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/

Leifendeth is the industrial project of Toronto producer Dan McDonald. Since 2009 he’s been regularly releasing music under the Leifendeth banner. He has had roughly fifteen releases during this time. His latest, “Narrow Escapism” is a mini-ep featuring five remixes from artists including Braphonyte 7, Real Wilkinson, and Armageddon Speaking.

On the cover of “Narrow Escapism” is a back alley somewhere (maybe in Toronto), sprayed with graffiti. While I personally don’t particularly like the aesthetic of the photograph, I do think that it plays well into the idea of this EP, being that the photo feels claustrophobic.

Musically, I really, really like the title track of this EP. It reminds me “Mechanical Renaissance”-era Psyborg Corp, Xperiment, and C-Lekktor. It’s quite dancey, (Batty von Bats eat your heart out) and has in no way any ties to the current “retro” style that’s in vogue right now. This is the kind of aggrotech infused, industrial music that died a quiet death way back in 2012 with the advent of dubstep. To this day, I’m still not entirely sure how or why this type of music went out of style, maybe it has something to do with the proliferation of the “Goth Bridge Rave.” Regardless, “Narrow Escapism” is a concise track that is well-written, well-produced, and quite familiar to my aging old soul. McDonald makes creative, well-placed use of EQ, reverb, and reverse cymbals (my favorite) to help create this memorable track.

I tend to enjoy EPs like this as they help to expose me to new artists I haven’t heard of before via remixes. The most memorable of these remixes is “Pandemic” by Braphonyte 7. There’s just the right amount of aggression here that just makes me giddy with evil glee. Braphonyte 7’s remix is reminiscent of 2000s-era :Wumpscut:. Armageddon Speaking’s remix of “Not Again” is downright weird, a little ambient, and definitely old school. “Parasomniac (ghost panic mix)” has a good aggrotech styling to it, but the vocals come off as a little dry for my tastes. That’s not to say that they don’t fit, they do, I just think they should’ve been a little more wet, or slightly more in the background of the track. Of the two Real Wilkinson remixes of “Narrow Escapism” I much prefer the “Narrated Breakout” remix as it comes off as a tasteful reprise of the original track. The “Extended ‘Press the ESC button” remix is a lot more experimental, diverting a lot of attention from the original theme by focusing on various creative cuts and button presses.

Overall, I think that this is a pretty good EP. If there had been two other new tracks by Leifendeth here in the same polished style as “Narrow Escapism” in addition to all the extras we get here I think it could’ve been better. In general, if I had to pick one aspect of how Leifendeth could improve, it would be in the visual aesthetic of the project. Looking back at McDonald’s body of work I feel that the music is too amazing for the visual style that was settled upon for Leifendeth. “Narrow Escapism” also suffers from this lack of visual stimulus as well. If there was a little more flashiness to the art design, I think it would push this project over the top as something a little more noticeable, a lot more threatening, and more befitting of the wonderful music found within.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of 2000s aggrotech, late 2000s industrial dance.

STAND-OUT TRACKS: “Narrow Escapism” (this is near perfect) and “Pandemic (Braphonyte 7 remix)”

Album Color Profile: #BDC3C7

You can find all things Leifendeth at https://leifendeth.bandcamp.com/

Kemikziel is a chiptune producer from Canada. In less than a year she’s managed to publish thirteen releases via Bandcamp including one WIP album that is set to release next year in 2021. Her latest release is the excellent quarantine LP “Scourge and Remedy.” Today I’m going to be going to be reviewing one of her older releases an EP entitled “The Ghost in the Gameboy.”

As someone who listens primarily to Synthwave, I am not super well-versed in the Chiptune scene. Chipzel is the name I usually associate with Chiptune thanks to her work on Super Hexagon. Kemikziel is slightly different than Chipzel in that she only uses a Nintendo Game Boy and a tracker program called LSDj aka “Little Sound DJ” to produce her music. Kemikziel represents a small minority of producers who are literally giving 8-bit VGMs life after death.

“The Ghost in the Gameboy” is a Halloween themed EP that centers around all things spooky. Sound-wise the album is everything one might expect out of VGM music from the early 1990s—it’s bouncy, light-hearted, and fun. There’s nothing here that feels out of place. “The Ghost in the Gameboy” isn’t overproduced. This is 100% pure Canadian Chiptune, right from the tap. And girl, it tastes delicious. What makes this release notable, lies in Kemi’s willingness to explore outside the comfort zone of status quo, catchy title screen music. Instead, her strengths really lie in producing atmospheric VGMs that use bizarre combinations of sounds in between melodies. She masterfully uses a lot of portamentos, slides, and dissonant sound effects to push forward the momentum of this EP. When I close my eyes and just listen to “The Ghost in the Gameboy,” I can picture little ghosts tugging on my apron in hopes of getting extra Halloween cookies from me. This vibe is highlighted by Kemikziel’s liberal use of spooky, otherwise uncommon 8-bit FX that twists and bends the overall sound of “The Ghost in the Gameboy” into a concise and impressive mix. It’s pretty clear that Kemikziel knows what she’s doing. This EP demonstrates just how awesome the Game Boy can be as a capable music production tool.

Highlights here include the opening track “Brains?!” which literally sounds like pixel zombies gargling, well, brains. Of all the songs on this EP, I find this one really great for straying outside the constraints of the song’s tempo at around 1:19. Next up is “The Haunted Gameboy” which is the most technically impressive tracks on this release. There’s theremin sounding vibes throughout amidst a crunchy tone that just crushes. There’s also some really cool panning effects here that helps to create a really nice three-dimensional atmosphere. “Bloodthirst” and “Skulls” are the most traditional sounding tracks on the album, but they are also the most focused and overtly dark sounding here. Overall, “The Ghost in the Gameboy” is peak Kemikziel. This is a really good place to start if you’re looking to explore her work further.

RECOMMENDED FOR: People who had a Game Boy in the 90s, VGM fans, and unholy Chiptune adherents who want something pure, fun, and digestible.

Stand-Out Tracks: “Brains?!,” “The Haunted Gameboy,” and “Skulls.”

Album Color Profile: #C8E6C9

You can find all things Kemikziel at https://kemikziel.bandcamp.com/