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

I spend a good chunk of my day investigating leads on Twitter for good music—especially when it comes to Synthwave. It sometimes gets really difficult to wade through the neon-soaked waters. There is just so much Synthwave in my feed that I often rely on other people to point me in the direction of good music with the right vibe. Over the last nine months I kept coming across XENNON’s “Miami Cop.” On a whim, I decided to head on over to Spotify and check it out. It caught me off guard. Completely. I don’t often smile when I listen to music, but “Miami Cop” hit me so hard in all the right places. I’m not ashamed to say that it gave me a lot of joy-joy feelings, which temporarily put a chink in the armor of my permanent resting bitch face.

“Miami Cop” has something that I wish more Synthwave artists had. Vocals. Don’t get me wrong instrumental music can be both powerful and amazing. But I’m a Meat Loaf kind of girl. I fucking love me some vocals. Especially when they are powerful. From the moment I pressed play on “Miami Cop” I INSTANTLY felt a familiar vibe that I haven’t felt in a really long time. “Miami Beach Chase” opens the album with one of THE best vocal performances I have ever heard from a Synthwave producer. I felt like it was channeling the same energy Rush had with 1984’s “Grace Under Pressure.” And while the vocal performance on “Miami Cop” is very similar to the way Geddy Lee sounds, I think that XENNON presents that familiar vibe in a new and exciting way.

“Miami Cop” isn’t what I would call a dark concept album. Instead it elects to present hope as the highest good against the darker nature of what it means to be a human caught up in a world of absolute shit. Sure, all of the Synthwave tropes are here, a rogue cop on the run, corporate corruption, femme fatales, and dark cityscape—but the protagonist of “Miami Cop” makes it very clear that he would be better off getting away from it all. What’s more interesting is that he asks: “Am I any better than all of this?” He’s not so sure. Great art creates narrative tension, and “Miami Cop” accomplishes this in spades.

Overall, it’s producers like XENNON that give me renewed hope for the current state of Synthwave. I think what he’s done with “Miami Cop” is a perfect example of a producer who’s truly passionate about their art. At the time of me writing this, XENNON has only an average of 8,755 monthly listeners on Spotify compared to somebody like Billie Eilish who boasts 44 MILLION. Like—what kind of weird bizarro world do we live where actual artists who write their own music go widely unnoticed? Oh I know! We live in the same world that the protagonist from “Miami Cop” is trying to get away from—one full of bad guys.

Check. This. Album. Out.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Anyone that loves good music. Retrowavers who like their Synthwave with vocals.

Stand-Out Tracks: “Miami Beach Chase,” (aka the best track on the album) “Flashback to Holly,” (vibefest 2019) “The Montage,” (reminds me of Rush a lot, and I love it).

Album Color Profile: #651FFF

You can find all things XENNON at https://xennon.bandcamp.com

Ötzi is a four-piece postpunk band from Oakland, CA. It features the talents of Akiko Sampson (bass, lead vocals), Gina Marie (drums, vocals), K. Dylan Edrich (guitars), and Winter Zora (keyboards).

“Storm” is Ötzi’s second full-length album closely following on the heels of their amazing debut “Ghosts” which was released in 2017. I can best describe the sound of “Storm” as a mashup of postpunk vibes from the 1980s that is reminiscent of Eva O, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Joy Division. There is also a slight 1990s vibe to the overall sound Ötzi present that feels somewhat to me like The Cranberries. This especially shines through in “Hold Still,” which is the least dark sounding song, at least to me, on “Storm.” Even the chorus is giving me flashbacks to The Cranberries “No Need to Argue.” This is really cool considering that the overall sound of “Storm” focuses more on the decade before:

“I see the ocean in your eyes
I’m reaching for you
Tears reflecting darker skies
I’m all around you
I reach up to touch the ground
I’m here beside you
I feel the earth spin me around
I hold still for you”

Every member Ötzi plays their part in engineering an atmosphere that can undoubtedly be re-created in a live setting. Production wise, the most notable thing is how upfront the bass guitar tends to be. And while it’s not uncommon for this type to have the bass guitar so up front in the mix it never ceases to sound fresh and exciting. The guitars range from droning sustained notes to chorus leaden melodies which work together with the rest of the band. The drum work is energetic, acoustic, and real as all hell. Akiko’s vocals are frantic, emotional, and present. My head cannon for this album pictures Ötzi recording this album live and in one take.

