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.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Derb by Derb

I always like the voyage of discovery, and where it leads me—even for works that are rather older.  During much of the 80s, I was on a merry chase for material by Visage, for instance, after having heard of them in a library book, but struggling to find anyone who could get a copy of their seminal first eponymous CD for me, even by mail order.  Little was I to realize that it was shortly to be re-released in wide distribution, of course—but then, little was anyone to realize that the internet was about to make the most obscure releases widely available anywhere.

Of course, we now have almost the opposite problem; there's so much stuff available that it's easy to get lost trying to figure out what's even out there.  And as I explore styles of music that I may not have been paying attention to the first time around, I can often have circuitous trails into finding songs that maybe weren't really necessarily obscure to fans of the style... but which were to me.

As an example, I've spend a lot of time lately (and by lately, I mean for about four or five years, although I had quite a bit of stuff from before that) exploring the continental techno scene of the late 90s and early 2000s; some classic trance, hard trance, acid trance, and stuff like that in particular.  While I don't necessary consume it at a rabid pace, I've been steadily picking up new tracks here and there since about 2012-2013 or so.

So here's one story of a winding trail.  I'm a fan, of course, of New Order.  I also remember the track from Blade where the blood came out of the sprinklers in the slaughterhouse vampire rave... although it took me quite some time to recognize that it was actually the Pump Panel Reconstruction Mix of "Confusion."  For many years, I assumed (as many people still do, for some reason) that it was a Chemical Brothers song, or perhaps Crystal Method.  That's what one of my next door neighbors told me, and I assumed that he knew what he was talking about.  I wondered why I couldn't find it anywhere, though.  Heh.

Once I finally got it correctly identified, I realized that it had been sampled a few times and included in other songs, the best of which (in my opinion) was Caribbean born Dutch trance artist Randy Katana's (Randy Joubert) "Play it Loud."

Later as Youtube and Spotify came to be the way that music is most often consumed, I found bootleg remixes that are pretty fun, including one that remixed "Play it Loud" with "Flight 643", a Tiësto trance classic.  I wasn't aware of "Flight 643" actually, although I'd heard of Tiësto (also Dutch; real name Tijs Michiel Verwest) mostly from his remix work after he became more mainstream.  But "Flight 643" was a brilliant example of early 2000's hard trance (I guess if I played old FIFA games in the early 2000s, I would have heard it, apparently.)  Any, while gobbling up what I could of "Flight 643" versions, I found a "reworking" of the track by John Christian, which is probably my favorite.  I liked it so much that I looked for more John Christian, and the first thing that turns up for most if you're looking for him is his electro-house track "The Grimm."  "The Grimm" has a part in the middle—my favorite part, which is sampled.  Youtube comments suggested that it was sampled from the Alpha Twins "Smack".  This may be true, but probably not—"Smack" samples "Smack My Bitch Up" by Prodigy and... "Derb" by Derb.  The main synth line from "The Grimm" that I really loved was, it turns out, "Derb."  This makes Derb seem pretty obscure, but I'm not sure that that's really the case.  It was familiar and popular enough to be re-released with new remixes and stuff in 2014 (although decidedly indie).  I'm picking one of those remixes to highlight today; the Richie Romano remix.

If you're looking for the original, you can also get on this same single, or you can get the original single, where curiously it's named "Derb (Derbus)" to avoid confusion with the different version of the song called "Derb (Dernimbus)".


Monday, May 1, 2017

Mixed Signals by FM Attack

The number of tracks on my phone has exploded; from about 2,200 or so last summer to well over 3,100 now (and a good 100+ more to add; as soon as I calibrate the volume and trim dead space at the beginnings and endings of tracks.)  Much (but not all) of this growth has been in the synthwave space; gloriously, unapologetically retro 80s electronic music.  I've found that while I don't mind the guys making instrumental tracks that sound like part of some video game or 80s movie soundtrack, naturally my favorite stuff has vocals, and really is just overtly 80s synthpop rather than its own genre, I think.  It's amazing to me just how incredibly big this scene really is.  I still discover new guys completely by accident, often when I find that they've done a remix of someone else's song, or when they've been dumped into a mix video on Youtube, which is a great way to find new stuff.

FM Attack is the first of those to me.  I think I first heard of them when they remixed Coming Home by Visitor.  I posted this song (although I did a different mix) a few months ago, but the FM Attack mix is the one that seems to particularly get around as a favorite of the synthwave set.  That said, I still didn't really pay attention to FM Attack until I found a Best of FM Attack mix and found that I really liked almost every single track on it.  This is one of my favorites; and for an old timey electronic music fan, it's curious that I find that the use of an 80s flavored electric guitar is a great touch.  I remember there being a time when I denied guitars a place in electronic music at all (Depeche Mode's Music for the Masses cured me of that nonsense.  I don't know why New Order hadn't already done so, if not someone else.)

