Music Reviews

Hyperbubble: Dee Dee Rocks the Galaxy (Original Soundtrack)

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Oct 07 2015
Artist: Hyperbubble (@)
Title: Dee Dee Rocks the Galaxy (Original Soundtrack)
Format: CD
Label: Pure Pop For Now People (@)
Rated: *****
You may recall Hyperbubble from the last review I did on them not too long ago when they released their soundtrack to an indie film called 'Attack of the Titans'. For those who didn't catch it, and don't know Hyperbubble, they are an international visual and performing arts electropop/synthpop duo from San Antonio, Texas consisting of Jeff and Jess DeCuir. So 'Dee Dee Rocks the Galaxy' is another soundtrack album to an indie short (very short, thankfully) film that's absolutely awful. The slim plot consists of this slacker girl who's life stinks because can't even sell (girl scout) cookies on earth, but through a mystical potion she ingests, she ends up in space and becomes a guitar goddess. The execution is, well...amateurish doesn't even begin to describe it. Why Hyperbubble persists in getting involved in these junior non-achievment film projects is beyond me. The band puts a lot more effort into the music than the people who make these visual atrocities. The music is mostly kitschy retro space-inspired synthpop and largely instrumental, but not always. A song such as "My Life Stinks" culls its vocal directly from the movie for its entirety - "My life stinks, I really need a change," patheticaly spoke-sung by Dee Dee (Elie Zinsmeister). It's this kind of thing that keeps the album from being listenable more than once or twice, which is too bad because they do come up with some nice quirky electronica instrumentals here. The track "Kingdom of Korg" is notably pretty cool with it's doomy homage to 50's sci-fi flicks, theremin and all. They even manage to come up with some strange, eerie alien atmosphere as on "Planet Theremin". Last track "Queen of the Universe" has a chorus of wordless female voices I really adore, and "Dee Dee's Theme" is a manic synthpunk tune with a neat vocal track that despite its tie to the movie, stands pretty well on its own. Still, I'm not sold; for me there was just too much "movie" in this album. They did win first place for musical score with this at the 2014 48 Hour Film Fest in San Antonio, Texas, but I'm guessing that the competition in the music department may not have been all that strong. The filmmakers are assigned a genre, a character, a prop, and a line of dialogue, and have 48 hours to create a short film containing those elements. I highly doubt Hyperbubble was constrained to that time limit to create the soundtrack. If they were, then this is a miracle. Still, I think the band would be better served if they went back to doing what they do best, namely making quirky, fun, addictive synthpop tunes.

Power Pill Fist: Werebeard

 Posted by Pierre Parenteau   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Oct 04 2015
Artist: Power Pill Fist
Title: Werebeard
Format: Tape
Label: i, absentee (@)
Rated: *****
Power Pill Fist is the project of Ken Fec, an ex-member of Black Moth Super Rainbow based in Pittsburgh. Werebeard is his third full length album, following Extra Life and KONGMANIVONG, both release on Graveface Records, a label own by a member of Black Moth Super Rainbow (Ryan Graveface). Ken Fec's music is a mixture of drum machines, electric bass, acoustic guitar and Atari synthesizer. I particularly enjoyed the melodies created with the later, as I feel it gives the album an edge. The textures Ken Fec creates with the Atari synthesizer are surprisingly deep too, for instance on 'Antrobus' the acoustic guitar riff nicely complement the synthesizer sweeps and steady robot alike drum machine beat. For a noisy release, the production is top notch, even though you can clearly hear the tape hiss, the bass are round and the high frequencies are clear, something rare for an underground release. Some tracks, like 'Little Dude Guy', have great ambient melodies that are reminiscent of Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works. Others are noisier and more punk, I guess that's why this release is billed as 'Atari noise rock'. For me, it took a couple of listens to make those noisier tracks grow on me. Standout tracks in this genre are 'Stank Tank' and 'Swear Jar'. The intro piece 'Root Ball' has a nice balance between the noisier and softer sides of Power Pill Fist, it's also a very catchy tune that easily get caught in the ears. There's also some cool little field recordings tracks with minimal instrumentation and dialogues. Overall, I would say that if you're into chiptunes and rock version of video games music, Werebeard is for you. Ken Fec's third album is also the first cassette release by i, absentee records. The artwork looks great and the cassette itself is clear blue, which looks awesome. Collectors take notice: the tape is a limited edition of 100 copies.

