Ethereal Delusions: Ascension

a3523520089_10With the #SummerofSynth starting to come to a close we begin to wrap things up with another stellar release by Ethereal Delusions in the form of Ascension. After starting the summer with the release of the single “Wingman (featuring Noah Bernstein),” and then following that up with a collaborative album with KiLoSo entitled DAY|NIGHT (which unfortunately we haven’t got around to reviewing yet due to our hiatus), it ends with another full length album that is easily Ethereal Delusions’ best work yet.

The first song, “Vice,” is a tour de force in sound design with a booming voice over that literally sets the proverbial stage. As someone who grew up on watching shows like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, where a narrator spoke of controlling what you would see and hear, this track made me smile and the music that follows is equally impressive as a result. The next track, “Sunny Days,” also starts with a voice over and goes a bit more into the Ethereal Delusions mythos before transitioning into a straight up chill vibe.

I recall from an interview that Ethereal Delusions once did, as part of Locals Live on KBVR TV, that there is an underlying story which exists throughout his music and with tracks such as “Sunny Days” this continues to be fleshed out as a result. I admit that I am sucker for this kind of thing, and would like to know more about the story behind the music, but until the whole picture is revealed these little morsels are a nice taste to hold one over until the time is right.

Up next is “Wingman (featuring Noah Bernstein,” which I already talked about in great detail before, followed by “Friday Bounce (featuring Androck)” which is a hip hop infused track with some really slick rapping. “The Ethereal Delusion,” a hypnotic song with an otherworldly feel reminiscent of spacewave, is the break in the action to the four song block of tracks which feature other artists. “Night Terror (featuring DMH Musicworks)” is much more of a heavier track than those that came before, almost darksynth in its design, as it comes at you hard and with unrelenting fury in the form of an absolutely shredding guitar. “Getaway (featuring Flammen)” dials it back, coming down smooth, easy, and including impressive vocals that sound straight out of the early new wave movement.

“Unveiling” is much like “The Ethereal Delusion,” in that it gives you those spacewave vibes, but is also much more of a sinister slow jam in comparison as it’ll send a bit of a shiver up and down your spine.  That sense of dread continues twofold in “First Contact” as sirens seem to echo in the distance, a foreboding sound that heralds the coming of something not of this world. “Blood on the Waves” begins the assault proper, like boots on the ground for a shoreline assault, featuring a killer synth solo that leads the proverbial charge.

“The Resistance” fights back, pummeling the keys with precision, laying down on the sound and letting it wail a defiant cry which coalesces into “Hope.” This track is simply exquisite, featuring vocals from none other than Ethereal Delusions himself and he absolutely slays.  I can only hope that we shall hear more of his golden tones in the future, because he has the potential to rank up there with some of the best vocalists in the synthwave scene today for sure.

“Trigger Point” ends the album, coming at you loud and proud which is what can certainly be said for the album as a whole; Ethereal Delusions should be proud of this album as it loudly makes a mark not only as part of his discography but upon the synthwave scene as well. From the release of his first proper album, Shutter Shades, back in February to now he has come a long way in such a short amount of time. He has truly begun to ascend with no signs of coming back down anytime soon and I look forward to seeing where he soars off to next.

 

To delve deeper into the mind of Ethereal Delusions, we conducted an interview:

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Lightfrequency: Skyline Splitter

a2318103040_10Skyline Splitter is the debut album of Lightfrequency, the first solo effort by producer Mike Beaton into the realm of synthwave following his duo project of Big Lich with Patrick Stein. While Big Lich tends to rely less on the sounds of the synth and more on chiptune styled metal, thus creating a more heavy and aggressive tone, Lightfrequency is more or less as it’s name suggests: a lighter frequency of sound.

This is clearly evident from the start with the opening track, “Firebird,” which floats softly into your ears while conjuring up images of the titular sportscar driving along the coast. “Pink Shades” not only brings with it the sounds of the ocean just off that coast, but also a very chiptuned quality to it that almost plays like if Big Lich were to do a love ballad. There is also a particular soundcue in the middle of the track that I can’t quite place, other than to suggest that it sounds like the flippers on a pinball table. Either way, it works!

