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/

空YAMAHA (aka Sky Yamaha) is a producer from the desert planet Arizona. She has been producing under this moniker since February of 2017. Since then Sky has released two short EPs and two full-lengths. Her latest is entitled “The Mirage is a Portal.” It was released on October 9th, 2020.

I became aware of Sky via the Synthfam Twitterverse after crossing the streams from Synthwave Twitter over into dark (and often very weird) recesses of Vaporwave Twitter. There I found a wild Sky just doing her own thing. The best way I can describe 空YAMAHA to those unfamiliar with her work is that it never tries to emulate a specific style or sound. It has a natural flow to it that is clearly defined by the nearly endless depth of her creativity and imagination. I guess if I had to compare her work to someone else, I would say that it very much reminds me of what Alpha Chrome Yayo has been doing over the course of his last two albums “Skylight Sessions Vol. 1” and “Spectral Hands.”

The cover art work (created by Sky herself) for “The Mirage is a Portal” is by far the coolest piece of art on any 空YAMAHA release. It features floating keys, day lightning (dafuq?!), crows flying out of portals in the keyholes of said keys, a desert, and a beautiful blue sky, which accentuates precisely the vibe Sky is pulling off here. When I take a step back and look at this image I feel oddly calm and kind of thirsty. Sky included a digital artbook in PDF form to accompany the release of “The Mirage is a Portal.” This includes images corresponding to each track as well as poetry. This digital artbook was a really nice Bandcamp exclusive extra. Have I said how much I love Bandcamp?

So how does “The Mirage is a Portal” sound? Every piece on this album seamlessly melds together into a whirlwind collage of three dimensional ideas. There’s a weird Windows ’95 quality to this music that makes me long for CRT computer screens, 66 MHz Pentiums, and the Dangerous Creatures desktop theme. Like—I could see this music being front and center on an old laserdisc showing off the latest in computer animation (brought to you by Silicon Graphics) in the mid-90s.

I’ve listened to “The Mirage is a Portal” at least ten times since its release and it makes me feels like I’m having an out of body experience whenever I press play. Time just melts away when diving into this album. And while I think it’s a little too energetic for meditation, I do think that “The Mirage is a Portal” is a good example of how to make relaxing tunes worthy of being the soundtrack to your next lucid dream. I particularly think that this album shines bright in its latter half. “Desert Mirage” was my favorite deep-cut off of the entire album. It combines a pseudo-Asian feel with a slow koto sounding vibe surrounded by slow pulled strings in an embrace of all surrounding sound. “Prism Water Arc” is another nice track that has some off center hi-hat hits don’t sound musical at all—but for some reason they really gel. I quite like the plodding water sound going on in this track as well. “Prism Water Arc” feels like it’s capturing the journey of some clockwork type of machine trying to traverse a muddy desert in search of meaning. “Lifesize Hourglass” has a calming vibe that prominently features a basic house drum beat amidst huge sounding, reverb heavy, modular synths that feel distant yet very near. I like the space that Sky gives this track, she never overloaded me with sounds that took away from my experience. “El Laberinto” was the other highlight of “The Mirage is a Portal.” It opens up with a very dangerous sounding vibe that is immediately given levity with the presence of a goofy cowbell that sounds similar to the one found on the Roland CR-8000.

Overall, “The Mirage is a Portal,” is a neat experience. This isn’t music meant to stir up anxiety or negative feelings. This is the type of music that wants to wrap it’s arms around you in a warm embrace of lush winding soundscapes. If you’re remotely interested in checking this out I implore you to give it a good listen with headphones. iPhone speakers aren’t going to cut it here. Anyway, I loved this album! Please check it out.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of lush soundscapes and dreamwave, fans of Alpha Chrome Yayo.

HIGHLIGHTS: “Desert Mirage,” “Prism Water Arc,” “Lifesize Hourglass,” “El Laberinto,” and “Embodiment.”

Album Color Profile: BLUE BECAUSE OF COURSE (#304FFE)

You can find all things 空YAMAHA at https://skyyamaha.bandcamp.com/

Siamese Youth is a Synthwave/Synthpop duo from Berlin, Germany featuring the talents of Mark Gritsenko (vocals) and Christoph ‘Hadl’ Hassel. Their debut album “Electric Dreams” came out in late 2019 via New Retro Wave Records. Upon release, “Electric Dreams” was unanimously embraced by the Synthwave community and for good reason. It is passionate, sentimental, and above all nostalgic.


Production-wise, Siamese Youth present a really beautiful, warm album that sounds authentic. That said, there is a slight postmodern edge to this record that helps it to stand out as an example of what happens when everything goes right. This is the result of what appears to be many careful post-production decisions. There isn’t a sound on “Electric Dreams” that I wasn’t able to hear in both headphones, on my stereo system, or on my phone’s speakers.

It’s glaringly clear that Siamese Youth, have a strong affection for the spirit of the 1980s. “Electric Dreams” bottles up that energy into thirty-four minutes of tear-jerking vibes. For the retro-enthusiast there’s so much to love about this release. The album opens up with a dreamy pad-leaden intro called “1984.” A woman’s voice begins to echo: “Dare to Dream, Dare to Believe, Love is the Essence of Life.” Shortly after, Gritsenko begins to sing through heavily processed, but nonetheless gorgeous vocals. This short prelude is but a preview of magical energy contained within “Electric Dreams.” From “Coco,” to “Nariyeh Thanei,” to “Lying to Myself,” there’s a lot of well-crafted, listenable songs that scream to be replayed over and over again. “Electric Dreams,” is incredibly pastiche, catchy, and romantic. I think that this album would’ve been a huge hit back in the 80s. It’s music like this that makes me feel lucky to be alive. Every song on this album is an absolute gem.


