Music Reviews

Roladex: Love Surgery

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Aug 15 2013
Artist: Roladex
Title: Love Surgery
Format: CD EP
Label: Beko
Rated: *****
Formed by Elyssa Dianne and Tyler J, Roladex use analog gear and guitars just to write catchy electronic tune which are influenced by synthpop, italian disco, new wave, NDW, and shoe-gaze. They recently released a two song single titled "Love Surgery" for Beko. The main track is a mid tempo with many catchy melodic lines. It doesn't recall me anything in particular as it has many 80s influences but without a specific one. "Scan Lines" is more synthpop oriented a la early Depeche Mode and it has nice dark moments here and there. This could be a good 7" but being a MCDr, we can find also some remixes of the main track: TSTI turned it into an electro dancey song, RedRedRed changed it a lot and turned it into an obsessive minimal electro tune with early electronic industrial 80s influences, Video Look changed the melodic lines and turned it into an early 80s dark pop song, Some Ember are the last ones and their remix sound obsessive, hypnotic and minimal. This is a good release and you can have it digitally only for 1 Euro here Watch out for Roladex, they are working on their first album!

Foma: Open in Dark Room Only

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Aug 11 2013
Artist: Foma (@)
Title: Open in Dark Room Only
Format: CD EP
Label: Ressonus Records (@)
Rated: *****
Foma is an electronic music project out of Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic whose basic members are Jiri Tilgner and David Rambousek. Rambousek also happens to be the founder of the Czech label, Ressonus Records. This little EP was sitting under a pile of weightier stuff I was sifting through to review and I thought, 'what the hell, give it a shot' and popped it into the CD player. From the title I thought 'Open in Dark Room Only' was probably going to be dark ambient. Not necessarily so. The first track, 'Do It Again' with vocals by Czech-Finnish vocalist Sonja Neverstop is industrial trip-hop dark and moody synthpop that was absolutely brilliant! Whoa! Did this ever catch me by surprise. Great voice for this kind of stuff and wonderfully creepy arrangement. An absolute winner. The following track, 'Muoviset Sankarit,' is a little more uptempo electro still with Neverstop's vocals, this time spoken/rapped in a language I have no clue what it is. Kind of enigmatic. 'Morass' is spooky atmospherics set to a minimal beat, but where is Neverstop? I miss her already! This must be the experimental side of Foma. It develops a reggae-like rhythm towards the end. Eh, don't know about this one. 'Dark Room' is the most experimental piece on the EP and I didn't care a whole lot for it. Although there are interesting sonic elements (electronics, field recordings, samples) the drum machine and organish synth chord progression I found to be rather boring in its plodding pace.

On the positive side, I get the impression that 'Open in Dark Room Only' is just a taste of what Foma is capable of. More songs like 'Do It Again' and I'll be hooked. (Please guys, never stop using Neverstop!) I'd be interested in hearing what Foma has up their sleeve for a full album. The release is available as a free download and also as a handmade, limited edition CD from Ressonus.

Revenant Cult: Spectral Heresy

 Posted by Marc Tater (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Aug 06 2013
Artist: Revenant Cult (@)
Title: Spectral Heresy
Format: CD EP
Label: self-released
Distributor: Bandcamp
Rated: *****
What a nice initiative: Revenant Cult's bombastic track 'Spectral Heresy' has seemingly turned out to be a permanent recognized floor filler and has received good reactions of both press and listeners. So this 5-track CD EP is kind of a reward for their loyal fans and compiles several versions of the most matured track by the Australian duo Jess and Julian Nichols composed so far. Strictly limited to only 36 numbered and autographed exemplars means that all collectors including me (Thank you, Nick) can be proud of to hold this extremely limited item in their hands. The physical CD release is of course completely sold out now, while the digital download can be still purchased via their Bandcamp web resource. The long, uncut version of 'Spectral Heresy' is to me unbeatable, no matter how prominent the names of the foreign remix contributors are. Listening to this fine worked-out Futurepop-tune with its compelling female vocals of Jess Nichols after their highly praised appearance on the Juggernaut compilation 'Calming Cyclones' is still purest entertainment. That counts also for the music of this straight and pretty dancefloor-oriented tune with its well chosen sound-design including the orchestral synth pads. As for the remixes you'll get some remarkable appearances: Tom Shear's omni-present project Assemblage 23 convinces with different bass lines and more dancefloor-compatibility than the original already offers, while the Blast Radius 'Scarlet Light Remix' celebrates depth with huge hall reverb-effects. Studio-X offer a remix in their Industrial-Trance style, while the Aeon Club-Mix compresses this great tune to an ideal length for radio airplay. Half of an hour the same track and it never gets boring. The problem now for this Australian duo is, that they have to manage hard to satisfy my increasing expectations with their hopefully soon to be released album.

Emotikon: s/t

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Aug 04 2013
Artist: Emotikon (@)
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Emotikon is a Dusseldorf, Germany based duo consisting of the Japanese Mine Voss (vocals) and the German Tom Tron (synths, programming). Mine trained as a musical theatre actress and Tom was a video game composer but they decided to combine their talents into the synthpop entity they named Emotikon. The self-titled 'Emotikon' is obviously their debut album.