“Scorpio” stands out to me as the most distinguishable track off of “Storm.” The saxaphone was somewhat unexpected, but it just screams at you to get up and dance. Akiko’s best vocal performance also shows up here. Who thought yelling “I love you,” over and over again could be so catchy? I could see this song in a movie about someone trying to deal with a drug problem spiraling out of control.

I don’t often get an opportunity to review actual bands. In the age of the laptop producer they are something of a novelty. There’s just something special about four individuals coming together in order to create something. I don’t often come across a collective piece of art as good as “Storm.” If you’re into 80s postpunk, get on this album immediately. Your playlist will love you for it.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of 80s postpunk (aka people who like good music).

Stand-Out Tracks: “Scorpio,” “Eight Cups,” and “Moths.”

Album Color Profile: #78281F

You can find all things Ötzi at https://otzi.bandcamp.com/

NNHMN (aka Non-Human Persons) is a minimal wave duo from Berlin, Germany. I accidentally discovered them last year after I went on a post-punk binge. To say that I’m in absolute love with NNHMN is an understatement. To me—they’ve done no wrong. They are aesthetically and musically flawless. I truly think they are doing the (dark) Lord’s work here on earth. The Minimal synth revival is currently having a bit of a moment, and in my opinion, NNHMN is the spearhead.

“Shadow in the Dark” is NNHMN’s third full-length. It had some big shoes to fill as the follow up to “Church of No Religion.” And let me just say, it doesn’t disappoint. “Shadow in the Dark” sounds like the soundtrack to the most dank 1980s goth club you’ve ever had the displeasure of stepping into. The production quality is warm, especially for an album that is so goddamn cold. There’s a grainy, hissy quality to “Shadow in the Dark” that makes me feel like it was made on an analog four-track tape recorder. And if it wasn’t, it definitely sounds legitimate. To further paint illustrate what NNHMN is like, take one lo-fi randomized bass sequence, one drum loop, and some sparse synths to add a little air to the high-end. Repeat it over and over again. Now add subdued, cold vocals with a light plated reverb to the mix. This isn’t something groundbreaking or new, and in theory it shouldn’t work—but it totally does.

It’s hard to say exactly what’s going on with the artwork for “Shadow in the Dark.” It’s by a really talented painter named Aleksandra Waliszewska, who does a lot of this sort of thing. I honestly think that it’s a gorgeous piece which perfectly matches up with the grotesque spirit of “Shadow in the Dark.” Which is very much like listening to a beautiful, cold, faceless clone of Wednesday Addams with something ugly in sitting in her open head surrounded by lamprey-like teeth.

I’ve always admired artists that can take a sound from a bygone era and recreate it flawlessly. Ultimately, I think that the greatest potential for creative output arrives when an artist perfects an old formula and builds upon it with subsequent releases. Deathspell Omega, did this type of thing for Black Metal when they released “Si Monumentum Requires Circumspice,” and I think that NNHMN could follow suit—only with Minimal Wave. “Shadow in the Dark” is unsettling, groovy, calm, and oddly chic.

And I know it’s a little late at this point, but it was totally album of the year for me 2019. I’ve listened to this one…a lot.

Anyway…GO CHECK THIS ONE OUT. RIGHT MEOW.

RECCOMMENDED FOR: Non-human persons, people who have permanent resting bitch face, minimal wave enthusiasts.

Stand-Out Tracks: “Shadow in the Dark,” “Scars,” “Der Unweise,” “Vampire,” “Special,” “Black Sun” (ALL OF THEM)

Album Color Profile: #000000

You can find all things NNHMN at https://nnhmn.bandcamp.com/

“Process S” is the latest release by Asian synthwave producer Replicant 69. Clocking in at just a little over half an hour, “Process S” is a fun little album that does a lot in a short time.

