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

Riki is a synthpop act from Los Angeles featuring ex-Crimson Scarlet member Niff Nawor. She released a short EP back in 2017 entitled “Hot City” which served as a precursor sound-wise for her self-titled debut which was released in February 2020.

The cover artwork is simple enough, featuring a very androgynous looking photo of Nawor mackin’ it with the camera. In each corner of the cover are the letters that spell out “Riki.” I wouldn’t call it particularly original, but it definitely works. In the 70s and 80s this type of album cover was everywhere, especially when an artist went off on their own—like Phil Collins with Genesis or Sting with The Police.

Riki’s self-titled album channels a few different threads of music that reached the apex of their popularity back between 1978-1989. The first thread of her music has a cornerstone in the minimalistic Neu Deutsch Welle coldwave movement of West Germany that is a cross of acts like Visage, The Human League, and Nena. Riki’s “Come Inside” evokes a lot of this energy with it’s weird minimalistic leads and cold vocal style. The second thread of her music lies in Danceteria movement from New York City, Danceteria featured like Sonic Youth, Depeche Mode, and the Swans. The last and final thread lies in Nawor’s affinity for Italia disco aesthetics. This shines through especially Riki’s track “Napoleon” which is reminiscent of Sabrina’s “Boys” (1987) mixed with and Boney M’s “Rasputin” (1978).

It always astounds me to come across musicians like Nawor. It’s clear that there was a lot of attention to detail in production quality of Riki. It’s not only authentic sounding, but it also feels emotionally accurate for the time. Riki’s debut stands as a shining example of how music written in the 21st century can successfully emulate a completely different era independent of geographical location and personal experiences. If you’re are looking for a nostalgia trip that’ll make you feel like you’re in a European discotheque in 1984, you absolutely need to check out Riki.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of Neu Deutsch Welle, coldwave, postpunk, Italian disco, and 80s synthpop.

Stand-out tracks: “Böse Lügen (Body Mix)” (aka the BEST track, so catchy), “Come Inside,” “Strohmann,” and “Napoleon.”

Album Color Profile: #880E4F

Miles Matrix (aka Misha Verollet) is a retro producer from Vienna, Austria. Since 2018 he has explored the far edges of what it means to create authentic retro vibes by fusing together synthwave, chillwave, and vaporwave. His latest release “French Riviera” fully embodies something from each of these genres.

On the cover is a giant neon wave framed by yellow 1980s style abstract art. As I close my eyes to think about it, this image is oddly welcoming and warm. It reminds me of summery sunsets, sand between my toes, and the smell of sunscreen. I was born in Okinawa in the eighties, so as you can imagine I spent a good deal of my time growing up on the beach. Ah…memories.

“French Riviera” is the kind of music that is best experienced with a cocktail in one hand, the wind in your face, and the lights dimmed. There’s a certain romantic feel to this music that makes me want to cuddle up with my significant other and just talk about how things used to be. Generally, “French Riviera” is Matrix’s least synthwavy release, as he decides to fully lean in on his chillwave roots. I think that this is a very good decision as he has created a divergent album within his body of work.

Production wise “French Riviera” almost sounds like vaporwave. I say this because the album is very minimal in terms of how many elements of music are occurring at once. This isn’t a release that creates a wall of sound with synths. Instead it uses sparse minimalism unto which Matrix fully explores each sound in his music carefully. “French Riviera” is simultaneously both wet and dry…much like a beach. Mr. Matrix makes some really good decisions with the subtle use of reverb—which he uses to create a dreamy illusion that makes you feel like you’re underwater somewhere in the Côte d’Azur itself.

While the percussion in “French Riviera” often blends into the background, Matrix gives vibrant character to his drums when it’s essential. This is accomplished via liberal use of Roland CR-8000 samples. There’s nothing quite like a CR-8000 cowbell, and his track “Waves” puts it front and center. Personally speaking, I prefer the tone of the TR-707 or LM-1 bank of sounds myself, but I think that the lightness of the CR-8000 contextually fits really well within the overarching concept of what Matrix is doing here.

