Your Sister is a Werewolf is the Synthwave project of producer Josh Molen from Knoxville, Tennesee. YSIAW first burst onto the scene in February 2019 with their debut album “C.H.A.D.” Their latest album is entitled “Captain Video.” It was released on August 28th, 2020.

On the cover is a really wonderful image by Chrome and Lightning. It features someone standing in front of a video rental store in tight jeans and Reeboks. For those of you who have never experienced the absolute joy of entering one of these fine establishments, let me just tell you, it’s thrilling. This image perfectly captures the sheer level of excitement I used to feel going to the movie store. The blinding lights. The smell of buttery day old popcorn. The sticky floors. That weird plastic smell that strangely reminds me of petrol. Man, I miss the 80s and 90s. What a time to be alive. I feel truly blessed to live nearby one of the remaining video stores in the U.S. I still make weekly trips down there in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic. Interestingly enough, there still exists an actual Captain Video store in San Mateo, California. Now whether or not Molen took inspiration from this former Bay Area franchise, I’m not sure. Regardless, I love this album cover. It’s says a lot without saying much.

So how does “Captain Video” sound? Extremely authentic. It’s on point for the time period that it’s trying to emulate. This is a function of using the right tools in the correct context. From the word “go” “Jumping the Turnstiles” serves as the penultimate YSIAW track. It shows off a little bit of everything that this album does. And what this album does, it does well. I particularly enjoy the pointed synth that comes in at 2:12. I was almost instantly reminded of John Carpenter’s opening theme from Escape from New York.

While the presentation of “Captain Video” seemingly takes a lot of influence from early 1980s soundtracks its general vibe is much more akin to similar music being produced in the mid-eighties. You know, when producers of the time really started to get a little more comfortable with the tools at their disposal. The way that Molen was able to make “Captain Video” breathe is nothing short of amazing. Ironically enough, “Breathe Easily” highlights this quite a bit through some exceptional compression, reverb, and EQ choices that make the track come alive in such a way that feels effortless and easy to listen to. There’s nothing more satisfying than a little bit of audible air. My ears are in love with “Captain Video” because of it.

There are so many nuanced and deliberate details coming together here in order to create a fantastic nostalgic vibe. The nervous system of how “Captain Video” sounds so authentic lies in three key points: its wideness in the stereo field, it’s warmth (greatly aided by pitchbendiness), and the analogue sounding distortion that appears throughout the album.

In my opinion, “Neon Illusion” demonstrates the wideness of this album well. At 1:38, the bells and plucks sound three dimensional amidst the backdrop of a synthesized Juno-106esque sax. As this part continues the sax itself feels like it’s shifting from a more synthesized sound to a much more realistic version of itself. It’s quite impressive to hear if you’re paying careful attention.

Tasteful distortion and warmth are also incredibly vital to how the ear perceives whether or not music sounds vintage or not. And let me just tell you, Molen is a goddamn wizard when it comes to his command of how to implement these two things into his music. “Digital Image Correction” highlights an example of how to use warmth and distortion correctly. Good golly Molly the pads scream on this album. Listen in at around 1:30 to see what I mean.

Overall, what Your Sister is a Werewolf has done here is perhaps the most enjoyable Synthwave album that I’ve heard all year. This isn’t Synthwave in name only, this is actual Synthwave that was carefully crafted to accurately emulate a specific period of time. For serious, “Captain Video” was such a goddamn treat to listen to. Mr. Molen discounts nothing on this release, and uses the entire spectrum of hearable sound to make a memorable album worthy of your time. Please check this one out.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of Mitch Murder, fans of movie soundtracks from the mid-eighties, Synthwave heads looking for authentic vibes.

Stand-Out tracks: ALL! But if I had to pick, listen to “Jumping the Turnstiles,” “Slow Going (feat. Gab Manette),” “Neon Illusion,” “Digital Image Correction,” and “Late Fees.”

