“Life Sim Cafe” by Gyoza King

a3209275429_10Gyoza King is another side project for neon shudder, who also produces under low.poly.exception, and their album Life Sim Cafe is like an eclectic mix of drinks off its retro-electro menu. As the album art might suggest there’s a bit of a 1990’s video game vibe to be found within but it’s so much more than that as its influences further range from anime to synthwave. It’s altogether lighter fare than what they usually produce, which is nice as it shows their range, so sit back, relax, and enjoy.

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The Sub-Genrefication of Synthwave

sub-genres

There inevitably comes a time in any musical genre when those within its collective scene will try to break it down further into even smaller and separate scenes, like cliques within a high school, to what is more commonly referred to as a “sub-genre.” Unfortunately, this can lead to a bit of unnecessary in-fighting about who is or isn’t in what sub-genre, what those sub-genres are actually called, and if they even exist at all. Worse yet it can lead to “gatekeeping,” which is akin to a doorman at an exclusive club who won’t let you in unless you meet a certain level of criteria or slip them ten bucks for entry if you’re that desperate.

So how does one define a sub-genre?

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“Everending Summer” by Die Scum Inc.

a2757040334_10Today is the start of summer, according to science, and therefore (according to me) it’s also (once again) the summer of synth! So let’s kick things off appropriately with the newest album by Die Scum Inc. entitled “Everending Summer” which, according to them, “seeks to capture the childhood nostalgia of the all too short Canadian summer. The long drives in the back of your parent’s car, nights in the arcade, and days on the lake.”

Die Scum Inc. further claim that “Everending Summer” is a bit of a departure from their “Notion Picture Soundtrack” format which their last two albums, My Fist is Fight and The Epoch Code, were known for but I would argue that it’s really not all that much of a musical detour in hindsight. In case you’re not familiar with their “Notion Picture Soundtrack” concept it’s all about the music with little to no story or background provided. This is done simply so that your mind can fill in the blanks and therefore make up your own narrative along the way.

While “Everending Summer” does have a supplied narrative, namely that of an ode to their memories of Canadian summers during their childhoods, I think I can safely declare that the music is actually quite universal in its ability to invoke similar memories of summer days gone-bye from many a childhood. Which is to say that I too can recall summers down by the lake, at the arcade, and trips in the car with my parents all the same while listening to the album.

However that is not to say that my memories of such are the same as Die Scum Inc. or anyone else listening to this album, of course not, but my overall point here is that Die Scum Inc. have somehow managed to expertly tap directly into the essence of those memories to create such sounds which can so clearly resonate. It’s not unlike a rock being dropped into the middle of a lake, water rippling outward in its wake, as it’s initial effect can still be felt by others across the waves of time. That is why I feel that “Everending Summer” is, in fact, the “Notion Picture Soundtrack” to summer, personal or otherwise, in such a regard.

Oh yeah and if you want this album on cassette, or their previous two albums as well for that matter, then head on over to DieScumInc.com for more information!

Limited Edition “Outrun the Sun” Compilation Cassette Tape from Kill All Music!

There was a time when I would buy just about every synthwave cassette tape that I came across and can therefore boast a pretty notable collection as a result. However in the past year or so, due mostly in part to student loans kicking into repayment, I’ve become a bit more strategic in my purchases not only in terms of physical synthwave media but with just about everything else in life too. It’s mostly due to this that, as much as I had intended to go, I will unfortunately be unable to attend the Outrun the Sun festival this weekend in Los Angeles which is being brought to you by the wonderfully amazing folks over at NEO-LA.

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Check out the Facebook event pages for Day 1 and Day 2 of Outrun the Sun!

