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/

Upon first examination, Dynamite Stranger’s “Synth Ranger” is branded to appeal to the Synthwave crowd. Visually speaking, “Synth Ranger” looks the part. The album’s cover art features an image of a lone spacewalker that reminds me of of Ridley Scott’s “Alien.” I can’t decide whether the spacewalker is screaming out in pain or rocking out to some ill tunes. I mean, he’s on his knees, so he’s probably in distress, but he also could be knee sliding in excitement. In any case, I quite enjoy the artwork. It has a sharp cinematic look to it that is almost Giger-like.

It’s clear to me that a lot of work went into this album, and I think it’s something Dynamite Stranger should be proud of. There are some banging tunes on “Synth Ranger.” “Fast Forward” is a nice track that has a Daft Punk sort of approach to it. I think that really fits in with the sci-fi aesthetic of the album. “Rewind” is also great. It is the only track to feature vocals (by the wonderful Nightmares and Neon). I really have to applaud Dynamite Stranger for the vocal processing on “Rewind.” To me, it stands out as a distinctive high point on the album. Its fun, somewhat retro underpinnings are downright catchy. The lyrics are well written too. I wish “Synth Ranger” had more tracks like it.

Musically, “Synth Ranger” sounds like has more in common with postmodern future music than it does with the dreamy sonic sound of yesteryear. There is a regimented, albeit triangular quality to the sound of this album. I think that this works to its advantage on tracks like “Xero,” and “Into the Void,” which use space and bright portamento-infused leads to add focus to the music. In general though, this album is somewhat cold. This is mainly due to how clean it is. Like—it almost feels like Dynamite Stranger literally worked in the same cold space depicted on the album cover—suit and all. That said, there is a “no one can hear you scream in space” type of attitude about “Synth Ranger” that gives the album a certain flair.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Synthwave folks looking for something a little different. I think that fans of futuristic sounding music will like this too.

Stand-out tracks: “Into the Void,” “Fast Forward,” and “Rewind,” and “Xero”

Album Color Profile: #2874A6

You can find all things Dynamite Stranger at: https://dynamitestranger.bandcamp.com/

Starfarer’s “Spaced Out” is a bit of a novel oddity to me. The cover artwork (also by Starfarer) is self-aware and well-crafted. It doesn’t just channel one period of American culture—it channels two. The overall color scheme and style has a sensibility that reminds me of late sixties Haight-Ashbury hippie culture. This is combined with a Saturn-faced astronaut standing in a purple and green haze overlooking some far-flung galaxy. This could have easily been on the cover of Heavy Metal magazine in the late seventies. It also would look stunning on a vinyl sleeve.

The overall vibe of “Spaced Out” made me feel like I was entering the mind of an astronaut who has seen every weird thing the universe has to offer. So where does one go from there? Well, according to our hero, Starfarer, it’s time to experience the final frontier in an entirely different way—high as fuck. The first time I listened to “Spaced Out” I remember giggling uncontrollably at the sample that plays at the beginning of “Lift Off!” It features a dude taking a long bong hit with spacey Darksynth vibes playing behind it. This took me completely off-guard. It was wonderful and entertaining. It helped break the ice, which made me enjoy the music even more.

Musically, “Spaced Out” reminds me of doomy southern stoner rock combined with dark synthwave. Starfarer does this successfully by creating a cultural amalgam with his music—just like the cover artwork. “Spaced Out” serves up some heavy bass tones throughout but they don’t overpower the spacey arpeggios and astral sounding synth leads. The sound quality is clear and enjoyable, but there’s also a certain analog “grit” that makes this different from most Synthwave. If you can imagine what Saint Vitus or Down (NOLA) would sound like if they played darksynth it probably would sound a lot like “Spaced Out.” Overall, I really dig this EP. “Spaced Out” is well worth the time if you have an ear for slow heavy space jams with an extra helping of DOOM.

That’s one small step for man…one giant spliff for mankind.

RECCOMMENED FOR: Spacetokers who like their darksynth southern, doomy, and instrumental.

Stand-out tracks: “One Way Trip” (best track)!, “Spacetoker,” and “Spaced-Out.”

Album Color Profile #3E2723:

You can find all things Starfarer at https://starfarer.bandcamp.com/

The first time I heard of ZITH was way back at the end of 2018. A close friend of mine from St. Louis introduced me to a track entitled “Altered Flesh.” It took me by complete surprise. I was looking forward to hearing more. A little over half a year later ZITH dropped the bomb that is their first full length–“NATUS EX MACHINA.” The production quality of this album is top-tier. It’s crystal clear, tight, and knows exactly what it’s trying to accomplish. And then there’s the bass. ZITH is all about it.

There’s something that separates “NATUS EX MACHINA” from all of the other music in my current rotation–it’s transcendent and inoffensive. I think that this release will appeal to practically everybody who enjoys electronic music. At times ZITH’s first outing is extremely danceable, but not at the detriment of it’s overall aesthetic.

The bottom line? ZITH is one of those projects that isn’t easily classified by one genre of electronic music. Instead ZITH has taken a little bit of everything that the so-called greats have done over the past decade and created a fresh listening experience. So you like dark synth? ZITH is dark synth. Outrun? ZITH is outrun. EDM? ZITH is EDM. Dubstep? ZITH is dubstep.
It’s fairly clear to me that the mastermind behind ZITH is something of an audiophile, because “NATUS EX MACHINA” just begs to be played on a high-end audio system. I’m really looking forward to hearing more from ZITH in the future. I think there’s something really special here that deserves to be noticed.

RECOMMENDED FOR: People who love Dark Synth, Dubstep, Outrun/Synthwave, EDM.

Stand-out tracks: FALL APART (the best track on the album), ALTERED FLESH, OVERRIDE (evoking those Carpenter Brut TURBO KILLER feels), I AM YOUR FUTURE

Album Color Profile #CC00CC:

You can find all things ZITH at https://zith.bandcamp.com/