Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Saving Time by Iris

I pointed out a few posts ago that I'd somehow never posted an Iris song, even though I'm a big fan, especially of their first album.  They were THE hot item in the underground synthpop scene in 1998-1999.  And their freshman album is just incredible; there isn't a single bad track on it.  As you can see, even from this demo version (which isn't really substantially different from the later official album version; just shorter) they also cultivated a real artsy vocal style and lyrics, with very layered synths that are almost, but not quite, too busy.

Of course, the keyboard player quit after the first album, and was replaced.  The sound didn't change as much as you'd think, but their later efforts weren't as consistently strong.  Awakening has some good material, but suffers from a definite sophomore slump.  Wrath doesn't have anything wrong with it, but somehow... it just bores me, and none of the tracks stand out.  After that, I kind of lost track of them—I still have some of their more recent stuff, and I burned it onto my phone so I can actually hear it, but I don't even recall which song goes with which album anymore.  With the exception of a handful of stand-outs like "Panic Rev" and "Phenom" I find that I just don't really care that much anymore.  Still worth getting; just not worth rapidly collecting and following like in those heady days of the end of the millennium.

Of course, there could be a lot of reasons for that.  Maybe I'm just getting saturated.  I find that I don't really do that for anyone anymore—but it's also been many, many years since I could fit all of my music on my CD case.  Or, for that matter, since I bought most of my music in CD format, for that matter.  Maybe I valued it more when it was harder to get, I had an actual physical something in my hands, even if I went ahead and burned it and transferred it to my phone, which is where I do almost all of my listening these days.  I dunno.  I don't follow De/Vision that way anymore.  I lost Erasure and Depeche Mode and the Pet Shop Boys years ago.  Same for Apoptygma Berzerk, VNV Nation, Cosmicity, or... I dunno... any of the acts that I latched on to during those "wait; you mean people are still making music of the kind I liked in the 80s?" days of the late 90s and early 00s.

Plus, as anyone can see who glances at recent posts, I've gotten into a lot of weirder stuff lately; acid, trance, hardstyle, synthwave, and more even more esoteric styles here and there.

I can, however, safely predict that I absolutely will NEVER get into speedcore or it's derivatives.  Ugh.  Why does anyone even do that?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Boys Do Fall In Love by Robin Gibb

This may be a little bit more Top 40 standard pop for what I usually do, but the song "Boys Do Fall in Love" by Robin Gibb (one of the BeeGees) was on a "New Wave 80s Megamix" that I recently listened to, and it was one of those songs that I had completely forgotten about ("Mary's Prayer" by Danny Wilson was another from that collection that I'd completely forgotten about too.)  I'm not 100% sure that I'd call it New Wave, even with a very generous definition of the genre.  On the other hand, what exactly is the dividing line between late stage disco, Hi-NRG, synthpop and a whole host of related genres that were birthed in the late 70s and first half of the 80s anyway?  Rather than worry too much about it, I'll just point out that this song is pretty cool, and sounds very, very 80s in a way that nothing today does, even the retro-80s synthwave stuff.

Plus; Robin Gibb!  "Robin, do you have any thoughts?"
"No.  No, I don't."
"Robin, please.  Just say something."

Friday, October 6, 2017

Shadow by The Chromatics

The Chromatics are a Portland, OR band that, although modern, has a very definate retro-80s vibe about them that is deliberately cultivated.  Probably for this reason, they contributed a track to the Drive soundtrack, as well as a number of other Hollywood projects.  It also sounds, curiously, a lot like Sonic Youth's song "Wish Fulfillment" although rendered in a very different style.  This particular song was featured in the Twin Peaks reboot/relaunch.  It seems to fit somehow.

This is the epitome of what is sometimes called "dreamwave" I think—although I can't get a decent definition from anyone who coined that label, it clearly stands for the wispy, wistful, ethereal type of synthpop, synthwave, and other related genres.  It's often melancholy, usually downtempo, and often overtly romantic in nature. If I were to create a playlist of my own tracks called Dreamwave (which I have done, actually) the earliest song that would qualify would almost certainly be Chris & Cosey's "October (Love Song)" and the biggest contributors of material would be Book of Love and Marsheaux—although that may be an artifact of my own collection (as well as my familiarity with songs that could qualify.)

