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!

Nikolai T. Nelson

Die Scum Inc: The Epoch Code

a1532887824_10I like to imagine that Die Scum Inc. is some kind of low-budget movie studio that actually puts all of said budget into their soundtracks, pumping out the hits to go along with their theater of the mind flicks (what they lovingly call “Notion Pictures”), and if their first release of “My Fist is Fight” was their fatal fury foray into the Martial Arts/Action section of the cerebral video tape rental store, than “The Epoch Code” is certainly their other worldly cyber invasion onto the shelves of the Sci-Fi/Thriller genre and it will infect you.

As Die Scum Inc. themselves explain, they “want you to imagine a dystopian near future, and let your imagination and the song titles take you from there.” Which is exactly what I intend to do, starting with Reports In, as a haunting technological melody awakens me to the dawn of a new day in this mortal coil. It’s my cell phone, it’s the chief, and there’s been a report of an incident involving my partner not too far from my arcology unit.

I am a First Responder and, after hopping into my car, I am out of the garage and hitting the rain slicked yet still dirty streets. Much like the song, I am trying to OutRun time, with a pulse pounding and adrenaline fueled beat, white knuckles on the wheel as I weave in and out of traffic.

I arrive on the scene, the sound of rain still falling off the awnings of nearby buildings, a crowd already formed and murmuring about the dead body on the ground while sirens continue to roar in the distance. The body, still warm, is my now former partner. His Investigator Chip has been removed, signs of the long thought gone “Parts Killer,” and thus a Cold Case reopens.

He once left me for dead, the infamous “Parts Killer,” a worthy Adversary if ever there was one. Memories of that night continue to haunt me, like a pounding and unrelenting beat, much like my footfalls across the rooftops, sounding like claps in the night. I will never forget The Encounter that we had, when I eventually caught up to him, a battle of mostly man vs. mostly machine with the sounds of lasers, tires screeching in the night, lightning crackling in the sky and my meaty fist slamming against metal like a furious drum beat.

But it was not enough and, as I lay there coughing up my own blood, the “Parts Killer” ripped out my cybernetic eye. I screamed out in pain, clutching the combination of sinew and circuits oozing out of my face, and it was then that the “Parts Killer” explained to me his plan and what it would mean for me and rest of humanity that did not willingly comply.

“It will be paradise,” he explained, “all entities united under one central neural processor, moving to the same hypnotic beat, like under the spell of a piper’s music as it ebbs and flows in perfect harmony. It’ll make you want to dance, like in a trance; I call it Humanity 2.0!” With that, he left me to die, or so he thought as luckily my partner showed up to save me just in time.

If only I could have returned the favor, I think to myself, as I instinctively brush the hair away from my eye patch; old habits die hard. I search the body of my fallen compatriot and find something interesting in his coat pocket, the business card of a local radio station, and that’s when I’m hit with a series of Revelations.

I hop back in my car and head for the radio station, tuning my radio to it’s frequency, where I’m met with DJ banter before he introduces the song. It’s an upbeat track, the kind that will make you drum along on your steering wheel and dance in your seat, and I’ll admit that for a moment there I forgot all about my troubles in the world. But then things quickly turned sinister.

The “Parts Killer” was now on the air, spouting his next-stage of humanity bullshit again, and I knew that I was on the right path. However, that path soon diverged as my car spinned out of control as if it had a mind of it’s own and all I could do was brace for impact. I crashed into a wall and laid motionless, the world became blurry, but I could still hear the “Part’s Killer” off in the distance…

“I have unleashed a new age upon this world, thanks to all the parts that I have collected over the years, for they have granted me the necessary security clearances and technology to advance the human race. That beat that you hear in your mind now, those electronic impulses that come together to produce those euphoric synthetic sounds, they are your new gospel and I am your god. Gone are the days of individual humanity, for now is the age of a collective computer consciousness, you’re all one with the electronic music; The Epoch Code!”

Of course, that was just my personal interpretation, but again like Die Scum Inc explained themselves the purpose of their music is to lose yourself in it and fill in the blanks yourself. It’s that overall approach by Die Scum Inc that I really appreciate and I feel sets them apart because, while there is nothing wrong with having a predetermined story behind your music, such as a concept album, sometimes it’s worth it to just let the listener escape into a world of their own.

