Sonic Gap is a electronic music producer from Sweden. He first came onto the scene in June of 2019 with his track “Momentum.” Since then he has released a whopping three full-lengths (in less than a year), and a number of singles. Sonic Gap’s latest release is entitled “Cosmos.” It was released on August 5th, 2020 and features twelve tracks–many of which were previously released as singles or are remakes.

“Cosmos” is the sort of album that does a whole lot in a short time. Most of the tracks here are brief, (three minutes of less). “Cosmos” offers a good mix of music including instrumental tracks as well as songs that feature vocals. Sonic Gap’s voice is reminiscent of mid-nineties synthpop crossed with a Reznor-esque sensibility. There isn’t a whole lot of dark content here. Most of the music here is playful. “Ninja Control” is a good example of this, featuring a catchy, almost cat-like lead. Others, like “Someone Else” sound lighthearted and uplifting, albeit in a somber way.

Style wise, I much prefer the darker sounds that Sonic Gap experiments on “Cosmos.” The opening “Futurehole” is very 1990s goth to me. In fact, I would go as far to say that it reminds me of early Die Form or perhaps Attrition. I also really enjoyed Sonic’s (no pun intended) Dr. Robotnik stylings on the song “No Way Out.” As a point of personal preference, I wish that the ideas presented in “Futurehole” and “No Way Out” were explored more fully. If it was me in the producer seat for this album I would’ve chose to extend both of these songs and add much darker, more reverb leaden vocals to help expand what both of these songs are trying to accomplish. Regardless of how I would produce them personally, I still really enjoy both tracks.

In terms of what Sonic Gap presents vocally on “Cosmos,” I think there are some great ideas present, but I think they fall slightly short due to the brief song lengths. Shorter songs, at least in my opinion, lend themselves better to instrumental music. When it comes to vocals I prefer a much more old school approach of having a proper verse/pre-chorus/chorus/bridge/repeat structure. For instance, on “Bounty Hunter,” I found myself happily bopping along to the song, and by the time it finally gets its hooks into me it’s already over. Now to some, this might be a viable strategy in getting the listener to press play again after the track concludes, but I think that due to how short “Bounty Hunter” is it never feels fully fleshed out. It’s still one of my favorite cuts from “Cosmos” but it could’ve been subjective better if it was longer, less repetitive, and had a key change or two. Perhaps it should be said that I think many if not all of the songs presented here would be great candidates for remixes by other artists. I for one can see a lot of potential on “Cosmos” that wasn’t tapped into on the songwriting side. Outsourcing these songs out to other artists for remixing might be an interesting experiment.

The production value on “Cosmos” is inoffensive. It’s not all squeeky clean, though. Some of the life is sucked out of the vocals, in particular, leaving them occasionally dull and undynamic. I think that the music itself could’ve benefited from more dynamism as well, whether that be through a more creative use of EQ, volume, sidechain compression or all of the above. There are a lot of safe choices made with “Cosmos” that do make it a pleasant listening experience, but my old ears thirst for something a little more adventurous.

“Multiverse” serves as the only song on the album that I feel hits all of the right notes. This is primarily due to how different it is within the context of “Cosmos.” There’s just something really tangible about how “Multiverse” sounds. It is provocative with its 1970 aesthetics which is a sound that I don’t often hear replicated often. Sonic Gap’s vocals also fit really well between the high-frequency whistles, the funky guitar, and slow swung drums. I would really like to see Sonic Gap move more into this direction in the future as I feel he really excels with this type of sound.

STAND-OUT TRACKS: “Multiverse,” “Futurehole,” “No Way Out,” “Bounty Hunter.”

RECOMMENDED FOR: Opened-minded people looking for an escape from 1980s aesthetics, fans of 90s synthpop.

Album Color Profile: #1ABC9C

You can find all things Sonic Gap at https://sonicgap.bandcamp.com/

U.K. based Taurus 1984 is an ambitious retrowave collaboration between producers Alastair Jenkins and Bobby Cole. Their debut album, “Lost in Time” was released in 2018. Their follow-up entitled “Dream Warriors” was released via Outland Recordings on May 29th, 2020.

“Dream Warriors” by Taurus 1984 is an album that I’ve had a weird relationship with since I became aware of it way back in May. As a child of the 1980s I instantly related the word combination “Dream Warriors” to Dokken. The first time I saw this album I honestly thought that Taurus 1984 named their album after “Dream Warriors” because they made a banging synthwave cover of Dokken’s “Dream Warriors.” I was totally wrong about this. My brain expected hair metal, but Taurus 1984 delivered something that couldn’t have been farther from that expectation. In comparison to their summery debut “Lost in Time,” “Dream Warriors” is a drastically different album. Where “Lost in Time” has a more traditional Synthwave sound, “Dream Warriors” is cut from a different brand of 1980s based music. What’s important to note, is that to the unprepared ear I think that “Dream Warriors” has the potential to be largely misunderstood.

To fully understand where “Dream Warriors” is coming from I think it’s important to look at why it’s so different than the wide majority of Synthwave.

  1. It’s music driven primarily by vocals.
  2. Whereas traditional Synthwave embraces disco-italia, 1980s dance, and film soundtracks “Dream Warriors” leans more into electro-funk.

