One of the strong synthwave albums of 2022 was Hatif’s debut, Everything Is Repetition, via Town And Tower Records. The Swedish based duo of Markus Majdalani and Johan Eckerström, began this musical project in 2020, and May 26th saw their new single, “Long Year“, released into the wild.
I do love that Hatif have this wonderful ability to meld electronic music with that exotic Middle Eastern flare, and ‘LongYear” is yet another beautiful representation of this ability. However, this latest track seems a lot heavier and darker, as the electronics snap and hiss at times. Around this is the succulent vocals of Markus Majdalani and the sinuous weaving of the synths. Maybe this track by Hatif, is about the time of Covid-19, that did indeed seem like a “LongYear“.
Is there a cooler band name out there than SuperDragonPunch!!? I think not! This 8bit/industrial project from Belgium, is the brain child of JérémieVenganza and there is a new single called “Split“. If this wasn’t enough, he has called on several electronic musicians to help out on the remix duties.
In true 8bit fashion, the track starts out like a computer game, that crosses with far more uplifting synth lines that spin around the punchy lyrics that talk about regret at losing another. As soon as you hear the first remix, you can tell it has JamieBlacker’s touch all over it. The ESA (ElectronicSubstanceAbuse)remix is a bit funky with thumping beats and static, giving the track a much darker tone. Next is the DulceLiquido remix. OscarMayorga is DulceLiquido, as well as a member of Hocico, and with that pedigree, the rhythm slams and the industrial-techno strobes your senses, creating an amazing dance version. The fourth version is doused in the electronic splendour that is [SITD], where they use their skill to give the track a depth, using those beautiful tinkling key notes and lowers tones and this leads on perfectly to the ToxxicProject mix. ToxxicProject is another Mexican project, and their remix is this building tide of synthy injected waves, that surges around your ears.
There is also an instrumental mix which is equally as good, but honestly, you should just listen for yourself. It is a chance to immerse yourself in not only a great track, yet also bask in the talent of the guest remixers. There is not one that I could actually say is my favourite due to the fact each has their own, very distinctive, style. All killer and no filler from this single, “Split” by Super Dragon Punch!!.
MikeSmith is also known by his project named Fiction8 and he has produced the new EP, LifeIsFiction by BowEverDown. The EP contains five original synth inspired tracks that walk on the dark side of life.
“LifeIsFiction” is the jaunty start to the EP and there is a subtle 80s vibe to this track. A sweetness tempered by memories and the delicate ideal that life is not real. Oooh, the guitar in “SeasonsChange” struck me being very much in the vein of WallOfVoodoo, while the electronics dance through with Kimberley’s vocals.
Next we are “SomewhereInTheNightfall” and the beautiful synths flow forth. A tale of being more than the people that try to control us and when we do escape, they are nothing but a spectre. “ReadyToDie” is a meatier track, even with the music swirling, there is a seriousness lurking beneath and speaking of serious, the last track is the “HowIWishYouWereDead“. That title basically speaks for itself. The lament of being involved with the wrong person comes through in the vocals, while the synths soar like they have been given wings of freedom.
Often, things that happen to us don’t seem real, or we create a narrative to escape the sadness, poverty, or crushing expectations of life. So, LifeIsFiction and the production is spot on by Smith, so clean and magical. The title track and “How I Wish You Were Dead” are probably my favourites and for those who are wondering about the cat on the cover, created by Ange Battiste… that is Church, and she is there to give a bit more joy with Bow Ever Down.
Norwegian, ErlendEilertsen of EssenceOfMind, is about to release the second album under the project name LightsA.M., on the AlfaMatrix label, called StoriesWithoutWordsVol. 2, on June the 23rd. However, we get our first listen through the single “NotReadyForThis“.
An element of foreboding and lament is in the electronics, as they waver and chime through the instrumental track. Ancients drum whilst the low murmur of the droning electronics is in stark comparison to the gentle synths, that hold the lilting melody of what has passed. Subtle, beautiful and memorable is “Not Ready For This“, which you are utterly ready for by Lights A.M.
We are off to Austin, Texas, to have a look at the first EP, “WeDissolve“, from Gleaming. Maybe we can let the man behind the project, tell you about himself….
“After drumming for a handful of different screamo and indie/dream-pop bands, I found my way to electronic music. I wanted to take the inspiration and influence from artists I love and blend it with my experience in the indie and dream/synth-pop bands. Creating a dark, danceable tone with really catchy melodies and lyrics, hoping to capture the perfect segue from dark to light.” – Darryl Schomberg II
The first track is also the single “RunFaster” and the tone of this song alone sets up the whole EP, which is about putting distance between yourself and the things in life that have dragged one down the darker paths, such as depression, and finding a better future. The synths are bright and sweet, and the rhythm bounces. “TheAshes” is the second single that builds in tension, echoing vocals that explode into a cascade of crystalline synth shards. Of note is the track “RatMeOut“, feature Vestite, also from Austin, which has a great keyboard line through it as the dual vocals snake through this piece in the chorus.
I kind of wished that Schomberg relied on his own clean vocals more, which I will admit, are soooo much better than using autotune, (yeah I am the first to say I hate autotune with a fiery passion and I will blame Cher forever). The electronics have an 80s synthwave ring to them, that can soar, and having Vestite is a stroke of genius, as it made “RatMeOut” a real joy. This is just Gleaming starting out with WeDissolve, so it should be interesting to see what he does next.
