Dimi Kaye needs no introduction to those of us familiar with the indie Synthwave scene. Hailing from Greece, Dimi Kaye has been producing all things retro since 2015. Dimi Kaye is a frequent flyer when it comes to sick guitar collabs, my favorite being the fabulous Team Sweatwave which arrived just in time for the lost Summer of 2020. His latest solo effort is a four track EP entitled “Mechanical Psyche.” It was released on October 15th, 2020.

The cover image for “Mechanical Psyche” was illustrated by artist Alex Delgado. It features what appears to be some kind of skinless pleasure model leaning up against an automobile surrounded on all sides by brush and overgrowth. A city lies in the background which seems to insinuate that upon leaving it, the android lost it’s ability to continue surviving. In Dimi Kaye’s cyberpunk world it would seem that free-range androids are uncommon outside of city limits. I quite like the color scheme, I think that the blue fits in well with the vibe going on with this EP. I also like the android’s soul leaving it’s body in the form of ghostly butterflies.

The first two things I should note about “Mechanical Psyche” is:

  1. It is entirely instrumental.
  2. It is also completely devoid of guitar. Which is weird because Dimi Kaye, at least for me is a name I associate with guitar.

Looking back at Dimi Kaye’s backlog, he’s no stranger to instrumental music. Surprisingly, he is also no stranger to creating music without guitar. In fact, his first album, “Dream Sequencer” is very similar to “Mechanical Psyche” in both respects, and honestly, it wouldn’t be until the release of his “Shadow Run” single that we would get a preview of the guitar centered sound we got with his more recent work. So before anyone says, “HEY DIMI, WHERE THE GUITAR AT?” know that Dimi Kaye doesn’t limit himself when it comes to writing the music he wants to hear.

In talking a little bit to Dimi about “Mechanical Psyche” it is an EP that is conceptually based on a poem he penned way back in 2007. The poem reads like this:

“Leveling cold machines to independent status
Giving birth to artificial intelligence
That distant future is closing fast

Like a mirror reflects vanity of man
A new species is being born by metal
Factories carry children with iron flesh

In the years to come
Mankind’s hope should come down to this
That though nature of man is violent and merciless
Mechanical Psyche will be more compassionate.”

When I read this for the first time, my initial thought was “wow, how can machines be more compassionate than humans?” And then the ugly truth hit me. I think it’s safe to assume that machines have an exacting, cold, logical, analytical, black and white, perception of the world around them. And to suggest that speculative A.I.s still have more compassion than humans despite all of that is a wild idea. In so many words, this poem basically frames how incredibly fucked up humans can be to one another. Going into “Mechanical Psyche” without considering the finer details of why it was written the way it was. Dimi told me that he intentionally “wanted an artificial/electronic sound to go with it, just like an android would be.” That makes sense to me.

So after all this pretense, how does “Mechanical Psyche” sound? Well, it reminds me of a moody 80s synth based soundtrack. I tend to think it’s a little more Tangerine Dream than John Carpenter, and a little more John Carpenter than it is Jan Hammer. This isn’t an EP about sunsets and beaches after all. It’s very apparent from the getgo that “Mechanical Psyche” is an arpeggio leaden cyberpunk/sci-fi sort of mini-album. “Viral Vector” shows off a little bit of everything here, featuring some Juno 60 vibes in nearly every aspect of its sound design. “Soul Transduction” follows similarly, although where “Viral Vector” sounds much more threatening and dangerous, “Soul Transduction” has a shroud of mystery around it’s sound. It’s simple and straight forward with a calm beat that never fully builds up (by design). This is only further enhanced due to the absence of a snare drum until a little after three minutes into the track. “Takwin” is the most VGM sounding track of the bunch, giving me some old Command and Conquer vibes. It’s a track that fills my mind with anxiety. There’s also a neat exploration element to “Takwin” that feels like endless leaving. The final track “Mechanical Psyche” is the most cinematic song of the bunch. Like, visually it feels like listening to a sun that will never rise. There’s also some atmospheric movement going on with the first bit of the track that reminds of driving through a dimly lit highway on a lukewarm autumn evening.

