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/

Once upon a time, when I was much younger, a lot more naive, I occasionally came across weird little albums that I can only describe as “experimental.” There are a few artists who come to mind: Throbbing Gristle, Master/Slave Relationship, Tangerine Dream, and Stars of the Lid to name a few. To me, there are a few hallmarks that make a music project experimental:

  1. It doesn’t easily fit into any genre or category.
  2. It’s just weird or somewhat difficult to “get.”
  3. Experimental isn’t necessarily musical.

Armageddon Speaking (of Ontario) is a music project that fits into this experimental framework. I was first exposed to them after reviewing Leifendeth’s “Narrow Escapism.” Armageddon Speaking did a fascinating remix of “Not Again” for that EP which stood out as one of the most anomalous and experimental tracks on that release.

Something that really impresses me about Armageddon Speaking is how long it’s been around (in some form). There are fledgling tracks that go all the way back to 2000 back when FL Studio 2.0/3.0 was a thing. And while Armageddon Speaking only formally became much more active around 2014 it can’t be overstated how exciting it is to be able to experience an artist who has been in the electronic scene far before many of us were just a glimmer in its eye. I mean, what the heck were you doing in 2000? I was playing black metal! I digress…

Armageddon Speaking’s latest is entitled “Theory of Time Travel.” It was released on August 14th, 2020.

The cover art for “Theory of Time Travel” is near abstract featuring a blood red color with darker hues of midnight blue that are reminiscent of looking at an infrared universe in reverse. To me, the red color here represents the hidden esoteric energy of vast deep space. In the upper right hand corner I feel as though this represents some sort of planet filled to the brim with life, but devoid of ethics and spirit. Towards the bottom there appears to be some darker writing that reminds me of the One Ring from The Lord of the Rings. I’m pretty sure that’s not what it is though. This album cover is mysterious and cold. It fits in well with what Armageddon Speaking is accomplishing with “Theory of Time Travel.”

In terms of how “Theory of Time Travel” sounds, well, as mentioned before, this is an experimental album. The backbone of this album’s character lies in how un-musical it is. There’s no “beats,” “drops,” “breakdowns,” or “melodies.” There is an overarching theme to this album, however. And it is reprised over and over again in many different forms during the course of the record. This theme serves as the glue that binds “Theory of Time Travel” together filling the gaps between what sometimes feels like near silence with a spacey forward momentum that can only occur in experimental music.

It’s pretty clear that “Theory of Time Travel” wasn’t so much painstakingly composed as it was “captured.” There’s a very modular feel to this album that creates an organic analogue sort of atmosphere that feels good to experience. This is type of album that I could meditate to. It has a calming vibe that takes me to some far-flung nebula when I close my eyes. “Theory of Time Travel” is like listening to a visual artist paint, using each stroke to crawl towards some sort concealed apotheosis that never fully feels resolved. This is an album that accepts the fact that change is one of the indisputable and inevitable existential truths, while arguing that time itself is arbitrary to that process.

Of the tracks available here, I feel that it would be a disservice to Armageddon Speaking’s vision for “Theory of Time Travel” by recommending tracks that stand out here. To me, I feel that “Theory of Time Travel” is best experienced as a whole, rather than five individual tracks. I think that “Theory of Time Travel” has the type of sound that won’t be easily identified as being released in 2020 if someone happens to stumble upon it in the distant future. It has a timeless sound that harkens back to electronic “music” from the late 1970s. In general, when it comes to Armageddon Speaking, I think that their tagline “music from the future,” is accurate. However, I’d reframe it as “Music from the future…as we’re living it.” The genius behind this album isn’t in how it’s constructed, but in how it wasn’t. This is an album full of happy accidents. I don’t think that everyone will love this album as it’s not easy listening, but to for adventurous intellectual types looking for a challenge there’s some real gold to be found here if you give it an honest chance.

STAND-OUT TRACKS: Listen to this from beginning to end. Don’t break this experience up. The entire album is the stand-out track.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Listeners looking for something both relaxing and challenging.

