Music Reviews

Hyperbubble: Music to Color By

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Sep 11 2016
Artist: Hyperbubble (@)
Title: Music to Color By
Format: CD + Book
Label: Pure Pop For Now People (@)
Rated: *****
I have to hand it to Jeff and Jess DeCuir; not content to just crank out their "usual stuff", the usual stuff being quirky synthpop songs with vocals, they've tried their hand at movie soundtrack albums, a live album, and now, with 'Music to Color By,' an instrumental synthesizer album, and a coloring book to go with it. (Sorry, you'll have to buy your own crayons.) I was laboring under a misconception about Hyperbubble; for some reason I thought Jeff handled all the synths and programming and Jess did all the vocals, but Jess actually plays synths too, along with theremin. There are no vocals on this album though; maybe they didn't want to distract you from coloring inside the lines.

Let's take a look at the book first (which was drawn by both of them). It's kind of a mish-mosh psychedelic pop art affair with synthesizers, cats, robots, Jess & Jeff, and psych designs all done up in cartoony fashion. Black & white of course because you're supposed to provide the color. It's only 16 pages but on heavy paper and full-size 8 1/2" x 11". My favorite page is "Moloko Velocat," a feline take on the Korova Milk Bar from 'A Clockwork Orange'. Ar the bottom of the front cover it says San Antonio Museum of Art where they apparently had their release party for this, and where you can also find it for sale. To my knowledge, not many (if any) rock bands have put out coloring books, although there is a Punk Rock coloring book and an Indie Rock coloring book that I know of, so maybe this is a first for an individual band. Kitschy pop art, and a neat novelty item.

Tracks on the CD are named for colors, such as "Sunburst Yellow," "Poppy Red," "Lime Peel," "Nectar," "Periwinkle," etc. I was a little disappointed to not find a "Mango Tango" or a "Jazzberry Jam" but you can only have so many colors in ten tracks. All tracks are somewhat brief (nothing over 4:19) so you're only getting a half-hour's worth of music but it's sufficient. The music is expectedly simple in the rhythm and melody departments, but varied enough in the arrangements to be entertaining. Think very 80's - Giorgio Moroder and Yellow Magic Orchestra with a touch of Kraftwerk and Telex. It's all pretty up
and happy stuff with the possible exception of the last track, "Spanish Orange," which sounds like an unused demo by Gary Numan or Ultravox. So Hyperbubble remains true to their formula with the content here, but I felt they could have done more with it- at least one lengthier track synthetically adventurous and spacey, inspiring synesthesia in a non-pop tune format.

So if you're already a Hyperbubble fan, you will probably like this. If you don't care for them, 'Music to Color By' will not change your mind, and if you're on the fence, just buy it, be happy, and get out your crayons.
Artist: Serph (@)
Title: Plus Ultra
Format: CD
Label: Noble (@)
Rated: *****
Waiting for the already announced commissioned output for the planetarium program "Planet of Dolphins", Tokyo-based artist Serph sprung out by his first "best of", a collection of more or less modified variations of previously released track and two brand new ones. Some remakes just features a massive addiction of overpitched and frenzy bounced stepping on rhythmical patterns or a reshuffle of mostly rearranged elements belonging to original versions, but the cheerful style, by which Serph got prominently notorious, combining piano phrasing, synth winds, electronic jazz phrasing, a brightly merry dada approach, chiptunes and wisely engineered textures, that reprise the praiseworthy work of many Japanese sound artists, who got acclaimed as music innovators for an almost scientific approach to pattern and sound processing (I could mention amazing people like Cornelius, Nobukazu Takemura, Takagi Masakatsu, Sketch Show - the project by Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi - and so on), keeps on being recognizable and as funny as his previous outputs. If you know previous releases by this inventive composer, you would maybe ask yourself if such a 'best of', whose best moments are Toytronic Version of "Vitt", Pilgrim Version of "Soul For Toys", Cinematic Version of "Pen On Stapler" and the graceful new track "Airplane" - the other new track "Memories" sounds like getting closer to that branch of vocal dnb-oriented UK sonorities, which could be avoided - was really necessary, as you could perceive not so many new ideas, but his music keeps on titillating eardrums by means of easily enjoyable and brilliantly cheeky overlapping of textures and grooves.

