If you’re familiar with TimeSlave Recordings, and you should be because not only have we covered many artists under their umbrella but they’re also one of the best synthwave labels out there today, then you may be familiar with Kid Neon. As one half of the founding brothers of TimeSlave Recordings, the music of Kid Neon has appeared on some of their past compilations such as Future Sounds Vol.1 [and the Redux], A Taste of the Future, Fear the Future Vol.1, and Project TSL01. In fact, if you purchased all of these compilations, you’ll find that about half the songs on Darker Days can also be heard on these previously released collections. However, this factoid is not to belittle the accomplishments that this album has itself collected as there are remastered and even remixed versions of said songs to be found within. Beyond that it is simply a long overdue spotlight for Kid Neon to truly shine on his own after sharing that spotlight for so long, to which he shines so very brightly indeed.
I have lived on the east coast of the United States all my life. The furthest west I have ever been is Las Vegas. I’ve always wanted to go further, all the way to Los Angeles, but until that day comes all I have are photographs. However, much like Def Leppard once sang in their song of the same name, it’s hard for me to settle with just a photo, even if it’s said they are worth a thousand words.
“Postcards from LA” by The G, released through TimeSlave Recordings, goes beyond words with something better than a photo: music which touches on your emotions and stimulates your mind. Listening to these tracks, and closing your eyes, whisks you away on a visionary vacation up and down the Pacific Coast Highway; it’s postcards in the form of songs.
The opening track, “Malibu Nights,” sees you cruising the neon-soaked streets of the titular town hopping from club to club, getting your kicks and fix. A night of partying eventually leads you to “Zuma Beach,” watching the sunrise as you get sand in your pastel suit and trying to catch a few winks under sunglasses, before climbing back into your Porsche “928.”
Driving up the coast, you stop for a bite to eat at a roadside breakfast joint, getting some hair of the dog that bit you. “On the Rocks,” of course, because it’s sweltering outside even this close to the ocean so early in the morning. Eventually you reach “Santa Barbara,” an hour’s drive turned into two because you can’t help but admire the view. Another town, another night of partying, during this perfect “Tropical Summer” in the mid-80s.
Now, this was but my listening experience, and your mental mileage may vary. Either way, no matter what your mind conjures up as you listen, let go and let The G take you there with their impressive work of euphonious escapism. There’s a lot of music out there that tries to emulate the sounds of yesteryear, but there’s only so many that actually make you feel like you’re there, and The G nails it.
Compilations are nothing new in the world of music, but none the less they remain consistently effective. While they may be done in a variety of ways, the underlying reason for implementation is to be a collection of songs which encompasses a particular theme, having each song being but one piece of an overall puzzle. They’re also a great way for numerous artists to gain exposure alongside their peers, like a buffet of appetizers, hoping that you’ll like each sample of what you hear and will therefore venture forth to pick up all of their own individual releases.
Therefore it should come as no surprise that compilations are a big thing in the synthwave scene, as there’s a lot of hungry talent out there chomping at the bits and looking for any opportunity to get noticed. I can personally attest to said power of compilations, as I have discovered many artists through such means, most of whom I continue to follow to this day and have purchased their own released work in turn.
That said, I would like to take this time to highlight some of these compilations, in the hopes that the results will be the same for you as they were me. After all, you honestly never know what you’ll find hidden within a compilation. One of them could end up becoming your new favorite act.
Now, for me to review every single song in the following compilations would be akin to reviewing every single article in an encyclopedia. Similarly, for me to cherry pick a few songs here and there to cover would not be all too different from flipping to a random article in said encyclopedia. It would do no justice to not only those not covered, but the entire compilation as a whole, for that is what a compilation is after all: a sum of its parts.
Again, this is not so much a review but a highlight of many compilations that exist out there, although it is far from a complete list. This is, as the title of the post would suggest, just my own compilation of compilations:
Released by TimeSlave Recordings, and mastered by Delusional Mastering, Primorph‘s newest effort is what I like to call “spacewave.” Akin to Night Raptor, and FacexHugger, I can’t help but think of traveling through the cosmos with a synth in hand.
Whereas FacexHugger is more the darkside, and Night Raptor the lightside, Primorph exists somewhere in the middle of “spacewave.” There are tracks which are very smooth, almost dream like, and then there are tracks that hit you hard like you’re in the middle of a space battle.