My final impressions are this: I don’t think there’s anything here that we haven’t heard before. That said, when considering Dimi Kaye as an artist, where he’s taken us in the past, and comparing this all of that, I think that “Mechanical Psyche” is well worth a listen. I think that this not only shows Dimi Kaye’s artistic range expanding, it also shows how he’s grown as an artist on a technical level. The production quality isn’t super high-tech but it doesn’t have to be. Everything is clear, concise, and right where it needs to be. I gave this one quite a few spins in the last week, and I think you might too if you give it a listen. “Mechanical Psyche” is calm, atmospheric, and full of forward motion that makes me excited to see where Dimi Kaye plans on taking us next.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of Synthwave, Outrun, and Cyberpunk centered music.

Stand-out tracks, “Viral Vector,” and “Mechanical Psyche.”

Album Color Profile: #00796B

You can find all things Dimi Kaye at https://dimikaye.bandcamp.com/

Ah, Bandcamp Fridays—the one light in the deep dark tunnel that is 2020. With the advent of Bandcamp Fridays, a lot of artists have begun centering their release strategies around this special day, and as 2020 has gone on more artists have felt compelled more artists to release albums to coincide with the occasion. Today, Kizunaut has followed suit with the release of his sophmore album entitled “The City by the Sea.” If you don’t know who Kizunaut is, he is an electronic music producer from one of my favorite places in the world, Scandanavia’s very own city by the sea–Helsinki, Finland (vetää perskännit!)

The visual aesthetic for “The City by the Sea” was created by Octopuddle. The image features a very industrial gold and blue color scheme which is somewhat of a departure from what I’m normally used to in the often neon-soaked cyberpunk centric music. Despite being a bit on the nose and a little cartoony, I like it, though I would’ve preferred a much more physical DIY look (like a collage) to accentuate and accompany this release.

Musically, “The City by the Sea” feels like a total step up from Kizunaut’s previous Synthwave-leaden “This Was the Future” from 2019. Generally speaking, there is practically zero Synthwave influence shining through on this album, and you know what? I like it better because of that. I think that the feel of this album is somewhat comparable to a cross between “Front by Front” by Front 242, 90s-era Attrition, and Nine Inch Nails.

“The City by the Sea” is really gothy—in a black eyeliner kind of way. The way the percussion and bass come together on this album instantly reminds me of 1990s style rave culture. “Up in Smoke” is a good example of this, combining an oddly familiar synthetic industrial guitar sound with its pulsing and deliberate high-mid bass. I would’ve jammed it so hard in 1996.

The lyrical content of “The City by the Sea” isn’t exactly poetry, as it covers the overplayed trope of what it means to circumnavigate life and technology. Kizunaut writes the following in the album’s closer “Real Human Being”:

“Bound to the network/We dream of freedom/I want to disconnect and feel more complete/Now what will it take for you to treat me as human being?”

Again, it’s not poetry, but it gets a simple and easy to understand message across. All of the songs here touch on this type of thing.

I want to talk about the vocal performance on “The City by the Sea.” Generally speaking, I much prefer music with vocals, but this is one of those rare cases that I would’ve liked having the instrumental versions of these songs in conjunction with what we got. When I spun this album for the first time, I was instantly taken in by the nice gothic vibe of the music, but that vibe disintegrated when the vocals came in. Kizunaut’s vocals aren’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. They are slightly grating and pointy in a nasal Billy Corgan sort of way. I think that a colder, more monotone voice, like Front 242’s Jean-Luc De Meyer, would fit Kizunaut’s music perfectly. I can tell that the intention behind implementing singing on this album wasn’t to annoy listeners, but to create catchy and lyrically driven tunes. To that end, I think that Kizunaut was somewhat successful, as there are some real earworms here—see “California Baby” to hear what I mean.

Considering that Kizunaut outsourced mastering duties out to Friendly Timo (from The Fair Attempts), I’m pretty sure that vocal duties could’ve been outsourced as well. Personally speaking, I would’ve leapt at the opportunity to sing on this album if it came up. The music is so incredibly rock solid that it’s somewhat disappointing that the vocal performance here wasn’t a little bit better. That said, after spinning “The City by the Sea” a few times you get more used to Kizunaut’s vocal delivery. I think that the latter half of the album features a lot more content that serves Kizunaut’s voice much better than the first half of the album. Cuts like “Obsession,” “Only for a While,” “Real Human Being,” and “Up in Smoke,” are good examples of songs that I think sound pretty okay with vocals as they are. I really wonder what this album would’ve sounded like with a vocalist like Vandal Moon’s Blake Voss.