“Voltage Control” certainly cranks that light frequency up to eleven, delivering a banger that’ll get your adrenaline pumping and your body moving as it crosses itself over into the OutRun genre; I can personally attest to this after a listen while driving at night. “Check It Nice” brings the levels back down a bit, into a more mellow and sublime affair like “Firebird,” but still has that chillwave like quality to the sound as those chiptunes make a subtle return as well.

“Solo Run” is very akin to “Voltage Control,” by bringing the energy levels back up again, while “Skyline” brings those waves back from “Pink Shades” and closes out the album on another quite similar dreamlike note. All in all, while only six songs long, Skyline Splitter is an amazing showcase of Mike Beaton’s range of talents. Under Lightfrequency he is certainly more than capable of not only producing those fast paced songs, but also those of the slower variety, and with Big Lich he has also proved that he knows how to get real heavy too.

 

To further delve into his creative process, we conducted an interview with him:

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Nokogiri Nami Society presents “The Night Call: Vol. 1” in aid of Yorkshire Cancer Research!

Twitter friendly comp bannerIn a recent news post, where I announced the return of this blog from it’s month long hiatus, I mentioned a certain person by name who helped to design our new banner: Bernadas, one half of the UK based radio show The Night Call along with his friend James. Well, today I am extremely proud to announce that the two of them have started something special in the form of a new synthwave label entitled the Nokogiri Nami Society. Their first act is to put together a compilation of some top talent in the synthwave scene and donate 100% of the proceeds to Yorkshire Cancer Research (516898), which you can learn more about here: http://yorkshirecancerresearch.org.uk/strategy-and-objectives/

As for the Nokogiri Nami Society, they explain their own genesis as follows:

The Night Call started out in late 2015 on University Radio York as a two student foray into radio, begun out of a passion for the sounds of Drive, Hotline Miami and other pop-culture breakthroughs for the retrowave sound.

18222125_663210083884774_4050331025974339631_nTwo years later, after a deep dive into the fringes of the scene by bolstering relationships with huge and upcoming artists alike, including a successful campaign of interviews with the likes of Perturbator, The Midnight, VHS Glitch and more, The Night Call received the Gold Award for Best Specialist Music Show on University Radio York. The hosts, James and Bernardas (as well as a team of close friends), now present their most recent endeavor: the newly established label Nokogiri Nami Society and the first release under it’s belt entitled The Night Call: Vol. 1.

The Night Call: Vol. 1 is a compilation celebrating the recently passed anniversary of URY 101 which was a massive 101 hour open charity broadcast that the The Night Call was involved with proudly. One year after this inspirational event, The Night Call got in touch with sixteen artists to contribute tracks that received much love and airtime on URY and to once more raise funds for Yorkshire Cancer Research (516898).

Artwork SquareThose sixteen artists? An impressive list, for sure, with some even featuring new material that you’re not going to hear anywhere else for some time! These have been denoted with an asterix and information on such exclusivity to follow underneath in parentheses. Before we get to them, check out that rad art for the compilation over on the left. It was designed by Helen Bee and you can check out more of their work at helenbee.com!

Now, on to the lineup:

  1. The MidnightDays of Thunder
  2. Robert ParkerPromise
  3. Robots With RaygunsExcess
  4. Fatal FrictionKeep On Moving Up
  5. Absolute ValentinePolice Heartbreaker
  6. *The EncounterWOLF FANG (Rohga Armor Force) [Ft. Dimi Kaye]*
    • (Not available for purchase anywhere else. Track off upcoming EP with release date TBA.)
  7. NeoslaveWelcome… To Blood Arcade
  8. HexenkraftA Flame in the Void
  9. neon shudderThe Faceless
  10. *Highway SuperstarPrism Break*
    • (Not available for purchase anywhere else. Originally released on Soundcloud and New Retro Wave.)
  11. Brat’yaRadio
  12. *Vampire Step-DadSteady Pace*
    • (Exclusive preview of upcoming material. Won’t be out elsewhere for a while.)
  13. Ethereal DelusionsAlone In Space
  14. *Aegis VisitorHorizon Eyes*
    • (Preview of upcoming material. Originally was available as part of the Swedish Columbia Groupees Bundle. Now available once more on this compilation.)
  15. Slow ShiverSet in Stone
  16. IVERSEN – M E T L I N E B L U E S

