Music Reviews

DAVID MAHR: Only You / Lost & Found

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Oct 04 2002
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Title: Only You / Lost & Found
Format: MCD (Mini CD)
Label: Delicious Records (@)
If you read my review of the Yazoo's tribute CD you should already know David Mahr's name. There he covered "Mr. Blue" while on this three tracks single he gives his treatment to "Only You". David did a version similar to the original but at the same time he gave his freshness, succeeding in this way into the "update" of an important track of the synthpop realm. The other two originals are the beautiful "Sugar Candi (What Do You Mean To Me)" and "Century" where he shows his skills presenting two tracks with elaborated melodies and catchy atmospheres: it's almost impossible to forget "Sugar Candi"'s refrain once listened. The previous MCD was LOST & FOUND. On that one the sound was paying, on a couple of tracks (the opening "More Each Day" and "Rain"), the tribute to Vince Clarke's bands but this doesn't count when you have got a track like "Never Alone". I think that if released back in the 80's this song should compete with songs like "Take On Me" or Howard Jones' "What Is Love" and this is encouraging for synthpop fans. If you love these sounds be sure to check David's music along with The Agency X's one where he team up with Lars Wallden of Avante Garde.

VV.AA.: New Forms of Synthetic Pop V.2.0

 Posted by TG Mondalf (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Oct 02 2002
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: New Forms of Synthetic Pop V.2.0
Format: CD
Label: Bloodline (@)

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This import CD compilation of Synthpop includes some of the biggest names in the genre and a few which most Americans consider EBM as well. Just taking one look at the roster for this compilation and you know you're in for a treat and Bloodline does deliver and cover all the bases as well. Amazingly enough this compilation though a German import begins with music by two Texas music students who began by playing cover tunes however their original compositions are anything but copies. This smooth synthpop band is known, like others on this disc, in the US by the indie label A Different Drum whose hallmark is the Synthpop soun and have sold thousands of CDs already. Perfidious Words have a slight industrial rock influence with a strong Depeche Mode like sound. Their song here "Mystify Me" comes out very much like a heavy D-Mode track but with a few minor differences. Stepping up the pace into a much more EBM territory we have Icon of Coil. To be honest I'm amazed they were placed on a Synthpop compilation but it mixes well afterall. Icon of Coil always pump up the dancefloors with their high powered beats and high energy melodies. This band has become one of my most recent EBM favorites and even hearing just this one track I'm sure you can easily see why. If you like this as well check out their newest release The Soul Is The Software. Changing pace a bit we drop down to the smooth harmonics of Echo Image. This particular track combines a small bit of acoustic guitar with some soft and nearly ethereal sounding synthpop melodies which quickly pick up the pace and become a pumping dance beat. Not sure what it is but Echo Image seems to be a favorite of the female persuasion but I like them alot as well. I think it's the soft male vocals, sort of Erasure-like, that must do it. Echo Image also has a bit of a Yaz overtone as well as far as old style comparisons go but I guarantee you nothing on this compilation truly sounds like any of this older music but is simply a younger spawn birthed from it. For more of Echo Image check out their full-lenth album Compuphonic. Next we have Neuroticfish which has always intentionally crossed the boundaries of Synthpop and EBM blending them so that the line is thoroughly blurred and has even made the bold statement 'Electronic Body Music Is Dead'. He is self-described as Industrial-Synth-Pop and the label seems to fit quite well. He often adds a bit of industrialized neurotic twitch beats in with synthpop melodies. He also tends to utilize elements of other forms of electronica like Drum-n-Bass to create his unique sound as well. Making another sonic jump in style we leap over to Statemachine, whose sound is more of an electro-rock pop sound. I hate to make the comparison but it's rather close in overall style to the short-lived EMF but with a more indie flair. Adding more electronics into the mix again we meet with In Strict Confidence, a hard and dark band from Germany. In Strict Confidence have attracted the attention mainly of Goths and EBM fans in the States as their music has a Darkwave feel to it and is less synthpop in my book that Icon of Coil is. It's more Darkwave/EBM than anything with Industrial influences. When most think of this band they probably imagine Dennis with 'white out' contacts on. Evil, evil children ;-) The compilation takes another sonic leap toward a slightly more Kraftwerkian form of synthpop by S.P.O.C.K. who are probably most known for thier Star Trek parody songs set to EBM music like "Never Trust A Klingon". This band has a sort of early sci-fi television influence set to modern dance music. This track is somewhat similar to the band NASA in it's overall pop tonality. This is followed by the Swedish band Elegant Machinery displaying a heavy Yazoo influence with early D-Mode Speak and Spell vocal styles. Merge has been compared with bands like Mesh or De/Vision probably based on the more straightforward approach they take. Merge combines both electric and acoustic guitars with synths to create a more harmonic sound. Much like earlier 80's bands Cocteau Twins created an ethereal blend of strings you can hear something similar in the background of the synthpop rhythms of Merge. Every song I've heard from The Nine has a sort of dark and brooding temperament to the vocals but the music combines many elements of rock, industrial and synthpop to create a sound that will one day catch the pop culture scene by surprise. Imagine when Michael Hutchins of INXS sings a moody track, a similar emotion seems to follow The Nine. There is something lucid about this band that is difficult to place your finger on. Beginning with bleeps and sung with German lyrics Melotron give us the smooth melody of "Alles Von Dir" (Everything for You) - very smooth, digital, and unique. However, not all of Melotron is so melodious. They have also been known to do some darker, heavier, EBM oriented tracks like their recent "Tanz mit dem Teufel" (Dance with the Devil). Close Encounters is headed by the female vocals of thier sultry singer. Clsoe Encounters has all the temperament of Annie Lennox with the sensuality of Rhea's Obsession but the ethereal dance music that only Close Encounters could create yet mildly similar to Delerium. This seems to be a band to watch for the future, who knows where they may appear next. While basically synthetic in nature it's not overly so and could easily get standard radio airplay as well as it masterfully combines various musical elements and instrumentation. In one word - 'Lush'. This German-based EBM band gives us a more down-tempo track with "Welt In Scherben" a melancholy synth melody however their full-length album Bis der Arzt kommt is said to also have some club power tracks as well. Enforce is Robert Enforsen, the former lead vocalist and frontman of Elegant Machinery and you can tell by the sound of this Scandinavian solo project. Covering a wide range of territory in the Synthpop scene and bringing some hot names and some rising stars as well New Forms... is a more than worthy addition to any Synthpop addicts collection.