Overall, “French Riviera” is a fantastic dreamy voyage. This is a wonderful summer release, and well worth your time. It has a lot of replay value and it authentically helped to calm my nerves today. It’s been a tough week so far but Miles was there with his calming vibes to help me get through. Please check this one out!

RECOMMENDED FOR: Folks who want to chillout, zone out, and close their eyes. If you’re looking for a summertime escape, “French Riviera” is the ticket.

Stand-Out Tracks: “Cloudburst” (what a vibe), “Last Days of Summer” (the best track on the album), “Waves,” “French Riviera,” “Palm Trees & Calm Seas.” (love the horns on this track).

Album Color Profile: #F1C40F

You can find everything Miles Matrix at https://milesmatrix.bandcamp.com/

Occams Laser is the darksynth project of UK producer Tom Stuart. Mr. Stuart may be a full-time dad, but don’t let that fool you, he still has time to be prolific as hell when it comes to creating music. Since 2014 he has produced twenty-five releases celebrating all things dark and retro.

“New Blood II” is Occams Laser’s latest album featuring ten tracks of cinematic, epic, and heavy darksynth. This is something of a concept album continuing the story started in Occams Laser’s “New Blood” album from 2018. “New Blood II” is centered around our final love affair with technology through the medical over use of synthetic “new blood.” Long story short, the “new blood” begins to overtake humanity through some sentient kind of infection. As a result an already dystopian society begins to spiral out of control. Talk about going from bad to worse. The very red cover art (also by Stuart) is both suitable to the subject matter and also quite gorgeous to look at. It features a buff street samurai, a sexy android, standing in front of slightly photo realistic city. It really fucking pops.

Musically, “New Blood II” is somewhat, but not entirely similar to mainline darksynth acts such as Carpenter Brut and Perturbator. This is cinematic and dark instrumental music that demands your attention from the moment you press play. There is a liberal use of the soft-clipped “French” bass that’s often found in this type of darksynth. I don’t think that Occams Laser uses it too much though. He makes excellent use of it where it counts, in songs intended to be total bangers. Which in this case is put on full display in both “Breakneck” and “Arterial Motive.” One thing that I feel separates Occams Laser from the wide majority of other darksynth producers is how clean his sound is. “New Blood II” is very well produced. It sounds shiny, and I can hear most everything that it has to offer. This is very often aided by longer instrumental sections of music that are completely devoid of drums. To it’s advantage, “New Blood II” is able to fully explore the bigger picture of his music through this method by giving his music time to breathe. Both “Scarlett,” and the intro track “Bloodshot” stand as examples of how this works for the album.

Almost all of the songs from “New Blood II” feature titles that center around redness and blood. In my mind’s eye, I definitely picture the color red whilst listening to this. As a synesthete this makes “New Blood II” a little different than what I’m used to listening to. It’s somewhat rare that the theme of an album connects with a singular color, shares that color on the cover art, and the music also sounds like that color.

Overall, “New Blood II” is a very pleasant listen. A lot of care went into this album with that in mind. This will widely appeal to listeners familiar and unfamiliar with Occams Laser. In an over-flooded ocean of darksynth and synthwave artists who struggle to find their exact niche, “New Blood II” stands as a fine example of what happens when an artist successfully accomplishes exactly what they set out to do.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of well-produced darksynth. If you like Carpenter Brut or Perturbator you’ll dig this.

Stand-Out Tracks: “Arterial Motive” (best track), “Breakneck,” “Exsanguination.”

Album color profile: #B71C1C

You can find all things Occams Laser at https://occamslaser.bandcamp.com/

Vandal Moon is a postpunk/new wave project from Santa Cruz, California. It features the talents of producer Blake Voss. He’s been releasing music for Vandal Moon since 2013.

“Black Kiss” Vandal Moon’s fifth album featuring thirty-eight minutes of nostalgic postpunk feels. The cover artwork by Neil Scrivin features a very postpunk, almost vampire-like like aesthetic that perfectly matches the dark attitude of the album. I really dig this art style—it reminds me of something Patrick Nagel might have done, only reinterpreted for the Synthwave age.

