Today 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!
They 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.
It’s funny these days to look back not but a couple years ago as I once lamented that the small area of the world in which I call home, the northeastern region of the United States known as New England, was seemingly without a synthwave scene to call it’s own. I used to watch from a distance with envious eyes at the growing scenes on the west coast, down in the south, and across the pond among other locations in the world as synthwave artists emerged from those locations, releasing albums as well as performing live shows; where were they locally?
Turns out they were always here around me just waiting, willing, and able to make their presence known when the time and opportunities presented themselves and now I can proudly say that, yes, New England does in fact have a synthwave scene. Which is to say that for some time the only synthwave act in the area that I really knew about was Crockett who produces out of Boston but, thanks to Scott Forte (who lives in Maine) and his label RetroSynth Records, I became aware of a number of other synthwave acts in New England. Ray Gun Hero, from Massachusetts, and Straplocked, from Connecticut, are just a couple notable examples of such local acts who are signed with RetroSynth Records.
Yet there are still those in the area who are trying to make their way onto the neon soaked grid, currently buried deeper in the more rural areas of the region, and are looking to make a name for themselves if only given the right opportunity. Burial Grid, from the western Massachusetts town of Northampton, is one such act as they recently released their debut album entitled Where We Go and for me to try and accurately describe it’s bizarre background and inspiration in detail would not do it justice. Continue reading
There are some who say that the sheer number of releases that fall under the “synthwave” umbrella is overwhelming, to which I don’t entirely disagree for it is hard enough for me to keep up with them all in terms of just simply listening on top of actually trying to write up a review as well, and therefore it is unfortunate when so many releases fall through the proverbial cracks.
Now despite the fact that I listen to a lot of synthwave, and also review it sometimes, that does by no means make me an “expert” on it nor would I ever claim to be as such; I see myself more of a keymaster than a gatekeeper. I also try not to involve myself in seemingly endless and, let’s be honest, pointless debates on what is or isn’t synthwave, which subgenres certain releases actually fit into, and so on and so forth, etc.
What I can do however is help to do my part in shining the spotlight on certain releases which have not only fallen through those aforementioned cracks, for one reason or another, but struggle to even be categorized within a certain subgenre or just synthwave in general. I often wonder why this happens in the first place, of which I am sure there can be countless reasons that are more or less unique to the consequences surrounding each specific release, so there may not really even be a general reason, or if it can even be avoided.
Such were the things I mused when I gazed upon the cover art for the recently released album by low.poly.exception entitled MEGASTRUCTURE(S). I try not to judge anything by it’s cover, as the old saying warns, but while listening to the album I couldn’t help but stare at the art because it reminded me of something although I wasn’t sure as to what for the longest time. I finally figured it out, but before I reveal that revelation I think it prudent for me to somewhat discuss “cyberpunk.” Continue reading