Album Color Profile: #78281F

You can find all things Armageddon Speaking at https://armageddonspeaking.bandcamp.com/

Mike Templar is an electronic music producer who’s traveled all the way from Sirius, that’s 8.611 light years, in order to share the gift of funky spacewave with all of us down here on Earth. His latest album “TROM” aka “The Resolution of Mind” came out on June 20th via Bandcamp.

“TROM” is a high concept, multimedia album that has to do with one man’s journey against the a corrupt system holding humanity down. Apparently, the next three-hundred years are going to be a complete shit show for us. Thanks drug resistant viral infections! Thanks power hungry corporations and politicians! Hey thanks, big pharma!

All joking aside, the story behind “TROM” may seem overly serious, but there’s a real sense of playfulness to the overarching theme of this album. This is precisely what makes “TROM” so different. This isn’t an edgy “Game of Thrones” gore-porn style look at an unfortunate future. There’s a real sense of thoughtful levity here.

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak to Mike personally over the course of a few hours. We talked about “TROM,” our lives, and what it means to live in such interesting times. After talking to Mike I got the sense that this is a man who is truly connected with something bigger than himself. He’s honest, straightforward, and understands that the thing that’s helped him keep perspective through all the ugliness is staying connected to his higher self through artistic expression. In so many words, “TROM” is the result of a man putting a vulnerable part of himself publicly on display for the sake of his art.

I mean, Mike Templar wrote an entire goddamn novel (roughly 120 pages) that fully fleshes out each song on “TROM.” Most artists don’t even bother to include lyrics or liner notes with their album releases. And while I haven’t had the opportunity to sit down and read the book in its entirety, I can say that without a doubt, it’s full of high-minded ideas. Ideas that investigate the root causes behind a lot of disturbing truths that eerily mirror our own reality.

“TROM” consists eighteen tracks, some of which are remixes, spanning roughly eighty minutes. From a value stand-point this album offers a lot of content. Musically, “TROM” is almost entirely instrumental with the exception of “Emergency (feat. Millennium Falck)” and a few sample drops sporadically spread throughout the album. Even though this album deals with some heavy themes, I don’t think the sound of this is dark. In fact, “TROM” has a certain bounciness to it, which makes the album a lot more playful than almost all of the other albums I’ve listened to this year. That said, it’s not so playful that it’s whimsical. There’s a lot of genre blending here. “Stopover on Earth” is a good example of this. My favorite track on the album is definitely “Inner Enemy.” It’s very visual and just sounds all around pleasing to the ear. I found myself humming it to myself a lot this week. “Emergency (feat. Millennium Falck)” is a compelling vocal performance. It’s not over-polished with an overwhelming amount of pitch correction or processing. Millennium Falck did a great job on it. It is totally reminiscent of 1970s variety show music, which, needless to say, is wildly different than what I was expecting. This may sound weird, but I quite dig it. You should check it out.

Overall, “TROM” is an accessible album. It’s extremely chill considering the subject matter. I think this would be great music to listen to if you’re a little unorthodox and need a some background juice for an inspiring meditation session. At times, it wades into mallwave territory—but I don’t think that this is a bad thing. This is definitely a thinking man’s album made by a man who likes to think.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Free-thinkers, people who want to experience spacewave with a positive vibe.

Stand-out tracks: “Inner Enemy,” “Speculum,” “Stopover on Earth,” “Slingshot Singularity Spy,” “Emergency (feat. Millennium Falck)”.

Album Color Profile: #2196F3

You can find all things Mike Templar at https://autumo.bandcamp.com/

Eyeshadow 2600 FM is the darksynth project of producer Meryl S. Kavanagh. In 2017, she released her groundbreaking first album entitled “TERF DESTROYER 9000.” Since then, she’s been quite prolific producing thirteen releases since that time. ES2600FM is music that explores disdain for the establishment, space vampires, and cyberpunk themes.

“Polybius” is a concept album that continues where her previous album “Ride Eternal” left off. On the cover is a woman calmly lying in a sea of stars. Considering that this is an album that explores the story of a sexy vampire lady marooned in deep, deep space, the cover art works pretty well. I’m still trying to figure out where the name “Polybius” fits in. I’m well aware of the urban legend surrounding the fictitious coin-op arcade machine from the 1980s, but in my head cannon for this album I tend to believe that Polybius is the name of the star system that our vampire heroine finds herself lost in. Regardless, it’s a cool title and it looks good featured at the top of the album’s cover art.