When I look at the entire picture of “The City by the Sea,” I think that there is a lot promise here. The songwriting is catchy, and there are some memorable moments to be had. “Real Human Being” might be my favorite song from this album since the vocal performance is much more level and uniform in comparison to the wide majority of the songs on this album. This is perhaps due to a combination of decent compression and microphone position. There’s not many stray high pitched notes on “Real Human Being” that takes me out of the vision Kizunaut had for this song. I also enjoy “Up in Smoke” quite a bit due how minimalistic and slower paced than the rest of the album. Overall, I look forward to seeing how Kizunaut grows as an artist because he has a lot of potential to create a paradigm shifting album in the future. It’s just going to require the right visual style and the right vocalist.

CHECK THIS OUT: If you’re a fan of Front 242, Attrition, Mortiis (era 2), and Nine Inch Nails.

STAND-OUT TRACKS: “Up in Smoke,” “Real Human Being,” and “Obsession.”

Album Color Profile: #1B5E20

You can find all things Kizunaut at https://kizunaut.bandcamp.com/

Cyberthing! is a Darksynth project from–I’m not entirely sure where. Their VK page says Vancouver, but their Bandcamp page says California. Let’s put it this way, they are probably from somewhere here on Earth. I hope. *gulp* Cyberthing! (aside from one rogue photo on Twitter) is the type of project that takes a page out of the Deathspell Omega handbook by revealing very little about the actual producer behind the scenes. This is the type of “created persona” music that’s become all the rage among the kids these days. To be honest, I’m rather ambivalent to the whole concept. Cyberthing! is also one of those projects that has released five full-length albums and one EP at breakneck speeds over the course of two years. Their latest is entitled “KIRA.” It was released August 12th, 2020.

The cover artwork for “KIRA” is by Nero Exgalatine. It features a wonderful look that is reminiscent of early 2000s anime. There’s just something really cool about slick looking digital art that feels faded and worn at the same time. Nero really excels at this sort of thing. Her art gives off a nice retro vibe akin to looking at a single frame from an older anime on VHS. It really makes me miss Animerica magazine.

When it comes to what Cyberthing! has done with “KIRA” I can happily report that, at least to me, it is aesthetically near perfect. Nero’s anime style art coupled with slick, Cyberthing!’s grainy Darksynth is precisely the type of thing that’s right up my alley. “KIRA” is entirely instrumental, sans a few sample drops is a concept album. The liner notes on Cyberthing!’s page tells the tale of Kira Atari, “the second best killer” in the entire world. The album takes us on her journey to eliminate her rival “Killer Zero” in a bare knuckle cinematic feast for the ears.

“KIRA’s” intro track reminds me of Kenji Kawai’s “Making of a Cyborg” from 1995’s “Ghost in the Shell,” complete with that chorusey Bulgarian percussive vibe that made Kawai’s song so wonderful. The rest of the album, with the exception of “Into the Arena,” is your typical Darksynth affair. This isn’t a bad thing. While there is nothing particularly unexpected or surprising about “KIRA,” it’s strengths lie in maintaining a specific cinematic feel throughout the album that just works.

I found myself humming “First Strike” a lot this week. It’s a total earworm that shows off a little bit of what to expect from “KIRA’s” overall sound. This is the type of neon-flavored Darksynth that boasts a Roland Juno 60 and Minimoog vibe. “Slayer Incorporated” is my favorite track off of “KIRA.” It does a lot right, by combining elements from Darksynth with an early 2000s aggrotech sensibility. This song’s slow crawl brings on that perfect danger-energy that makes my toes curl with glee. “Welcome to the Fightclub” is another track that really caught my attention. Primarily for the rolling squishy bass patch that Cyberthing! uses in an all out barrage of audio violence. “Into the Arena” reminds me of the type of music you’d hear in an old 80s movie featuring a knife fight. It’s not very Darksynth per se but it does have the same spirit of “KIRA’s” opening track which fits in well with the aesthetic that Cyberthing! is pulling off here. Other tracks of note include “Electric,” “Target Hunter,” and “Megaweb Storm,” which all make liberal use of that fancy distorted French Darksynth bass we’ve all grown to love and adore since it first reared it’s ugly head onto the scene via Carpenter Brut & Friends.

