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 original members 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."