The idea of union is an important theme to keep in mind into understanding why “Black Kiss” is artistically relevant in the post-Synthwave era. Keep in mind that “Black Kiss” is a concept album that tells of a “futuristic love story of two androids escaping enslavement and they have to do some unthinkable things to find that freedom.” Even though this is an overplayed theme that’s probably been used by quite a few synthwave albums, there’s something divergent about re-contextualizing it from postpunk perspective. Vandal Moon recognizes that staying tied to the past keeps us enslaved to our nostalgia—which in turn keeps us from moving forward into a mode of social progression.

Musically, “Black Kiss” is aesthetically perfect. In my mind, I could see models walking on a runway to this album. The song selection is arranged carefully, and I wish more producers would consider how important it is to properly order their songs before calling it an album. There isn’t a track on “Black Kiss” that isn’t single worthy. It’s sleek, romantic, catchy, dreamy, nostalgic, and atmospheric. This is a lovely album and certainly worthy of your time and attention. It’s definitely going to be on some “best of” lists, including my own.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Postpunks, gothic ravers, and people who like their music sounding retro as fuck.

Stand-Out tracks: “Robot Lover” (my favorite), “Hurt,” “No Future,” “Black Kiss,” “We Live Forever.”

Album Color Profile: #D500F9

You can find all things Vandal Moon at https://vandalmoon.bandcamp.com/

And now time for a little something—different.

Tengushee is a prolific producer from the so-called “Endless City.” I can’t find out much aside from this. What I will say is that he survived the first cyberpunk apocalypse, and that he’ll survive the next.

“Afterlife” is Tengushee’s forth full-length album. On the cover is a black and white image of our hero, Tengushee, wielding a sheathed sword, four pictures on the wall behind him, and two studio monitors. Like a king on his throne, I get the feeling that he represents a shadowy occult persona who secretly disseminates universal esotericisms through audio. CALL IT A HUNCH.

I’m going to come out straight away and say that I am not as acquainted with the Witch House genre as much as I should be. That said, “Afterlife” sorta sounds like Witch House, but it also doesn’t. There is a rather hefty amount of genre bending going on here, which makes this album really difficult to describe. To make it a little easier, imagine the following:

It’s the year 2072. After a couple of earth shattering environmental disasters, several pandemics, a war, and a shift from isolationism to globalization the world has changed. You’re living in a Edo period style bordello in Oslo as a meat puppet (aka working girl). The pay isn’t bad, but it’s a hard life, and you are always on call. You do what you can to get by, but it doesn’t always serve you to be completely lucid. So you often find yourself popping a few pills every few hours to help forget the ugliness you have to live. Sometimes after spending time with your clients you treat yourself to a drink in hopes that you’re finally done for the day. Lying on a tableau of pillows and soft bodies you lean back in a hazy stupor. The room is as dim as your soul at this point. You take a long draw from a cigarette and surround yourself in a cloud of relaxing smoke. The music in the background is both calm and energetic, futuristic and traditional, dark and light. You quite like it. Life feels grey. So why shouldn’t your music also be grey?