Andrew Tuttle: Fantasy League

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Aug 11 2016
Artist: Andrew Tuttle (@)
Title: Fantasy League
Format: CD
Label: Someone Good (@)
Rated: *****
The framework and the creative pat(c)hwork behind this album, nicely titled "Fantasy League", is kind of interesting: it should be like a utopian fantasy environment setting "social interaction against total isolation, self-relativity against self-confidence, promising to complete you, as you complete it", where "music and self are in unison, but never settled or steady". The words by which Brisbane-based producer Andrew Tuttle or anybody else on his account could maybe sound fit to the description of those apps, supposedly developed by half guru half software engineer, whose purpose could be the balance or the enhancement of your mood by means of a bunch of visual or aural bits - the worst case scenario as some of them are even more oddly far-reaching -. Well, I ignore if and how the listener will reach nirvana by listening to this sweet sonic stuff and I ignore the reason why he often named his tracks after the stages of a process for getting into an app ("Registration" - the guessed title of the opening track -, "Activation", "Forgotten Username", "Forgotten Password" or "Account Locked", a likewise wise title for the last song of an album!)... who knows? Maybe Andrew used to be a developer of one of the apps as mentioned above! What is pretty clear after listening to "Fantasy League" is the fact he found a balance (or a convergence) by himself at least: the way by which he combines the sound of his beloved banjo, analog and digital electronic devices, artificially bright pad synths and those radiant sonorities that could look like coming from robotic chirping birds or computer aided soap bubble generators, which could vaguely remind that stage (in the late nineties mostly), when electronic ambient winked at properly therapy music deserves a careful listening. Is it going to "complete" listeners or help some of them a supposedly reachable spiritual enlightenment? Who knows?

Denite: Everything I Know And Will Ever Know About You

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Aug 04 2016
Artist: Denite
Title: Everything I Know And Will Ever Know About You
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Denite's album on his own Redlight Music label is electropop masquerading as deep moody, occasionally-vocal techno. It may seem to fit the mould of the achingly cool Berlin temperament, but there are times that you feel like it's only a few extra BPM and a bit of house piano away from being shameless electropop. Not that there's anything wrong with that, whatsoever, but there are times when the album feels like a sheep in wolf's clothing.

It's hard to pin down but there's also something about tracks like "Berlin" that feel just a little like they're going through the motions, really than bringing out truly emotive electronics. The synths are too warm and the vocals are too unchallenging.

"Namura" is a strong track, with its crisp gentle breakbeat and faintly acoustic-sounding elements, but it's followed by "Going, Going, Gone" which initially seems very focussed on a one-chord progressive journey, yet somehow manages to lose its way by the time we get to what sounds like an improvised stylophone solo in the middle. "The Art Of Letting Go"'s saw-wave-heavy pads and slightly fuzzy bassline sound like an attempt to arrange 2016 techno using 1990's technology. "Every End Is A New Beginning", apart from the vocal sample towards the end, takes that even further and sounds like an extract from an unreleased soundtrack from Knight Rider where David Hasselhoff is creeping round a warehouse talking to his watch.

At three and a half minutes, "Lost Connection" is almost an interlude rather than a track, yet with its open-air soul vocal sample and piano chords, there's more than a whiff of Moby's "Play" album about it. Cutting-edge it might not be, but it's an example of how a bit of diversity and experimentation can really lift proceedings.

All the elements are all in the right places, and some tracks like "When You Lose Yourself" are borderline beautiful, but too many tracks on this release are not quite one thing or another- not quite filmic, not quite minimal, not quite pop, not quite house.

Sam Dewit & Josh Jayden: Something Something

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Jul 27 2016
Artist: Sam Dewit & Josh Jayden
Title: Something Something
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Karmic Power Records (@)
This track sits right in the centre of the revival of late-90's-era tribal house sounds, remisicent of Danny Tenaglia or Peter Rauhofer and currently making massive in-roads back into clubs and charts. They say music used to go around in 20 year cycles, this track would definitely seem to support that theory.

It's a classic combination of claps, stabs, straight-laced kicks and a relaxed soulful vocal that has a slightly improvised, ad-libbed feel to it. The slightly euphoric house piano is good fun, it scores almost zero points for originality but high marks for energy, enthusiasm and polish.

There are only two tracks, the original (which comes in at under five minutes anyway) plus a traditional radio edit that tightens up the pop song structure without adding anything new. This'll work perfectly well in the middle of a party house set, but it won't be a highlight.

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