But, wait, there’s more! Every donation of the compilation will enter you into a raffle to win one of three artwork prints signed by Absolute Valentine and Highway Superstar! Winners will be announced at the end of the fundraiser and prizes will ship worldwide. Now is probably a good of time as any to mention that this is a timed fundraiser. That’s right, starting today the fundraiser is officially on for only one month where it shall then conclude on September 16th.

Therefore, be sure to make your way over to the official Bandcamp page for Nokogiri Nami Society’s The Night Call: Vol. 1 and help them raise money for Yorkshore Cancer Research (516898) sooner rather than later to help a great cause and get some good tunes too: https://nokogirinami.bandcamp.com/

The Nokogiri Nami Society can be found on Facebook and Twitter

The Night Call can be found on Facebook and heard on University Radio York.

Yorkshire Cancer Research (516898) can be found at http://yorkshirecancerresearch.org.uk

Kill All Music releases the “Best of” Freeweights on Cassette!

KAM016_Front_01aFreeweights is a band that hasn’t been mentioned on this site before, which is a crime as their one of the most underrated synthpop acts out their right now, so what better way to get acquainted with them than through a “best of” album? I use quotes around “best of” because the ten tracks on this album are all the tracks that they’ve released thus far so, you might be therefore asking yourself, “how can this be a best of album if it contains all of their songs?” Simply put: all of their songs are the best. Period.

Let’s run them down, one by one, starting with “Your Design” which explodes right out the gate with slick sounds, catchy hooks, and exceptional energy which you’ll quickly notice come naturally for a band as talented as Freeweights. “Rust On My Heart” is a beautiful love ballad, a bit somber in tone, but one that’ll certainly shake any rust off your own heart and get it pumping in turn.

“Losing Sleep” is another quality slow jam and a great showcase of range in the form of the vocals, like a rollercoaster, with silky smooth whispers rising up and down alongside passionate crescendos. “Everyone Wants My Name” is a high energy track, starting with all cylinders already running and, just when you think it might start to slow down, it shifts gears and keeps the motor running into overdrive. “True To My Game” is a real toe tapper, a head bopper, the kind that’ll have you drumming along on your steering wheel as you’re cruising.

Now, while any of these songs could have easily appeared on the soundtrack to a movie made in the 1980’s, perhaps “Close Call” is the most likely contender. With one of the catchiest hooks of the lot, a screaming guitar solo, and over the top synth work it is a banger for sure. “Infinite Repeats” features some heavy bass work, keeping the beat going as the synths catch up, while the vocals continue to shine throughout for another sensational slow jam that you’ll want on repeat!

If there is any song that you may know Freeweights by before this review it might be “Living in a Studio,” which is at least the first song I heard from them, and perhaps it would therefore be leap of faith on my part to state it as the “single” from this album. Either way, this track absolutely slays from beginning to end by infusing their own style with a sense of disco by way of the new wave.

“Nothing to Burn” keeps the cross-genre love train coming, with some R&B sensibilities, and an incredible sexy sax solo that’ll make you wish it would have stuck around a bit longer as it helps to fade out the song. However, we’re not done here, as “Lightweight” ends the album proper. Similiar to “Close Call,” in that it has that overall epic feeling of being ripe for soundtrack consideration but, whereas the former was more for open credits, the latter is certainly for end credits as our heroes drive off into the night. Will we see a sequel? I hope so!