Visually, “KIRA” makes me think of a corrupt inner city police precincts, flashing lights, sexy android girls, and flying cars cruising amidst the back drop of some kind of futuristic neon city. It doesn’t do anything daring when it comes to sound design or song structure, but I can’t say that that bothers me. I love Darksynth, and “KIRA” represents a solid example of how to do it right.

Make no mistake, if you’re looking for an album chock-full with Cyberpunk goodness, “KIRA” is your girl.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of Darksynth, Cyberpunk, and sexy killer androids.

STAND-OUT TRACKS: “Slayer Incorporated,” “Welcome to the Fightclub,” “Target Hunter.”

Album Color Profile: #D81B60

You can find all things Cyberthing! at https://cyberthing.bandcamp.com/

Wraithwalker is a darksynth producer from Atlanta, Georgia. He’s been around in the scene since 2018, and has produced several LPs/EPs. He recently has released two mini-albums within the last month, “Preludium,” and “Visions.” I will be reviewing the latter.

The cover artwork for “Visions” reminds me of the variant cover for Hecate Enthroned‘s “Upon Promethean Shores (Unscriptured Waters).” The color scheme is much the same prominently featuring one of my favorite colors—a harsh, almost neon violet. The image itself reminds me of Carpathian Forest‘s “Through Chasm, Caves and Titan Woods.” For this type of music I think that Wraithwalker’s logo leans a little too heavily on a black metal sort of aesthetic, but I think that’s what he’s going for. It is a unique stylistic decision to couple this type of primeval vibe with music that normally would be associated with futuristic themes.

“Visions” sounds extremely European despite the fact that Wraithwalker resides in Atlanta. There is this odd little energy about this release that I can’t quite put my finger on. In one sense, it’s sounds like early eighties Disco Italia, but it also doesn’t. I think that there’s a TON of postpunk/coldwave/minimal synth influence going on here. As to whether or not that’s Wraithwalker’s conscious decision, I’m not so sure. There are also shades of early 90s à la Love is Colder Than Death from their “Teignmouth” period mixed with early 2000s gothic EDM—think Apoptygma Berzerk. For postmodern darksynth, it certainly feels eclectic, mysterious, bleak, and somewhat inaccessible. Of course, I mean that in the very best way possible.

“Blood Moon” stands out to me because it is the most upbeat track on “Visions.” I love the muddy bass pulse that the song is rooted in. Despite how energetic the percussion is here, there’s a lot of dark ambiance to this track. It really makes me feel like I’ve been left alone in a cold wilderness without any hope of survival. For such a red sounding song, it certainly takes on the foggy vibe of something that sounds dark and purple. “Scythia” and “Raven” are the most postpunk songs of the bunch. Visually, “Scythia” is greatly enhanced by the telephone-EQ put onto the sparse, but seemingly distant vocals here. To be honest, this track gives me the willies. It’s fucking nasty in a postwar prison labor camp sort of way. This is not for the faint of heart. My favorite track on the album is “Resurrection.” It has a compelling lead synth that makes me want to put some black lipstick on and hit the dance floor. This is contrasted by a lighthearted, albeit synthwavy breakdown/bridge at around 2:50 that comes completely out of nowhere. I love when producers do this sort of thing. “Plague” leans a little too heavily on the Blade Runner end theme vibe for my tastes by transposing the root of the song’s driving arpeggio down from C to an F minor scale. I do like it, but a lot of darksynth producers love going into that Vangelis space. The Spotify release of “Visions” includes a really cool remix of the opening track “Raven” while the Bandcamp release includes a cover of The Cure’s “A Forest.” I much preferred the “Raven” remix primarily because “A Forest” has been covered to DEATH. That said, both bonus tracks are great, and even though I’m not a fan of “A Forest” I think that a lot of people who come across this release will enjoy the hell out of it.

