Music Reviews

Territoire: Alix

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Apr 13 2018
Artist: Territoire
Title: Alix
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Humo
Oscar Arson, as Territoire, serves up a dark, slow-techno concept album based around the titular character being born into slavery. Not that you’d realise it was a concept album from the lyrics, as there are barely any. Instead what you get is seven slices of gothic-tinged bass rumbles, slow heartbeat-like kick drums, sinister whispered vocals, low gated and processed synth pads and atmospherics.

More conventional instrumentation- guitars, tuba, clarinet- are worked into some tracks but in nicely understated ways that add to the palette of those tracks without sounding like novelty- in some cases you may be hard pushed to distinguish that instrumentation from its synthesized setting.

After the very bold and attention-grabbing polished sound of opening track, erm, “Sourd”, “Esclvvv” begins a steady, not-too-heavy pounding that’s imbued with plenty of both fear and attitude. Things go a little off the boil with “Soumission” and “Chant” which settle into slightly less dramatic, industrial-ish rumbling. “Exil” is a bit more vigorous initially but unfolds into an almost ambient conclusion, which segues nicely into “Meta/Xim”’s broad and fairly empty rumbling into nothing. Final track “Quatre siècles de privilèges” sounds at first like the beginning of a new dawn- certainly not a happy ending but certainly slight hints of optimism rather than fatal finality.

At 37 minutes it’s quite short, but that helps to excuse the slight lack of sonic variation. The concept may not shine through but as a hybrid of some very dark techno with also-dark soundscaping and atmospherics, it’s got a polished sincerity and a powerful mood-changing tone.

Huminoida: The Grey Area

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Apr 12 2018
Artist: Huminoida
Title: The Grey Area
Format: CD
Label: Out Of Range Records
Rated: *****
Arriving four years after the previous release titled "Intoxicating Spring", "The Grey Area" is the newest album by Finnish synth electronic project Huminoida. Containing nine new tracks, the album is focused on the dark synthpop side of Kimmo Karjalainen and if "Intoxicating Spring" contained also some powerful upbeat tracks, this one doesn't as most of them are mid-tempo songs where Kimmo's vocals are upfront and the synths are creating the right ambience for his lyrics. Released on CD, vinyl plus CD and digital, "The Grey Area" is a very personal album where music is an outlet for Kimmo's feelings and thoughts. As stated on the presentation leaflet, the last years have been difficult for Kimmo and these songs are just reflecting that. I received the CD to review and it is housed into a beautiful package which is including a 7" twelve pages booklet with all the lyrics and some photos. As represented by the cover, Huminoida is transforming ideas into something else and ideally these songs are the butterflies flying away from his brain, just to be able to show their beautiful colors to people and, hopefully, live longer than a butterfly. Lyrics, like the ones of the opening track "Thoughts Like Insects", are setting the theme of the whole album, where Kimmo is writing down all his bitter experiences: "The little things I've loved in life are now in decline / Many values I've admired are being despised / And the things made just for fun are denounced unproductive - and that's a big no-no!". In balance from 80's/90's synthpop and new wave, "The Grey Area" is a nice collection of songs and for sure it's worth your attention. You can check it here and you can make you tempt by the gorgeous orange vinyl edition.

Baptist: Love Is

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Apr 10 2018
Artist: Baptist
Title: Love Is
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Basserk
This new single on the Basserk label is an unusual step towards the pop charts. With slow, grandiose pop-ballad sounds, bold piano and lush pads over a simple slow-and-steady electronic beat, this is a radio-friendly production whose only real twist is the pitched-down vocal. It hints at a big euphoric chorus that never arrives, and that’s probably the only ingredient it’s missing from being an unusual piece of chart fodder, given the right publicity.

With an original mix, a radio edit that’s marginally shorter but essentially the same, and an instrumental mix, a big-name remix might have also provided the tipping point into the mainstream as well.

Otherwise, a strong bit of luxury-thickness melancholic pop.

Cesium_137: Rise To Conquer

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Apr 08 2018
Artist: Cesium_137 (@)
Title: Rise To Conquer
Format: CD
Label: Metropolis (@)
Rated: *****
The saddest thing of this seventh album by FuturePop band Cesium137 is the fact that this soufflé that didn't arise is a dedication to Matt Cargill, co-founder of the band together with Isaac Glendening when they were students at high school, who left it to pursue a military career (firstly in the Army and then in the Navy) before his death for natural causes at the age of 22, occurring on April 2017. The baffling aspect of this album is the combination of uplifting EBM/EDM sonorities (a way to cheer them up by themselves?), memory-loaded lyrics and clues of "eschatology" that are clear since the intro of the opening "Tempest" (sounding like the soundtrack for a Baptist funeral oration...), but sadly (as I said) there are too many (genuinely musical) aspects of this release, that make me feel really perplexed. Lyrics are quite poor from the literal viewpoint and the flat vocals (often out-of-tune) don't really help to make them up; forthermore the synth-driven choruses and the celestial artificial fanfares, that sometimes resurface in the tracks of this "Rise to Conquer" (someone couldn't really understand why flaunting a feeling of militancy while reminiscing a dead friend, even if he was a soldier...), don't counterbalance a certain lack of stylistical originality and a couple of good tracks ("Diver" and "Consequence") are not enough in my opinion. Maybe the worshippers of the band could find other reasons to buy and listen to it...

Happiness Project: Big Cities EP

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Apr 04 2018
Artist: Happiness Project
Title: Big Cities EP
Format: MCD (Mini CD)
Label: Boredom Product
Rated: *****
Fred and Cyrille Tuyéras along with Christelle Fournioux, a.k.a. Happiness Project, are back with a new EP titled "Big Cities"; mini album which is anticipating their new album "Mutation", that will be released on September 2018. "Big Cities" contains four tracks on the digital edition and six on the limited edition MCD which is available now from Boredom Product, as usual for their records since 2012 on. It took five years to the guys to write new tracks but already from the first listening of the EP I have to say that it was worth the wait. I have the MCD, so I'll be able to talk about all the tracks and on this format you can find also "Our wish for more" and the remixed version of "Tell me more" which will be included in the album, along with different versions of "Big cities" and "Mutation". First of all, the opening track which you can find in the "video edit" and the seven minutes long version titled "Bigger cities", is an upbeat synths/guitar driven tune with Fred and Christelle dueting (but in this EP is Fred the main singer). Catchy melodies and cool production (JB Laccassagne of Dekad and Member U-0176 took care of the additional production) are the things that pop up immediately and if "Big cities" started the EP with a blast, with "Darkside baby doll" we have a mid tempo that somehow reminded me atmospheres a la Yazoo. "Our wish for more" is a really nice mid tempo which is in balance from a ballad and a dark synthpop song. "Mutation" is a particular one which could sound like an atmospheric kraftwerish tune. With "Tell me" we are back on hard beats like on "Big cities". On this one, Christelle is taking the lead singing a track which is kinda mysterious lyrics wise. This one would be perfect remixed by e.b.m. or industrial bands. The EP is closed by the longer version of "Big cities" I named before. While I was listening to the tracks I read the lyrics printed into the inner side of the packaging and it's nice to notice that they put their feelings and wishes into the songs as we can find: the wish of better cities and a slower approach to life ("Big cities") as well as a mockery of fashion driven people ("Darkside baby doll") or a wish for equity, liberty and integrity that often ends up in vanity ("Our wish for more") or the wish that the word "future" would be replaced by "mutation", because it includes also a feeling of hope. Nice one, guys...

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