“Afterlife” sounds like the above scene. It’s the sort of music that can simultaneously serve two purposes. It can either be put on as background music, or you can intently listen to it. I’m used to dealing with one or the other. It’s fascinating that Tengushee is able to be both. Artistically speaking, I haven’t often come across music that does this so easily. And even though Tengushee self-describes his own music as “Faewave,” I feel that “Afterlife” encapsulates what I would call futuristic “parlorwave.” In my mind’s eye, I could see music like Tengushee’s “Afterlife” in a film about what life was like at the beginning of the Meiji restoration. At the same time, I could also see it in a film adaptation of Gibson’s “Neuromancer.” Listening to “Afterlife” is like being pulled into two different directions at once. For instance, on a track like “March of the Misfit Toys” there’s a more modern drum and bass rhythm that’s being torn apart by an ambient four note chord progression that sounds like something from early 1900s Vaudeville showcase. It’s quite odd!! There are also instances of Vaporwave-like attitudes popping up all over “Afterlife.” Only instead of directly lifting material from older music to be repurposed into something new, I can’t help but feel that “Afterlife” was actually composed from scratch rather than sampled from another source. Regardless of whether or not this happens to be true or not, a lot of the music “feels” sampled or resampled from original music that Tengushee created himself. See “The Rule of the Queen of Rats” with it’s gritty koto-infused music box vibe for the best example of this. Even Tengushee’s vocal performance on this album feels like it was intended to purposely sound like it was sampled from another source, even though it’s Tengushee himself. Psychologically, I find this both scary and fascinating, because with the way our minds work we tend to digest vocal drops with a sense of authority since many of them come from established brands and/or people. (An often overused example of this can be found in Oppenheimer’s famous “I am become death” quote about nuclear weapons).

I think that “Afterlife” is really fucking weird—but not to a fault. It’s a carefully crafted piece of work that accomplishes being dark and futuristic without being dark and futuristic. This is truly grey music that I would compare to post-black metal Ulver, (think “Blood Inside,” and “Perdition City”). Overall, I really like what “Afterlife” is doing, although I think it’s going to over the heads of most due to how majestically avant-garde it is. If you want a glimpse of how to properly execute futuristic weirdness in an occult sort of way, look no further than “Afterlife.” You can even download it for free from his website, if you so choose—so check it out. I highly recommend it.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of post-black metal Ulver, people looking for something weird and avant-garde.

Stand-out tracks: “Let’s Die Tonight,” “Walk with Serenity” (my favorite track), “Welcome to Nightmares,” “The Rule of the Queen of Rats.”

Album Color Profile: #B3B6B7

You can find all things Tengushee at tengushee.com

Arcturus V is a mysterious project by a dude from Minnesota who goes by the psuedonym Vakhul. I can’t really find much more information about the project than that. He seems pretty active on Instagram where I was able to find a some videos of him performing. In so many words, I can say that this guy really likes horror flicks, black metal aesthetics, and all manner of dark stuff. Arcturus V first showed up on the scene on October 31st, 2019 with the release of “First Verse.” Since then he has had eight digital releases, including five full-lengths, two singles, and an EP. While I don’t entirely understand this sort of rapid fire release strategy, I will say that I have a soft spot for music like this.

“Verse 3” is the fourth full-length album by Arcturus V. It features nine tracks that are a near perfect fusion between suicidal black metal, and ambient darksynth. The cover art is pretty intense using only variations of black, white, and red for the color scheme. The image depicts a very angry looking gentleman surrounded by a red aura and an almost mandala-like sigil blob above his head.

The first time I listened to “Verse 3” I ended up playing it on repeat all day long. I grew up listening to some pretty gnarly black metal, so this was not only real treat, it was something quite different than what I usually listen to nowadays. Sound-wise the production quality is absolutely stellar for this type of music. Typically, I think that it’s satisfactory for music of this nature to be a little muddy and/or noisy. Arcturus V goes above and beyond that expectation with a clean, but not too clean production value that reminds me of early Shining. There isn’t a lot of singing on this album, but when there is, it’s pretty fucking awesome. The album closer, “Spirits Ov the Sun,” which reminds me of suicidal black metaller Leviathan (“Tenth sub Level of Suicide,” and “Scar Sighted”). It is a really great cut that showcases the full potential of Arcturus V as a traditional song writer. Generally though, the album is mostly instrumental. “Verse 3” has a lot of droning clean guitars, reverb galore, and a fair amount of dark synthy goodness. “Visonary” features a pretty disturbing atmosphere combining the sound of a choir and a sample of a man talking about his “odd tastes and eccentricities.” “Throne of the Stars” stands out to me as the most Synthwave like track of the album. I really thought it was something special even though I was singing Theatre of Tragedy’s “Black as the Devil Painteth” to it every time it came on (they share the same chord progression). Comparatively speaking, I think that “Verse 3” shares the same pedigree as stuff like Vrolok’s “Soul Amputation” from 2005, and Xasthur’s “Noctural Poisoning” from 2002. I can even hear a little bit of influence from Snorre Ruch’s Thorns, in “Aten” even if it’s coincidental.