On the cover we are treated to artwork by Heriberto Martinez (https://www.artstation.com/xensoldier) that depicts a girl cowering next to a wall. Behind her is a what looks like a group of homeless people gathered together around a fire. Behind them lies a huge neon-soaked city with bars, a ramen shop, skyscrapers, and a sign that reads “No Music, No Life.” It’s a really nice piece that depicts extreme wealth disparity between the haves and have-nots. I think it fits in well with the overall aesthetic of “Process S.”

Musically, “Process S” isn’t so much synthwave as it is an actual cyberpunk album. The album sounds sleek and clean, but there is also an organic element to what Replicant 69 is accomplishing here. This especially shines through with “Hearts of Darkness.” It’s satisfying to hear the forward mechanical momentum of a song written completely in a DAW being pulled apart at the seams by a stand-offish, humanized guitar lead. Replicant 69 creates balance through this type of conflict in their music a lot.

For Westerners, there was a time not too long ago where it felt like the end of the world was happening everywhere else. The truth of the matter is that it’s pretty apparent the end of the world is happening everywhere—all the time. There is a sad tension in the air nowadays that just begs to be articulated through art. Replicant 69 recognizes this, and it really comes through in their sound.

Replicant 69 makes heavy use of reverb, arpeggios, and pads to create great space in their music. This isn’t really music to dance to, but rather something to put on in the background while you chill out after a hard day at the office. Overall, I think that with a few tweaks this album could be soundtrack worthy. At times, I felt that the drums should’ve been a little more dry, and the guitar leads a little lower in volume, but these two things didn’t get in the way of me enjoying “Process S.” Listening to this album was a joy—sort of like taking a leisurely walk through a neon-lit dystopia where the sun has died.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Folks who like futuristic sounding music. People who want something to chill out to.

Stand-Out Tracks: “We Sell Hope,” “Day Dreams,” “Social Timing,” and “Hearts of Darkness” (favorite track)

Album Color Profile: #AD1457

You can find all things Replicant 69 at https://replicant69.bandcamp.com

Dark Smoke Signal is the synthwave project of UK producer Alex Pope. “The Antipope Resurrection” is his latest LP and was released March 20th 2020.

The cover art by Paul Harding is one part Blade Runner, one part Dimmu Borgir. It features an image of what I’m assuming is the “Antipope” standing amidst a dystopian city, a burning church, and piles of skulls. Despite the cover art’s dark tone, it’s very tongue in cheek, coming off as a playful hyperbole that intersects the supernatural with the forces of death, destruction, and technology.

Dark Smoke Signal boasts a sound that’s somewhat familiar to early Perturbator, Carpenter Brut, and We are Magonia. The biggest difference, at least to me, was how far Dark Smoke Signal leans into an anti-christian aesthetic over one that is more horror-oriented. If Carpenter Brut is like the movie “Halloween,” then Dark Smoke Signal is like the anime “Hellsing.” Regardless, I grew up listening on a loop Cradle of Filth—so I eat this shit up.

Musically, “The Antipope Resurrection” is headbangingly good. The songs are well crafted with an audible low end that serves as the foundation for the album. This is accentuated with sawtooth leads, orchestral sounding interludes, and a healthy amount of audio sampling. All of these things come together driving forward the album’s menacing atmosphere. There’s a lot of cinematic melodrama here that will appeal to anyone into dark sounding music.

“Priest Runner” was a title that made my corpse-painted inner child smile with glee. It plays on the Blade Runner idea, only instead of replicants we’re hunting priests. The song itself has a wonderful intro featuring a very Vangelis like atmosphere. The glitch sound in the song’s intro reminds me of something you might see in a movie trailer (see Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and Blade Runner for an example). “Priest Runner” fucking slams and is my second favorite track from the album.

My favorite track from “The Antipope Resurrection” is “Tearing the Wings off an Angel.” It is an absolute anthem straight out of the 1980s that needs to be on your Spotify playlist TODAY. I love it so much that it might just be one of my favorite songs ever. The vocals are so catchy that they give me goosebumps.