Synth Spotlight: Vampire Step-Dad

0005214567_10Today is Father’s Day and I therefore thought that now would be as great a time as any to shine the ol’ Synth Spotlight on everyone’s favorite supernatural surrogate patriarch: Vampire-Step Dad!

I already reviewed his latest and greatest release, “Love Bites,” which again is amazing but when you reach a certain age you just have to ask your father the really tough and awkward questions, like why is “My Biological Father a Werewolf“?

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Gloom Influx: First LP

a1686032119_10The “First LP” by Gloom Influx is, simply put, pure unadulterated and infectious high energy from start to finish. With an impressive range of synth work, shredding guitars, hard driving chiptunes, and blast processing beats this release is one that you cannot miss and, for my money, is already a contender for one of the best releases this year. Also, how amazing is that artwork by SWZ? Vinyl worthy! *hint*

The first track, Entropy, kicks things off with some subdued sound before ramping up into overdrive like a spaceship passing through the atmosphere. This song has it all with both synths and guitar in a duel for supremacy before being silenced by a nice breakdown featuring some sultry sax-like sounds.

Transient features some of that hard driving chiptuning that I mentioned earlier, which reminded me a bit of Master Boot Record, and here it’s used as a nice backing complementary to the overarching beat of the song by helping to give it a nice edge. Afterminage, in comparison to the songs that have come before it at this point in the album, is a much more relaxed and chill affair for the most part but it still manages to ramp up the difficulty on the beats at just the right moments. Obsidiane is simply an epic track, featuring choir-like vocals, an up and down range of emotions hitting you with dreamy synth work complimented by the more hard hitting guitar. It’s an all around delight.

Anodizer ramps the intensity back up, assaulting your senses with more of that chiptune goodness, and helps give you that real feeling of being able to overcome the odds and accomplish anything; like the kind of music that would play over an intense boss fight. Of course, like any boss fight, once it’s over you’re happy to find that next Checkpoint and the song of the same name on this album also has that ability to fill you up with an equal sense of exuberant relief; Continue?

Yes, with Aeons, which slows things down a little bit by providing a more haunting and cryptic sound but keeping it heavy all the same throughout. Plus, those choir-like vocals make a comeback too, which again not only gives it an epic feel but at points can send a shiver up and down your spine. Metropolis, the last track on the album, is in a way a more technological affair than most of the other songs; it has this way about it which is very reminiscent of Snatcher.

Gloom Influx - First LP - album-backcoverOverall, the “First LP” from Gloom Influx is an incredible ride, and I implore you to pick it up today as well as their “First EP” because they are both extremely well put together and polished releases. As I said before, this is easily in early considerations for one of the best albums out so far this year, and I am already waiting in anticipation for the “Next EP” or “Next LP” to come out in the future!

Magic Dance: Vanishings

a2535849606_10This is one release that I have been wanting to highlight for some time now because I feel it’s a great example of just how many different types of acts there are out there in the synthwave, retrowave, and other genres influenced by the 1980’s.

Also, at least for me, it’s another prime candidate to point to when the debate about vocals is brought up. To me, I can go either way, but always make it a point to acknowledge just how amazing some vocalists out there really are and Magic Dance knocks it out of the park.

Now, before talking about the music any further, I just want to point out the amazing cover art done by Nick Taylor. Like something straight out of Fright Night, this visage of an old house in the suburbs illuminated in the night by a full moon just oozes a dark and foreboding presence, especially with that mysterious figure in the window. Of course, looks can be deceiving.

For stepping inside unleashes upon your ears not anything so dark and sinister but quite the opposite, in fact, as you discover one of the most surprising and rewarding pop rock albums to come out in some time. While these songs were certainly influenced by the 1980’s, they also could have been released in the same decade, finding homes on a number of movie and television soundtracks.