KAM016_TapeA_01aI can’t state this enough: Freeweights are criminally underrated and therefore I can only hope that, by joining forces with Kill All Music, they’re able to properly take the retrowave scene by storm and ascend the throne to become one of the best around.

Their album is being released on two differently colored cassette tapes to choose from and all for the low, low price of only $6.49 (plus shipping and handling); at that price point you can certainly afford to pick up both variants! I know I shall, so don’t delay and order today! Yes, that’s right, these bad boys are up for pre-order right now with an official street date set for August 25th! Still not convinced? Scope out the video below!

Hailing from Helsinki, Finland, the synthpop band known as Freeweights can be found through their personal website at FreeweightsBand.com as well as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Their music can be found on Soundcloud, Spotify, and YouTube

Based out of Los Angeles, California, Kill All Music is a majestic beast of an independent music anti-label that you should follow over on Facebook and Twitter before buying something at KillxAllxMusic.com

 

Computronic: Even the Score

a2706645173_10Recently, over on their blog, Bandcamp wrote up an article about how artists have been utilizing synths to create soundtracks for imaginary movies. I have not only seen this stated in a number of interviews that I have read, but personal discussions I have had with a few producers collaborate this as well, for many of those within the synthwave community were indeed inspired by the synth-ladened soundtracks of yesteryear.

Therefore, it should really come as no surprise that this is a phenomenon within the scene. However, this is not to say that every approach to this idea is the same as some provide little detail while others go into great detail about the story, or film, that the music is trying to accompany. If anything, these “faux-soundtracks” are akin to concept albums and therefore, while not only relying on the theater of the mind, they also rely heavily on the information that is provided either before, during, or after listening like a sort of radio play.

In the case of Even the Score, by Computronic, the soundtrack is complimented by voice overs from track-to-track which help to tell a story which is quintessentially 1980’s in design and structure: Rick Donald is an avid gamer who works at a local arcade which is owned and operated by Lou Armstrong. After being shamefully defeated by a rival gamer by the name of Tommy Skors at said arcade, while on a date with his girlfriend Sam, Rick receives news that Mr. Armstrong is retiring and looking to sell the arcade. Therefore, to save the arcade and his pride, Rick enters the Megacade contest only to once again come face to face with Tommy Skors in the final round. I won’t give away the ending, as I implore you to listen to the soundtrack yourself, but I will say that the journey is quite a ride from start to finish which is really how you should listen!

“Even the Score (featuring Becca Starr Bird)” is akin to the opening credit song of the movie, with the title of the film and the song being one in the same, and I could totally have seen this being a hot summer single to go along with the flick; which I guess it is in a way? Either way, “Ready Runner One” follows it up and is perfect montage music to go along with taking a run, because what would a 1980’s inspired movie be without a montage? Speaking of things that such a movie could not be without is a love song, and “Love is Innocent (featuring Vicky Harrison)” is one such song that is beautifully done. “Step Aside” is when things get interesting, and could be considered a battle song in many respects, with laser sounds that’ll be sure to get your adrenaline up. Also, there are a couple of guitar solos in the song by Powernerd Paddy that simply scream!

“Running the Storm (featuring Vandal Moon)” is that kind of song which tends to play when the hero of the story is at their lowest, wandering around aimlessly and wondering where it all went wrong, and the song itself is simply marvelous in capturing that raw emotion of helplessness before transitioning into pure hope. “Facelift” brings that hope to the forefront, and another bit of montage music, with the kind that involves a group coming together to fix up a place and return it to it’s former glory. “Wishing (featuring Historiaster),” which has amazing vocals, also features guitar work by Vampire Step-Dad (he also plays Mike, Rick’s friend!) and is another inspirational love song that pulls at the heart.

“Megacade” is what I consider to be part one of the climax to the film, setting the stage and the stakes, before going all-in on the ultimate showdown. “All or Nothing” is the second half of that climax and it is one hell of a race, literally and figuratively, as throughout the song the Megacade Announcer calls the action with such an intensely frantic tone that you can’t help but become instantly invested in the outcome. Also, the sheer number of references crammed into his dialogue just made me laugh and smile. The music itself is equally intense as the tempo rises with every beat and audience reaction; your pulse will be rising.