I think that the album would’ve benefited more by opening with “Priest Runner,” “Burn the Vatican” or “Chaotic Pendulum” as opposed to “Ad Infernum Crowley Diabolus.” “Ad Infernum Crowley Diabolus,” leans very heavily on a distorted bass rhythm that is almost exactly identical to Carpenter Brut’s “Roller Mobster,” (both songs are also in G major). I mean, I get it—opening the album with a banger is a good artistic choice. But for how creative Dark Smoke Signal was on the rest of the album, I think that putting this as the first song on the album is distracting. Maybe it would’ve been better as a bonus track.

Overall, Dark Smoke Signal has made one hell of a darksynth album. It’s certainly one of the best that I’ve heard this year. It isn’t easy to make a full-length that sounds, feels, and bangs as good as this one. I can foresee “The Antipope Resurrection” being in my regular rotation of music for years to come. I look forward to hearing what Dark Smoke Signal does next.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Anyone into Perturbator, Carpenter Brut, We Are Magonia, and Gost.

Stand-out tracks: “Tearing the Wings Off an Angel” (MUST LISTEN, this is truly a remarkable track), “Priest Runner,” “Burn the Vatican,” “Chaotic Pendulum.”

Album Color Profile: #512E5F

You can find all things Dark Smoke Signal at https://darksmokesignal.bandcamp.com/

Team Sweatwave is a Synthwave super group who’s main source of inspiration is old VHS aerobic videos from the 1980s. The team includes some really talented producers: Turbo Knight, YORU 夜, Dimi Kaye, Gyrff, and Polemic Heart. Their first album, entitled “Agents of S.W.E.A.T.” features eleven heart pumping tracks of authentic aerobic Synthwave action.

On the cover of “Agents of S.W.E.A.T.” are four beautiful specimens of human perfection who want to see you work it until you can’t work it anymore. The two women have that classic 80s look, perm and all (oh god I can smell it), while the two men stand together yoked as all hell with their perfect smiles and steroid fueled Mr. Universe physiques. I am particularly drawn to the the man on the left who’s standing next to the Dolly Parton wannabe. One of his eyebrows are cocked upwards in such a way that tells me everything I need to know about him.

“Agents of S.W.E.A.T.” is unique in that it goes in a completely different direction than the wide majority of releases made by Synthwave producers. There are ZERO songs (count ‘em) that feel like the long lost soundtrack to dystopian city or driving fast here. This is an album that will go good with anyone’s workout—just in time for Summer.

One of my first memories was watching my mom and my aunt do aerobics in their legwarmers and headbands to Jane Fonda in our small living room. Over the years that followed, I eventually joined in the madness. We were always trying new workout videos. I did everything: Jane Fonda, Richard Simmons, Jazzercise, Buns of Steel, and later on in the 90s Billy fucking Blanks’s Tae Bo. Considering all of this, “Agents of S.W.E.A.T.” is really special to me on a personal level. It relates to something I directly experienced myself as I was growing up. While listening to this album, I actually found myself doing some of the old arm exercises that I haven’t bothered to even think about in near twenty years.

Musically, the thing I appreciate most about “Agents of S.W.E.A.T.” is the inclusion of so many tracks with vocals. In a world flooded with elevator music masquerading as Synthwave, it’s quite frankly a breath of fresh air. Mandi Mae’s vocal contribution on the opening track “Limber Up!” was really hitting me in all the right places. I felt like I was back in my old living room working out and having fun. There’s even some surprise hip hop influence creeping in towards the end of the album with “Pulling at My Dreams.”

If I had to pick the best overall track on the album I would say that the honor goes to the absolutely pumping “Rage of the Tiger.” Dimi Kaye’s guitar work really makes that track something special by keeping focus and energy in all the right places. Like seriously–once you turn that song on you’re going to be motivated to start doing sky punches in your kitchen.

“Agents of S.W.E.A.T.” is a tribute to a culture that is all but dead in 2020. It’s like listening to an old workout video from the 1980s. So if you’re even remotely interested in hearing what that sounds like, or you’re an aerboic veteran who’s looking for a nostalgic look into the past—check this out. Just remember to bring some water. You’re going to need it.

RECOMMENDED FOR: People looking for a good soundtrack to workout to, folks who need tunes suitable for a montage, Synthwave fans, and people who have the rage of the tiger.

