Wednesday, September 23, 2020
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Artist: Neuroactive (@)
Title: Minor Side-Effects
Format: CD + Download
Label: Alfa Matrix (@)
Distributor: Bandcamp
Rated: *****
The return of the Finland-based Synthpop-/Electronica-wizzard Jarkko Tuohimaa now newly signed to the Belgian Alfa Matrix label has been indeed one of the most interesting news for me personally. It must have been somewhere around 1993 during my early journalistic activities for the German Vertigo magazine, when we received a demo tape by this Finish project sent in by their label Cyberware Productions. Yes, this has happened during the days when bands had to record demo tapes and to sent them out by snail-mail to their fans or to gain a glimpse of recognition by labels.
So we had a few top-notch tape releases from the likes Chaingun Operate, [Active] Media Disease or just Neuroactive. First interviews had been conducted and the first CD releases of Cyberware Productions had been the logically consequence. "Freeze - Finnish Electro-Industrial Documentary Vol. 1" or the "Melt" compilation introduced us deeper to Finlands uprising dark music scene and the follow-up generation of what has once started with Advanced Art or the Goth-Rock pendant Two Witches.

Neuroactive themselves have been a constant part of the label and brought out their debut "Morphology" in 1994. This CD debut was rather meant to collect their older EBM-related influences of their early days, while the follow-up MCD "Neuron" and especially their second album "Phonic Trace" developed to a more smooth, but also very futuristic Techno-Pop kind of sound expression of this project. I see especially "Phonic Trace" as being their most visionary release, a timeless milestone of a sci-fi-related sound outfit to create the sound which has been later often misused as being Futurepop. It shouldn't wonder any listener that especially the bands' greatest hit track "Space Divider" with the original vocalist Vesa Rainne could be found on "Phonic Trace" - although I would praise this milestone of an album for various other other featured tracks on it.
Cyberware as being the label had meanwhile difficulties by searching for collaborations with other labels to gain a better and internationally distribution of their releases (Subtronic Records and at least Out Of Line).
Higher recognition Neuroactive could finally gain with their follow-up album "Fiber-Optic Rhythm" and the deal with the US-based Synthpop-institution A Different Drum. That album was indeed a true Synthpop pearl, although at least the beginning of a more and more ongoing orientation into this softer Dance-Pop oriented outfit. Both of the early former band members Vesa Raine and Ville Brusi have decided to leave Jarkko and so he had to hire a new main vocalist which he found in Kimmo Karjalainen of [Active] Media Disease. Tracks like "Parallel", ”Put Your Trust In Me” and ”Visualise” with its MCD releases on A Different Drum are still outstanding examples for both talents, music programming and vocalist.
From 1998 to 2014 Neuroactive has been a vital part in the A Different Drum stable. In this time the band has released 5 studio albums, a DCD compilation plus the licensing deal to add "Phonic Trace" on A Different Drum until its closure in 2014. Jarkko Tuohimaa was and is still the remaining driving force behind all musically decisions and he has operated with several guest vocalists through the years.

Now, after almost 30 years Jarkko has reunited the early band members including Vesa Raine, Ville Brusi plus Kimmo Karjalainen to record with "Minor Side-Effects" a new studio album. Musically it is also the return into the more thrilling path of that futuristic Techno-Pop-like sound design which has made "Phonic Trace" that elemental. At least not all of the fluffy Dance-Pop elements have been removed but with a fair look-back to what has made "Space Divider" or "Parallel" that appreciated this wasn't necessary.
What finally counts and what can be noted track by track on "Minor Side-Effects" is the inward looking on the own strengths and on the components that made Neuroactive to a trademark of Finlands Electronic music scene.

January has seen the first sign of their return with the teaser 2-track release of "Night Flights". Available in two different remix versions and with Kimmo providing the lead vocals, this track could be dropped down to the "Fiber-Optic Rhythm" track list and it wouldn't end in a lack of quality. Surely one of the suitable tunes to storm the dancefloors and so are "Dances" (feat. Kimmo) and "In Rust We Trust" (feat. Vesa).
Also the addition of another guest vocalist with John Peverieri of Halo Effect performing on 2 songs ("Forbidden Pleasures", "Your Smile Is Weeping") brings in more diversity. Highlights are nevertheless the both last tunes with Vesa Rainne behind the microphone, "Climate Is Changing" (nice robotic vocoder effects on the vocals) and "All Forces Integrate", as both awake the best remembrances to the "Phonic Trace" era and so the best moments of this band. This rating of course is based on my very own subjective point of view on the band career.

Congratulations Jarkko - asides the crystal-clear and meticulously produced synthesizer programmings of this beautiful new album it has made seldom before so much sense to reunite the both founding members including Kimmo Karjalainen to start this fulminant comeback. Not at all some "Minor Side-Effects - thi is rather a full-scale pleasantly listening experience for every fan of Synth-driven music.


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