Spanish 80s retro synthwave project, Darkways, has released the EP Neon Lights, which is their first new work since the Dioses por la fuerza EP in 2017.
The title track of “Neon Lights” starts off beautifully, smooth as silk, and the vocals just take you away as it goes on. The term that comes to mind is utterly joyous. The next track title made me smile, called “I Like The Night (and the night likes me)” and it has a charming chiming guitar, while the high energy rhythm drives it on as there is nothing scary about the dark hours.
“Dark & Light” has that more 80s feel in the electronics which is quaint until the vocals and more modern synths change the overall feeling, that leads into the soulful “Young Again“, a beseeching to a memory of what was and a longing to return to that time. Final track, “More Than Dreams” is a culmination of love, wanting, and dreaming that has taken flight, and it is simple and gorgeous, rousing the sleepers to awaken.
If you had asked me to listen to these guys before telling me they are Spanish, I might have guessed they were German. The title track is probably my favourite, but in essence, the whole EP has a wonderful flow to it. If you want to hear synthwave done right, check out Darkways with NeonLights.
New Zealand is the Land of the Long White Cloud or in the tongue of the original occupants, the Māori people, Aotearoa. For a small country, a lot of talent resides there. Frau Knotz is the solo project for New Plymouth electronic artist Lauren Nottingham, and 24th of March is the release date for her second single “Runway Of Reality“.
Some things in life are like that little red dress that is worn a few times and then forgotten as it is no longer needed in life, like a persona. Frau Knotz is your narrator in this song, a noir styled track, with an 80s electronic pop sound that tinkles like stardust and dowsed in shimmering darkwave vocals and rhythms.
The video features Frau Knotz as the Pierrot made-up usher of the theatre, while the stage is graced by the beautiful Erika Flash. The music video compliments the track beautifully with the near sepia tones. Join Frau Knotz on the “Runway Of Reality“, so you might also enjoy her dulcet tones while getting your groove on.
At one point or another, everyone has felt like they are invisible or unable to see their way and this is the subject of the latest Meersein single “Lost“. And who doesn’t like a bit of German darkwave synthie-pop?!
I have to say that this is some ways actually reminds me a little musically of the 80s and the likes of Howard Jones. The drum machine picks up a timely rhythm, as the synths tinkle and also create a bass undercurrent. Meersein’s vocal’s range from silk, to whispers and a rather deep sexy growl, as he tells you he is ‘lost like a ghost in a maze‘.
It is worth your while to check out this single, because a little bird revealed that the next is coming out soon, which will be Meersein and Corlyx. Something tells me that is going to be pretty amazing. “Lost” is a nice tasty treat with a video of Meersein singing in a picturesque German forest.
I had heard of The Singularity,and then when the name Julian Shah-Tayler was connected to this project… I believe my brain went into a series of loops of thinking, wait, isn’t he an actor? He is, if I recall correctly. Well, if you are not familiar, British born Shah-Tayler is The Singularity, now based in the US, and his latest album, Elysium, was released on the 24th of October, recorded between the Bird of Paradigm studio and the TARDIS studio….. but is it bigger on the inside?!
This album seems to have been about a year in the making due to the gradual release of singles, and this could be due to issues in the past two years, i.e., the plague but also from my perspective, a lot of effort and attention has gone into each track. And with fourteen tracks on offer, there is a lot to get into, so we thought we might draw your attention to some of the singles.
“Melt” is about being with the person that truly makes you weak at the knees and yet light as a feather. The general ambience reminds me a lot of Duran Duran in their period of 1993, with their self-titled album that had the amazing “Ordinary World” and “Melt” has that same flow. Chris JOlivas of Berlin fame supplies the drums.
David J. is a solo artist in his own right, but best known as a member of Bauhaus, and he also appears on the track, “The DevilKnows,” laying down the bass, in this rather funky song. The music video is also well worth checking out.
The track “Kintsugi” is breathtaking in both its conviction and sound. A whirlwind of guitar and drums, again percussion by Olivas, with Shah-Tayler singing these beautiful lyrics. For those unfamiliar with the concept of kintsugi, it is a Japanese tradition of not throwing away broken pottery, however, using gold to repair the vessel, which in turn makes it more unique and precious. A metaphor for a once broken heart.
Shah-Tayler doesn’t have to make music, as the acting gig makes far more money than being an alternative musician, but it is very evident he does it because that is where his heart is at. His passion for the avant-garde and darkwave artistry is very deeply ingrained. This then draws together the talents of David J. and Chris J Olivas, as well as MGT, Gene Micofsky,and others. Elysium is a bit synthwave, a bit post-punk, and most importantly, never boring.
What happens if you get two blokes, Gary Watts and Jay Taylor, to create music? The answer is Nature Of Wires vs j:dead and the new single “Thrive“, which came out on the 8th of December.
From the outset, there is the thumping rhythm and energetic synths, which points to a floor filler, and although there are lulls, this is just gathering you up for the roller-coaster ride. The j:dead vocals are spot on. Imploring, pleading and plumbing the emotional depths of the drudgery that is everyday living. Things such as job and general existence are weighing down on your shoulders, sucking the joy out of everything.
The music is very much Watts and you can hear it in the way the synths are crafted into this sophisticated industrial whirlwind, that supports and cradles the vocals. There is also the added extra bonus of being able to hear the Nature Of Wires remix of “Afraid“, which was originally only released on the physical copy of the EP, Vision Of Time.