I'm an explorer...from the further regions of experience.

Draven is the horrorsynth project of producer Deamien Raven. Draven hails from Greece, though I’m not sure that he’s telling the truth. I know the actual Truth. With a capital ‘T.’ The Truth is that Draven hails from the blackest, bloodiest, most fiery pit in the Seventh circle of Hell. Believe me. Have a listen to Draven’s work and you’ll quickly understand. Draven doesn’t release just music. Draven releases danger. And goddamn if I love when music feels dangerous.

Making his debut in the horrorsynth scene in mid-2020 with the single “Vigilante,” Draven first came onto the scene proper with his debut EP, aptly named “EP I” in February of 2021. This was quickly followed up with “EP II” in April of 2021. Draven’s first official full-length, entitled “Abyssal Arcana” will be released on April 29th, 2022.

The artwork for “Abyssal Arcana” was created by Serhiy Krykun who hails from Ukraine. Krykun’s artwork is the perfect companion to Draven’s work. It is violent, visceral, and somewhat campy. It very much reminds me of the character Eddie of Iron Maiden fame.

“Abyssal Arcana” is a concept album of sorts complete with a back story. Abyssal Arcana” takes place in a city called “Necropolis” overrun with “VampZ” which I’m assuming is some kind of vampire zombie hybrid. The antihero, Deamien Raven, is apparently incredibly chapped by the way the clergy of Necropolis treated him while he was in custody. Now he wants a few thousand pounds of flesh as well as some answers which can only be found in a heretical text known only as the “Abyssal Arcana.” If you’re confused, don’t feel bad. The story is used as a framing device to set the atmosphere of the album, and to be honest, it’s fitting. It’s a bit too gory for my tastes, but I definitely think it’s a neat concept that gave me something to hold onto whilst listening to “Abyssal Arcana.” I feel like the entire premise would make a cool video game in the style of Bloodborne or Soul Reaver.

So what does “Abyssal Arcana” sound like? Well, “Abyssal Arcana” sounds like violence.

As a whole, “Abyssal Arcana” is a horror soundtrack that doesn’t let up. This is the kind of music that sounds like an axe murderer chasing someone down a bloodstained hall of pure noxious Evil. Cardio amirite?

The album opens up with “Forgive Me Father…” This short–story driven piece serves as the intro to the entire album. And goddamn if it isn’t creepy as all Hell. Next up is “The Horrifying Autopsy of Daemian Raven.” It opens with some real “Cruelty and the Beast” (Cradle of Filth) string acrobatics, and quickly degenerates into a darksynth vibe broken up by some unpredictable breaks. When the piano kicks in, I picture Daemian getting dissected. There is some cool use of sidechaining towards the end of the song that breaks up the visuals evoked leading into the next track entitled, “Cauchemar Noir” (“Black Nightmare). Immediately, theremin samples and a very John Carpenter piano vibe a la “Halloween” enters the fray. The thing I really like about what Draven does here is his ability to break up typical darksynth monotony with cinematic flourishes. It causes an unsettling feeling when the beat kicks back in. Again, I can’t help but think about earlier works of Cradle of Filth and Hecate Enthroned with the choices made in how the string sections are presented here.

“Silver Coffin” begins the next phase of “Abyssal Arcana” with a slow intro, and begins pumping shortly thereafter. Out of all the songs presented thus far, “Silver Coffin” feels like the most traditional horrorsynth track of the bunch. It’s very straight-forward, and when turned up to maximum volume, the kick drum feels like someone is actively trying to break into your brain cavity. I think that “Silver Coffin” is an easy shoe-in for horrorsynth curators and aficionados. This one is for the playlists.

Draven may be violent but he also like to give advice–he recommends that “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things” on the next track. This one opens with a piano intro, and some real disturbing horns to accentuate that someone is fucking coming for you. The track then speeds up a bit, kick-starting the horror all over again. I particularly enjoy the choice of plunky bass here. It fits well into the mix amidst the Darksynth grind. The high end of this song is occupied by strings etc. There’s a pretty cool break at around 1:55 that eventually goes into some choir and church bell exploration. The break is bookended by a groove and the theremin, looping back to darksynthy goodness rounding out the track.

“Abyssal Arcana” isn’t without guest appearances. Dav Dralleon contributed to the next track entitled “BloodGod.” The intro to this one reminds me of Fleshgod Apocalypse. Bells, choirs, strings, and epic orchestral percussion are again the weapon of choice for Draven. This feels like the most cinematic track on the album as a result. When the bass drops on this one I felt like I was going to have a heart attack. It actually scared the shit out of my yorkie Bella. I felt like the mix on this song was perfect. My earholes thoroughly enjoyed the masterful use of stereo magic here. This is another tremendous track that would fit well on playlists.

“Demonic Incantation Blues” breaks up the aggression with another slow intro, and a swell that breaks off into some ride cymbal fun and also something (a noise) that sounded like a cow being slaughtered. The slow break here instead of a bass drop was a welcome rest from the murder festival that came before it. “Demonic Incantation Blues” is the kind of song that would fit well in a horror movie trailer. Where “Silver Coffin” felt more like traditional horrorsynth, this one breaks the mold.

“Impalement and the Brazen Bull” is another trailer worthy track. The sidechain aggression doesn’t kick in until about 1:27. This one had so many elements to it that it was hard to keep up with. I like some of the tape stop effects here used to to transition from one thought to another. The groove that starts up at 2:39 reminds me of drum and bass.

Up next, “A Horrorsynth Symphony.” A detuned bellish pluck, the theremin, and strings greeted me like a cenobite slowing crawling down a dank-ass hallway. This song lives up to it’s title by exploring more orchestral sounding strings in the breaks. “A Horrorsynth Symphony” illustrates how playing with different tempos and musical dynamics can make a seemingly short track feel long.

“The Conjuring” features one of my favorite people in the synthfam, CONNÖR. The quite bass break at 1:28 was the coolest part of this track. Actually, I take that back, the combination of that riff with the piano break at 2:27 was the coolest part because of where “The Conjuring” takes us starting at 3:00. The subtle quiet spoken vocals here were a nice little surprise.

“The Intimate Portrait of the Devil” makes liberal use of ride cymbals at the beginning following another intro. This track is formulaic of the stuff that came before it, but it’s still a rocker. The subtle note bends on the lower end here in conjunction with the string section and theremin are quite fresh. One of my favorite parts of the entire album begins at 3:00 with a romantic orchestral exploration that makes me feel like I’m a kid again trying to hide my black metal albums from my dad. What would horrorsynth be without a little nostalgia?

“Le Vampire du Grand Guignol” is fiery from the start, and also has a slight romantic feel to it. I would be willing to wager that the romance isn’t for another person. Daemien Raven only romances other people if it’s with a drill. BY THE WAY, I AM IN LOVE WITH THE PIANO BREAK HERE. Goddamn is it dreamy. The darksynth break in the second half is extremely black and white and bare bones. I feel like the way this one was mixed in the beginning was slightly different to how it sounded at the end.