Curiously, as I've investigated The Chromatics, I haven't necessarily fallen in love with anything else that they've done.  But I absolutely adore this song.  It's one of my favorites, and certainly my clear favorite of the wistful "dreamwave" type of music that I have.

CHROMATICS "SHADOW" (Last Dance Of The Night... by chromaticsvideo

Monday, October 2, 2017

We Don't Care by Ed E.T. & D.T.R. vs MCP, ft. Natski

In one of the most complicated artist fields I've had to deal with, Ed E.T. & D.T.R. (a Welsh hardstyle duo) team up with fellow Welshmen MCP and vocalist Natski to produce one of my favorite reverse bass tracks—and a relatively modern one too—"We Don't Care."  This musical style has been kicking around with too much significant change for quite a long time.  My last post (the first hardstyle post I made) for "First Match" by TNT was a track released in 2002, when the style was still relatively new (Q-Dance was founded in '99 and Qlimax in 2000.  Defqon.1 wasn't founded until 2004.)  This one is from 2014, but Ed E.T. and D.T.R. are still doing the same thing with 2016 and newer releases like "The Black Hole."  Of course, I'm a relatively recent convert to the hardstyle sound, so that's cool—I've got a fairly deep back-catalog of stuff to explore.

Anyway, as I said last time, this stuff isn't necessarily musically very deep, but it's super intense and exciting—it's main purpose is to be so, in fact.  This means that—I dunno, maybe in a few weeks or months, I'll be a bit tired of it, as I now am with synthwave, and I'll get rid of my playlist, and just keep them as tracks that come up occasionally in my big shuffle play.  With only about 200 out of nearly 4,000 tracks that get regular circulation on my phone, one won't come up more than once in twenty songs on average.

Still, it's rather amazing that I've grabbed that many tracks already.  While I probably grabbed about that many synthwave tracks, and mostly only really love the dreamy vocal type now, I never got anywhere near that many hard trance or acid songs.  Well, maybe I did with trance, years ago, but most of those aren't on my phone anymore.  Hardstyle may yet end up having been more of a faddish infatuation than something that I love forever, and I may end up thrifting some of my tracks down when I decide that I don't love them all as much as I thought I did when I grabbed them.  But for now, I can't listen to this reverse bass stuff without wanting to get up and dance.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

First Match by TNT

I've been really caught up for several months in club/rave music.  I've been a fan of acid and some trance—especially hard trance—for quite some time now, and have even posted a few links to some tracks of those genres here and there.  From there, although it took me a little while, it's not really a difficult jump to get into hardstyle, and... well, I've been really into hardstyle lately.  Hardstyle has since "sold out" if you will, but for the better part of a decade and a half or so—from right before the turn of the century until just a few years ago, there's a ton of good material.

Like much club music, only some of it is really memorable.  It's meant to serve a purpose, and that's to be really pumped up party music.  It isn't meant to be catchy, or musically very deep, necessarily.  And for the most part, it isn't.  There are a few exceptions, but they are really, truly exceptions.

Another thing that's kinda interesting is the geographic limitations of the style.  I can hardly hear tell of anyone who's anyone in the hardstyle scene who isn't either Dutch or north Italian.  It's like there's those two loci are the sum total of hardstyle, and almost everything comes from one of those two areas.  The DJs seem to be friends with each other too, based on how much collaboration, remixing, and whatnot that you see in the field.

Anyway, two of the biggest names in the field seem to be Technoboy (Christiano Giusberti) and Tuneboy (Antonio Donà) who have also had a long-running collaboration called TNT (literally, Technoboy 'N Tuneboy) and they've put out some of the best tracks in the genre.  They've also collaborated before, under different names (Tuneboy as K-Traxx, releasing tracks remixed by Technoboy, for instance).

Here's one, originally from 2002.  When it was first released, it came in two versions—the Technoboy version and the Tuneboy version, but it's since been re-released more than once, and it was even the subject of a remix competition, so it's been remixed a ton by a ton of artists (many of whom are only semi-pro at best.)  I've actually picked one of those remixes, but if you can get your hands on the original Tuneboy and Technoboy versions, they're pretty awesome in their simplicity.  The Geck-o remix is another of my favorites, that actually got a full release, in part because it mixes in part of the synthline of Animotion's "Obsession" to great effect, although in doing so, it somehow manages to mute the track's most iconic element, that weird electrified bass-line.  Here, the bass-line is cut and chopped a bit to give it more variation, but it still is the "star" of the track, certainly.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Picture by Hubert Kah

"The Picture" was formerly a German language single from would-be Alphaville band Hubert Kah  It was called "Wenn Der Mond Die Sonne Berührt" and appeared on their 1984 album Goldene Zeiten.  This was before they even attempted to expand their market out of Germany, but in 1985, it was included as an English language song on the soundtrack for Once Bitten, a rather forgettable screwball vampire comedy movie, which happens to be Jim Carrey's first leading role.