I am devastated by this for many reasons, such as I will not be able to see some great acts perform live and therefore support the synthwave scene in turn as well as meet some friends, but I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that I had also hoped to score myself a limited edition cassette tape made specifically for the event…

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The Wrestlefication of Synthwave

In the 1980’s the world of pop culture saw a meteoric rise of two media entities which would encompass the decade as a whole with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and Music Television (MTV). Therefore it should have come to no surprise that the two would eventually cross paths, team up, and unleash their combined mega powers onto the whole wide world with what would eventually become known simply as the “Rock and Wrestling Connection.”

b50f953cc0020e049cf34bb5f9c8ca2aIt made sense, in many ways, as wrestling and music (especially that of the 1980’s) are not all that different from one another what with the performance aspect, the over the top (rope) theatrics, and larger than life personalities. This rise in national exposure through cable television for both the WWF and MTV meant that, in order to stand out and be noticed, wrestlers and musicians alike had to be bigger, badder, and louder than the next act and this was often accomplished through adopting a certain type of persona, gimmick, or aesthetic.

Now I’m not going to ramble on and on here without acknowledging that adopting a persona in music is nothing new. That would be foolish of me because it’s obviously a practice which was going on well before the 1980’s. That said, it would also be foolish of me to try and name all of them or to even try and trace the origin of such a practice back through the history of music itself; that’s not the point of this article. The point of this article is that, over the years, I’ve come to realize that synthwave is a very unique genre in the sense that it is awash with those who have taken up such personas more so than I think any other genre really has before so quickly, save for maybe those genres which are truly niche like psychobilly for example. (I really reccomend some Deadbolt.)

wwf-wrestling-album-foldout-cover

Sure, one could probably make an argument for just about any genre having its fair share of personas but there’s just some inherent quality to synthwave, and in a way electronic music as a whole, which lends itself to the concept just a little bit more and the parallels to professional wrestling are abound in this respect.

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“Last Memento” by Lazerstar

lazerstarThey say you only get one chance to make a first impression and, in the case of music, that usually occurs during the opening track of an album as it’s meant to set the mood for what will follow, like the opening scene in a movie or the first chapter of a book, and (un?)fortunately that’s the only glaring flaw on this otherwise fantastic album.

“Night Drive,” the aforementioned kickoff song, ticks off a bit too many boxes of what has now become cliche tropes in a synthwave track. Sounds of a cassette tape being loaded? Check. Increasing drums while a car revs up and speeds away? Check. I could go on, but let me stress one important thing here: it’s not a bad track, per say, but in comparison to the rest of the album it feels slightly off like playing a game of “one of these things is not like the others.” It sets you up to think that the rest of the album will just be your traditionally average synthwave fare, yet it’s anything but as it stands proudly tall on its own which is a relief.

Perhaps more so than a relief, and more like a breath of fresh air, as each subsequent track moves away from that more generic synthwave sound and nestles in quite nicely among what some might call “future funk,” “synthfunk,” or “space disco” with some equally impressive vocal work that is altogether reminiscent of Daft Punk. However, all this is not to suggest that Lazerstar does not have a style or voice of their own, as I’ve already complimented their amazing vocal abilities, but their sound as well is very chill and relaxing which again is a contrast to the first track’s more intense and fast-paced nature.

In fact, and apologizes for continuing to harp on this, I feel as though “Night Drive” actually belongs on their previous release, entitled Battlefunk EP, which is certainly a much more upbeat collection of songs than Last Memento. Regardless of all this, and if there is any takeaway to be had in such a criticism, it’s that Lazerstar is certainly not a one-note act that’s tied to any specific flow; they’re like water in that they can fit in whatever musical container they want.

That’s true talent.

Website: https://www.lazerstarmusic.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/lazerstarmusic
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lazerstarmusic
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/7GOW6Bz90ixxyW1X3LYgrM

The Synthwave Smörgåsbord, Volume 1

I get a lot of submissions from artists for their music to be either reviewed or at the very least have some feedback provided. These submissions range anywhere from full albums to single songs or even just some works in progress. That said, I’ve decided to make things easier all around and just lump a few of them together into one post as they pile up. I will most likely be doing this a lot more going forward as a result, so hopefully that works for everyone involved. ❤

fatalvector

Their Twitter profile proclaims that they’re “trying to make darksynth,” but like Yoda said it’s “do or do not, there is no try,” to which I then rightly assure that “yes, you’ve certainly done what you set out to do.” It’s dark, it’s moody, it hits hard, and it’s an early indication of something in the making of which I look forward to hopefully hearing more as a result. When you’ve currently only got two songs to your name, and said songs are as promising as these, I’ve no doubt that what’ll come next will be even better. Which, if fatalvector’s latest postings are any indication, means a soon to be debut EP! Which I will review in time.