SPEAKING OF DRILLS…the final track of “Abyssal Arcana” has a real Cannibal Corpse kind of title–“Exsanguinated with a Drill.” This is a forward moving track that really lives up to it’s name. There are a combination of sounds shortly after the intro that evokes the feeling of multiple drills spinning. Like “The Horrifying Autopsy of Daemian Raven” this song rounds out this horrifying album quickly and to the point.

One of my only critiques of “Abyssal Arcana” lie in the drum fills. Many feel similar, especially during the more driving parts of the album. The only other thing I had hoped for out of “Abyssal Arcana” was a track with some sung vocals. Even if it was just one. Maybe some Suicide Commando aggrotech vocals or something. That said, I don’t think vocals would’ve fit very easy into any of the tracks presented here. There’s definitely a lot going on, and vocals definitely need space.

Critiques aside, I fucking love this album. Like love, love. I appreciate all of the hard work that was put into this beast. I know that it wasn’t easy, and it deserves to be appreciated. “Abyssal Arcana” isn’t for everyone, and it definitely isn’t an album most would find relaxing, but some of us psychos do. I highly recommend checking this one out if you like having long strolls in morgues, talking to the dead, or playing Doom and just need something to vibe to.

Stand-out tracks: “BloodGod (feat. Dav Dralleon),” “Cauchemar Noir,” and “Le Vampire du Grand Guignol”

Recommended for: horrorsynth fans, axe murderers, and Michael Myers.

Album Color Profile: BLOOD SHOWER RED

d.notive is an eclectic producer of electronic music from Minneapolis, Minnesota who has been independently producing various forms of cinematic music for nearly a decade. Their latest, entitled “Chimera,” was released on January 28th, 2022.

The cover art for “Chimera” was jointly created by S. Soto at Wally Commissions and Jordan Tucker. Soto illustrated the creature in the image while Tucker handled the rest of the layout. When I look at this artwork the first thought that comes to my mind is Zodd from Berserk. Soto’s chimera appears to be coming up out of an illusory city below it. The word “Chimera” is prominently featured front and centered with stylized pink neon katakana behind it キメラ (ki-me-ra). The starry skies and the Tron-like grid lines fill out the rest of the artwork into something that feels both menacing and safe. Despite being somewhat innocuous I like what’s going on with the visual element of “Chimera.” It just works.

So what does d.notive’s “Chimera” sound like?

Well, the word “chimera” is defined in two ways. The most prevalent definition is “a fire-breathing monster with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail.” The second is “a thing that is hoped or wished for but in fact is illusory or impossible to achieve.” Both definitions help to accurately depict what’s going on here. “Chimera” feels like a mix of safe producing decisions, while also combining elements from multiple genres into a kind of multi-headed monster.

“Chimera” opens up with a short intro in “Forgotten Futures” which sounds like a really epic cyberpunk movie is about to start. There are rich tones here throughout with a very hefty low end that lifts me up into the opener for the EP “Chimera (feat. Melisssa Medina). Much like “Forgotten Futures,” the title track maintains cinematic goodness which features a tableau of sound that makes use of the entire spectrum of human hearing. The thing I like about this track the most is how strategically d.notive made use of Medina’s voice rather than having her sing a traditional verse/pre-chorus/chorus formula. She is present enough in the song to merely accentuate what’s going on here serving the main break that happens around the 3:32 mark with a satisfying grace. “Opposite Equals (feat. Haribol Attitude)” is my least favorite track of the bunch, but that doesn’t mean it is a bad one. It’s smooth and robotic. Haribol’s vocals are the primary draw here, and at 2:08 there’s a very familiar TWRP kind of feel to the performance that could’ve been explored more. Again, it’s still a pretty cool track, it is just the most divergent sounding of the songs on this mini-album.

The next song, entitled “Alter” is far and away the best cut off of “Chimera.” What a fucking banger. Opening with d.notive’s signature vocal style, “Alter” quickly returns to the more cinematic stylings found in the title track. The low end in this song is my favorite part which features a sandwich of multiple bass voices and tasteful automation that has a subtle dubsteppy-ness to it. “Alter” is the most focused song on “Chimera” with a pulse that just screams put me into a movie.

The lyrics for “Alter” also hit just right:

“In this future they will build where those like me are killed I shed my skin and take the night.”

I identify so much with this song on every level. There’s an anger and sadness here that embodies something larger than me, or you, or d.notive.

The last two songs on “Chimera” are wholly instrumental. “Retribution” is a straightforward retro-ish instrumental track that makes me want to pull out my fight stick and have salt poured into the open wounds of my weak flesh. It’s a driving track that could easily fit on the thousands of retrowave playlists out there in the void. The final track, “The Ulimatum” features guitarwork by Carl Skildum. Opening with subtle pipe organs and some chill guitars, “The Ultimatum” is driven forward by Skildum’s presence. The mixing on this song is quite cool as the pseudo-metal guitars shine cut through a wall of sound without negatively affecting the rest of the mix.

Overall, I think that “Chimera” is d.notive’s best work to date. Their attention to detail here absolutely shows. This is further accentuated by a well-done mastering job by Ara Adkins. Compared to a lot of stuff in my rotation of the late, I find myself going back to the one frequently. “Chimera” is shorter than your average LP, and because of that it’s highly accessible. If you like well-dressed cinematic retrowave of the highest quality you can’t do much better than what d.notive has done here. “Chimera” is the kind of mini-album that embodies the type of sound and feel many artists strive for but few achieve. I give it a “fuck yeah” out of ten.

Stand-out tracks: “Chimera (feat. Melissa Medina)” and “Alter.”

Recommended for: Retrowave fans, dubstep bros, cinema musick buffs, and people who like to play the living fuck out of Furi.

Album Color Profile: #E040FB

You can find all things d.notive at dnotive.bandcamp.com

John 3:16, the brainchild of producer Phillipe Gerber, is one of those projects that carries with it a long standing history over the last decade of being experimental, dark, and unapologetically divergent from its Biblical namesake. I first came into contact with Phillipe somewhere between 2010 and 2011, slightly before the release of his seminal “Visions of the Hereafter” album in 2012. During this time Phillipe has had nineteen releases under the John 3:16 moniker. His latest album “Edax Tempus Rerum,” is without a doubt his most important work yet. It was released on November 30th, 2020.

The cover artwork for “Tempus Edax Rerum” is very earthy. It’s sepia tone evokes desolation, death, and a slow, painful passage of time. These things are only exacerbated by sparse images of brush, sticks, and a solitary rotting lamb (of God?) in the middle left of the image, followed by another image of the lamb below it in a further state of decay. It’s almost as if Mortensen’s “Command to Look” was heavily referenced in the design of this cover as there’s something oddly dangerous about it.

The first thing that stuck out to me when I listened to “Tempus Edax Rerum” was its two hour length—although I quickly caught on to the fact that the album is in fact only a little more than an hour in length. John 3:16 gives the listener a choice, you can listen to the album in a digestible five tracks, or in a consolidated “omnibus” form which collects those five tracks into two thirty-one minute segments. Although, I will note that when you listen to this album in omnibus format, there are some really badass extras, particularly starting around the sixteen minute mark on Side A. I will say no more about this–pick your poison, just know that a slightly different “Tempus Edax Rerum” experience can be felt if you decide to plunge into the collected omnibus tracks.