The movie itself is probably pretty terrible (I've never seen it); it's Rotten Tomatoes score is something pitiful like 18%.  Because it's Carrey's first leading role, it's become a bit of a cult classic, and the soundtrack is also a bit of a cult favorite, in part because of this song (it also has a a Real Life song, "Face to Face" on it.  The Remastered version of the soundtrack also has Hubert Kah's "Angel 07" in two versions, as well as two versions of the song I'm highlighting.)

Hubert Kah was never as well known in the Anglophone world as, say, Alphaville, even though they were a very similar type of band in every respect.  Curiously, when Iris (formerly Forgiving Iris) got together, their love of Hubert Kah was one of the things that brought them together in the first place, and they even delayed the release of their debut album while they went out of their way to secure the rights to cover this song.

As an aside, I notice that I never featured an Iris song here.  That's a major disconnect (no pun intended) because they were absolutely one of the hottest synthpop acts at the very end of the 90s, and their debut album (1999) Disconnect is still one of my favorites.  The remix album, Reconnect is also a real winner.  Sadly, they seem to be out of print on Amazon, and therefore extremely pricey.  It's a real shame that they seem to be a little hard to get at a decent price, because it really is phenomenal music.  I've got at least four or five tracks from the first album alone that I'd love to feature here.

Sadly, the band broke up after one album.  They still put stuff out; the singer retained the name and got another instrumentalist.  They've got some good stuff too—some real good stuff, even—but they didn't ever really manage to capture the magic of the first album again.

Anyway, I'd heard of Hubert Kah already because of their other song, "So Many People" which I'd happened to stumble across on an early internet radio station.  It was Iris' cover version that made me aware of this song (which doesn't appear on any of their albums, by the way; at least not in English).  Finally I investigated a few other of their minor hits: "Limousine," "Angel 07", etc.  I'm still not a Hubert Kah fanatic; I've got all of four of their songs (admittedly in multiple versions).  Here's the 12" version of the song, remixed by François Kevorkian of later Depeche Mode production fame.  Keep in mind that remixes in those days weren't very dramatic; they were usually just longer and maybe rearranged the existing elements a bit, so it sounds very much like the original version except longer and with a more dramatic introduction.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Tiefenrausch (The Deep Blue) (A*S*Y*S* Remix) by Kai Tracid

I continue to explore the intersection that happened between about 1998 or so at the earliest and maybe 2005 or so on the late end between hard trance, acid and early hardstyle.  Very different stuff than the 80s synthpop that I grew up on (in some ways, anyway) but clearly descended from aspects of it too.  One thing about trance that is great but also... not... is the fact that the beats are pretty predictable.  By that I mean that it starts off lean, builds up, has a big drop, then has a beatless soft interlude, before building back up to another big drop and then kind of "leaning out" again near the end.  This is part of the reason why I like the intersection; some of the other stuff, especially in remixed form, isn't quite so predictable.

Anyway, Kai Tracid is one guy, who apparently founded Tracid Traxx record label, which as you can guess focused on trance and acid, although the hardstyle sound grew out of this same community or like-minded German and Dutch DJs.  A*S*Y*S*, whom I've talked about before, was on the label; it appears (from vague commentary on discogs as well as song credits) that Kai Tracid was probably an early member of the band, and co-wrote some of their tracks (like "Acid Nightmare" among others.  When he went solo with Kai Tracid, he seems to have become more "trancy" rather than the much more overtly "acidy" sound of A*S*Y*S*.  But since A*S*Y*S* was still on his label, even as he was no longer associated directly with the name, they've clearly kept in touch, and A*S*Y*S* did this awesome remix of Kai Tracid's "Tiefenrausch (The Deep Blue)".  In fact, it's clearly the best version of the song, in my opinion.