Deckard 88 is a retro-style producer from Buenos Aires, Argentina. While they have only recently come onto the scene in September, I have to say, there’s a lot of promise here. Yeah, it’s true, Synthwave doesn’t have that shiny new car smell anymore, but you know what? There’s still quite a few artists out there exploring the genre with fresh new enthusiasm. Deckard 88’s first full length is entitled “Controlled Machines.” It was quietly released on October 12th, 2020.
The cover art for “Controlled Machines” reminds me of an old, worn, movie poster for a late 70s or 80s horror flick. You know, something like this. There’s a cyberpunky Gibson-esque Neuromancer vibe to the artwork here that has been done to death at this point in the game, but I think it’s executed well, and has nice aesthetics that compliment the music within “Controlled Machines” well.
Despite using Cubase to capture all of the sounds heard here (and for post production), Deckard 88 boasts using an array of hardware synths on “Controlled Machines. There’s a real tangible feel to the overarching sound of this album showing that Deckard 88 has a good understanding of the tools he has available. I happen to enjoy the fact that a PO-28 was used on this album. As an aside, Teenage Engineering, most well known for the legendary OP-1 unit, has some other extremely affordable hardware synths, especially in their Pocket Operator line. For anyone looking to get into that side of the game, they’re definitely worth checking out. Other synths that Deckard 88 used here include the Volca Kick, the Roland TR-8 for some of the 808 related percussion, and the Korg Minilogue.
Anyway, onto the music!
What does Deckard 88 sound like? Well, rather nostlagic, but with the right level of modern sound design. There’s a slight fuzz draped over the entire production of “Controlled Machines” giving it that analogue style grit, but it’s also very clean sounding at the same time. I drove around the city over the weekend blasting this album in my car, I listened to it on my tinny old computer speakers, from my phone (while I washed dishes), with a pair of headphones, and on my studio monitors. What’s unique to “Controlled Machines” is that it sounds nice everywhere I took it. “Summer Time” highlights the range this album has from it’s atmospheric soundscape, to its heavy distant and spacey pads, dreamy silver sounding keys, and a warm low end that kind of just takes you away into some starry nebula somewhere in the vast cosmos of space. In general, I found “Controlled Machines” to be most powerful when I was relaxing. I even did a nice little meditation with it running in the background and didn’t feel like it was agitating me.
Of all the tracks available here, I quite like “Interlude (1989).” It’s epic, but it’s low key epic. There’s a nice subtle build-up to this short track that sort of sums up everything I enjoy about what Deckard 88 has done here. “Mono no Aware” sticks out to me as sleeper hit from this album for a few reasons. First of all, it highlights one of Anthony Michael Hall’s most famous lines from the “The Breakfast Club,” which for some reason has become a staple in this type of music. For as many times as I’ve heard this “friendship” line it doesn’t get old. Every time I hear this exchange from John Hughes finest directorial moment I feel like life is breaking up with me. Profound sadness. Second, despite being really low key, “Mono no Aware,” is one earworm of a song. When the initial build-up of the music fades somewhere north of the 1:36 mark it embraces you in it’s nostalgic light just hoping to evoke some sort of genuine feeling from your dead lifeless body. Thirdly, the harmonica sounding synth is wonderful. “Arcade Rush” is one of the few tracks on “Controlled Machines” that’s a little more upbeat, and features some neat EQ tricks to give the song a little more texture than your average straight forward Synthwave affair. The one song I really wanted to like more on this album was “Broken Reality,” but the “One Small Step for Man,” Neil Armstrong quote took me out of it’s vibe as soon as I heard it. Not that there’s anything wrong with Neil Armstrong, I just think it’s one of the most sampled quotes in music at this point.
Overall, Deckard 88 has done a nice job here. I would’ve like to have heard some more analogue style distortion on this album, but I definitely couldn’t have produced something as good as this myself. So it gets a HELL YEAH from me. I’m so happy that I had the opportunity to spend some time with this album. “Controlled Machines,” is a solid listen, and I think if you’re legit into Synthwave you’re going to absolutely love this one.
STAND-OUT TRACKS: “Mono no Aware,” “Arcade Rush,” “Interlude (1989),” and “Summer Time.”
RECOMMENDED FOR: Synthwave-heads, fans of 80s cinematic music, people looking for something relaxing and low key.
Album Color Profile: #D500F9
You can find all things Deckard 88 at https://deckard88.bandcamp.com/