Overall, I think that Arcturus V has produced a very passionate look into the darkness that dwells deep inside of us all. It definitely has that creepy suicidal feel to it that really brings back a lot of memories for my fondness of this type of music. If you’re at all curious to find out what darksynth would sound like if it was mixed with suicidal black metal, look no further than “Verse 3.”

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED FOR: People who like darksynth but want something a little darker.

Stand-out tracks: “Spirits Ov the Sun,” “Throne of Stars,” and “Visonary.”

Album Color Profile: #000000

You can find all things Arcturus V at https://arcturusv.bandcamp.com

Terrordyne is a cinematic darksynth project a producer from California. Terrordyne has been releasing music since early 2019 starting with their debut album entitled “Wasteland.” “High Tech Low Living” is their latest album and it was released May 13th, 2020.

The cover artwork for “High Tech Low Living” is by Nigel Silva from NGHT Studios. It features a large high tech looking pyramid structure situated in some kind of dark canyon. There appears to be a lone woman walking on light towards the structure.

“High Tech Low Living” is a futuristic concept album that centers around the year 2084. During this time, the “World Law Act” was passed as a method to further the globalist agenda of those in power. The law apparently makes it mandatory for all humans to be implanted with something called a “neurolink” at birth. Based on what I can tell, people who refuse to follow this new law are ousted from the niceties of society and forced to live a life without in a dystopian world that demands social compliance. What’s kind of interesting about the title of the album is it sort of pokes fun at those people who elect to comply with social tyranny in exchange for “the good life.” Those types of people may be living a nice high tech life, but it’s a low level existence because they had to forsake their morals and personal autonomy in exchange for it.

Sound wise, “High Tech Low Living” is wholly instrumental, though it often features long cinematic voice samples to help flesh out the ideas presented. The album is extremely slow-paced (110 BPM or less, with the exception of Wraithwalker’s “Protectorant Remix”) in an ambient Interstellar meets Mass Effect sort of way. That said, there are definitely some bangers on this album, “Brain Dance” and the title track especially come to mind as the type of songs I enjoy dancing to. What Terrordyne really excels at is presenting his ideas in a way that lends itself more to music fit for a film or video game soundtrack rather than something you might hear on Miami Vice. “High Tech Low Living” feels like it’s more influenced by early 2000s aggrotech rather than 1980s inspired synthwave, however, I think that it also retains qualities from both genres that help it to do something new.

I have to note that this album is best experienced in headphones. I made the mistake of listening to it while doing dishes without headphones and I missed a lot of the atmospheric nuance to this album that make it really fucking good. The low end on this album is especially dark, which isn’t easily heard if you’re listening to it from crappy phone speakers. So do yourself a solid and listen to this on a proper stereo or with headphones.

I think that the deluxe edition of “High Tech Low Living” runs a tad long for an instrumental album. As a matter of preference I would’ve released “Mass Hysteria,” and all of the remixes on a separate EP release. That said, the deluxe edition of “High Tech Low Living” is a great value for what you get. There’s a lot of kicking tunes here.

Generally, this is the type of music I really get into when I’m relaxing—like drawing or playing EVE Online. It’s not the type of music that you’re going to get distracted by. It doesn’t scream “HEY PAY ATTENTION TO ME.” Instead, “High Tech Low Living” wants to sweep you up into it’s dark and calm vibe. I think that it’s definitely worth checking out.

RECOMMENDED FOR: People who like their darksynth slow and dank. This is soundtrack worthy music.

Stand-Out Tracks: “High Tech Low Living,” (I fucking love this track), “Titan (Interlude), “Brain Dance,” (dance to this song) “Back Alley Chop Shop” (for Command and Conquer vibes).