For example, “Another Lost Boy” would have certainly worked well in the movie of the same name, whereas “I Wanna Know” (my favorite track on the album) would have been amazing in a John Hughes film, and “Still Haunting Me” could have worked well in a certain movie about ghosts. All of these songs, and the rest on the album, are so tightly written with catchy hooks, memorable lyrics that you can sing along to, and with top notch production they are therefore just plain fun. So do yourself a favor, if you haven’t yet, and enjoy some Magic Dance!

State of the Site Address

When I started Watermelon Banzai not even a little over two months ago I had but one goal in mind and that was, simply put, to support the synthwave scene. Through my reviews, interviews, and features I think that I have accomplished just that and more in such a short amount of time. I have networked, made friends, discovered acts and helped get them noticed, seen my readership, viewer count, and social media presence continue to grow to which I say to all of that: thank you.

If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be writing this right now, and you wouldn’t be reading it, because as much as the initial goal for this site was to support the synthwave scene it is amazing just how much support I have received back from them and others in turn. Truth be told, if it wasn’t for a select few who encouraged me and pushed me over that proverbial edge, I would have never even started out on this path. Yet the support never ended there at the starting line, as it continues to this very day, and therefore I wanted to take this time to make a very special announcement.

I was recently contacted by another music oriented website, Heavy Blog is Heavy, about joining their staff in order to write a monthly column that will highlight the synthwave scene for their readers. To say I was surprised, honored, and all sorts of other whirlwind emotions is an understatement. I am not usually one to be at a loss for words, but the fact that they enjoyed my work so much and saw fit to extend an offer such as this left me utterly speechless.

Thankfully, after about a day to take it all in, I did eventually find my words and accepted.

So, what does this mean for Watermelon Banzai? Nothing, really, as I plan to continue operations around here pretty much as normal but will now just have one additional avenue for doing what I’ve loved doing since I started: supporting the synthwave scene.

Now, as I keep alluding to throughout this poor attempt at a “press release,” I never got into this for personal gain but feel it’s important to acknowledge it when it happens and it never would have happened without your support. Therefore I will also never take that for granted, this is my promise to you, and I look forward to starting this next chapter in my adventure together with all of you very soon.

Again, and always, I thank you.

– Nikolai T. Nelson

Greyskull: Eighties Kids

a0296667320_10As I mentioned in my day one recap of the Human Music Festival, before even entering the building I randomly bumped into Greyskull, which was amazing as much as it was unfortunate. What I mean by this is that, by such an act of happenstance, Greyskull officially became the first synthwave producer that I’ve ever met in person.

Unfortunately, due to the randomness of our encounter, I was woefully unprepared to capitalize on the moment and let it slip through my fingers. While we would later swap words on Twitter during the show, I felt as though this long overdue review is partly my way of saying sorry and that next year, at the 2018 Human Music Festival, I hope that we can reconnect for real as I also hopefully watch him get to play on stage!

It was a shame he couldn’t do so this year, because he absolutely deserves the opportunity, especially with such a fantastic album as “Eighties Kids” on his musical resume. The album as a whole is like the soundtrack to one’s youth, not simply thanks to the title of each song, but particularly in the emotions that each track manages to encapsulate about one’s more carefree and innocent days:

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Synth Spotlight: DREDDD

0010374517_10I am convinced that DREDDD is a machine of some sort, perhaps a half-man/half-synth hybrid, built in a lab deep underneath Mega City One. I say this because, not just a couple months ago, I reviewed his first album entitled “I Am DREDDD” which was quite the pulse-pounding and adrenaline-pumping debut. In that time he has since released three more albums, a single for Alien Day, a sampler of his work in partnership with Echosynthetic, has a Versus album with FacexHugger due out soon, and a live show is on the horizon. While we sleep… he synths.

Seriously though, on a personal level, I feel both proud of his accomplishments after first being highlighted on my site and ashamed of myself in not doing more to cover him since then. Regardless, consider this spotlight less an excuse for me to try and catch up with DREDDD and more to help bring you up to speed with what he has to offer before the big fight, because there’s no chance in hell that I’m going to miss out on covering that Versus album with FacexHugger.

As mentioned before, I already reviewed his first album “I Am DREDDD,” so let’s begin our spotlight with his second which is simply entitled “EP2.” Now, I won’t go through each and every song, rather I’ll just run down some of the highlights.

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