Music Reviews



Jan 21 2018
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Artist: Aidan Casserly
Title: "Dirk Bogarde Suite" + "Winter Papers"
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: House Of Analogue
Rated: *****
Aidan Casserly is at his peak of creativity and this time he brings to his audience two new releases: the first one is an EP titled "Dirk Bogarde Suite" and the second one is a new album titled "Winter Papers". "Dirk Bogarde Suite" contains four tracks which are based on four key moments of the life of the English actor/writer named in the title. The titles "War Finds You Out", "Idol Of The Odeons", "Exile" and "A Forgotten Icon" are somehow self explanatory. I didn't know him, but the fact that his 1961 role, as an homosexual lawyer into the Basil Dearden movie "Victim", touched so deeply the audience who formed movements which forced the English parliament to change some laws about that matter, amazed me. An actor and a movie that can influence society. It would be a sort of dream nowadays. Musically, besides "Idol Of The Odeons", which is a nice upbeat song a la Marc Almond of the "Stories Of Johnny" period, the other three are inspired piano ballads ("Exile, is a little bit more "experimental" with its sax solo intermezzos that break in changing the atmosphere, though). "Winter Papers", contains songs where Aidan is using the poems of Monica Brito on ten out of eleven (Aidan wrote the lyrics for "The Lady"). Monica Brito is a Portuguese poet/artist based now in Canada which book titled like this album, containing her poems / illustrations, will be out sometimes in the year. A mutual friend on Facebook introduced them as her writing style is similar to Aidan's and he gladly got in contact. Most of the tracks are ballads based on piano and occasional strings parts. The ones that particularly catched my attention are "Silent Sounds" and "Pieces", as they are a bit different. The first one is a jazzy semi upbeat tune really minimal but able to create a great atmosphere and the second is a really good one where piano, distorted guitar chords, strings and drums create a nice mix of energetic crescendo and atmospheric moments. Also "The Lady", which is closing the album, is a really good one: it contains a mix of spoken word, piano and synth pads, thing that is creating a sort of cinematic effect I liked. I think that the minimalistic approach is due to the will to make the people focus on Brito's lyrics as a form of respect toward the feelings of the person he was collaborating with.

Kraz: Lonely

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jan 11 2018
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Artist: Kraz
Title: Lonely
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Basserk Records
Amsterdam-based band Kraz’s “Lonely EP” is a bold 4-track collection from the darker and more melancholic side of guitar-driven electro-synth-pop. Bright arpeggiating synth patterns and melodramatic drums underpin a pained, rocky male vocal.
The title track is the most radio-friendly, an expansive and quite filmic song conjoined to a slow post-dubsteppy groove with full-on production mixing, while the other three tracks dive a little deeper. “Here” is an interesting mish-mash of a surprisingly acid-house beat and squelchy bass with a quite Rob Dougan-esque pained and evocative top end- certainly the track with the greatest remix potential.
Longest track “Forced To Faith” has shades of Depeche Mode about it, with extra time to breathe both vocally and in the synth patterns that are allowed a little further exploration. “Make Him Disappear” has the most prominent guitars and a more raw and organic drum arrangement, and sounds like a rock band with a synth player rather than a synth band that happens to have a guitar, especially in the final third when things take a decided turn towards sounding like an electro-heavy version of The Doors.
The one thing missing from all four tracks is the infectious hook. Dark and brooding this may be, but ultimately it’s still pop music and it still feels like we’re heading towards choruses and crescendos that never quite arrive to fulfil the promise that the verses offer. Predictably it’s the title track that gets closest to a really memorable, singing-it-after-it’s-finished chorus. If that ingredient could have been sprinkled on top, what you’d have here is a very strong EP indeed.

Dicepeople/Moi Saint: Shallow Under Skin [EP]