Friday, March 10, 2017

Acid Nightmare by A*S*Y*S*

There are a number of metrics one could use to determine favorite songs.  How often do you come back to it over the years?  How many versions of it do you have?  Despite the fact that you've got well over 3,000 songs on your phone, which are the ones that you deliberately seek out the most?

By any of those metrics, one song which is a completely different kind of electronic music than any that I've shown here on this blog yet, has to be one of my favorite songs of all time; "Acid Nightmare" by A*S*Y*S*.  Along with the Pump Panel Reconstruction remix of New Order's "Confusion" I think this is some of the most iconic samples of acid that you can hear.  Sampling a bit of the Nightmare on Elm Street soundtrack, the drop into a tortured 303 bass line from that is just freakin' incredible (at 3:10).

Some of the remixes out there make it somewhat less acid and more trance, but given that Kai Tracid was one of the early associates of A*S*Y*S* and his nom de plume is made by jamming together the words trance and acid, that's perhaps not too surprising.

Anyway, like I said, this is a far cry from the kind of stuff that I normally post on this blog, but my electronic music tastes do tend to be somewhat esoteric.  I like the purity of some techno, trance and other related genres, although they do tend sometimes to get monotonous over time.  The later acid stuff, like A*S*Y*S* is really hard and intense, though—especially compared to early acid house like Dr. Phibes or Phuture.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

We Are Number One But It's Synthwave by Florian Ollson

This is an odd entry.  Yeah, yeah... the whole "We Are Number One" thing is a jokey internet meme.  But one guy decided to turn it into a synthwave track and... well, it's actually really good.  Keep in mind that a lot of these early synthpop artists (and this is even more true for the italo-disco artists) were essentially a cottage industry of electronic garage bands, and that a lot of really interesting stuff comes out of the crowd-sourced, amateur or semi-amateur markets.

Anyway, here is, for your enjoyment, "We Are Number One But It's Synthwave" by Florian Ollson.  You can get it on Soundcloud, but I'm posting the YouTube version, because I like the fake 80s effects.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Ascend by Shelter

Who doesn't love a classic British electro-duo singing catchy, soulful synthpop?  Not me.  It may have indeed been many years since the early years of Blancmange, Soft Cell, Erasure or the Pet Shop Boys, but the trope remains current nonetheless.

One group that I only recently became aware of is Shelter.  They have a very (deliberate, no doubt) Erasure-esque sound, and their hit "Ascend" shows that quite well.

They've been around for a little while; this is their second album, it looks like, and they've even done some work with Andy Bell.  But they're new to me, and this song is the apex (to me, anyway) of their output as far as I can tell.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Sherlock by Hive Riot

I'm discovering new music at a fantastic pace lately.  Hive Riot comes from a retrospective of the best synthpop albums of 2016 by some blogger, and certainly I think he's on to something.  These guys are fun, poppy, light and pretty classic.

He said they were L.A. based on his blog, but that's clearly not true; it's a duo and the woman and main vocalist is married to the older brother of the instrumentalist and backing vocalist.  They met as youngsters in Provo, UT, and she (it appears) still lives there, while he has a day job in NYC.

They seem pretty fun, and this song certainly is so.  This is the official music video, and it makes me chuckle, not only because it's pretty fun, but also because it's just about the gayest music video I've seen since watching older Jimmy Sommerville and Soft Cell music videos.  For many years, I rejected, and was in fact even offended, by the suggestion that my favorite music was favored by the gay community, but I've had to finally reluctantly agree that it certainly seems like it's true.

On the other hand, synthwave has been declared (tongue in cheek, but still) as the pop music of choice of the Alt-Right, and an expression of truly European, white pop music, and if that's true for synthwave, the all non-hip-hop electronic music has to fit into the same mold to some degree.

Of course, many self-hating white people think that that's nearly as terrible as being the anthems of the gay community, if not even moreso, so there's that.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Paper Thin by Mesh

Mesh has a habit of ripping some absolutely brilliant b-sides on their singles, which makes picking them up even cooler (the remixes tend to be pretty good too.)  From their most recently released single, "Kill Your Darlings"—a phrase that originated among writers not getting too attached to their work that wasn't up to snuff—"Paper Thin" is another one of these great b-sides; on par with "Let Them Crush Us" and "From This Height."