Over the last two months of physically having this album in my hands I question how to describe “Tempus Edax Rerum.” In a couple of words I can say that this album is spiritually dangerous. At times, Phillipe presents more of an experience than he does actual music, although that experience is largely tied into how the listener relates the the vast soundscape found within this brilliant album. At times, there’s a very “Diablo II”-esque kind of vibe to this album. The latter half of “Part I” and “Part II” exemplifies this quality with shoegazey guitars draped over a tableau of atmosphere, processed pianos, and subtle brass. Repeated over and over again, it becomes very clear that this is music meant to be used for a very specific purpose. Personally speaking, as a long time practitioner of Black Magic, I found that “Tempus Edax Rerum” was the perfect backdrop for my private Grand Conjunction celebration on the 21st of December, 2020. Percussion, when it’s used, is very ritualistic. “Part II” cuts right to the chase when it comes to introducing soundtrack style percussion to help accentuate the medieval tone of the dueling guitars present throughout the track.

One of the things that “Tempus Edax Rerum” does really well is it’s implementation of sounds that might not normally feel listenable into the mix of the album. While present throughout, I feel that the introduction to “Part III” serves as a good example of how this is accomplished. After settling into “Part II’s” groove “Part III” rips you right out of that space with a grating metallic squeal that is used to push acoustic guitars forward into another, entirely different ceremonial tone that once again introduces percussion without feeling out of place or forced. There’s something very elegant about the way John 3:16 works with transitions on “Tempus Edax Rerum,” while still somehow maintaining a dark ugliness that doesn’t merely force you to dip your toes into fire, it pushes your head straight down into the Hells-broth itself.

My favorite track, simply entitled “Part IV,” is a deepcut collaboration with female vocalist Rasplyn (Carolyn O’Neill). This track features Rasplyn’s voice front and center, amidst a backdrop of breathy ambience, muted guitars, plodding soundtrack style ritualistic drums, and heavily EQed Ulver style male vocals to accentuate the experience further. Everything that came before “Part IV” on “Tempus Edax Rerum” serves as a precursor to this track by re-introducing nearly every aspect that helped to create the space here. Halfway through “Part IV” I was treated to a calming Bear McCreary style percussion that just begs to be performed before an audience open to the idea of being participants to something they might not entirely understand. If I had it my way, I would love to hear an entire album of shorter songs by John 3:16 with Rasplyn. This, to me, is the penultimate John 3:16 moment.

“Part V” closes the album out with a shorter exploration of all the elements that made up “Tempus Edax Rerum.” Although I will say that this exploration is much more straightforward and to the point. There’s a lot of experimental energy to this track that feels like a medieval witch burning.

I think that “Tempus Edax Rerum,” is special because it combines the sensibilities of drone and black metal with a soundtrack quality that shows the sheer range of Phillipe Gerber’s capabilities as an artist. Phillipe understands precisely where he wants to go and how he’s going to get there. Speaking from the heart, there’s only one other album released this year that feels as realized and as polished as what John 3:16 has released here. If I was making movies or short films, (which might actually happen in the near future) John 3:16 would without a doubt be one of the artists I would tap as the imagery I’m attracted to within my mind is congruent to the soundscape presented here. “Tempus Edax Rerum,” is an incredible piece that cannot be easily understood the first, second, or third time you listen to it. I only grew to appreciate it when it became a lingering part of my life over the last couple of months. “Tempus Edax Rerum” is that one album I can turn on to do anything: to relax, to evoke the Prince of Darkness, to be creative.

This album sits within the unholy trinity that is my top three albums of 2020. (Of which, I’ll probably write something else about when we finally get into 2021).

STAND-OUT TRACKS: All.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Ritualists, soundtrack aficionados, burnt out Black Metal enthusiasts, people who understand the true nature of Darkness with a capital ‘D.’

Album Color Profile: EVIL SMOKE FROM HELLISH HELLY HELL

You can find all things John 3:16 at https://john316.bandcamp.com/

Embryonic is an electronic producer from Montréal, Quebec. Their music is best described as a combination of Dreamwave, Retrowave, Spacewave, with a dash of Vaporwave. Their first album “Terra Navigation Protocol” was released on October 30th, 2020.

The artwork, by Jeffrey Zico, is one part otherworldly, and two parts psychedelic. It features a figure looking up into a hypnotic sky and a dying neon star. The details in the foreground remind me of a vast and desolate sci-fi landscape. It wouldn’t be out of place in a Rick and Morty episode, or in Heavy Metal magazine. I quite enjoy the visuals here, but I think the yellow and blue color scheme is slightly too bombastic/loud for the soothing sounds that lie within “Terra Navigation Protocol.”

Amidst the backdrop of ambient pads and breathy atmosphere, the first thing that stuck out to me about “Terra Navigation Protocol,” was the wind. Oh goddess, there’s so much wind on this album. There’s also a tasteful implementation of shoegaze style guitars present throughout parts of the the album. If I had to describe the visual that this entire album gives me, it’s like watching dry ice sublimate.

The intro track, “Tales of Pilgrim and Exiled,” begins with a metallic sort of energy. It slowly eases into a space more akin to proper Dreamwave–complete with faded subtle pitch bending here and there for effect. This track feels like floating above a lifeless wind tunnel above a far-flung planetary body. “Tales of Pilgrim and Exiled,” shows off a little bit of what “Terra Navigation Protocol” does, and serves as an awesome opening which leads into the first proper track, “Empty Chrysalis.” “Empty Chrysalis” doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to getting into the thick of what it’s trying to accomplish. Everything, the drums, guitars, pads, and low end are all present from the moment the track begins. As I close my eyes I see flashes of light pass before my eyes transitioning from one time of my life into another. At around 2:20 there’s a neat distant guitar tremolo carrying the spacey vibe of this song further that reminds me of mid-2000s atmospheric black metal.

“Deadform” enters with a cold set of pads that remind me of a spiritual awakening in a way. Like, you know when you think you have everything in life figured out and then the gods send down a little reminder that you don’t? That’s what this song sounds like to me. There’s not much guitar here, but it does make an appearance at the end of the track that brings the song to a satisfying resolution.

“De Valore Doloris,” (aka my favorite track from “Terra Navigation Protocol”) channels a starry sort of epicness that reminds me of Hans Zimmer’s work on “Interstellar.” This song feels like watching the complete life cycle of a person from womb to tomb. It all feels quite sad when you really think about it. The feeling that this song stirred up within me wasn’t unlike having to say goodbye to someone you love for the last time. The plucky, harp-like synths here sit well within the spacious and (once again) windy vibe going on here.

Up next is the title track, which revisits some of what “De Valore Doloris” is doing, with guitars being front and center for most of the track. “The North Star,” combines sparkling keys with a post-synthwave thematic structure that slightly shifts halfway into the song. Images that came into my head for this song include watching a fledgling android stumble out into the world for the first time, only in reverse. “Stranger” opens with a high pitched blurry sort of bell that feels watery and dangerous. The Juno-esque pad present on “The North Star” makes its return as a texture that bridges the gap between the breathiness of this track and the guitars in the background towards the center of the song.

