Ace Buchannon – Eye of the Storm (2020)

Ace Buchannon (Vesa Tamminen) is a Synthwave / Retrowave artist from Helsinki, Finland. Since 2016 he’s been producing highly listenable, quality Synthwave that hits me right in the nostalgic feels. He recently released a proper follow-up to his fantastic “Magenta Nights” LP, entitled “Eye of the Storm” on June 28th, 2020.

I’m going to come right out and say that what Ace Buchannon has done on “Eye of the Storm” represents one of the finest Synthwave moments of 2020. From the visual aesthetics by the masterful Atom Cyber, to the music itself, “Eye of the Storm” hits all of the right notes. This album features quite a few collabs as well, including Anna Moore, Gryff, and Primo. This is a project that had a lot of loving care put into it, and quite frankly it shows.

The first track “Into the Fray” does a little trick musicians call “resting.” Since the beginning of time, many great composers and song writers have used the mythical rest to create space, distance, and add epic effect. I’m happy to report that Ace Buchannon is among this group that uses this mythical “rest” creature to make their music that much better. Aside from that, the pointed bells and breathy lead synths/pads make “Into the Fray” the perfect album opener. It truly reminds me why I like Synthwave so much in the first place.

“Come Alive” (aka the most daring track on the album) covers a lot of ground by including a flowing saxaphone line throughout the song as an answer to Anne Moore’s absolutely beautiful vocals. You know a song is well-produced when the vocals kick in right where you would’ve put them yourself. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting “Come Alive” to have vocals on it at all the first time I heard it, so I just naturally started singing where I thought the vocals would come in and *BOOM* there they were. Joy, joy feelings all around. What a tremendous song.

“Mizukage Prototype” is hands-down the best “instrumental” track on the album. It’s menacing in a darksynth Terminator type of way, but it still has a breathy, atmosphere like a traditional synthwave track. The small robotic vocal drop that occurs sporadically throughout the song put me right in this odd cyberpunky visual space filled with corporate high rises, night drives, and sexy pleasure models.

Of all the songs on the album I felt that “Secret” was somewhat lacking, not because of Primo’s amazing vocal performance, but because the song structure and overall sound of the track sounds more like something that would trend in 2010s pop rather than Synthwave. It just doesn’t sound as nostalgic as the rest of the album and is more akin to “The Fame Monster”-era Lady Gaga rather than something Pat Benatar or Laura Branigan would’ve done. The lyrics could’ve also been a little less derivative. To me, they clash with the vibe of the song.

“Never Surrender” has a guest vocal appearance by Gryff who never ceases to disappoint. His work on this song gives me those Rocky montage vibes. When I heard this song I just wanted to get up, wrap my hands in some athletic tape and go punch a speed bag, jump some rope, or climb the stairs next to city hall for a few hours. “Never Surrender” is a nice way to end such a triumphant album.

Production wise, I don’t have any complaints. Everything is audible no matter where I’m listening to it. The mix in general sounds nice and three dimensional. I really wish that there were proper liner notes available via Bandcamp. I’m curious to see if the saxaphone on “Come Alive” is a real or not. Because if it is synthetic, holy hell, I want to know what black magic made that possible. “Eye of the Storm” is professional sounding in a genre that often suffers from clean sounding mixes—especially when it comes to vocals. Of all the albums I’ve subjected myself to during the course of 2020, “Eye of the Storm” is definitely going to stand out to me as one of the most memorable. There’s a lot to love here, especially when it comes to the three vocal collabs, solid instrumentals, and high quality aesthetics.

RECOMMENDED FOR: People who like music.

STAND-OUT TRACKS: “Come Alive” (my absolute favorite), “Mizukage Prototype,” “Break the Cycle,” and “Into the Fray.”

Album Color Profile: #F5EEF8

You can find all thing Ace Buchannon at https://acebuchannon.bandcamp.com/

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