Music Reviews

The Sexbots: Junk Sick

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
 Edit (8084)
Mar 17 2014
Artist: The Sexbots (@)
Title: Junk Sick
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Basically, Portland, Oregon based trans-disciplinary artist Ilima Considine IS The Sexbots, with a little instrumental help from DJ Ceez, Qmulus and Stereospread here, and 'Junk Sick' is The Sexbots 3rd album to date. (Junk Sick is a term for the vomiting that accompanies heroin withdrawal.) Ilima is a classically trained violinist and cellist but you won't get any of that here. What you WILL get is an aural feast for retro-art-pop synthpop enthusiasts, with Considine cooing, moaning, and sometimes even orgasming in her Asian little girl voice over Nintendo/Casio style electronics and beats that will make you stop dead in your tracks and say 'WHAT is this? WHO is this? Where did this COME from?' That's how it struck my jaded ears.

In 'The Only Thing' little bleeps and burbles, synth pulses and electronic swirls float around her breathy child-like vocals. More muscular synths and beats are the backdrop for Ilima's emoting in 'My Job is To Make Love to Strangers'. This is sythpop like you've never heard before- raw, emotional, sexual, personal and riveting. The pace slows down with 'Magic Eyes' as Ilima coos her lyrics backed by what sounds like a chorus of softly meowing oriental kitties. The cats come out yowling in 'Sickness'; the first real clue that this album came about through a rough relationship breakup. 'Boy/Girl' explores playful androgynous sexuality. 'Every Soul' is tragic, emotionally wrought tale of a friend's drug overdose. If that one seemed emotionally wrought, 'Try Me' is even more intense. 'Water Under the Burning Bridge' is a mix of sweet innocence and lovelorn regret; basically sort of a bittersweet love song. I didn't even mind the (brief) male vocals in it. 'Petting a Cat' is just too cute in its metaphorical sexuality. 'You Get a Taste' sounds like an Asian children's march with more of Ilima's boudoir vocalizing. 'Willy on Willy' seems like an attempt to exorcise the ghost of a lost lover, recalling 'Sickness' to some extent.

Vocally, comparisons of Ilima to Bjork are inevitable, but really, there's only a slight resemblance in style, but a perhaps a larger one in emotional input. Bjork's voice is robust and her range covers about three octaves. Ilima's voice on the other hand has a much more fragile quality to it. No doubt though her 'Sexbot' style is somewhat unique. It not only conjures hentai fantasies in which you get to play voyeur, but also speaks to a deeper emotional level. Live and on video however, I don't believe Ilima's visual performance is anywhere near par of her musical prowess. Given time and money (buy the damn album already, it's well worth it), she may synthesize and synergize them both. In any case, it will be interesting to see what The Sexbots come up with next.

∆AIMON: s/t

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
 Edit (8073)
Mar 09 2014
Artist: ∆AIMON (@)
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: Artoffact Records (@)
Rated: *****

This band defines itself as "one of the early adopters of the witch-house title but are generally considered cross-genre" that is convolved way to express a trend emerging in the last years. The male/female voice is used as a way to blend two apparently irreconcilable influences, an experimental one, from industrial, and a pop one, from ethereal, using one of the basic instrument of the two genre: the synth. So, the result is something that tries to seem original but is bonded in a pop musical structure
An atmospheric, even if noisy, track as "vargtimmen" opens this release but, suddenly, "Seraphim" reveals the reference model for this band: a double voice, masculine and female, and a sound between electro and ethereal as it flows between the two. "dissolvte" is an almost synth-pop track while "LOW" and "Balance" feature noisy inserts able to colorize the sound while "anima" is centered on the rhythmic interludes. The quiet drone that opens "amen" is a good brainwave to escape the limits of a formula used in almost all songs while "bruising" and "EXU REI" return to a classic dark-pop structure. With "Paræsthesia" the duo returns to the juxtposition of aggressive synth lines and melodic lines that forms the best moments of this album. With "Order '´ '´" and "APOSTATIC" the influence of this band results evident even if filtered with good personality.
As with every first full-length album, the question is if a band has the quality to develop something personal above his influences and my answer is almost suspended as this band has some personal ideas but seems too shy to fully develop them. A nice band to observe carefully on the next release. Nice.