“The Candor Rift,” which is my second favorite track from this album, reminds me of the title track a lot, only better. It’s slow, plodding, and chock full of guitars. There’s a nice lead that enters in at 1:56 that serves as a pseudo-guitar solo due to where it sits in the mix. At 3:04 a slow arpeggio enters and quietly leaves. Images of floating out in a lonely, cold, dark space bombard me whenever I listen to this one. “Orbiters” channels much of the same energy found on the title track and “The Candor Rift,” there’s guitars, pads, and windy atmosphere galore. Finally, “L’absolutiste,” is a track that could’ve been a good opener for the album, but instead was chosen, wisely, in my opinion, to close out “Terra Navigation Protocol.” The highlight of this track was the synth that comes in at around the 2:36 mark.

Overall, “Terra Navigation Protocol,” is an album comprised of three primary sounds: wet (albeit) clean guitars, breathy pads, and metallic mid-to-high frequency sounding keys. I really enjoy that the sounds Embryonic decided on weren’t used once and thrown away. I think that in order to maintain a certain flavor on an album, that it’s good to pick from a carefully selected palette of sounds. Embryonic does just that. Sprinkled throughout this album are some signs of subtle melody, but for the most part “Terra Navigation Protocol” feels like one continuous thought as opposed to ten individual tracks. Don’t come into this one expecting slamming drums, or a pronounced low end. You won’t find that. Embryonic isn’t about rocking and rolling, Embryonic is about evoking strong emotions. Emotions that want to sweep you away into their wake and take you far, far away…to another time, another planet, another life.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of Cinematic Dreamwave, and Spacewave,

STAND-OUT TRACKS: “De Valore Doloris,” “Deadform,” “The Candor Rift,” and “Empty Chrysalis.”

Album color profile: #FCE4EC (when I close my eyes I see this color when listening to “Terra Navigation Protocol”)

You can find all things Embryonic on https://embryonic.bandcamp.com/

₳§ᗐM̶R̳ (aka ASVMR) is a strange little project from Huntington, West Virginia. Cyberpunk isn’t exactly the first thing when you think of the college towny vibes of Huntington, although when you consider William Gibson’s idea of The Sprawl, which is basically a giant Megacity along the East Coast from Boston to Atlanta, I’m pretty sure Huntington or at least the city that used to be Huntington would be a part of it. ₳§ᗐM̶R̳ has quite a few releases going back into early 2019. Their latest is stylistically entitled “𝑵𝒆𝒘 𝑳𝒊𝒇𝒆 ®” and it was released on September 4th, 2020 via Vivarium Recordings.

The cover art for “𝑵𝒆𝒘 𝑳𝒊𝒇𝒆 ®” (by GLEAMx96) is derivative of the cyberpunk aesthetic that ₳§ᗐM̶R̳ is going for, depicting a gender ambiguous chrome human looking at some glowing star-stuff in their hand. There’s a consistent geometric pattern that surrounds the image, and an almost lens-flary kind of halo shining off of something in the distance. The choice of light pastels here are both nice and clean looking. I think if I saw this sitting on a shelf somewhere, I would feel obliged to pick it up and at least give it a glance.

Much like a lot of proper Vapor/Dreamwave out there in the void, ₳§ᗐM̶R̳, isn’t so much a musical experience as it is an atmosphere of futuristic energy. The real experience from what ₳§ᗐM̶R̳ has to offer with “𝑵𝒆𝒘 𝑳𝒊𝒇𝒆 ®” lies in giving yourself permission to let your guard down, shut your eyes, and relax. There is so much going on with “𝑵𝒆𝒘 𝑳𝒊𝒇𝒆 ®” in a visual sense that it’s best experienced by giving it your undivided attention.

The opener “Digital Sunlight For The First Time” which is a collab track with 沙漠里的沙子晚上很温暖 (this translates to something like “warm desert night sand,” cool fucking name) kicks the album off with an ethereal metallic “clanging” and soft pads. In the distance there is a muffled voice. The song shifts away from this later on into what sounds like a wind tunnel and some very Vaporwave-esque vocals and distortion. By the time you realize it the song is over and four minutes have passed by. Get used to this, because ₳§ᗐM̶R̳ really makes time fly by. The second track, “Self-Enhancing” (feat. Future Anonymous) is notable for its chilly demeanor, subtle manipulation of airy noise, and what sounds like chains or car keys dragging or clanging against someone walking down a busy street whilst snapping their fingers. Next up, is a collab with CHROM-47, it’s entitled “We Will Make You (The Best You Can Be).” This song is also rather metallic and jingly, with a consistent radar sounding vibe that trickles throughout. At about 1:10 into this track there’s a percussion element that kicks in that reminds me of someone knocking on the door, a heartbeat, and a bass drum. The first time I spun “𝑵𝒆𝒘 𝑳𝒊𝒇𝒆 ®,” my little yorkie, Bella, started freaking out because she thought someone was outside making racket. “Au·to·mat·ic A·poth·e·o·sis,” is a song that I grew to appreciate for combining a more traditional sounding chillwave track with what sounds like a computerized voice speaking in a string of numbers or code. “Thought Incubator” (feat. m a g g i e . w a v), is one of the shorter tracks on the album combining a tinny/distorted psuedo-guitar type synth and pads. There’s a really cool sample at the end that says something like “If you step right this way, we’ll begin the proceedings for your brand new life.” What this did for me in a visual sense is allow me to imagine some kind of facility where my brain, or maybe my consciousness became separated from my body and placed into another kind of existence. “Thought Incubator” is like the show room floor type of music for new and better bodies. I connected with this track a lot.

The highlight of “𝑵𝒆𝒘 𝑳𝒊𝒇𝒆 ®” is “Body/Connection/Cut.” The song title reads like some kind of weird command line, giving instructions to cease the functions or a connection to a body that exists only to be thrown away or disposed for something more shiny and a lot less tangible. The choice of manipulated sounds used on this track reinforces this idea even more. I particularly enjoy one sound that reminds me of making a selection or saving a game in an older CD-ROM based game. The way it’s used here with the throttling of oscillating atmospheres doesn’t sound especially violent, but when the (vocoder) vocals kick in the latter half of the song it’s definitely apparent that there’s something nasty afoot. This song accurately depicts the constant struggle of feeling awkward in one’s body, and I love it because it scares the fuck out of me. The next song, which is very sarcastically titled “You’re Going to Love Your New Life! (Inside of a Server),” features a voice sample from one of my all time favorite movies, “The Lawnmower Man”, if you haven’t seen it you should. ANYWAY, the continuity of “𝑵𝒆𝒘 𝑳𝒊𝒇𝒆 ®” just surprises me so goddamn much. Everything that we’ve covered, so far, has lead up to this point. It’s clear ₳§ᗐM̶R̳ is taking us on a journey away from our humanity. This all might seem very exciting at first glance, but really, it isn’t. I mean, can you imagine living the rest of your existence as a disembodied consciousness inside of a server somewhere? It sounds like a goddamn death sentence.