Album Color Profile: #FAFAFA

You can find all things Terrordyne at https://terrordyne.bandcamp.com

Cat Temper is a Synthwave project by producer Mike Langlie from Boston, Massachusetts (GO BRUINS!!!). He’s been involved with various music scenes over the years ranging from the gothic and heavy, to the strange and unusual. His most well-known project, Twink the Toy Piano Band features music that uses toy instruments to create soundtracks for a cartoon from another more—pink dimension. Anyway, Langlie’s muse has changed over the last few years. His focus has shifted from a project who’s main aesthetic featured a cute bunny rabbit to darker project featuring the often domesticated apex predator—cats.

Cat Temper’s latest album “Feralyzed” returns with a solid tracklist of catchy, aptly titled cat tunes such as “Ace of Spays,” “Big Kitty Nights,” and “Careless Whisker.” Featuring the visual stylings by the wonderful Quinnzel Kills, the cover features a cat-woman with a perm amidst a neon-infused color scheme that comes straight out of the 1980s.

“Feralyzed” is entirely instrumental, and while it has a slight synthwave flavor to it, I feel that it can also exist on it’s own two legs without pinning it down to one genre of electronic music. “Feralyzed” is like listening to music that would be in an 80s action movie, rather than something you would hear at the end of “The Breakfast Club.” This idea really shines through in “Ace of Spays” balancing a breathy high end with banging drums and a distinctive heavy bass tone that just yells Amir Shervan and Alan DerMarderosian. At times the album is upbeat and whimsical in an Oingo Boingo sort of way (”Baskitt Case” serves as a good example) but for the most part “Feralyzed” is oddly harsh, dark, and heavy. There are spacey driven textures in songs like “Careless Whisker,” “The Unfurgiven,” and “Bad Cattitude.” There are also quite a few ties to traditional EDM rhythms that stand out in tracks like “When Puss Comes to Shove.” It’s pretty clear to me that Langlie is on the precipice of evolving Cat Temper’s sound. Into what exactly, I’m not entirely sure. But if it sounds anything like the tone he was going for with “The Unfurgiven” it’ll be interesting to see where he takes it. Overall, “Feralyzed” is a logical continuation to Cat Temper’s “Something Whiskered this Way Comes” (2019). I’ve spun it a dozen times since its release. My cats really seem to like it too.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Synth-warriors of all makes and models and their fuzzy feline companions.

Stand-out tracks: “The Unfurgiven,” “Baskitt Case” (aka the best track on the album), “Ace of Spays,” “Bad Cattitude,” and “Careless Whisker”

Album Color Profile: #6C3483

You can find all things Cat Temper at https://cattemper.bandcamp.com/

Alex Vecchietti is a synthwave producer from Palermo, Italy. He is also a co-founder of RetroReverbRecords which features a rather eclectic mix of synthwave/darksynth artists. In a word, the man is BUSY. It’s no easy task to help manage a record label, maintain a presence on social media, and produce music. Somehow though he still pulls it off.

“The Good Fight” is Mr. Vecchietti’s debut album and came out in late January after the release of two singles, the first being “Child” in November 2019, followed by “Mystery of Faith.” Production wise, the album is quite listenable. I think a lot of care was made in the mixing process to make the album accessible to everyone. The song structures here are solid too, and follow the basic intro, verse, prechorus, chorus strategy that really works for this kind of music. The thing I like the most about the production quality here is that there’s never more than four or five different elements of music going on at once. This provides a fair amount of clarity which trades atmosphere found in traditional 1980s styled synthwave releases for a concise and modern sound.