The first and second tracks, “Battle Fatigue” and “Failsafe,” are more the former as they’re chill songs but they also have this sense of foreboding. Upon a second listen to the album as a whole you realize they’re a “calm before the storm” type as the next song, “Orion Pax,” ramps up the intensity in turn.
It starts similarly to the first two but then the guitar kicks in and you know that this track is something else entirely. It’s hard hitting and all over the place, which isn’t a bad thing, more like it’s full of surprises that will immediately have you go back for a second listen. Certainly my favorite track!
“Centre Fugue” and “PAD” both dial it back down a little, but they still have a few intense beats and hooks, all in order to help keep you amped up for the grand finale. The last song, “Exit Stage Left,” is merciless, showing off everything that Primorph has in his arsenal, as he proceeds to hit you with a relentless barrage of guitars, drums, keys and chiptune-esque beats. I felt like I was back in the arcade playing a spaceship shooting bullet hell, which is awesome!
All in all, this is a fantastic release, and I cannot recommend it enough. Also, if you’re quick, you might just be able to score yourself a limited edition cassette!
Very much taking a page out of Vampire Step-Dad’s playbook, Night Raptor utilized newsletters weeks in advance of his EP coming out in order to help set the tone for the music that would follow. They accomplished this through a series of science-fiction stories about a space pilot exploring an uncharted world, with suggestions of specific tracks that one is supposed to listen to as they read, all in order to make a complete packaged experience.
Again, much like Vampire Step-Dad, it’s a bit of a gimmick but it works. It works very well. There’s something to be said about being handed a piece of music, and coming up with your own imagery as you listen, but a whole otherworldly experience to be told what images are there in the theater of your mind. Try both methods and you’ll notice.
I appreciate both approaches as, much like Night Raptor explains in one of his newsletters, I too would often dream of my own epic soundtracks to go along with my pretend space adventures when I was young. The only difference is that Night Raptor actually made those dreams come true, because I have no musical talent whatsoever, therefore in a way I am living vicariously through him as a result… and what a result it turned out to be!
Now, allow me to take a page out of Night Raptor’s playbook by setting the scene: it’s Friday evening, another work week was finished, and I was exhausted. It’s snowing outside, even though it’s technically spring, because it’s New England. I laid down, was about to close my eyes, and then remembered that Night Raptor’s new EP had landed.
I took out my phone, purchased the limited edition cassette tape, pressed play and closed my eyes. I instantly forgot about work, the fact that I’m going to have to shovel tomorrow, and was whisked away into deep space. I could probably write a few newsletters myself based on the images in my mind that came after, but that’s not the point.
The point is that this music was the paint for those images and, much like how different artists create different images with the same paints, your mileage will vary on these songs as well in terms of what images you make as a result. What is important, however, is that they do have the power to paint those images. They absolutely do.
So go ahead, take a listen, get painting… and then buy a shirt!
Ethereal Delusions does it all: hosts a two-hour block of synthwave tunes on his local college radio station, offers up music mastering services, and still finds time to release his own awesome music.
Now, I don’t know exactly who the titular Karlovsky is, or why they’re seeking revenge and from whom, but what I can tell you is that while revenge is often a dish best served cold (ancient Klingon proverb) this album is anything but; it’s straight fire!
Released by TimeSlave Recordings, an amazing up-and-coming synthwave label in it’s own right, “Karlovsky’s Revenge” does contain mostly tracks from Ethereal Delusions’ previous self-release, “Shuttershades,” but also includes two new tracks such as the one sharing it’s name with the album itself. Deservedly so, because it’s a great song, kicking off with an interesting hook that reminded me almost of Maniac Mansion before transitioning into a literal pulse pounding beat that hits you in the chest.
“Am I Dreaming,” the last track on the album, is a great chaser as it starts strong and then slowly winds down alongside a rather creepy narration. Much like FacexHugger, I got a real sci-fi vibe, that really unsettling and spine-tingling sense of space dread. I love it. Like someone saying goodbye as they fall asleep in cryogenic stasis… I don’t know when they’ll wake up, or when the next release from Ethereal Delusions will come, but I can feel it coming…
… in the meantime, buy a shirt, why not?