“Reality v. 2” (feat. V​/​/ Tomo) is the one of the more musical tracks on the album, zeroing in on a relaxed drum and bass vibe. This quickly wraps up heading into “Forget The Past (We Can Remember it For You)” which takes a sample from 1990’s “Total Recall.” I had a good giggle when I heard Kuato’s voice carry the first part of the track along saying “OPEN YOUR MIND” over and over again. The track that follows, “Ersatz Heaven” (feat. Soul▲Craft) is my second favorite track from the album. Again, much like “Reality v. 2” this is more traditional “music.” It has an authentic cyberpunky post-synthwave vibe that sits right in the goldilocks zone of “𝑵𝒆𝒘 𝑳𝒊𝒇𝒆 ®.” It’s slightly groovy, atmospheric, and just different from everything else on the album. “Complete Reconstruction” (feat, V‡▲D‡M∇R) quickly gets away from tradition by purposely pushing it’s music into the background of the track. Again, we are greeted by a voice put through a vocoder channeling some creepy post-human energy. The final track on the album, ” .​.​.​And That’s How I Assimilated” (feat. First Kings) begins with another odd noise, it almost sounds like a gunshot, some detuned pads cycling through some kind of LFO, a squishy low passed bass, and some rickety percussion. Somewhere north of 1:30 some “Blade Runner”-esque pads help to end the album via anti-climactic textures that made me catch a few flies by the time I actually started to understand how sophisticated this album really is. Like–holy fucking shit this is art, not because it tries to be but because it’s delivery is so natural.

Overall, “𝑵𝒆𝒘 𝑳𝒊𝒇𝒆 ®,” combines the sensibility of a threatening artificial intelligence while listening to Kraftwerk and Dan Mason through an LFO while baking a cake. I hope that that makes sense. This can be an odd album to the uninitiated, but I really appreciate it for two reasons:

  1. ₳§ᗐM̶R̳ consistently melts time without relying on hooks, bass drops, or sick beats.
  2. “𝑵𝒆𝒘 𝑳𝒊𝒇𝒆 ®,” uses pre-existing sources via samples to paint a tableau of ideas that flow together into a coherent narrative that not only makes sense the more you listen to it, it almost becomes a part of you if you’re willing to let your defenses down to appreciate just how incredible it is.

I loved this album. I’m so happy that I was able to spend some quality time with it.

***As a side note, I have three albums in mind for what I consider to be “best of the year” for 2020, “𝑵𝒆𝒘 𝑳𝒊𝒇𝒆 ®,” is one of these.***

THIS ALBUM IS FOR YOU: if you’re into proper high-minded cyberpunk without the beat dropping, or silly musical melodrama/tension.

HIGHLIGHTS: “Body​/​Connection​/​Cut,” ₳§ᗐM̶R̳ x Soul▲Craft – “Ersatz Heaven,” and ₳§ᗐM̶R̳ x m a g g i e . w a v – “Thought Incubator,” ₳§ᗐM̶R̳ x CHROM​-​47 – “We Will Make You (The Best That You Can Be)”

ALBUM COLOR PROFILE: #F4ECF7

You can find all things ₳§ᗐM̶R̳ and more at https://vivariumrecordings.bandcamp.com/ and https://asvmr.bandcamp.com/

Deckard 88 is a retro-style producer from Buenos Aires, Argentina. While they have only recently come onto the scene in September, I have to say, there’s a lot of promise here. Yeah, it’s true, Synthwave doesn’t have that shiny new car smell anymore, but you know what? There’s still quite a few artists out there exploring the genre with fresh new enthusiasm. Deckard 88’s first full length is entitled “Controlled Machines.” It was quietly released on October 12th, 2020.

The cover art for “Controlled Machines” reminds me of an old, worn, movie poster for a late 70s or 80s horror flick. You know, something like this. There’s a cyberpunky Gibson-esque Neuromancer vibe to the artwork here that has been done to death at this point in the game, but I think it’s executed well, and has nice aesthetics that compliment the music within “Controlled Machines” well.

Despite using Cubase to capture all of the sounds heard here (and for post production), Deckard 88 boasts using an array of hardware synths on “Controlled Machines. There’s a real tangible feel to the overarching sound of this album showing that Deckard 88 has a good understanding of the tools he has available. I happen to enjoy the fact that a PO-28 was used on this album. As an aside, Teenage Engineering, most well known for the legendary OP-1 unit, has some other extremely affordable hardware synths, especially in their Pocket Operator line. For anyone looking to get into that side of the game, they’re definitely worth checking out. Other synths that Deckard 88 used here include the Volca Kick, the Roland TR-8 for some of the 808 related percussion, and the Korg Minilogue.

Anyway, onto the music!

What does Deckard 88 sound like? Well, rather nostlagic, but with the right level of modern sound design. There’s a slight fuzz draped over the entire production of “Controlled Machines” giving it that analogue style grit, but it’s also very clean sounding at the same time. I drove around the city over the weekend blasting this album in my car, I listened to it on my tinny old computer speakers, from my phone (while I washed dishes), with a pair of headphones, and on my studio monitors. What’s unique to “Controlled Machines” is that it sounds nice everywhere I took it. “Summer Time” highlights the range this album has from it’s atmospheric soundscape, to its heavy distant and spacey pads, dreamy silver sounding keys, and a warm low end that kind of just takes you away into some starry nebula somewhere in the vast cosmos of space. In general, I found “Controlled Machines” to be most powerful when I was relaxing. I even did a nice little meditation with it running in the background and didn’t feel like it was agitating me.

Of all the tracks available here, I quite like “Interlude (1989).” It’s epic, but it’s low key epic. There’s a nice subtle build-up to this short track that sort of sums up everything I enjoy about what Deckard 88 has done here. “Mono no Aware” sticks out to me as sleeper hit from this album for a few reasons. First of all, it highlights one of Anthony Michael Hall’s most famous lines from the “The Breakfast Club,” which for some reason has become a staple in this type of music. For as many times as I’ve heard this “friendship” line it doesn’t get old. Every time I hear this exchange from John Hughes finest directorial moment I feel like life is breaking up with me. Profound sadness. Second, despite being really low key, “Mono no Aware,” is one earworm of a song. When the initial build-up of the music fades somewhere north of the 1:36 mark it embraces you in it’s nostalgic light just hoping to evoke some sort of genuine feeling from your dead lifeless body. Thirdly, the harmonica sounding synth is wonderful. “Arcade Rush” is one of the few tracks on “Controlled Machines” that’s a little more upbeat, and features some neat EQ tricks to give the song a little more texture than your average straight forward Synthwave affair. The one song I really wanted to like more on this album was “Broken Reality,” but the “One Small Step for Man,” Neil Armstrong quote took me out of it’s vibe as soon as I heard it. Not that there’s anything wrong with Neil Armstrong, I just think it’s one of the most sampled quotes in music at this point.