Nachzehrer: Teen Taken From Tent By Aliens

 Posted by KlingKlangBedlam   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Sep 28 2002
Artist: Nachzehrer
Title: Teen Taken From Tent By Aliens
Format: CD
Label: Nanopop
Distributor: Nova
Dunno,this is a little too 80's to me,like they are trying to live up this whole 80's revival thing. Not too much my style actually,but if you're into that give this a try. It has a little bit of goth element to set it apart too. Not really my thing but not bad at the same time,just a matter of taste. RAting:6. Recommended for Apop fans (except these guys are better. Apop now sucks so fucking bad you wouldn't believe it!)

VVAA: Nobody's Diary

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Sep 20 2002
Artist: VVAA
Title: Nobody's Diary
Format: CD
Label: Ninthwave Records (@)
Let's start our story twenty one years ago, when a joung fellow named Vince Clarke decided to quit his previous band, Depeche Mode, to start a solo career. He read an ad on NME where a r'n'b singer named Alison Moyet was searchig for a blues band. He answered to that ad, which had nothing to do with his way of composing, but luckily enough the duo soon after did some smash hit singles like "Don't Go" or "Nobody's Diary" giving to the audience and to history two album "Upstairs At Eric's" and "You And Me Both" plus a bunch of singles. Twenty years after, the synthpop fame of the duo hasn't reduced. On this tribute compilation you can find nineteen versions of Yazoo songs. Every band gives its interpretation of the songs creating some gems. I liked a lot the Empire State Human, Ganymede, Vivid Suspance, The Agency, Cosmicity, Exhibition, Spray, Jimmy Harris versions and the particular Elevated Sins' "Winter Kills" which was sung like a '70s band. Do you remember the chorus Queen were used to do? Well, something like that. Really amazing for a synthpop track! Recommended also if you aren't a Yazoo's hard fan!

Deine Lakaien: White Lies

 Posted by KlingKlangBedlam   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Sep 19 2002
Artist: Deine Lakaien
Title: White Lies
Format: CD
Label: Chrom Records (@)
Distributor: Public Propaganda
It's way too rare to hear a good experimental electronic/classical crossover, and I wish there were more of them out there. Alongside Das Ich, this is the fianl word that the two can perfectly mix together, and you can tell just by listening to anything of Deine Lakaien or Helium Vola (or in fact any of their projects) that the classicly trained Ernst Horn puts a lot of time and restraint into each of the songs, playing it note by note rather than just looping. And Alexander's vocals are tenor yet smooth,not becoming a cariacature like Pavoroti, and it's kinda sensual in a Barry White kinda way. You can tell he's also been put hard through the opera boot camp as well and it paid off well, not to mention almost 20 years in the business, and the poofiest and coolest hair in the business. I want hair like that for Christmas! "Wunderbar" is a nice slow number, laced with piano and Alexander's vocals smoothing them out even more. The weird twangs and organic drumming give the single "Generators" a weird dance vibe in a slow, warping way,showing they can definitely dance music with organization rather than 'boom chukka boom kick' like most do. "Kiss" is another great dance single choice, a little more upbeat this time around, and laced with a nice thick bass beat and classical piano and organ lines courtesy of Ernst Horn the mighty. "Lost" is nice and slow yet again, until the minimal,restrained chorus line bounces and pops about,flowing yet catching you by surprise nonetheless. And my favorite,and especially made for suckers of classical like me, "Fleeting", with it's gentle bass beats and violin solos,as teh title says,fleeting. Kind of reminds me of the last song on the movie "Iris" except with tenor vocals. The violin solo in the middle is worth the price of the CD alone,import or no, and should have been the single rather than "Generators". But the latter has more of a club feel, so I think that appropriates the choice. And for you into old school electro ala Chris and Cosey and Anything Box, we have "Hands White" and "Stupid". Whatever language that is on "Hands White" is I don't know.In short,if it weren't for the import prices, I would have damn well owned every Deine Lakaien under the sun. If you love classical,electro-pop,or tenor vocals (not to mention the poofy hair!), and have a few extra dollars for the import prices,then definitely put this on your list. Helium Vola is another great reccomendation as well, as well as Ernst Horn's solo projects. Hell any of their projects,actually. Rating: 10 :) Classical,baby! ooooohhhh yeah dig it!

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