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Jan 09 2018
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Artist: Dicepeople/Moi Saint (@)
Title: Shallow Under Skin [EP]
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Syndicol Music (@)
Rated: *****
I'm sure there are a good number of people out there who have heard of London, UK's dark electro project, Dicepeople, consisting of Matt Brock (music) and Rafael Filomeno (visuals). I've reviewed a couple of their previous releases in the not too distant past, and they usually have some interesting music to offer. They also tend to utilize female guest vocalists and that's where Moi Saint comes in. Apparently Matt's been busy running a label - Syndicol Music when I wasn't looking and has signed a bunch of artists to it, among them Absolute Zero, Starsha Lee and Moi Saint. Moi Saint is young lady from Liverpool, UK who makes her own brand of dark electro, a bit darker and more gothy than Dicepeople. From what I can tell she is relatively new to the scene and has an EP titled 'The New Moon' (download only) on the Syndicol label. You can hear it all on her Soundcloud page, which I did before previewing 'Shallow Under Skin,' which is more like a maxi-single than an EP. Obviously Moi Saint is a pseudonym or stage name and I can't tell you what her real name is because there's no info available on that, so I guess she wants to keep her identity mysterious for now. I can tell you that on her own material she seems to do it all- electronics, percussion, voice, and she does a great job of it. The music is atmospheric, the synth-work accomplished, and she has an entrancing soprano voice, somewhat like a cross between Collide's kaRIN and Elektra Dekker. Sounds like the perfect person to collaborate with Brock's Dicepeople. The title track "Shallow Under Skin" seems to highlight the strengths of both artists with a pretty hooky chorus that just might motivate 'em on dark dancefloors. Lyrically the chorus is a bit shallow, but effective. "Fallen Down," the second track (or b-side if you will) is good dark electro albeit with less panache than the first number. I wasn't wild about the percussion on this track though; it seemed a bit perfunctory. Both songs are much more pop than esoteric, a sure sign that Dicepeople are heading for a more commercial market. I'd say the tone of "Shallow Under Skin" is mock-sinister, while "Fallen Down" is sort of creepy-cute, along the lines of The Birthday Massacre (sans guitars, of course). The remixes of both tracks though are anything but commercial. The Deflexity Remix of "Fallen Down" is quite experimental stripping some of synths out of the music and adding others that have a dirtier, grittier sound, as well as some piano later. Vocals seem more lucid and there is a completely different, more schizoid feel to the song as a whole. As for Microchip Junky's Lack of Depth Mix of "Shallow Under Skin," it is also somewhat experimental replacing thick synth pads with grittier sounds and allowing the vocals to be heard clearly. Unfortunately it also exposes the song's inherent weakness and doesn't really do much to captivate the listener. I would have much preferred both of these tracks being remixed for the dancefloor which could have had added some oomph and gotten DJs behind this release. Be that as it may, the combo of Dicepeople and Moi Saint is an interesting one, fitting hand-in-glove with each other, and I hope they continue their musical partnership as the potential for something truly great is within the realm of possibility. Release date on the 'Shallow Under Skin' EP is January 22nd.

N-qia: Fantasica

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Dec 15 2017
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Artist: N-qia
Title: Fantasica
Format: CD + Download
Label: Noble
I’ll be honest, perhaps embarrassingly Tokyo-based duo N-Qia were a new name to me, but as soon as I’d heard this, their third full-length album, I immediately Googled their previous two albums (“Popical” and the digital-only mini-album “Audio Illustrations”). It isn’t even necessarily my usual fayre, but there’s something about this particular blend of upbeat, lush, bright Japanese dream-pop that really strikes a chord.

Lots of organic sounds- pianos, some guitars and strings, clapping, and an airy, willowy vocal- are arranged in a gentle electronica space with chord pads and some subtle electronic ornamentation.

Every song runs very close to the 4-minute mark and if I were looking to criticise, I might say that there’s perhaps not quite enough variety between the 11 tracks, which do end up merging into one smooth sonic carpet. Notable tracks include “Time Leaper”, which brings an extra layer of Planet Mu-esque glitch to the rhythm programming without ever spoiling the flow, and final track “Neondrive” which skips effortlessly between soft J-pop, house and near-jazzy complex electronica patterns. The urgently-paced and nicely dynamic “Love Transmitter” is just crying out for some drum & bass remixes. The slightly rockier “Lost Kids” has hints of Lemon Jelly about it.

If asked to pick a weak spot, it would probably be “Lover’s Rock”, which feels a little uninspired and insipid compared to what precedes it.

It’s got a relaxed, feel-good and weirdly cleansing mood to it throughout, a real headspace-clearer. It’s one of those albums that will leave you thinking, “lovely”.

Gagarin: Corvid

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Nov 25 2017
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Artist: Gagarin
Title: Corvid
Format: CD + Download
Label: Geo Records
Graham Dowdall, current member of Pere Ubu and with a collaboration list full of big names, offers up an instrumental electronica album that’s evolved out of five pieces that were responses to five hills in Surrey. Wild field recordings from these hills are an element- particularly on tracks like “Reynards” and the slightly Eno-esque “Winterfold”- but certainly not the focal point, which is mainly playful retro-sounding synthesizer work that feels very 1980’s in parts- long pads, soft drum programming, warm analogue melodic keys and a few bleeps and bloops for good measure.

After the lush unfolding opening of “Gibbet”, things take a sidestep to the weird side for “Thetan” with some improvised and oddly chorded synth squelches that are reminiscent of 70’s Radiophonic Workshop crew messing about with new synthesizers.

Tracks like “Alienist” and “Oromorphian” are more moderated affairs, subtle and spacious downtempo synth environments with occasional sub-bass dummmms and a ‘road movie through an alien desert’ sense of pace.

“Seekers After The Truth” stands out thanks to a central spoken word vocal sample, rapidly cut up and repeating as though stuttering on an old CD DJ deck, over a surprisingly hollow underscore. “Roadman” sounds like a bit of late 80’s proto-techno that’s fallen through a timewarp. Conversely the broader sound and extra emphasis on melody in “Autonomist” has just a shade of Jean-Michel Jarre about it.

It’s a strangely sweet piece of analogue synth work that manages to be very polished, yet it recalls the joy of discovery of prototype synth experimentation as well, making it oddly timeless.


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