Twitter: @fatalvector
SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/fatalvector

 

Bruce James

SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/brucejamestunes

The email I got from them was simple and, paraphrasing, went a little bit like: “I got a complete analog setup a few weeks ago, made some things, and would love feedback.” Sure, Bruce James, here you go: I’m digging ’em. It’s almost like the opposite side of the synthcoin to fatalvector in that, while the two of them only have two (publicly available that I know of) songs out there right now, they still show so much potential but for Bruce James it’s obviously the more lighter end of the synthspectrum. That and I appreciate the real raw noise that only an analog setup can provide. Here’s hoping you got more coming down the pipe soon!

 

Will Mowatt

To be fair they have a lot more than just this one song to offer, the rest of which can be found on thier YouTube Channel, but I picked this one in particular to feature simply because I thought it was a chill track and for it’s title inspired by Blade Runner 2049. They run a pretty good gamut from the aforementioned chillwave to the more darkwave, which is always nice to see some range, and they’re not entirely beholden to synthwave either as they also dabble in other forms of electronic music too. Click through the following to hear more:

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCy0YVxyHq-fOOpg_sA0HKFw
SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/will-mowatt/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wrmowatt/

 

MacKoall

Everyone has to start somewhere and for most that involves playing some covers and the following cover, that of the Alan Parsons Project’s “Sirius”, is a pretty darn good one. It rides that fine line between not deveating too much from the original while at the same time making it their own. MacKoall has another cover up on their SoundCloud, so be sure to hit that link to jump on over there:

Twitter: @MacKoall
SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/mackoall

 

Tigerhawk 5

I really enjoy the vibe that Tigerhawk 5 is going with on this track, which the eventual album will inevitably follow, but instead of trying to explain it myself let me just instead copy and paste their own straight from their Bandcamp:

Tigerhawk 5: A Galactic 80’s and retro inspired synth-rock duo touching on themes of cosmic exploration, science fiction, loss and retribution. Tigerhawk 5 is a sci-fi space opera that tells the story of a crew destined for the most important of missions and their journey through the galaxy; fighting robots, aliens and many other challenges. Throughout the 7 chapters of this saga the narrative takes the pilot’s chair as much as the music, telling the space-faring story alongside the score written by Hugh Holton and Ross Balsillie. ‘Prologue’ is the first track from the upcoming album, setting the scene for things to come.

Website: https://www.tigerhawk5.com/

 

Flashbot

There’s nothing I enjoy more than some synthwave with vocals, “synthpop” for those who prefer to keep score, and Flashbot arrived on the scene late last year with a variation of their own which I’ve really come to enjoy and admire. They’ve only got the following two songs to their name, with again the last one being released late last year, so I’m hoping we haven’t heard the last of them because they’ve certainly got some promise and talent to deliver when they’re ready.

Twitter: @Flashbotmusic
Facebook: https://facebook.com/Flashbotmusic
SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/Flashbotmusic
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/01XlJ8UbhXptCSEM5Ur3Fe
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCb5LFopu_fSsSJ1BbUNUYKw

“Virtual Game” by Electric Runner featuring Kinnie Lane

Electric Runner, who we previously covered before with their “Darkest Ways” EP in both a review and interview, is about ready to release their first full-length album entitled “Dimensions.” To get the hype train rolling, they’ve released the first single from said upcoming album complete with an amazing music video, both of which feature vocalist Kinnie Lane who does an equally amazing job.

You’re going to want to get both your eyes and ears on these, because if this is but a small taste of things to come on the rest of the album than you’re going to want to reserve your copy as soon as it’s available to pre-order. Don’t worry though, as soon as it’s ready you can expect a review to follow not too far behind.