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/

YORU 夜 is the project of producer Jen Foo from Shah Alam, Malaysia. On Friday, June 19th, 2020 they released “Revisit” which, for all intents and purposes, sounds like it could be the last Synthwave album. I don’t say this lightly. It’s not often that I come across an album that makes me laugh, cry, and feel like I better live my best life today because tomorrow might never come. In so many words, “Revisit” feels like a long goodbye to a close friend who you’ll never see again.

Synthwave is going through an “end-of-life” transitional period right now. This is something that always happens to every genre of music. There’s just something inherently human inside all of us that desperately wants to experience change. It’s during these “end-of-life” transitional periods that something beautiful happens—we get one last look at the things that captured our hearts and imaginations. “Revisit” represents everything that makes the Synthwave genre a wonderful expression of human experience.

From the outside looking in, the Synthwave community doesn’t exactly feel as enthusiastic as it did a several years ago. There isn’t a day that goes by when a new “solo” artist shows up onto the scene ready to rehash and mimic every mode of artistic innovation that made the genre what it is today. One of the reasons might be because people want to be part of something bigger than themselves. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with this. In fact, I think that it’s beautiful that someone can come forward into a very accepting, inclusive community (like Synthwave) and share a little part of themselves. That takes a lot of courage. That said, humans are weird. We look at successful artists and trick ourselves into believing we can do the same thing. This isn’t exactly wrong—everybody is capable of producing art. The problem arises when we begin to believe that we somehow own the art we create. What YORU 夜 has done with “Revisit” is antithetical to the belief that we own the art that we create. I say this because the artistic foundation of “Revisit” lies not only in the work of YORU 夜 alone, but in what it means to selflessly collaborate with other artists as friends.

Production-wise “Revisit” is emotionally authentic and carefully defined Synthwave. As far as I’m concerned, every song on this album was produced in the 1980s. This becomes even more impressive to think about when you consider how many artists contributed to this album (over great geographical distances I might add). Harnessing a perfect 80s aesthetic when you have to accommodate for differences in production techniques is absolutely impressive. And yet somehow Jen Foo is able to maintain exacting focus by lovingly blending these outside contributions with the rest of their vision for “Revisit.”

My favorite moments on “Revisit” occur when the album gets a little more quiet and a lot more emotional. “Way Back Home (feat. Del-Anov)” is the album’s high point. It sounds like the end theme of an old 80s romance flick—you know the scene, when the boy finally gets the girl after a long, hard journey. “Dreams (feat. Vosto) also has the same kind of feeling, though it’s slightly more enigmatic and wholly instrumental. Overall, I think that “Pool Party” is going to be the sleeper hit from this album. Swayze’s phenomenal vocal performance is both energetic and fun while Dimi Kaye lifts the song into the stratosphere with his brilliant guitar work. The lyrics, while silly, accurately encapsulates everything Synthwave is about: being carefree and young. Additionally, I find that the opening lyrics to “Pool Party” are equally important as to the argument as to why “Revisit” could be considered the last Synthwave album:

“It’s almost Friday the last day of school before Summer vacation. Stacy’s annual summer pool party is in less than a week and everyone is invited. Tommy knows that this party can make or break him, and it’s time for a fresh start. It’s time to get in shape.”

What Swayze is expressing here is a glimpse of what we all feel in the last days of our childhood. We all want to be sexy, desirable, wanted, and loved. For most of us though that isn’t reality. And truth be told—reality can hurt. “Revisit” expresses these same feelings towards Synthwave’s coming of age. Synthwave still has some time left, but it might be time for a proper reboot. As to how that should be achieved, the scene needs to revisit its roots, redetermine what it’s become, and get in shape. It’s not enough anymore to make a simple bare bones instrumental Synthwave album emulating the style of Jan Hammer and call it a day. Synthwave has grown up. Therefore producers in the scene must also grow up and begin to put themselves, entirely, into their work. Growth is the only escape, and YORU 夜 recognizes this.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Anyone who wants to experience peak Synthwave feels. This is an important album for the scene. Do not pass this one up.

Stand-Out Tracks: “Way Back Home (feat. Del-Anov),” “Pool Party (feat. Dimi Kaye & Swayze),” Stars (feat. GeoVoc),” “Dreams” (feat. Vosto)

Album Color Profile: #FFCC66

You can find all things YORU 夜 at https://yorusynthwave.bandcamp.com/

Team Sweatwave is a Synthwave super group who’s main source of inspiration is old VHS aerobic videos from the 1980s. The team includes some really talented producers: Turbo Knight, YORU 夜, Dimi Kaye, Gyrff, and Polemic Heart. Their first album, entitled “Agents of S.W.E.A.T.” features eleven heart pumping tracks of authentic aerobic Synthwave action.

On the cover of “Agents of S.W.E.A.T.” are four beautiful specimens of human perfection who want to see you work it until you can’t work it anymore. The two women have that classic 80s look, perm and all (oh god I can smell it), while the two men stand together yoked as all hell with their perfect smiles and steroid fueled Mr. Universe physiques. I am particularly drawn to the the man on the left who’s standing next to the Dolly Parton wannabe. One of his eyebrows are cocked upwards in such a way that tells me everything I need to know about him.

“Agents of S.W.E.A.T.” is unique in that it goes in a completely different direction than the wide majority of releases made by Synthwave producers. There are ZERO songs (count ‘em) that feel like the long lost soundtrack to dystopian city or driving fast here. This is an album that will go good with anyone’s workout—just in time for Summer.

One of my first memories was watching my mom and my aunt do aerobics in their legwarmers and headbands to Jane Fonda in our small living room. Over the years that followed, I eventually joined in the madness. We were always trying new workout videos. I did everything: Jane Fonda, Richard Simmons, Jazzercise, Buns of Steel, and later on in the 90s Billy fucking Blanks’s Tae Bo. Considering all of this, “Agents of S.W.E.A.T.” is really special to me on a personal level. It relates to something I directly experienced myself as I was growing up. While listening to this album, I actually found myself doing some of the old arm exercises that I haven’t bothered to even think about in near twenty years.

Musically, the thing I appreciate most about “Agents of S.W.E.A.T.” is the inclusion of so many tracks with vocals. In a world flooded with elevator music masquerading as Synthwave, it’s quite frankly a breath of fresh air. Mandi Mae’s vocal contribution on the opening track “Limber Up!” was really hitting me in all the right places. I felt like I was back in my old living room working out and having fun. There’s even some surprise hip hop influence creeping in towards the end of the album with “Pulling at My Dreams.”

If I had to pick the best overall track on the album I would say that the honor goes to the absolutely pumping “Rage of the Tiger.” Dimi Kaye’s guitar work really makes that track something special by keeping focus and energy in all the right places. Like seriously–once you turn that song on you’re going to be motivated to start doing sky punches in your kitchen.

“Agents of S.W.E.A.T.” is a tribute to a culture that is all but dead in 2020. It’s like listening to an old workout video from the 1980s. So if you’re even remotely interested in hearing what that sounds like, or you’re an aerboic veteran who’s looking for a nostalgic look into the past—check this out. Just remember to bring some water. You’re going to need it.

RECOMMENDED FOR: People looking for a good soundtrack to workout to, folks who need tunes suitable for a montage, Synthwave fans, and people who have the rage of the tiger.

Stand-out tracks: “Rage of the Tiger,” “Limber Up!”, “King & Queen – Album Mix,” and “Strength, Speed, and Suave,”

Album Color Profile: #CCFF00

You can find all things Team Sweatwave at https://teamsweatwave.bandcamp.com/