“Level Up” serves as the end credits song, although not before giving us the results of the competition, but again I won’t spoil the ending. What I will tell you is that, much like a lot of faux-soundtracks, I wish this was a real movie. While the theater of the mind is a wonderful thing, and every listener will envision things differently not unlike reading a book, I would still clamor for an actual movie to go along with this music. I stated before that it follows a common formula of 1980’s films, but this is not to say it isn’t unique; I believe it to be an all around genuine product that gives you a real good feeling in turn. You can tell that a lot of time, attention and love when into this and it’s those qualities which help to make anything special of which this album most certainly qualifies.

 

Computronic can be found on Twitter and Facebook

Even the Score is available on Bandcamp by way of TimeSlave Recordings.

The Heavy Haul: June – July, 2017

As I mentioned in a prior news post, while Watermelon Banzai is indeed my main focus, I am also proud to be apart of Heavy Blog is Heavy where I write the occasional review and article about synthwave. I decided that, in order to further highlight the work that I do over there, every month I would post links to said writings over here. In order to spice things up a bit, so it’s not just a “link dump,” I will also be providing some additional insight and commentary!

So, without further ado:

Heavy Blog’s Top 25 Albums of 2017 (So Far) [June 30th, 2017]

I’ll be completely honest: I don’t like lists. I find that, all too often, it leads to people either feeling left out or disagreeing on the order of said list even when there isn’t supposed to be any sort of hierarchy involved. Regardless, I was tasked with writing about the self titled debut album of ZETA and if you were unaware of them before now, much like I was before I started writing about them, then you need to correct that as soon as possible. I won’t say anymore, as I encourage you to hit that link above and read what I wrote, other than you should totally read the other items on this list too! If lists do anything, I suppose, it’s to at least make you aware of things you never knew about before.

Sekond Prime: Arrival EP [July 12, 2017]

While but a short four song EP, although there are currently offerings of a couple singles on their Bandcamp as well, each track on here brilliantly shines like a star which altogether make up the constellation known only as Sekond Prime. While I have used the term “spacewave” before, specifically in my review of Primorph as a term of endearment for synthwave that gives one the feeling of being in space, Sekond Prime has completely embraced the subgenre to which I am more than happy to stamp my approval. That all said, be sure to hit that link above and cruise through cyberspace to read my proper review.

Flash Cassette: Self Titled LP

a2685229850_10We’ve been under a bit of a heat wave here during the Summer of Synth but, after listening to Flash Cassette‘s latest ice-cold single, “Long Island Iced Tea”, I was inspired to keep the party cool and rocking by pulling up their debut self-titled full-length album.

The tracks displays a wide range of moods that reflect the time period the music is steeped in. First Wave/Light Storm starts with a disco-infused beat, layering in swirling, cold keys, before transitioning to an Atari/Commodore-esque melody, audio fuzz and all, layered with some cleaner keys that remind me of the Sega sound chip, and of course it gets nice and crunchy. Meanwhile Aurora has a much more somber tone, along the lines of the post-punk/synth-pop music that was flourishing in the same timeframe, and it is just as energetic as any other song on the album.

Alpha Beta Gamma Disco Parts One & Two are both awesome, funky tunes that will keep you moving, no matter what you’re doing. I won a dance contest at work I didn’t know about without leaving my desk chair. If you can’t bob your head to every track on this album, you’re trying to groove too hard- ease up! Maybe you need to let Star Drive take control, guiding you into a groove with its crisp kicks and trippy light fantastic synths.  If you’re trying to be low-key and want to keep the party chill, Sundown is a relaxed track that gives you a chance to recover from rocking so hard, while keeping the energy up.

If the title doesn’t set the tone enough for you, Flux Capacitor fires up a driving beat to eighty-eight miles per hour with bass that rolls over you like waves of time, as keys swirl above like storming clouds. Seventh Wave is similarly evocative, keeping you tapping your toe and bobbing your head, ready to hit the repeat button, which I have several times on this record.