ES2600FM’s “Polybius” is the kind of album that should be listened to in a dark room as one continuous song. While I was able to skip around and listen to individual tracks more closely, I felt more comfortable playing this album from beginning to end. When I listened to songs individually I felt like some context was being left out. As a whole, “Polybius” sounds like you’re floating through deep space. This is largely helped by a strategic use of glassy sounding pads, white noise, and covert subliminal sound effects. This album is desolate AF. Though I don’t think that this feeling sets in until you’re sitting with this album running for a bit. By the time you’re half an hour in, the isolating effect that this album has is unmistakable. In general, “Polybius” makes me feel slightly claustrophobic and godforsaken.

Production-wise, “Polybius” is respectable. There aren’t any offending frequencies that are going to stick out as abrasive or unlistenable. For an indie album it’s very well-produced. “Polybius’s” greatest strength lies in how balanced it is. “Mind Machine” is a track that really stands out to me due to how it’s arranged. At times it sounds really dark, but there’s also this light-hearted element to it that reminds me of the feeling you get when you’re an MMO newb exploring a dangerous area by yourself for the first time. It feels like something that should be used in EVE Online or Elite Dangerous. “Edges of Orion” is the tune I think that will attract a lot of listeners looking for fresh darksynth feels. It’s upbeat and energetic—the kind of music that’s good for driving down a dark country road with reckless abandon.

Overall, the real strength of “Polybius” lies in Kavanagh’s willingness to dip her toes into ambient drone—because it’s all over this album. It’s a neat touch to bookend ambient drone sounding explorations around proper songs with percussion. This not only controls the energy and flow of the album but it also creates excitement when it’s absolutely necessary. Here’s hoping that ES2600FM fully explores the ambient element that she started on this album on her next release.

RECOMMENDED FOR: People who like space-themed drone, lovers of science fiction soundtracks, and darksynth fans.

Stand-Out Tracks: “Mind Machine,” (best track) “Edges of Orion,” (this is the sleeper hit of the album) “Her Name is Andromeda,” “Doomed,” “The Legacy Code,” and “Time Paradox.”

Album Color Profile: #FF33CC

You can find all things Eyeshadow 2600 FM at https://eyeshadow2600fm.bandcamp.com/

Still Life With Cat or SLWC is a cinematic dark pop project from Pescara, Italy. It features the hypnotic voice Lisa ‘Liz’ Monaco, music by Giampiero Mariani, and lyrics by Alessandro Di Zio. Their debut album “Megadream” boasts ten tracks of captivating emotion.

“Megadream” can only be described as beautifully calm and dark. And this may sound odd, but it’s also visually arresting. I found myself closing my eyes while I listened. “Megadream” is like a painting that you hear with your heart and see with your mind. Try to visualize sentient machines trying to figure out exactly who they are amidst a backdrop of rolling grassy fields, windy oceans, and expansive vistas. This is the true essence of Still Life With Cat. For a dystopian concept album, “Megadream” sounds completely different than I expected it to sound. It’s both evocative and refreshing. This is an album that has its roots in electronic music, but it’s not entirely electronic. These are songs that can and SHOULD BE performed live in an intimate, darkly-lit venue. There acoustic guitars, saxaphones, and jazzy vocals. The percussion is minimal and soft, but it works to the benefit of “Megadream,” not against it.

I really appreciate alternative perspectives on dystopian futures. Especially when they deviate from the traditional cyberpunk backdrop of mega-corporations, driving fast, and neon-soaked skies. Still Life With Cat accomplishes their own unique take on what the future could look like: one that’s full of hope and wonder. “Megadream” is magnificent. I look forward to seeing what SLWC do next.

RECOMMENDED: For people who want to chill out. For people who love calm cinematic music. For people who like vocals. If you dig stuff like Enigma’s “MCMXC A.D.” album you’ll probably really like this.

Stand-out tracks: Blind and Happy (best track from the album imo), Pure Blow, Big Old Black Wolf, A Spark into the Nowhere

Album Color Profile: #E8F5E9

You can find all things Still Life With Cat at https://stilllifewithcat.bandcamp.com/