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/

The first time I encountered Neuron Spectre was at a Perturbator gig in Tempe, AZ at Club Red in 2018. He hit the stage in a ghoulish white mask and jammed for a little over half an hour. I fucking loved it. I felt like the two groups who went on afterwards should’ve opened for him.

I saw Neuron Spectre live a second time at another Perturbator show some six months later. That night he played some untitled tunes. But they were distinctive enough that I was able to pick them out the first time I listened to his new album entitled “The Sadist.”

In case you’re wondering these songs were: “Prelude to Insanity,” “Beasts at Your Door,” and “The Lambs Expire.”

“The Sadist” is an album that fits into the B-horror flick aesthetic. Sound-wise it’s like a postmodern interpretation early John Carpenter. There’s almost always a booming bass section, a lot of pipe organs, and an electronic mesh of symphonic sounding strings. Strands of metal creep in here and there—especially in the drum programming. It’s unsettling to hear frantic rapid fire snare blasts intersecting with 1980s style horrorsynth.

Neuron Spectre isn’t a producer who stays in his comfort zone. He likes to take risks. This often results in badass tempo changes that shift the music off one continuous theme within ONE song. He really likes to mix it up. The best example of this type of exploration can be heard in “After the Infinities of Chaos,” “Horror into Eternity,” and the title track “The Sadist.” Neuron Spectre also delivers moments of intense focus that reach its apex in “The Return Gaze of the Abyss.” Of any track on the album I feel that this one would be a good pick for a single as it showcases everything he’s capable of doing.

“The Sadist” does what every good horrorsynth project should strive for—to sound dangerous. There is a lot of passion and heart to this release that really appeals to my dark side. It’s certainly worth checking out if you’re into B-horror soundtracks, slasher flicks, etc.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Lovers of all things horror, darksynth fans, and girls or boys (and everyone in between) who just love a tall dark man in an evil looking mask.

Stand-out tracks: I loved every track on this album but “The Return Gaze of the Abyss,” “Beasts at your Door,” and “The Lambs Expire” were the most memorable to me.

Album Color Profile: #003300

You can find all things Neuron Spectre at: https://neuronspectre.bandcamp.com/