RECOMMENDED FOR: Anyone who wants to be instantly transported back to the 1980s.

Stand-out tracks: “Coco,” (the best track, I think I almost blew my speakers out listening to this one), “Lying to Myself” (aka the most 1980s song on the album), “Dream On,” and “Nariyeh Thanei.”

Album Color Profile: #F3E5F5

You can find all things Siamese Youth at https://newretrowave.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/

Manhatten is a synthwave producer from the UK who’s main purpose is to evoke feels within his listeners. His debut album “Blue Sky Girl” was released at the end of May by Future 80’s Records.

“Blue Sky Girl” is a concept album that focuses on “that one person in everyone’s life who seems to burn twice as bright, but for half as long.” It’s left entirely up to the listener to decide exactly who this person represents in their life. I really like when artists do this sort of thing. Ambiguity can serve as a powerful tool to help personalize an artistic piece to fit the experiences of an individual viewer/listener. I think in order to fully appreciate what Manhatten is doing with this album it’s important to play along with this. So before you listen to “Blue Sky Girl” do yourself a favor and figure out who this person is for you. Because contextually, it will make the album mean something different for everyone.

Musically, Manhatten has the same sort of vibe that Siamese Youth brought with “Electric Dreams.” The main difference is that “Blue Sky Girl” is primarily instrumental, with a few short narrations by Star Madman. Production wise, Manhatten seems to have a solid grasp on his process. I listened to “Blue Sky Girl” with headphones, and also on my stereo. And while it doesn’t sound 100% old school, I think that it does a great job capturing the right vibe with a careful selection of sounds that are undeniably nostalgic. The low end on this album is audible albeit calm, and the higher frequencies aren’t crowded with too many things trying to compete with one another. There’s also a really nice soundscape element to this album that borrows a lot from the Vaporwave and his little sister Dreamwave.

This is such a wonderful video. It reminds me of MEMORIES.

The overall flow of “Blue Sky Girl” feels like a telephone conversation between two people who either want to or already intimately know one another. And while I do tend to think that Manhatten intended his version of the “Blue Sky Girl” to be somebody he actually knows, I can’t help but feel like there’s a great distance between him and her. The closing track “A Kind of Freedom” illustrates this feeling well. When listening to it, I felt like something important in my had life ended, that I was sad, but it was going to be okay. I think that many of us have had long distance relationships before—and when they don’t pan out it hurts. What’s even more interesting about this idea is that the “Blue Sky Girl” herself may even represent not only a long distance relationship with another person, but with the past itself. This is mind blowing to me, because there’s something in all of us that deeply yearns for a simpler more innocent time. It’s sort of weird that wholly instrumental music like this can be so evocative of these sorts of feelings. That said, I’m not going to complain. This is one of the super powers of Synthwave as an artistic medium.

RECOMMENDED FOR: People who like chill music that will make you appreciate the magic of life more.

Stand-Out tracks: “A Kind of Freedom,” “Last Chance City,” “Slow Burn,” “Thunder,” and “Running From It.”

Album Color Profile: #BBDEFB

You can find everything Manhatten at https://future80s.bandcamp.com/

“Canyons” by Detroit’s Android Automatic is like listening to a soothing slow ride through a distant fond memory. I suspect that this is exactly the feeling that producer Michael Gene Graham was going for when he put this album together.

The cover art by Cameron McPhee features a wide spectrum of “sunset” colors, but it’s primarily accentuated with dark midnight blue. The cover also has a car that appears to have joyfully driven through the long night. There is sun is rising up behind a tableau of canyons and morning fog peacefully coexisting in a breathtaking southwestern landscape.

Truly great Synthwave has the ability to capture feelings of longing, sadness, and emotive nostalgia for a time that never was. “Canyons” does this beautifully. Android Automatic creates this atmosphere through an effective use of sweeping dreamlike pads and arpeggios. The drums are the greatest asset that “Canyons” has going for it. They have an Oberheim DMX quality to them–especially the toms and claps which are liberally used throughout. This strong rhythm section when coupled together with a subtle driving low-end creates clear direction for the album to travel upon. This allows “Canyons” to stay focused through a distinctive set of song structures that are pleasing to the ear.

“Canyons” feels like a lost soundtrack straight out of the 1980s. I really have to applaud the execution on this album, it features an exquisite mix of songs that makes me feel all of the memories. And for that it makes me sad. So sad, in fact, that I feel compelled to get into to my car and just drive. Thank you Android Automatic for creating this wonderfully touching album.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Synthwave fans looking for feels in all the right places.

Stand-Out Tracks: The city-popish “Exhale,” “Nightfall,” “Lonely Roads,” “Canyon Cruise,” and “Beyond the Unknown”

Album Color Profile: #2E86C1

You can find all things Android Automatic at: https://androidautomatic.bandcamp.com/