Overall, I fucking like this mini-album. “Visions” does a lot right in such a short time. It’s not overly produced, which works to its advantage as it’s a very visual EP. And while it certainly does have a darksynth vibe to it, I think it’s more darksynth adjacent. It channels a lot of energy that greatly differs in approach from other artists in the scene. If you’re in the market for something different and are in the mood for a little nastiness, check “Visions” out.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Darksynth and Horrorsynth adherents who want to step further into the dark wilderness of the human soul.

Stand-out tracks: “Raven,” “Scythia,” “Blood Moon,” and “Resurrection.”

Album Color Profile: #9C27B0

You can find all things Wraithwalker at https://wraithwalker.bandcamp.com/

LV-426 is the darksynth project of producer Justin Peeler. Peeler hails from Brantford, Ontario and has been writing music for LV-426 for a couple of years now. He recently released his first full-length entitled “Shadow Runner” on June 19th, 2020.

The cover art work is a stylized rendition of a pre-covid photograph of a back street in Shinjuku. I won’t drop the address of this location—but it wasn’t too difficult to find considering Osteria Oliera is there in plain view. The photo is quite nice, and captures a typical evening on a somewhat busy street. If Chiba City from Neuromancer was an actual place, it might look something like this.

“Shadow Runner” isn’t what I would describe as normal “to-be-expected” darksynth. There is nothing earbustingly loud or shiny about this release. “Shadow Runner” is completely devoid of soft-clipped basses, tropey overused audio drops, or popping drums. And honestly speaking, the mere fact that “Shadow Runner” does none of this is what makes it charming. “Shadow Runner” may lack saturation or walls of deafening sound, but it makes up for it (in spades) with HIGHLY original and unconventional song arrangements. “Shadow Runner” has the type of underground grit that I just don’t hear all that often these days. Part of this might be experiential, but don’t hold that against LV-426. There’s goodness to be had here.

Every song on “Shadow Runner” is both worthy and wonderful. That said, there are a couple of songs that really stuck out to me. The first of these being “Tokyo Cyber Squad.” How can I describe this? Think of a darker heavy metal band like Hypocrisy and their song “Inseminated Adoption.” Now replace the guitars in that song with a saw bass that roughly occupies the same space as a guitar post-EQ. It’s sort of like that. This isn’t a song meant for dancing. It’s meant for banging one’s head. The next track that stood out to me was “Fail Safe.” This a very WEIRD track—rhythmically. But not so weird that it’s impossible to appreciate. Like “Tokyo Cyber Squad,” this is meant to make you bang your head. I don’t think “Fail Safe” will appeal to everyone. In fact, I think that most darksynth listeners will be put off by it due to how disjointed it feels. To those brave souls who are willing to appreciate it, there’s something quite special here. It’s my favorite cut off of the entire album. Finally, “System Collapse” sort of combines the sensibilities of both aforementioned songs. This is a dangerous in an edgy YM2612 sort of way. It reminds me of early 1990s BGM battle music, you know, the type of earworm you might hear in an action platformer on the Megadrive.

In general, what “Shadow Runner” does really well is to capture a cyberpunk atmosphere without trying to sound like Perturbator or the Blade Runner soundtrack. What we’re left with is a back alley interpretation of one individual’s unique vision of what cyberpunk looks like to them. Now whether or not this is by design, I’m not entirely sure. What I tend to think, at least in my head cannon for this album, is that Peeler made creative choices with “Shadow Runner” that were entirely his own. The result? An album that offers up rich originality via unusual sound choices, the occasional weird song structure, and a dry dynamism that gives no fucks about what everybody else is doing.

This is a great release, with a lot of heart, and a distinctive creative edge that shines because it’s just doing its own thing.

RECOMMENDED FOR: The adventurous darksynth/cyberpunk listener looking for something different.

Stand-Out Tracks: “Fail Safe,” “Tokyo Cyber Squad,” “Regroup,” “System Collapse” (this song sounds like a Megadrive boss theme).