At the onset, “Dream Warriors” gives off an inspirational, albeit soulful vibe that is spiritually reminiscent of inner city post-disco electro-funk from the early 1980s. Groups such as The S.O.S. Band, George Clinton’s P-Funk, and Sinnamon helped to pioneer this sound. Taurus 1984 pays homage to this while simultaneously combining it with traditional Synthwave. The result is an interesting experiment that serves to illustrate why fabricated nostalgic vibes work only up to the point. Where post-disco was developed out of the combined experiences of many musicians working together, Taurus 1984 is borrowing from those experiences under an entirely different framework. This isn’t the first time that this has happened. Most notably, the first well-received instance of this type of thing can be seen in 1965 with the release of The Beatles’ “Rubber Soul.” That album introduced the world to the idea of “plastic soul” which was perfected by David Bowie nine years later with the release of “Young Americans.” As I currently understand it, the foundations of Synthwave lie in fabricating authentic nostalgia via a parallel time line that doesn’t exist. And while “Dream Warriors” certainly has a little bit of this, by leaning so heavily into electro-funk it occasionally falls short as an incomplete thought. This is primarily because the type of sound that Taurus 1984 is exploring here would’ve been socially inaccessible to them in the early 1980s. That said, I have to commend Taurus 1984 for having the courage to push their limits by experimenting in this way. Combining the intimate individual nostalgic feel of traditional postmodern Synthwave with community driven post-disco electro funk isn’t exactly easy.

Taurus 1984 really shine on “Dream Warriors” when they allow themselves room to fully shift away from Synthwave and just write music that comfortably lends itself to tools they had available for this album. “Ghosts” is wholly indicative of this by channeling an in-precise Queen vibe that serves as one of the album’s high points. Just looking at how many people were involved with “Dream Warriors” I have to say that I admire the fact that Taurus 1984 was able to fit so many small details into this album—particularly when it comes to how the vocals were mixed. For instance, on “Home” there is a short male vocal burst that adds a pad like presence to the mix that greatly accentuates the Abi Davis’s vocal performance. This type of thing is repeated often on “Dream Warriors,” even if it comes off in the mix as mildly subliminal. My favorite track off of “Dream Warriors” is, by far, “Situations.” I think that out of all the songs produced here this was the one that was closest to that electro-funk vibe that Taurus 1984 tries so hard to reach at other points in the album. “Situations” really speaks for everything that Taurus 1984 is capable of. It would’ve been, at least to me, a much more fitting choice for the lead single here than the title track.

Overall, I don’t think that this album will appeal to everybody. It occasionally makes weird artistic decisions that waffles between a forced summer synthwave vibe and a plastic electro-funk vibe that could’ve worked better if there were a greater emphasis on the community aspect of this album. Actual live drums and a more spacious mix would’ve greatly impacted the overall effectiveness of this album as well. That said, I did enjoy “Dream Warriors,” but it wasn’t easy to get into. I do truly believe that if Taurus 1984 continues to stay creative in this way that they absolutely will create something truly groundbreaking in the future.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Retrowave fans looking for an album that bridges the gap between electro-funk and instrumental Synthwave.

Stand-Out Tracks: “Situations,” (amazing track), “Ghosts,” “Home”

Album Color Profile: #FF3300

You can find all things Taurus 1984 at https://taurus1984.bandcamp.com/

Jetfire Prime is an electronic music producer from the UK. His latest release, entitled “Summerzeer” marks a departure from the a traditional Synthwave stylings found on his previous release “The Beginning of the End” (2019). The EP opens with a sound similar to the THX “Deep Note,” which is a synthesized crescendo that glissandos from a relatively narrow frequency spread (200-400hz approximately) to a higher frequency. I have to admit, it’s a neat way to introduce a song which also adds a cinematic effect to the feel of this release.

“Summerzeer” is an odd little EP. After spinning it half a dozen times, I felt like it could be separated into two categories:

1. Songs that are Synthwave leaning. These songs are “Moon Lite,” ”Top Down,” “Go Fletch,” and “We Love to Loop.”

2. Songs that are more electronic art pop, (similar to Kraftwerk’s “Electric Cafe” or perhaps And One’s “Bodypop”). These songs include “Sundae Daydream,” and “Ping Pong.”

Of the two types, I much prefer the electronic art pop songs. Despite the brevity of the artpop side of the EP, I think Jetfire Prime challenges himself with a sound that I hope he explores fully in the near future. “Sundae Daydream” and “Ping Pong” are fun, easy to dance to (I tested this), and undoubtedly electronic. The Synthwave half of “Summerzeer” has a more cinematic feel, and sounds very similar to something you might hear in a buddy cop film—especially the slow hazy groove of “Moon Lite.”

Overall, “Summerzeer” is a fun little mini-album. At twenty-four minutes, it’s a little longer than the average EP. There is a lot to love here in such a short time. And if you’re the dancing type like me, you might really enjoy this one.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Synthwave surfers, Chip-tune lovers, and people who want something fun to dance to.

Stand-out tracks: “Sundae Daydream,” “Ping Pong,” and “We Love to Loop.”

Album Color Profile: #3D5AFE

You can find all things Jetfire Prime at https://jetfireprime.bandcamp.com