Elian: Harrowgate

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 01 2015
Artist: Elian
Title: Harrowgate
Format: CD
Label: Home Normal (@)
Rated: *****
One of the relatively older entries on Home Normal that reached my headpones after some months is the second album for the excellent Ian Hawgood's imprint by Richmond-based electronic music maker Michael Duane Ferrell, better known as Elian. Such a time shift could make sense as I won't wonder if it came to us from some dimensional port facing on the past or the future due to the sci-fi scenery that Elian's music manages to evoke, as the five parts of "Harrowgate" could trap listeners by an interesting amalgamation of pre-Kraftwerkian electronics - think about all those composers such as Mel Kaiser, Oskar Sala or Tom Dissevelt, whose stuff got largely used by science fiction movie makers- fter a digital repainting and a series of contemporary compositional tricks such as binaural beats ("Harrowgate 2"), flangered echoes ("Harrowgate 3"), dark symphonies that sound like having built by means of overlapping of electronic particles ("Harrowgate 4") and droning vacuum injections ("Harrowgate 5"), which highlight the sense of derangement of listening experience. Besides this somehow old-fashioned and heavily synth-driven nuance, "Harrowgate" could dip listeners into a mental reverie over outer space, where gravitational pulls are just like an ancient memory of an almost forgotten previous life.

It's A Synth: Curiosity

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Aug 30 2015
Artist: It's A Synth (@)
Title: Curiosity
Format: CD
Label: Target Records (@)
Rated: *****
It seems as though there's been a lot of synthpop coming out of Scandinavia lately, so it's not surprising to find that It's A Synth is from Copenhagen, Denmark. They're a duo consisting of Andreas Fog-Petersen -what else but synths! and Casper Clemmensen - vocals. While this isn't their first foray into music, 'Curiosity' is their first official release, and WOW!, is it ever a doozy. Right from the get-go these guys draw you in with "Bring It On," a medium slow neo-psychedelic synth stew that latches on to your psyche and won't let go. "...I will always find a way to get to you and numb your senses, Feeling so underrated, they..never will speak the's underestimated...yeah, they all dismiss you..." It's a bit dark, but not typical of this album. Casper's vocals are perfect for this kind of thing. "Endless Endeavor" peps it up for the dancefloor and Casper employs a little vocoder assist for this tune. Now the pop portion of this synth band kicks into high gear and drills directly into that happy portion of your brain and implants their infectious hooks. Unless you really hate synthpop, they've got you. And so it continues with the anthemic future-poppy "Almost". I can picture a huge crowd waving their hands in unison in time with the beat. These guys have lucked on to the magic formula that most synthpop bands strive for, namely to create music that you just can't get out of your head. And the weird thing is, it's so bloody simple. Fog-Petersen's synthwork is very good, but not ground-breaking. (Is there any more ground to break in this genre?) Clemmensen has the knack for writing melodies that are uber-appealing. "The Last Cell" isn't the greatest track on the album, but lots of synthpop bands would be satisfied to come up with something as good as this. Even when the band doesn't seem to be trying hard, as on "Pen to Paper", where the hook has only the words "there is a reason, there is a reason, there is a reason, there is a reason, there is a reason...ahhhh" it will melodically bubble up in your brain long after you've heard the song. I thought after this they might be spent, but no; wrong on that account. Blam, blam...two more infectious tracks - "Somehow" and "Piece of Me". After that "Steps" attemps the same formula, but isn't as compelling as anything that preceded it. "Moving" is much better with an old-school psychedelic chorus - "How will I find you?" repeated anon. The last track, "Spirit" is a bit heavy-handed with it's pounding staccato beats and really only serves to sum things up in a grand finale. As far as tunesmithing goes, It's A Synth makes bands on the order of Fischerspooner sound lame, and that's no small feat. I have heard the future of synthpop, and definitely, It's A Synth.
Aug 27 2015
Artist: AAAA
Title: Shiva Watts
Format: 12"
Label: Antime (@)
Rated: *****
It doesn't really matters the circumstances that "Voyager II", "SH Crush", "VCO mode" or the awesome title-track "Shiva Watts" could resemble some stuff by Richard James's acid techno act AFX as well as other EDM tunes of the late 90ies and similarly "Blackfish" could vaguely remind of some EBM outputs (even if a friend of mine thought it was a remix of Bronski Beat's "Smalltown Boy" by Gridlok!), "Vocall 300" could be closer to some vocal daydreaming electro-hop that used to shake many headphones in the second half of the last decade, "Domo Geodesico" could lay in between contemporary Berlin electronics and 70'ies progressive electronic music - very interesting matching, indeed! -, "Pet Grief" could be confused as the remix of some Depeche Mode's unreleased melody by Beefcake or Proem, "Class of 1999" could sound like a robotic romance by Royksopp, which seems to get counterbalanced by the more lukeworm and softier sounds of "Bad Hair Day" and tracks like "Mixtape Alpha Dials" and other interplays could recall some clips by Boards OF Canada to some attentive listeners. Similarites are sometimes unavoidable, but the debut album by AAAA - a moniker, which sounds like a new format of batteries for electronic devices! -, the alias of Gabo Barranco, a Paris-born producer who raised in the suburbs of Mexico City, melts all these possible influences in a so roughly funny way that similaties become something to brag about! Previously released by Mexican imprint Maligna, Antime's founder Martin Steer thankfully decided to import it for the pleasure of Old Continent's listeners. Wise choice!

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