Overall, Deckard 88 has done a nice job here. I would’ve like to have heard some more analogue style distortion on this album, but I definitely couldn’t have produced something as good as this myself. So it gets a HELL YEAH from me. I’m so happy that I had the opportunity to spend some time with this album. “Controlled Machines,” is a solid listen, and I think if you’re legit into Synthwave you’re going to absolutely love this one.

STAND-OUT TRACKS: “Mono no Aware,” “Arcade Rush,” “Interlude (1989),” and “Summer Time.”

RECOMMENDED FOR: Synthwave-heads, fans of 80s cinematic music, people looking for something relaxing and low key.

Album Color Profile: #D500F9

You can find all things Deckard 88 at https://deckard88.bandcamp.com/

Elay Arson is the brainchild of Daniel David Larson. To those unfamiliar with Larson’s work, I would like to prepare you, because Elay Arson doesn’t take notes from any other artist in the darksynth/retrowave scene. These guys do their own thing. And with the imminent release of their second full-length in 2020 (holy shit two LPs in one year), “Franz,” they continue to push the limit of what I’ve come to expect as their norm. Unlike a lot of the stuff I’ve reviewed this year, Elay Arson is a project that I’ve been actively listening to since the release of their seminal “Rites of the Damned” album from way back in 2017. I’ve had the pleasure of watching Larson’s career grow with great interest.

I want to put “Franz” into perspective for listeners who aren’t familiar with Elay Arson’s previous work. First of all, looking at Elay Arson’s back catalog, “Franz” sticks out as strange. While there’s always been some level of what I’d like to call “epic cheese” to Elay Arson’s music, I can’t say that it’s ever waded into the waters of camp like “Franz” has. I’ve always perceived Elay Arson to be the sort of project, and I mean this loose terms, that embraced serious types of cyberpunk aesthetics and subject matter. “Franz” completely sheds that hard high-minded cyberpunk ideal for something much more playful. There’s a “Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water” meets Die Antwoord level of absurdity with “Franz” that isn’t so much out of place for Elay Arson as it is bizarre.

Similar to their previous full-length “Dusk Incarnate,” “Franz” is a concept album. Only this time instead of focusing on the distant future, Larson wrote this album zeroing in on one of my favorite topics of conversation—cyberpunk, as we’re living it now. “Franz” is a darksynth/hip-hop/metal opera that uses Elon Musk’s ABSURDLY designed Cybertruck as the primary focal point of the album. “Franz” treats Elon Musk like some kind of Dr. Frankenstein character in an effort to resurrect the consciousness of designer Franz von Holzhausen into a Cybertruck. Modern problems require modern solutions. Anyway, some shit happens and Franz begins killing/terrorizing the citizens of Fremont. If this sounds like Child’s Play meets Christine, meets Portal, you aren’t that far off the mark. The whole idea behind “Franz” as an album sounds like something that Larson came up with as a joke whilst dabbing tangie with Devin Harrison on the third floor of a Colorado ski resort. The last thing he probably remembered was going comatose, (as you do) but when he came to, “Franz” had been fully fleshed out, recorded, and ready to go. At that point he had no choice but to commit to the project.

Production wise, I think that Elay Arson has really stretched their producin’ legs this go around. Where “Dusk Incarnate” still felt slightly faded in an indie kind of way, “Franz” is much more polished, and more listenable. There’s a good variety here, though if I had to pick one point of weakness for the album I would zero in on its percussion. While there are already a lot of collabs on “Franz” I think that this album would have benefitted by outsourcing some of the “beat making” responsibilities to a proper hip-hop producer, especially on “Billionaire, Boyfriend, CEO,” and “They Call Me Crazy.” The songs themselves are two of the most memorable tracks on “Franz” but I’d like to hear both of these with some howling, car shaking 808s to make them sizzle in that acid/rave hip-hop kind of way. For songs that leaned more into the metal side of things, like “Kill the Truck,” “Icon of Evil” and “Humanity is Fired,” I think making the drums and bass little more front and center in a melodeath Gothenburg style could’ve benefitted the overall feel of the album, by making those moments a little more organic sounding.

In terms of how “Franz” is structurally envisioned, I think that it really shows just how far Elay Arson is willing to explore in an effort to create interesting music. Larson doesn’t stay in one place for too long on this album, and because it’s so widely varied it became more memorable each time I gave it a spin. I knew that this album had its hooks in me when I started singing “Billionaire, Boyfriend, CEO” to myself in the shower a few days after my initial listen. Goddamn, I fucking love that song. It’s gothic and thug simultaneously! (Think Ghostemane). I was particularly drawn to the collabs Larson did with Hard Men Working Hard. Vocally, both songs (“Icon of Evil,” and “Humanity is Fired”) featuring those cool cats from down under were really memorable songs. Their style was perfectly in line with what Elay Arson was trying to get across here. “Kill the Truck,” harkens back to Elay Arson’s style on “Dusk Incarnate” a bit more as does the opening instrumental “Pointy Steel Overture.” Synth-maiden Czarina makes a memorable appearance on “No One is Getting Out Alive,” with an almost operatic performance Her voice has a slight Amy Lee vibe to it. My favorite track from the album was Becca Star’s Yolandi/Fergi-esque collab on “They Say I’m Crazy.” I’m not averse to a full album of this type of thing…maybe next time we’ll get some more. I can only hope.

Daniel David Larson and Devin Harrison (Elay Arson)

The last thing I want to talk about with regards to “Franz” is how genius it is to sing about something so prevalent in popular culture in the moment. For all intents and purposes, Elay Arson is still underground, but I feel like in a world where people go viral all the time, “Franz” has potential to make things happen. All it’s going to take is Joe Rogan, Franz von Holzhausen, or Elon Musk himself to catch wind that there’s an album like this out there and Larson could be trending overnight. I think from a marketing stand-point it’s a crazy idea that has some hairy ass fucking legs.

So yeah, “Franz” wades heavily into batshit crazy side of the pool—but you know what? “Franz” feels like legit entertainment. And it’s all the better for it. That said, the first time that I listened to “Franz” I fucking HATED it. It’s not wildly different from Elay Arson’s previous output, but it was different enough to make me feel uncomfortable with it until I listened to it several times. That said, I love “Franz” now that I’ve spent a good two weeks with it in an honest effort to understand what it’s doing. “Franz” is original, fresh, and injects the darksynth genre with precisely what it needs in order to overcome the current stagnation occurring in the scene. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had more Carpenter Brut style distorted resampled saws than my body has room for. It was great while it lasted but that style has been done to fucking death. Thankfully, Larson has spared us from anymore of that, and still stands, at least to me, as a pillar of a scene crumbling underneath the weight of its popularity amongst edge-lord high-end production worshipping whores looking to piss all over actual artistic expression that doesn’t conform to their idea of what makes a good music. Where those type of people will forever remain stains on the scene for being negative because they crave credibility, Elay Arson will be over here making true art by pushing the limits of the genre by transcending “the standard.”

If “Dusk Incarnate” is a fully realized ultimate version of the style Elay Arson cultivated on “Rites of the Damned,” then “Franz” has given Elay Arson the realization that they aren’t beholden to that style or any other genre or style of music. “Franz” is the start of something truly wonderful. I am super excited to see where Elay Arson takes us next.