Mix wise there’s a lot of good use of stereo panning that gives “The Good Fight” just enough space to make it feel three dimensional. Alex tends to prefer mixing his guitars or pads offset (roughly 80%) to the left or right while keeping the kick and snare centered with the low end. Speaking of which, I quite like the low end on “The Good Fight.” It is very similar to something you might find on a darksynth album. I think that this album was EQed to highlight the lows in an effort to allow Alex’s double tracked (or ADTed) vocals to clearly cut through the mix. My only real complaint with the mix lies in the lack sibilance and transients in Alex’s voice. They are EQed, compressed and/or cut REALLY hard in the 7kHz-9kHz range. This takes some of the energy away from his performance, and is distracting to me at times. That said, I think that his vocals are still enjoyable thanks to a hefty amount of reverb being sent back into the mix. Generally though, working with double tracked vocals can be difficult, especially with tenors like Alex, so I understand why the vocals were handled in this way.

Lyrically, I do have to note that this is definitely not going to be everybody’s cup of tea. Many of the songs on this album lean very heavily on a Christian/devotional theme. That said, I think that it works for what Alex is doing on “The Good Fight.” He’s certainly passionate about what he’s doing. It’s just a matter of whether or not this type of thing appeals to you. Personally speaking, I am definitely NOT the target audience for this type of music, but I think there are people out there who will really enjoy this.

RECOMMENDED FOR: People who like well-produced modern Synthwave and Christian devotional music combined together.

Stand-Out Tracks: “Live the Light” (this is the catchiest song on the album), Neon Town (feat. Kumiko25),” “Falling into Eternity.”

Album Color Profile: #FF1744

You can find everything Alex Vecchietti at https://alexvecchietti.bandcamp.com/

Manhatten is a synthwave producer from the UK who’s main purpose is to evoke feels within his listeners. His debut album “Blue Sky Girl” was released at the end of May by Future 80’s Records.

“Blue Sky Girl” is a concept album that focuses on “that one person in everyone’s life who seems to burn twice as bright, but for half as long.” It’s left entirely up to the listener to decide exactly who this person represents in their life. I really like when artists do this sort of thing. Ambiguity can serve as a powerful tool to help personalize an artistic piece to fit the experiences of an individual viewer/listener. I think in order to fully appreciate what Manhatten is doing with this album it’s important to play along with this. So before you listen to “Blue Sky Girl” do yourself a favor and figure out who this person is for you. Because contextually, it will make the album mean something different for everyone.

Musically, Manhatten has the same sort of vibe that Siamese Youth brought with “Electric Dreams.” The main difference is that “Blue Sky Girl” is primarily instrumental, with a few short narrations by Star Madman. Production wise, Manhatten seems to have a solid grasp on his process. I listened to “Blue Sky Girl” with headphones, and also on my stereo. And while it doesn’t sound 100% old school, I think that it does a great job capturing the right vibe with a careful selection of sounds that are undeniably nostalgic. The low end on this album is audible albeit calm, and the higher frequencies aren’t crowded with too many things trying to compete with one another. There’s also a really nice soundscape element to this album that borrows a lot from the Vaporwave and his little sister Dreamwave.

This is such a wonderful video. It reminds me of MEMORIES.

The overall flow of “Blue Sky Girl” feels like a telephone conversation between two people who either want to or already intimately know one another. And while I do tend to think that Manhatten intended his version of the “Blue Sky Girl” to be somebody he actually knows, I can’t help but feel like there’s a great distance between him and her. The closing track “A Kind of Freedom” illustrates this feeling well. When listening to it, I felt like something important in my had life ended, that I was sad, but it was going to be okay. I think that many of us have had long distance relationships before—and when they don’t pan out it hurts. What’s even more interesting about this idea is that the “Blue Sky Girl” herself may even represent not only a long distance relationship with another person, but with the past itself. This is mind blowing to me, because there’s something in all of us that deeply yearns for a simpler more innocent time. It’s sort of weird that wholly instrumental music like this can be so evocative of these sorts of feelings. That said, I’m not going to complain. This is one of the super powers of Synthwave as an artistic medium.

RECOMMENDED FOR: People who like chill music that will make you appreciate the magic of life more.

Stand-Out tracks: “A Kind of Freedom,” “Last Chance City,” “Slow Burn,” “Thunder,” and “Running From It.”

Album Color Profile: #BBDEFB

You can find everything Manhatten at https://future80s.bandcamp.com/