L'Avenir: L'Avenir

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Mar 05 2014
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Artist: L'Avenir
Title: L'Avenir
Format: Tape
Label: Belaten (@)
Rated: *****
Jason Sloan has many years on his back as an electronic musician and sound artist as well as being a Professor teaching full-time in the Interactive Arts department along with being the founder and program coordinator for the Sound Art concentration at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland. L'Avenir is his "synthpop" side project which debut album has been released the last year on the Spanish label Cold Beats Records. Now, he's releasing his second work under that moniker on tape on Belaten. The self named album contains eight new tracks in balance from minimal synth and synthpop. If you want me to make few comparisons, take Martial Canterel and Sleep Museum as references. The album opens with "Aral Sea", an instrumental focused on a simple synth sequence where filters and rhythm are the main element. This one serve to set the atmosphere of the lot, which is in balance from dreamy and cinematic ones. "Fallen Like The Snow II" is an upbeat minimal synth wave song with cold vocals and synth sounds that come and go. All the tracks have in common the fact that melody is something that seems to be an optional element as it is present but the songs aren't "built" to be catchy. It takes time to get with the mood as you have to catch the right wave that carries you away with it. This isn't a bad thing but it couldn't happen as fast as you'd think it would. Jason is good at making a multi layered structure of synth sound and that is the "white rabbit" you have to follow. Anyway, you can check the whole release here

Heterotic: Rain EP

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Mar 03 2014
Artist: Heterotic
Title: Rain EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Planet Mu (@)
Rated: *****
You could surmise that this lovely tidbit from the hermaphrodite and somehow aphrodisiac Heterotic, the project Heterotic by Mike Paradinas and his partner-in-life and partner-in-art Lara Rix-Martin, is a way to rekindle the romance, which got wisely instilled by their beautiful album "Love and Devotion". Mauybe it's so or maybe not. Even if the single "Rain" lets listener wander more or less on the same kind of romance by means of fluffy retro-synths, well-cushioned brightness and daydreaming vocals by French vocalist Matthieu Le Berre aka Vezelay, this release precedes the already announced forthcoming album from this whimsical couple, so that the floating housey synth-pop of "Problemo" - that kind of track that could be voluptuousness danced together with your partner where any red-hot movement is just a sort of wingbeat towards heavenly dimensions - and the inspiring combination of more muscolar robotic steps and heady pads on "The Tripods" could be an appetizer of what they are going to deliver, but their love-driven flair is so fertile that Heterotic could even go beyond any predictable expectations, which could ensue from the listening of this mellow EP. An instrumental version of "Rain" has been included as well, so that you could maybe have a shot at singing it to your partner and fixing the spat which could have followed your wrong choice of St.Valentine's gift!

Emotikon: Remixes

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
 Edit (8062)
Mar 03 2014
Artist: Emotikon (@)
Title: Remixes
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Emotikon is back with an album of remixes of material from their self-titled debut album, with mixed results. If you recall I reviewed that not too long ago, rather positively. For those who missed that, Emotikon is a Dusseldorf, Germany based duo consisting of the Japanese Mine Voss (vocals) and the German Tom Tron (synths, keys, guitar, programming) mostly in the synthpop genre. While many artists prefer to put their remixes in the hands of DJs and capable remixers, Emotikon chose to do it themselves. This may not have been a brilliant idea for a remix album; it's more of a reimagining for the most part. For those who follow my reviews (yeah, the three of you), you know that I generally frown on remixes. They're rarely as good as the original, more geared for the dancefloor, and add a lot of, '¦crap. There are exceptions of course, and sometimes on those rare occasions, supersede the original.

My first impression of Emotikon's 'Remixes' was 'Oh brother, this is not the direction I expected this band to take. This kind of blows.' Subsequent listenings have softened me up a bit, although not a whole lot. Opening with a Bossa Nova Remix of 'The Eye in the Sky' came as a bit of a shock. It kind of sounds like muzak, or maybe a lounge band. Funny, because I like real Bossa Nova music, but this was ersatz at best. The French House Remix of 'You Are' was better, taking some of the coy innocence out of the original but adding more motion and dancability. The Rock Remix of 'Where Are You From' substitutes guitars for synths and falls flat in my estimation, ending rather abruptly. 'Too Old' gets the disco treatment with a 1990 Party Remix. Never was a disco fan. The Chopstick Remix of 'Still Thinking of You' was not much more than okay, with the guitars making it sound rather ordinary. At least some of the synths were still present. 'Big Bad Dragon' is given a Kaiju Dance Remix, but it's hard to beat the original. There's another Bossa Nova Remix on 'True Love' and this is just awful, with frequencies clashing with the vocals. 'When Does My Life Begin?' gets a Robotik Remix sapping all the cuteness out of the original with too much portamento synth, robotic voices and a superfluous guitar break. The Space Remix of 'Money Isn't Everything' soups up the synths but when it comes time for the rap break, it no longer sounds like a spoof. Be that as it may, it might be one of the better remixes on the album. If you're going down the remix road, I guess you gotta have a Dub Remix, and Emotikon reserved that for 'The End of the World'. It's okay, but nothing earthshaking, clip-clopping along.

If you haven't heard Emotikon's debut album, I suggest you get that before investing in this. And if you're thinking of putting out a remix album, put it in the hands of the remixers (the more the merrier). At least that way you can exercise plausible deniability.

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