For all the great beats across this album, Cassette’s Revenge might be my favorite. It drips synth swag, with a punchy bass line that will get you out of your seat and onto the floor. It doesn’t care if you don’t think you can dance, because you can now; embrace the music, rock to Flash Cassette!

Sometimes, in addition to making you dance like a boss while sitting in traffic, music has the ability to create a time and a place. Flash Cassette’s debut pulses with the catchy electronic rhythms of 80s/early-90s arcades and dance clubs I’d hear about from my older sisters, while I would be at home playing NES and copying their Depeche Mode tapes. This album grooves from beginning to end, mixing vintage electronic vibes and current sensibilities into timeless tunes.

State of the Site Address III: The Return

I’ve been told that I can be a bit of a long winded bastard, so I’ll try to keep this brief but also informative: Watermelon Banzai is back, baby! Now, first and foremost, you may have noticed the fresh coat of paint at the top of the site in the form of a new banner. That slick looking visage was designed by Bernardas, better known as one half of The Night Call, and the imagery begs to ask a question: who thinks that radical design would look great on a shirt?

Anyway, this banner exemplifies the new direction to which I am steering the site. Don’t worry, there will still be coverage of synthwave music, but now we’re going even further than that as there will also be articles and features covering cult movies, retro video games, and live streaming on Twitch with additional video and audio content! Either way you slice it, the pedal is to the metal and the gear shift is broken off, stuck on overdrive, so strap in and get ready because you never know what we are going to post next!

Thank you, once again, for all your support! ❤

State of the Site Address II: Hiatus Boogaloo

It is with a heavy heart, and after much deliberation, in which I unfortunately have to announce that Watermelon Banzai is going on hiatus for the entire month of July. To pull back the curtain a bit, and let you know where this is coming from, Watermelon Banzai is a labor of love by one person: me.

Who am I? By day I am an archivist, scanning documents to be digitized and maintaining a physical archive at the same time, but at night I have been taking online courses towards earning my Master’s Degree. For some time this was fine, as a normal semester during the spring and fall is about 17 weeks, thus the workload is spread out enough to where it didn’t interfere too much with my free time wherein I mainly focused on Watermelon Banzai.

However, a summer semester is only about 7 weeks, and therefore the time and attention needed to focus on the condensed workload can often get hectic. Then you go and double that, as I am taking two classes, and it becomes even more of a burden in terms of leaving me with little to no free time to which Watermelon Banzai has regrettably suffered as a result.

Updates have been few and far between, I have shamefully made broken promises on coverage, and I just think that I need to take a step back and focus on finishing school first and foremost as not to further tarnish not only my reputation but that of Watermelon Banzai as well. I started this site because I love to write, and I love the synthwave scene, so it made sense to combine those two loves together into one so that I could help to support such an amazing community of artists.

So to not give it my all as of late has left me feeling not only frustrated and disappointed in myself but it made me feel the need to apologize to all of you and explain my circumstances. These two classes that I am taking this summer are the final two classes that I need in order to finally earn my Master’s Degree, thus they obviously mean a lot to me, and that is why they will be taking up all of my time and attention during the month of July.

Once July is over these classes are also over, and school is out forever, thus the beginning of August shall signal the end of this hiatus and Watermelon Banzai will be back on track to full force, and then some, because I have big plans for the future of the site. That is a promise.

In terms of my involvement with Heavy Blog is Heavy: I will still be writing over there during the month of July where I am more fortunate in the sense that I am a small fish in a big pond, therefore my expected update schedule on that site is a little bit more relaxed. Nevertheless, in the end, just know that Watermelon Banzai was, is and always will be a top priority for me as a creative outlet. It has opened so many doors for me, allowed me to meet some amazing people, support wonderful artists and their music as a result.

I never want to lose that ever.

Thank you for understanding and I’ll see you on the 8th of August!