Album Highlights: “They Call Me Crazy (feat. Becca Starr),” “Billionaire, Boyfriend, CEO,” “Icon of Evil (feat. Hard Men Working Hard),” “No One is Getting Out Alive (feat. C Z A R I N A),” and “Kill the Truck (feat. Hard Men Working Hard).”

Recommended for: Tesla Fans, metal heads, and sentient Cybertrucks.

Album Color Profile: SHINY AND CHROME

You can find all things Elay Arson at https://elayarson.bandcamp.com/

Dimi Kaye needs no introduction to those of us familiar with the indie Synthwave scene. Hailing from Greece, Dimi Kaye has been producing all things retro since 2015. Dimi Kaye is a frequent flyer when it comes to sick guitar collabs, my favorite being the fabulous Team Sweatwave which arrived just in time for the lost Summer of 2020. His latest solo effort is a four track EP entitled “Mechanical Psyche.” It was released on October 15th, 2020.

The cover image for “Mechanical Psyche” was illustrated by artist Alex Delgado. It features what appears to be some kind of skinless pleasure model leaning up against an automobile surrounded on all sides by brush and overgrowth. A city lies in the background which seems to insinuate that upon leaving it, the android lost it’s ability to continue surviving. In Dimi Kaye’s cyberpunk world it would seem that free-range androids are uncommon outside of city limits. I quite like the color scheme, I think that the blue fits in well with the vibe going on with this EP. I also like the android’s soul leaving it’s body in the form of ghostly butterflies.

The first two things I should note about “Mechanical Psyche” is:

  1. It is entirely instrumental.
  2. It is also completely devoid of guitar. Which is weird because Dimi Kaye, at least for me is a name I associate with guitar.

Looking back at Dimi Kaye’s backlog, he’s no stranger to instrumental music. Surprisingly, he is also no stranger to creating music without guitar. In fact, his first album, “Dream Sequencer” is very similar to “Mechanical Psyche” in both respects, and honestly, it wouldn’t be until the release of his “Shadow Run” single that we would get a preview of the guitar centered sound we got with his more recent work. So before anyone says, “HEY DIMI, WHERE THE GUITAR AT?” know that Dimi Kaye doesn’t limit himself when it comes to writing the music he wants to hear.

In talking a little bit to Dimi about “Mechanical Psyche” it is an EP that is conceptually based on a poem he penned way back in 2007. The poem reads like this:

“Leveling cold machines to independent status
Giving birth to artificial intelligence
That distant future is closing fast

Like a mirror reflects vanity of man
A new species is being born by metal
Factories carry children with iron flesh

In the years to come
Mankind’s hope should come down to this
That though nature of man is violent and merciless
Mechanical Psyche will be more compassionate.”

When I read this for the first time, my initial thought was “wow, how can machines be more compassionate than humans?” And then the ugly truth hit me. I think it’s safe to assume that machines have an exacting, cold, logical, analytical, black and white, perception of the world around them. And to suggest that speculative A.I.s still have more compassion than humans despite all of that is a wild idea. In so many words, this poem basically frames how incredibly fucked up humans can be to one another. Going into “Mechanical Psyche” without considering the finer details of why it was written the way it was. Dimi told me that he intentionally “wanted an artificial/electronic sound to go with it, just like an android would be.” That makes sense to me.

So after all this pretense, how does “Mechanical Psyche” sound? Well, it reminds me of a moody 80s synth based soundtrack. I tend to think it’s a little more Tangerine Dream than John Carpenter, and a little more John Carpenter than it is Jan Hammer. This isn’t an EP about sunsets and beaches after all. It’s very apparent from the getgo that “Mechanical Psyche” is an arpeggio leaden cyberpunk/sci-fi sort of mini-album. “Viral Vector” shows off a little bit of everything here, featuring some Juno 60 vibes in nearly every aspect of its sound design. “Soul Transduction” follows similarly, although where “Viral Vector” sounds much more threatening and dangerous, “Soul Transduction” has a shroud of mystery around it’s sound. It’s simple and straight forward with a calm beat that never fully builds up (by design). This is only further enhanced due to the absence of a snare drum until a little after three minutes into the track. “Takwin” is the most VGM sounding track of the bunch, giving me some old Command and Conquer vibes. It’s a track that fills my mind with anxiety. There’s also a neat exploration element to “Takwin” that feels like endless leaving. The final track “Mechanical Psyche” is the most cinematic song of the bunch. Like, visually it feels like listening to a sun that will never rise. There’s also some atmospheric movement going on with the first bit of the track that reminds of driving through a dimly lit highway on a lukewarm autumn evening.

My final impressions are this: I don’t think there’s anything here that we haven’t heard before. That said, when considering Dimi Kaye as an artist, where he’s taken us in the past, and comparing this all of that, I think that “Mechanical Psyche” is well worth a listen. I think that this not only shows Dimi Kaye’s artistic range expanding, it also shows how he’s grown as an artist on a technical level. The production quality isn’t super high-tech but it doesn’t have to be. Everything is clear, concise, and right where it needs to be. I gave this one quite a few spins in the last week, and I think you might too if you give it a listen. “Mechanical Psyche” is calm, atmospheric, and full of forward motion that makes me excited to see where Dimi Kaye plans on taking us next.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of Synthwave, Outrun, and Cyberpunk centered music.

Stand-out tracks, “Viral Vector,” and “Mechanical Psyche.”

Album Color Profile: #00796B

You can find all things Dimi Kaye at https://dimikaye.bandcamp.com/

Dark Matter Will Flow is an multiproducer experimental project featuring four members from Finland, Canada, Wales, and the United States. DMWF is Jeff Vicario, Joe Wilkie, Jeremiah Boothe and Craig Williams. I was first introduced to them by accident in June 2020 after stumbling upon their debut album “Into the Netherworld.” I was originally planning (for quite a while) to do a review of that album due to how transgressive and different it was, but I had a chance meeting with member Joe Wilkie via his Limbocast show. Before going onto his show I had ZERO idea that he had been a part of a project that I’ve listened to regularly since it hit the streets. He let me know that DMWF got together another album, this time a self-titled, and released it on September 6th, 2020.

Dark Matter Will Flow’s self-titled album artwork was created by Rachel aka “pickledfey” on Twitter. Rachel also did the artwork for “Into the Netherworld,” which featured a very similar style focusing on hands as the primary focus. This image channels “Pan’s Labyrinth’s” Pale Man complete with eyeballs on the palms of some very unnatural looking hands. There’s an oddly erotic vibe coming off of this image, I adore the red and black gradient style color scheme as well as the chalkboard tears below the eyes.

What I immediately felt when I heard DMWF’s self-titled album is how different it was from their first album. Gone was a lot of the harshness and pseudo-metal distorted sounds sprinkled throughout. The self-titled album is much more focused, much more aware of what it is, what it’s doing, and where it wants to go—and it does so unapologetically. Each member of DMWF has a well defined role here, and ultimately I think that each person gets to contribute in a way that ultimately shows off who they are as individuals.

