With 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:
Watermelon Banzai: The Summer of Synth is coming to an end. In the past three months you’ve released a single, a collaborative album, and a new full length. How are you feeling right now? As you look back on this past summer, what are your thoughts?
Ethereal Delusions: I’m feeling really good. I feel like I’ve accomplished what I wanted to do. When I released Shutter Shades, back in February, I was out to really announce myself to the scene. I just wanted to make some fun tunes and be able to have people point to that and say “that’s good music, I enjoyed it.”
When I was going into summer, I wanted to one up myself. I started throwing around the “summer of synth” thing as a way to get people excited about all the music that myself and my friends were putting together. I really felt like I wanted to make this summer a real bullet point in the history of the scene. I definitely did not expect that people would start running with it and really make the last three months the most dynamic as a result.
I started to shift my focus to my album around May. I had finished “Wingman” around then and really felt some momentum building. I had planned to release another EP over the summer, but then an entire album came out of nowhere.
Watermelon Banzai: On Ascension you had a number of tracks featuring other artists. Can you take us behind each of these? How did they come about? Is there a way to dig deeper into their own projects for those interested?
Ethereal Delusions: “Wingman” was a cool track that I wrote back in late winter using a sax synth as the lead. When I played it for a friend, he suggested that I contact his friend Noah Bernstein. Noah is an incredible saxophonist who is an improv jazz master. I sent him the track with a melody written. I told him he was free to come up with anything else he could think of and, man, did he ever!
“Night Terror” was a song that I did with my good friend DMH Musicworks AKA Darrell Hunt. Darrell is an incredible guitarist. He was my guitar teacher. I learned a lot from him. He gave me my love of progressive music and a lot of the ideas that I express in my music. The idea for the song came from the fact that I have suffered from night terrors my whole life. The monolog on the album leading into the song is actually based on my personal experiences. The song is really a full 50/50 collaboration between Darrell and myself. I came up with a short Idea and sent the track to him and he sent back some amazing stuff. It really came to be one of the favorite tracks I’ve ever been involved with.
“Friday Bounce” was a track that I really wanted to try to push some boundaries. My two favorite kinds of music are progressive rock and hip hop. I think it’s kind of obvious if you listen to my music. This track was a little less subtle. I really hit you in the mouth with the hip hop on this one, really tell people “get you a man who can do both.” Androck aka Mitch is a friend of mine. I produced a track with KiLoSo for Mitch as Holy Shannon for his first album. I wanted to try to combine my love of synthwave and hip hop. I like to think that I did. I wrote the beat, and the song, then sent it to Mitch and he sent back straight fire. All in all, I think that my collaborators took my album to an incredible level. A far better one then I ever thought possible.
Then last, but certainly not least, “Getaway” came out of some encouragement and a friendship on Twitter. “Getaway,” in it’s very form, was actually an idea that got lost until after Shutter Shades came out. I wasn’t very sure about it. I was kind of liking it and kind of hating it. I played it for my friend Fabio and he went nuts for it. He begged me to finish it, so I did. It was actually one of the first songs that I finished for the album, several months in advance. A while after I finished the song, I started chatting with Flammen on Twitter. We started chatting and struck up a friendship. He sent me some of his music and I was so impressed with his voice. I shared a couple of tracks with him and he loved it so I sent it off to him. What I got back blew me away. I never expected to get back what I got back. I knew Jake was a really good singer, but he made “Getaway” something special!
Watermelon Banzai: Is there anyone that you would like to collaborate with in the future?
Ethereal Delusions: I would love to work with more people in the scene. I love collaborating because, besides the process being a blast, I love working with other artists and seeing what and how they do what they do. I really get a lot out of the process. It really helps me grow as a musician the more I work with others. I would love to make a track with Vampire Step-Dad, Das Mortal, Carpenter Brut, Dance with The Dead, Wolf and Raven, everyone really; I just want to work with all my favorites! I think the more collaboration in the scene the better.
Watermelon Banzai: As one of a handful of synthwavers that have successfully made the transition to doing live shows, do you have any advice for those looking to do so?
Ethereal Delusions: I was very nervous and not really wanting to be a performer when I started. I was in music school at the time, so of course performing was necessary. I had performed as part of an orchestra, but never on my own. The first couple shows I did I was very nervous and had a hard time. After some sage advice from a friend, I started to feel more confident and excited to perform. That was a turning point.
Since then, all I want to do is perform. The best advice I can give is “Just Do It”. I was lucky that I was in school and was forced to perform. If you aren’t in that environment, try filming yourself playing your music or stream yourself playing. If you can get people together and go to a local club or venue, and offer to provide some entertainment, then you can get your foot in the door. The more time you spend doing it, the wider appeal you’ll have, the more eyes and ears on your product you have.
Watermelon Banzai: What’s on your preferred pizza and in your ideal burrito?
Ethereal Delusions: FINALLY. The question in every interview that I’ve been more prepared for than you will ever know!
I’m quite passionate about pizza. With my family being Italian, this is something that’s very important to me. I frequent all the pizza places around Corvallis, Oregon to the point where I’m known by my friends as the expert on where to go. I think sometimes I overwhelm people when they ask me where they should go and I come back asking about unnecessarily specific advice about who has the best crust, toppings, sauce, etc. I’m like the “Report of The Week” about Corvallis, Oregon pizza!
I tend to like any kind of pizza, but really my favorite is a very simple one: just pepperoni with pesto. No tomato sauce, just pesto, pepperoni and cheese. The crust though has to be good. My mom, nanni and family have always made big thick Focaccia like crust with spices and garlic. It’s so good. I really miss my mom’s pizza. I haven’t had it in several years.
As for burritos, I love them too. Mexican food is my favorite food that I have no cultural affiliation with. The different regions of Mexico have such wonderful and diverse food traditions, very much akin to Italian culture. I am 100% serious when I say, before I met my wife Rhonda, I considered learning Spanish and moving to Mexico solely for the food.
I firmly believe that the burrito is nature’s perfect food. Filling, nutritious, and delicious, all in a compact and easily handled package. There is a local Mexican restaurant called La Rokita that makes my favorite burritos. All burritos are better than no burritos, but the best is a chorizo, egg and potato with queso fresco and the spiciest mole roja you can muster!
Watermelon Banzai: There is a bit of an underlying story that is subtly hinted at throughout your music, have you ever thought of expanding on it beyond your music and into some other format as a companion piece?
Ethereal Delusions: When I told people there was a story about my album, everyone said that I should do a film or a graphic novel companion. I’ve heard a lot from people that my music is very “cinematic”. I think I’ve just started to embrace that tag. I am very much a person formed by my personal loves and experiences. One of those many things is watching movies, especially epic science fiction. Things like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Halo and Star Trek. I’ve started now to think of my music as scores for films that don’t exist yet. I would love to score a film or be involved with film making someday.
Watermelon Banzai: What’s next for Ethereal Delusions?
Ethereal Delusions: There’s lots on the horizon!
I’m doing a small regional tour with some other synthwave acts around the Northwest in the next couple weeks. I’m touring with Wolftron, KiLoSo and Shades-Triangle. We’ll be playing Portland, Seattle and a couple other dates along the way. I also have three shows coming at the end of September in Portland, Seattle and Everett, WA.
I’m working on new material. I’m looking to put out a release of some kind in the next couple months. I’ll have some more fun collaborations soon too, with familiar names as well as some newcomers. I’m working on a huge project with a friend that I think a lot of people will be excited about, but we are still in the very early stages of that right now. There’s lots of cool stuff happening.
I think you’ll think it’s cool too once you see it!
Ascension is available on Bandcamp by way of TimeSlave Recordings.