Stand-out tracks: “Rage of the Tiger,” “Limber Up!”, “King & Queen – Album Mix,” and “Strength, Speed, and Suave,”

Album Color Profile: #CCFF00

You can find all things Team Sweatwave at https://teamsweatwave.bandcamp.com/

Void Stare is a cyberpunk influenced dark synth project from Australia. It features the vocalist from Brisbane’s black ambient metallers Spire. “Zero One” tells the tale of an “omniprescent dark force” that either traverses through or exists simultaneously in multiple locations. These locations in “Zero One” are all cyberpunk or science fiction related. Each one is given a track, which is a really cool idea for a concept album. It reminds me a bit of the Loc-Nar from the movie Heavy Metal (1981).

The first time I spun “Zero One” I didn’t get it. And I suspect that the majority of people who give this album a go will be in the same boat. THAT SAID–“Zero One” isn’t your garden variety type of darksynth that exploits the listener by using major scales or their relative minor scales to inject the music with “feels.” This album is purposely engineered with the intention of satisfying listeners looking to be confronted with something a little different.

For the most part, “Zero One” is instrumental with the exception of two really cool moments with “Soldier (A Martian Death)” and “Seethe (Trapped in Obsidian Eyes).” Other songs like “Crusader (Perfect Heresy Machine) feature what sounds like Mongolian throat singing. Structurally, all of the songs are fully fleshed out explorations that avoid using the traditional verse, prechourus, chorus structure. There’s a noise element to this album that adds to the album’s atmosphere. At times, “Zero One” reminded me a lot of the live action Ghost in the Shell (2017) soundtrack, but I think it tends to be a bit more bleak. Other times I felt small traces of Tangerine Dream (think “Phaedra” and “Rubycon”) sneak into Void Stare’s work. Keep in mind though that this has a more postmodern sound to it production wise.

“Zero One” is sophisticated darksynth in the same way that Emperor’s “IX Equilibrium” is sophisticated black metal. You are going to hear something new every time you give this album a spin. With that in mind—ask yourself: how many darksynth artists are capable of creating a similar experience?

Overall, Void Stare isn’t in the business of creating music that is easy to listen to. Don’t expect bass drops with “Zero One.” This is NOT a melodic, lead driven dark synth album. The first couple of times I listened to “Zero One” I missed so many small details that make this release really fucking good. It is an album that will attack any preconceptions of what you’d like to think darksynth should sound like. “Zero One” has a challenging repertoire of songs that are dangerously catchy once you are prepared to understand exactly what it is that it is doing.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Listeners who want to be challenged, folks who like something a little darker, people who like music that takes risks.

Stand-out tracks: “Rachel (Suffer by Design)” (aka the fucking best track, I love this one), “Decomissioned (Abandon the Protodome),” “Tannhauser Gate (N6maa10816),” “Crusader (Perfect Heresy Machine)”

Album Color Profile: #C62828

Synthia is a multi-genre electronic project from Cheltenham in the UK. I first came across Synthia earlier this year while cruising the Twitter-verse for something new to listen to. Synthia has released a three singles and two full-lengths this year. Talk about busy! I’ll be reviewing their second full-length entitled “First of Us.”

The cover of “First of Us” features some pixel art of an android that is very reminiscent of early 1990s SNES visuals. The android appears to be making some kind of vogue pose amidst a backdrop of a 1980s motif of pastel colored lasers. If Isaac Asimov and Olivia Newton John decided to collaborate on artwork together it would probably look something like this. I quite enjoy it.

Musically, I find “First of Us” to be fascinating. It is very…unique. I’m not sure whether this is a function of the production method that was used to create these songs or what. “First of Us” has an airy grit to it that make little ghosts come out of the speakers on my stereo. This is probably because many of the sounds on this album sit within the 1kHz to 5kHz range (or higher).

