets.

There are two distinct sections- the first four tracks are generally fairly consistent and uniform house numbers. Michael Mayer’s take on “This City” is a perfect fusion of pop and house piano with steady motorway-friendly progressive house beats and opens the collection on a definite high. Marcus Wargull’s take on “Cholera” is in a similar vein but with somewhat less energy, before Bawrut’s take on “Daughters” adopts a slightly muddier synth bassline and a slightly more tribal flavour in line with the more chanted-rather-than-sung song content.

Jonny Rock’s nine-minute remodel of “Strange Ways” is quite rumbly as well, drifting towards a more synthwave-y sound that allows the vocal to shine through more than others do, and the restrained, held-back use of the bell-like three-note melody has a good impact; DJ’s beware on the last minute of this mix though, which is sparse and acapella when you might be expecting beat-match-friendly beats.

The second part, the final 3 tracks, mixes things up a bit and adds the variety needed to keep you engaged. Timothy Clerkin’s take on “This City” is another highlight, channeling some classic breakbeat samples, acid squelches and rave stabs into something bright and energetic that manages to rework some nostalgic sounds without wandering into cheesy territory, although it’s the one track where you do find yourself wishing more of the vocal could’ve been worked in in less buried, vocoded ways.

Lokier’s version of “Cholera” has a more industrial, attitude-laden groove that’s closer to the sound of the unremixed album, before Man Power’s version of (again) “This City” ends on a high with a bright, lightweight bit of synthpoppy production with synth guitar stabs that takes things into almost Goldfrapp-y territory.

Whilst the original album certainly wasn’t bad, given the choice I’d rather listen to this remix album, especially when looking for something that isn’t demanding my full attention. There’s not a single duff or flat remix in here, which is rare, so full marks for this one.

VV.AA.: Wave Earplug No. 2

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
 Edit (10438)
May 08 2018
cover
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Wave Earplug No. 2
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: 4mg Records
A ten-track collection of pan-European synthwave music, the second volume of “Wave Earplug” is a worthy sampler of a variety of dark-edged alt-synthpop you may not have already encountered. For the most part it’s a variety of artists revelling in old-school analogue synths and some quite lo-fi and industrial production values, as though the 90’s and beyond had never happened, but it’s none the worse for it. Tightly-constructed under-four-minute pop songs of vocoded vocals and bright melodies over simple proto-techno grooves pervade.

Strong tracks include Staatseinde’s driving and squelchy “Repa” (particularly the surprisingly operatic finale), the heavier-kicked rumbles of ImiAFan’s “Sekundenzeiger” and the early-Depeche-Mode-like “Moonlighting” from Arsenic Of Jabir. Noisebrigade’s “X-Rays” wraps things up with a nicely dark twist.

A couple of tracks, like Machinepop’s “Integrated Circuit”, perhaps have too much of a homegrown bedroom demo feel to their production.

It’s well curated in that there’s a lot of consistency- save for the vocals it would be easy to believe that most if not all of these tracks had been produced from one source- but it’s perhaps lacking in real standout highlights that would make you reach for this compilation for frequent repeats. For wave fans though, this is a healthy dose of new material and could well open your door to some new artists worth further inspection.


Search All Reviews:
[ Advanced Search ]

Chain D.L.K. design by Marc Urselli
Suffusion WordPress theme by Sayontan Sinha