When it comes to synthpop bands, I have certain expectations. One for sure is the 'pop' element; I expect to hear memorable songs with good melodies. I expect pretty good melodic (or at least quirky, interesting, intelligible) vocals. I expect solid synth and rhythm programming. Interesting visual presentation is a plus. A potential hit is icing on the cake. For the most part, Emotikon seems to have what it takes. Perhaps in a certain regard though, they sound a tad 'too commercial'. Some of this in part may be due to the nature of Mine's voice which has a traditional J-pop sound, but the vocals are (mostly) all in English. (Might I suggest a song complete in Japanese for the next album.) Songs are in the lighter pop vein; nothing I would call dark or goth, even though the album begins on a slightly melancholy note with 'The Eye in the Sky,' augmented by Lilian Mann on cello. Think Saint Etienne or Freezepop, although Emotikon sounds like neither of those bands.

Tom writes the music and lyrics but Mine seems to have a hand in adapting the melody to her voice. The synth and rhythm programming aren't adventurous but competent; simple and effective for the material. Mine's voice is smooth and clear with good range and tonality. The album is self-released by choice allowing them ultimate control and flexibility they might not have had with a label. Also, their music is royalty free, but I'd encourage supporting the artists by buying and not just downloading (stealing) it.

Of the album several songs are worth noting ' the oriental themed 'Walk Among the Clouds,' incorporating real cello in the music, and also with some German and Japanese lyrics; 'When Does My Life Begin' (gotta love their Lego video for this one); 'Money Isn't Everything' (another cute, inventive YouTube video); and what I would have chosen for a hit single ' 'Big Bad Dragon'. This song is just so cute, it's adorable! Sort of based on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and Godzilla movies, there's nothing serious about it, it's just movieola & popcorn good fun. I'd be surprised if it didn't turn up on the soundtrack for some animated dragon movie in the future. (Are you listening DreamWorks?... Disney?...) Emotikon should be of interest to those who like breezy synthpop. I'm looking forward to their next release to see how they grow. I'd also like to see a live performance video sometime in the future.

Snog: Babes In Consumerland

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Aug 01 2013
Artist: Snog
Title: Babes In Consumerland
Format: CD
Label: Metropolis (@)
Rated: *****
If you really think that Rammstein embody the highest expressive peak of musical criticism against consumerism, pop culture or whatever let you think they could be agit-prop just because they discommode firefighters, electricians, model agencies, porn producers and German interpreters, you could revise your personal rank with better-informed agitators like talented and evergreen Australian music agitator David Thrussel aka Snog, who manages to stuff his songs with high-quality electro samples and wisely provocative lyrics. We already introduced an appetizer from this great album, the potential forthcoming and definitively more suitable (more suitable than The Star-Spangled Banner...) American nathional anthem in the light of recent establishied spy stories or a potential hymn of forthcoming NWO empire "Everything Is Under Control". All its (many) literary and cultural references are exhaustively explained in linear notes by Alvin Lucia, who wisely introduces Snog's mastermind as the harbinger or, to use his own words, one of the torchbear of 'conspiracy-pop', whose critique cannot but "emerge from the margins, the 'outsider' as shepherd or protector of the bewildered flock, in an overtly stygian and wolverine landscape" and refers to his fictional gender evolution - you could listen to songs like the one he tributes to Otto Rahn to understand what he means... - by linking it to the evolution oh fis sly poeticism and polemicism: "Though (arguably) never more strident as a lyricist, this recording presents an uncharted minefield of pun, punditry and literary allusion. A gaudy, glib and sexually undelineated Oscar Wilde posing mischievously as a street sweeper, while nocturnally inscribing the great novel. A novel that, through no accident, describes exactlyt where we are. Here. Now. Lost. (Almost) alone.". From the musical viewpoint, "Babes In Consumerland" sunds closer to albums like "The Last Days Of Rome" (2007), but Snog's stylistical globules, focusing on a rocking and highly danceable electro structure with emoblism of techno clots and amazing and ironic hints to pop music bubbles which could cause hysterical giggles, enhanced by the usual unsparing sarcasm as well as by a plenty of contributors such as Atom TM (PS3100), Felix Kubin (MS-20), Ash Wednesday (former collaborator of Einsturzende Neubauten playing on his AKS), Australian guitar player John Justin Stewart aka Ad Astra and The City Of Prague Philharmonic Choir. I could mention the French-pop quotes while he repeats "have you sucked some cock today" on "The new cocksucker blues", which is less pornish and more meaningful than you can guess, the proper mocking of dark-oriented oc/cultists which mainly feed their beliefs on Internet by the bittersweet funny song "Soul Invictus" where he vaguely quotes darkwave and witch-house sonorities on epiphanic lyrics, which for instance say "Oh the Internet/Will not save your life/There's no respite/Despite/The hype...Automatic masturbation through a wire/Why do you not tire?/Of perpetual stimulation/The knee-jerk infomercial orgams"), the iconic and ironic ode to pessism in fashion dynamics on "Bleak Is My Favourite Chic" and so on. Snog's sarcam spits more fire than above-mentioned Rammstein and I could say "Babes In Consumerland" is maybe its ripest fruit.

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