There are elements of Synthwave that show up in Synthia’s work but I also think that it has a more postmodern feel to it. I think this is a function of how it is musically arranged. “First of Us” wasn’t produced to sound like it came from 1980s despite having some similar sounds which intersect with that era. A lot of the drums sound like an Oberheim DX which are undoubtedly 80s sounding, but the low end sounds more modern on most of the tracks. The only exception I found to this was in the song “Lucid” which has a more traditional Synthwave tone to it. Even then, I feel like “Lucid” has more in common with music that would’ve been written on the YM2612 for the Megadrive rather than a song that might show up on “Miami Vice.” The pads that Synthia use to create space feel confined in a way that reminds me of pop from the early 1990s. The mids in this recording are akin to late 90s. There’s also an early 2000s EDM feel to aspects of “First of Us” giving it a crunchy bitcrushed sound.

Overall, “First of Us” is like a mash up between 90s video game/chiptune music, Synthwave, and something else. I can’t put my finger on it. After listening to it several times over the last week it really grew on me. I think if you’re feeling adventurous and want to listen to something completely different than the norm, Synthia is worth checking out. I really enjoyed the hell out of this one once I got to know it.

RECOMMENDED FOR: People looking for something a little different, fans of Chiptune, Synthwave, and EDM might find something to love here.

Stand-out tracks: “Darkwave,” “Transistor,” “Lucid,” and “Slasher” (ARE YOU NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD UNDER THERE–LIKE ALL BLOODY VEINS AND PUS?).

Album Color Profile: #6666FF

Elay Arson is the synth metal project of Daniel David Larson and Devin Harrison. I first became aware of them back in 2017 with the release of their album “Rites of the Damned.” “Dusk Incarnate” is their latest album, featuring twelve tracks of synth metal goodness. It was released in early February. “Dusk Incarnate” has not only helped to solidify Elay Arson’s presence in the Synthwave community but it has also helped to propel them to new heights outside of it. The stunning cover art work is by the illustrious Mizucat who’s done more than her fair share of work for the community over the last few years.

“Dusk Incarnate” is a concept album that leans hard into showing how heavy metal and synthwave can work together. If I had to explain this in an analogy, where Cradle of Filth combines the music of Hammer Horror with Black Metal, Elay Arson combines Carpenter Brut with Industrial Metal. While most of the songs on “Dusk Incarnate” comfortably combine both styles together, some are were written to highlight one aspect of Elay Arson’s personality. “Highway Machine Gun Fight,” for instance, sounds much more industrial influenced, whereas “Switchblades” is more of a traditional dark synth track. From the get-go “Dusk Incarnate” opens up with an 80s style dialogue scrawl that talks about an EMP weapon in the body of a sexbot. If she explodes it’s all over for Megacity.

In general, “Dusk Incarnate” is a very fresh sounding album. There’s a good deal of variation here. I can tell that a lot of attention was given to the overall arrangement of the tracks. The implementation of live drums on this album was a big surprise. I feel that it adds humanity to the music. It’s really hard for me to pick a favorite moment on the album, there are so many high points. As somebody who has a lot of nostalgia for the sound Cradle of Filth had on “Total Fucking Darkness,” I think “EMP Blast” stands out a lot to me. It has a similar dingy atmosphere that sounds romantic to my ears. I love it. “Killer Intent” is by far my favorite track to feature vocalist Megan McDuffee. This is a really polished song with outstanding lyrics. I think that this song can stand on its own two legs against big boys like Perturbator and Carpenter Brut. The first time I heard it, I was absolutely blown away. If you haven’t listened to “Dusk Incarnate” yet, start there.

My favorite track off of “Dusk Incarnate” is “Laser Castle.” It has a solemn postpunk tone to it that feels just right within the context of the rest of the album. It’s an absolute delight to hear Nova and the Ghost return on this track. Additionally, there was something about the way the lyrics were arranged to fit the music that really connected with me:

“As you turn your gaze
Your facade begins to fade
You can’t let your people
See you crying that way.”

Daniel Larson is an absolute songsmith. His greatest strength lies in his willingness to show his vulnerability. Delivering this message through Nova’s voice only reconfirms this willingness. I love when artists do this type of thing, which one of the reasons “Laser Castle” stands out so much.

Overall, “Dusk Incarnate” is a fantastic album that does everything correctly while breaking all of the rules. This isn’t metal. This isn’t synthwave. It’s something else entirely. Call it synthmetal or metalwave—all I know is that I like it. I can’t wait to hear what Elay Arson does next.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of Synthwave, Fans of Metal, Fans of Music.