Album Color Profile: #512E5F

You can find all things LV-426 at https://lv-4261.bandcamp.com/

Victor Roy is an electronic music producer from Barcelona, Spain. He made his debut in 2019 with his debut album “Failure to Discern.” His follow-up “Fantastic Tales of a Future Lost” was released in February by RetroSynth Records.

The concept behind “Fantastic Tales of a Future Lost” encapsulates precisely why Synthwave and its related genres have taken off in popularity. The 1980s/early 90s were strange in that, science fiction films, gave us a hyperbolic glimpse into (an aesthetically pleasing) future. For example, Blade Runner takes place in 2019. When we look back at Blade Runner from a 2020 perspective it really makes you wonder…how did anyone ever think that by 2019 we would’ve been to the Tanhauser Gate, had another world war, and be surrounded by sexy replicants? Synthwave basically takes our own history and throws it out in favor of false realities and experiences that have never existed. It’s pretty weird that the human mind can trick us into becoming nostalgic for a 1980s version of what 2019 should’ve/could’ve been. Victor Roy’s “Fantastic Tales of a Future Lost” leans into the concept heavily, at least contextually, as the tent-pole unto which his latest album is supported by.

After listening to “Fantastic Tales of a Future Lost,” I think that it really does a great job exploring the concept in which it was based. At the same time, it sounds like an album written in 2019 that reveres the 1980s version of 2019. If that sounds confusing don’t feel bad. This album is extremely meta and self-referential. Generally speaking, I think that if this album was released as in the 1980s, it would’ve been a big deal. It probably also would’ve been used for a movie soundtrack. As a music critic, I feel that this is an important milestone to hit, especially for a Synthwave adjacent artist.

“Fantastic Tales of a Future Lost” has a very polished shiny postmodern vibe. A lot of careful thought went into this album production wise which makes it an enjoyable listen. Despite the fact that this album has a very soundtrack leaden vibe, I don’t think that it has much else in common with Synthwave, Darksynth, or other Retro genres. I actually feel that this album transcends all of these genres, but not necessarily for the better—at least from the perspective of a hardcore Synthwave fan. That said, this album is not for those folks. This is music for people looking to be challenged by music that pushes beyond the limits of Synthwave. Sure, there are plenty of Vangelis sounding moments on “Fantastic Tales of a Future Lost” but it captures those moments without breakneck sidechained vaccum basses, sixteenth note clapping, or a pumping drum beat. “Fantastic Tales of a Future Lost” is music that puts an emphasis on exploring Cyberpunky music through melodies rather than beats.

“Rewind” serves as the album’s most retro sounding song thanks to it’s opening riff, but it also (thankfully) diverges from that sound as the song goes on. “Path to Glory” stands out as the most soundtrack worthy song by giving those Interstellar Hans Zimmer feels. Peak Victor Roy is reached in the latter half of the album with two songs: “Stage Two” and “Dungeon of the Mind.” “Stage Two” reminds me of Yuzo Koshiro’s work on the PC Engine CD port of Ys I & II. The song begins quietly, but masterfully works its way upward into a diminished key change that really pops. “Stage Two’s” melody is completely antithetical to the vibe that the song opened with—it’s seriously wonderful. “Dungeon of the Mind” is equally as awe-inspiring for the same reason. It evokes some very Michiru Yamane (Castlevania) energy that really made me want an entire album of similar music. Here’s hoping that on the Roy decides to fully explore similar on his next album, because video game sounding tunes seem to be his strong suit.

Overall, I quite enjoyed this album. As mentioned before, if you’re looking for Synthwave that’ll give you nostalgic vibes you probably should look elsewhere. If you’re looking for a well-produced challenge that represents a direction that Synthwave might be going in the near future, have a listen. This one might surprise you.

RECCOMENDED FOR: People who like melody driven science fiction/cyberpunk music.

Stand-Out Tracks: “Stage Two,” (so fucking good), “Dungeon of the Mind” (so fucking good part 2 the revenge), “Path to Glory,” “Rewind,” “Synthesized Hole.”

Album Color Profile: #633974

You can find all things Victor Roy at https://victorroy.bandcamp.com/

And now time for a little something—different.

Tengushee is a prolific producer from the so-called “Endless City.” I can’t find out much aside from this. What I will say is that he survived the first cyberpunk apocalypse, and that he’ll survive the next.