In terms of what this album sounds like, please consider any of Garm’s most notable works with Arcturus and Ulver. There’s a circus-like weirdness with what Jeff and Co. are doing here that reminds me of both bands. DMWF is ambient at times, occasionally beat driven, and kind of pitchy, but in a good way. I’m going to be honest, I usually don’t like the Billy Corgan type of vibe from any vocalist but Billy, but the way the vocals are done here are pretty damn good. My first spin of the album found me falling in and out of love with the initial stage setup by album opener “Weakness.” But those feelings melted away when “Darkness” kicked in, which I must say is one of the coolest tracks, if not the coolest on this album. After getting used to what DMWF was laying down, I began to get what they were doing and liked it all the better for it. The one surprise on this album that was also executed well was the inclusion of Joe Wilkie spitting some rap vibes. His voice is tastefully deep with a slight amount of vocal fry. This isn’t at all something I’ve personally heard before when it comes to the way I’ve expected rap lyrics to be performed. The kicker is that the way Joe delivers his lines doesn’t distract me at all from the music. In fact I view his voice as just another musical instrument being used effectively to further separate what DMWF is doing from everything else I’ve reviewed this year.

“Emptiness” is another wonderful track from this album, featuring some very bassy 90s tones, some nice phased guitars, and vocals (I think) by Jeff and Joe. I don’t often say this but I also liked what Sapphira Vee did with the remix version included at the end of the album. It’s more or less the same structure as the original cut, but it does several things differently that extends the listenability of both versions.

“Listen to No One” prominently features rapping for the verses of the song, while more traditional vocals are used for the pre-chorus and chorus. Again, there’s a really cool guitar solo that kicks in somewhere north of three minutes, as a guitarist myself, I think it would be kind of fun to play. Ultimately, this song shows off the playfulness of DMWF.

The weirdest track of the bunch would have to go to “Beat Zero.” I am drawn to the lyrics of this one:

“Left for dead I gaze up to a violet sky/My corporeal body/Breathes its final sigh/Some of us are a cut above/While the rest of us merely gather up dust.”

The way that Jeff’s vocals sound on this song make the line “cut above” sound like “carnival.” I’m not sure if that was intentional, but it sure as hell sounds like it. Regardless, I think a lot of people can relate to this line as it was written. The coolest little detail of the whole album, an actual sigh, comes in after the line “breathes its final sigh,” at roughly 3:09 into the song. Fuck, I love it so much.

Overall, Dark Matter Will Flow’s self-titled album is a weird little piece of art. And when I say art I mean it in the best way possible. These guys are just doing their own fucking thing with total disregard for what the cool kids happen to be doing. If you’re brave enough to let your guard down for a minute to check this one out, I think that there’s a whole lot to love. It totally kicks the vibe they were searching for on “Into the Netherworld” into overdrive. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED AWESOMENESS HERE.

Highlights: ALL. Start with “Darkness.”

RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of Ulver, Arcturus, Run the Jewels, and people willing to give art a fucking chance—there aren’t a lot of these types of people out there.

Album Color Profile: #880E4F

You can find all things Dark Matter Will Flow at https://darkmatterwillflow.bandcamp.com/

空YAMAHA (aka Sky Yamaha) is a producer from the desert planet Arizona. She has been producing under this moniker since February of 2017. Since then Sky has released two short EPs and two full-lengths. Her latest is entitled “The Mirage is a Portal.” It was released on October 9th, 2020.

I became aware of Sky via the Synthfam Twitterverse after crossing the streams from Synthwave Twitter over into dark (and often very weird) recesses of Vaporwave Twitter. There I found a wild Sky just doing her own thing. The best way I can describe 空YAMAHA to those unfamiliar with her work is that it never tries to emulate a specific style or sound. It has a natural flow to it that is clearly defined by the nearly endless depth of her creativity and imagination. I guess if I had to compare her work to someone else, I would say that it very much reminds me of what Alpha Chrome Yayo has been doing over the course of his last two albums “Skylight Sessions Vol. 1” and “Spectral Hands.”

The cover art work (created by Sky herself) for “The Mirage is a Portal” is by far the coolest piece of art on any 空YAMAHA release. It features floating keys, day lightning (dafuq?!), crows flying out of portals in the keyholes of said keys, a desert, and a beautiful blue sky, which accentuates precisely the vibe Sky is pulling off here. When I take a step back and look at this image I feel oddly calm and kind of thirsty. Sky included a digital artbook in PDF form to accompany the release of “The Mirage is a Portal.” This includes images corresponding to each track as well as poetry. This digital artbook was a really nice Bandcamp exclusive extra. Have I said how much I love Bandcamp?

So how does “The Mirage is a Portal” sound? Every piece on this album seamlessly melds together into a whirlwind collage of three dimensional ideas. There’s a weird Windows ’95 quality to this music that makes me long for CRT computer screens, 66 MHz Pentiums, and the Dangerous Creatures desktop theme. Like—I could see this music being front and center on an old laserdisc showing off the latest in computer animation (brought to you by Silicon Graphics) in the mid-90s.

I’ve listened to “The Mirage is a Portal” at least ten times since its release and it makes me feels like I’m having an out of body experience whenever I press play. Time just melts away when diving into this album. And while I think it’s a little too energetic for meditation, I do think that “The Mirage is a Portal” is a good example of how to make relaxing tunes worthy of being the soundtrack to your next lucid dream. I particularly think that this album shines bright in its latter half. “Desert Mirage” was my favorite deep-cut off of the entire album. It combines a pseudo-Asian feel with a slow koto sounding vibe surrounded by slow pulled strings in an embrace of all surrounding sound. “Prism Water Arc” is another nice track that has some off center hi-hat hits don’t sound musical at all—but for some reason they really gel. I quite like the plodding water sound going on in this track as well. “Prism Water Arc” feels like it’s capturing the journey of some clockwork type of machine trying to traverse a muddy desert in search of meaning. “Lifesize Hourglass” has a calming vibe that prominently features a basic house drum beat amidst huge sounding, reverb heavy, modular synths that feel distant yet very near. I like the space that Sky gives this track, she never overloaded me with sounds that took away from my experience. “El Laberinto” was the other highlight of “The Mirage is a Portal.” It opens up with a very dangerous sounding vibe that is immediately given levity with the presence of a goofy cowbell that sounds similar to the one found on the Roland CR-8000.

Overall, “The Mirage is a Portal,” is a neat experience. This isn’t music meant to stir up anxiety or negative feelings. This is the type of music that wants to wrap it’s arms around you in a warm embrace of lush winding soundscapes. If you’re remotely interested in checking this out I implore you to give it a good listen with headphones. iPhone speakers aren’t going to cut it here. Anyway, I loved this album! Please check it out.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of lush soundscapes and dreamwave, fans of Alpha Chrome Yayo.

HIGHLIGHTS: “Desert Mirage,” “Prism Water Arc,” “Lifesize Hourglass,” “El Laberinto,” and “Embodiment.”

Album Color Profile: BLUE BECAUSE OF COURSE (#304FFE)

You can find all things 空YAMAHA at https://skyyamaha.bandcamp.com/