Stand-out tracks: “Laser Castle,” “Killer Intent,” “Switchblades,” “EMP Blast,” and “Cocaine Nightmare.”

Album Color Profile: #FFCCFF

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

“BLEEDING WOUNDS UNEXPLAINED” is the latest “album” by nostalgic synthpunker(s) The Warhorse. It features ten microsongs with a total run time of about ten minutes. You read that right, The Warhorse produced a ten minute full-length album.

The cover of “BLEEDING WOUNDS UNEXPLAINED” is a pastiche of depthless post-postmodern insanity. There’s a very 1970s looking photograph of an ambiguously small person (who I’m assuming is a child) standing on the bottom left. This little creep is dressed in a clown suit, but apparently mom made him put on windbreaker. After all, Halloween is cold in the midwest. To be honest, you would think that the windbreaker would clash with the clown suit’s vibe but it actually works. Behind the little person is a house, a station wagon thing, and a basketball hoop. There’s also something strange happening on the far right side of the cover, I can’t tell if it’s a grill, a UFO (GRILL-FO), or something else. The photograph is framed by some very 80s looking wallpaper stained with who knows what. There are also some remnants of wrapping paper in the bottom right.

If I had to identify what The Warhorse sounds like I’d say it’s a mix of System of a Down, Psychostick, 1980s punk, vaporwave, and early 2000s grindcore. The audio fidelity of “BLEEDING WOUNDS UNEXPLAINED” is as you would expect: it sounds like it was recorded (with love) in a wet basement cellar somewhere in the midwest. As mentioned before, this album features microsongs that cut out all of the fat. Instead of meandering about, The Warhorse zeroes in only on what makes a song catchy. They don’t care about algorithmically engineered five second intros—they don’t have time for it. What’s left is a single verse and a chorus, and then the song ends. It reminds me of old commercial jingles—“Remote Control Dad” and “Balloonmaker” are indicative of this.

Micro song writing isn’t exactly a new concept. Aside from commercial jingles popularized between 1955-1995, the grindcore scene that Carcass (“Festerday”) and Napalm Death (“You Suffer”) came out produced a lot of this sort of thing in the 80s. Earache Records also released the shortest album ever with a total runtime of about a minute thirty back in 2012.

What makes “BLEEDING WOUNDS UNEXPLAINED” so goddamn bloody brilliant is that it is openly declaring war on social media culture by mocking it. The Warhorse is basically saying, “ya’ll motherfuckers are just going to scroll up on my music anyway, so this is all you’re getting.” As a thought experiment the idea of the ten minute album would seem crazy to me. But in execution, it absolutely works. With a whopping 40,000 songs being added to Spotify every single goddamn day something has to give. I mean—let’s do the math: 40,000 songs a day comes out to roughly 2000 hours of music. AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT. Like—who is actually really listening to all of that? It takes me ten fucking minutes to listen to “BLEEDING WOUNDS UNEXPLAINED.”

While microsongs could be viewed as a complete joke, I think that the time is right for something like this to bleed over into the mainstream. I mean, just look at what’s happening to the Retrowave movement, almost all of the aesthetics that made it popular in the underground have been appropriated by mainstream artists. Could you imagine someone like Katy Perry taking just the hooks or bass drops of her songs turning them into one minute tracks and calling it good? It might sound crazy, but it could happen.

“BLEEDING WOUNDS UNEXPLAINED” manages to ride on the outer edges of so called vibe aesthetics while completely rejecting them altogether. This is an absolutely brilliant synthy punk album that is relevant in the moment. It offers a paradigm shifting social commentary on our attention spans, the music industry, and difference between what it means to be a music fan and an actual musician. If you have ten minutes to spare, check this out. It might change everything you thought you knew about music.

The album is fucking dead. Long live the album.

RECCOMENDED FOR: people who enjoy running through the street naked while on fire with scissors in their hands.

Stand-out tracks: “Remote Control Dad,” (batteries not included), “Hamberders,” “It’s Not You…Ok, yes it is”

Album Color Profile: #FF6666

You can find all things The Warhorse at https://thewarhorse.bandcamp.com/