“Afterlife” is Tengushee’s forth full-length album. On the cover is a black and white image of our hero, Tengushee, wielding a sheathed sword, four pictures on the wall behind him, and two studio monitors. Like a king on his throne, I get the feeling that he represents a shadowy occult persona who secretly disseminates universal esotericisms through audio. CALL IT A HUNCH.

I’m going to come out straight away and say that I am not as acquainted with the Witch House genre as much as I should be. That said, “Afterlife” sorta sounds like Witch House, but it also doesn’t. There is a rather hefty amount of genre bending going on here, which makes this album really difficult to describe. To make it a little easier, imagine the following:

It’s the year 2072. After a couple of earth shattering environmental disasters, several pandemics, a war, and a shift from isolationism to globalization the world has changed. You’re living in a Edo period style bordello in Oslo as a meat puppet (aka working girl). The pay isn’t bad, but it’s a hard life, and you are always on call. You do what you can to get by, but it doesn’t always serve you to be completely lucid. So you often find yourself popping a few pills every few hours to help forget the ugliness you have to live. Sometimes after spending time with your clients you treat yourself to a drink in hopes that you’re finally done for the day. Lying on a tableau of pillows and soft bodies you lean back in a hazy stupor. The room is as dim as your soul at this point. You take a long draw from a cigarette and surround yourself in a cloud of relaxing smoke. The music in the background is both calm and energetic, futuristic and traditional, dark and light. You quite like it. Life feels grey. So why shouldn’t your music also be grey?

“Afterlife” sounds like the above scene. It’s the sort of music that can simultaneously serve two purposes. It can either be put on as background music, or you can intently listen to it. I’m used to dealing with one or the other. It’s fascinating that Tengushee is able to be both. Artistically speaking, I haven’t often come across music that does this so easily. And even though Tengushee self-describes his own music as “Faewave,” I feel that “Afterlife” encapsulates what I would call futuristic “parlorwave.” In my mind’s eye, I could see music like Tengushee’s “Afterlife” in a film about what life was like at the beginning of the Meiji restoration. At the same time, I could also see it in a film adaptation of Gibson’s “Neuromancer.” Listening to “Afterlife” is like being pulled into two different directions at once. For instance, on a track like “March of the Misfit Toys” there’s a more modern drum and bass rhythm that’s being torn apart by an ambient four note chord progression that sounds like something from early 1900s Vaudeville showcase. It’s quite odd!! There are also instances of Vaporwave-like attitudes popping up all over “Afterlife.” Only instead of directly lifting material from older music to be repurposed into something new, I can’t help but feel that “Afterlife” was actually composed from scratch rather than sampled from another source. Regardless of whether or not this happens to be true or not, a lot of the music “feels” sampled or resampled from original music that Tengushee created himself. See “The Rule of the Queen of Rats” with it’s gritty koto-infused music box vibe for the best example of this. Even Tengushee’s vocal performance on this album feels like it was intended to purposely sound like it was sampled from another source, even though it’s Tengushee himself. Psychologically, I find this both scary and fascinating, because with the way our minds work we tend to digest vocal drops with a sense of authority since many of them come from established brands and/or people. (An often overused example of this can be found in Oppenheimer’s famous “I am become death” quote about nuclear weapons).

I think that “Afterlife” is really fucking weird—but not to a fault. It’s a carefully crafted piece of work that accomplishes being dark and futuristic without being dark and futuristic. This is truly grey music that I would compare to post-black metal Ulver, (think “Blood Inside,” and “Perdition City”). Overall, I really like what “Afterlife” is doing, although I think it’s going to over the heads of most due to how majestically avant-garde it is. If you want a glimpse of how to properly execute futuristic weirdness in an occult sort of way, look no further than “Afterlife.” You can even download it for free from his website, if you so choose—so check it out. I highly recommend it.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of post-black metal Ulver, people looking for something weird and avant-garde.

Stand-out tracks: “Let’s Die Tonight,” “Walk with Serenity” (my favorite track), “Welcome to Nightmares,” “The Rule of the Queen of Rats.”

Album Color Profile: #B3B6B7

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