Album Color Profile: #EBDEF0

You can find all things Your Sister is a Werewolf at https://yoursisterisawerewolf.bandcamp.com/

Once upon a time, when I was much younger, a lot more naive, I occasionally came across weird little albums that I can only describe as “experimental.” There are a few artists who come to mind: Throbbing Gristle, Master/Slave Relationship, Tangerine Dream, and Stars of the Lid to name a few. To me, there are a few hallmarks that make a music project experimental:

  1. It doesn’t easily fit into any genre or category.
  2. It’s just weird or somewhat difficult to “get.”
  3. Experimental isn’t necessarily musical.

Armageddon Speaking (of Ontario) is a music project that fits into this experimental framework. I was first exposed to them after reviewing Leifendeth’s “Narrow Escapism.” Armageddon Speaking did a fascinating remix of “Not Again” for that EP which stood out as one of the most anomalous and experimental tracks on that release.

Something that really impresses me about Armageddon Speaking is how long it’s been around (in some form). There are fledgling tracks that go all the way back to 2000 back when FL Studio 2.0/3.0 was a thing. And while Armageddon Speaking only formally became much more active around 2014 it can’t be overstated how exciting it is to be able to experience an artist who has been in the electronic scene far before many of us were just a glimmer in its eye. I mean, what the heck were you doing in 2000? I was playing black metal! I digress…

Armageddon Speaking’s latest is entitled “Theory of Time Travel.” It was released on August 14th, 2020.

The cover art for “Theory of Time Travel” is near abstract featuring a blood red color with darker hues of midnight blue that are reminiscent of looking at an infrared universe in reverse. To me, the red color here represents the hidden esoteric energy of vast deep space. In the upper right hand corner I feel as though this represents some sort of planet filled to the brim with life, but devoid of ethics and spirit. Towards the bottom there appears to be some darker writing that reminds me of the One Ring from The Lord of the Rings. I’m pretty sure that’s not what it is though. This album cover is mysterious and cold. It fits in well with what Armageddon Speaking is accomplishing with “Theory of Time Travel.”

In terms of how “Theory of Time Travel” sounds, well, as mentioned before, this is an experimental album. The backbone of this album’s character lies in how un-musical it is. There’s no “beats,” “drops,” “breakdowns,” or “melodies.” There is an overarching theme to this album, however. And it is reprised over and over again in many different forms during the course of the record. This theme serves as the glue that binds “Theory of Time Travel” together filling the gaps between what sometimes feels like near silence with a spacey forward momentum that can only occur in experimental music.

It’s pretty clear that “Theory of Time Travel” wasn’t so much painstakingly composed as it was “captured.” There’s a very modular feel to this album that creates an organic analogue sort of atmosphere that feels good to experience. This is type of album that I could meditate to. It has a calming vibe that takes me to some far-flung nebula when I close my eyes. “Theory of Time Travel” is like listening to a visual artist paint, using each stroke to crawl towards some sort concealed apotheosis that never fully feels resolved. This is an album that accepts the fact that change is one of the indisputable and inevitable existential truths, while arguing that time itself is arbitrary to that process.

Of the tracks available here, I feel that it would be a disservice to Armageddon Speaking’s vision for “Theory of Time Travel” by recommending tracks that stand out here. To me, I feel that “Theory of Time Travel” is best experienced as a whole, rather than five individual tracks. I think that “Theory of Time Travel” has the type of sound that won’t be easily identified as being released in 2020 if someone happens to stumble upon it in the distant future. It has a timeless sound that harkens back to electronic “music” from the late 1970s. In general, when it comes to Armageddon Speaking, I think that their tagline “music from the future,” is accurate. However, I’d reframe it as “Music from the future…as we’re living it.” The genius behind this album isn’t in how it’s constructed, but in how it wasn’t. This is an album full of happy accidents. I don’t think that everyone will love this album as it’s not easy listening, but to for adventurous intellectual types looking for a challenge there’s some real gold to be found here if you give it an honest chance.

STAND-OUT TRACKS: Listen to this from beginning to end. Don’t break this experience up. The entire album is the stand-out track.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Listeners looking for something both relaxing and challenging.

Album Color Profile: #78281F

You can find all things Armageddon Speaking at https://armageddonspeaking.bandcamp.com/

Gab Manette is a Synthwave producer from Montreal. He’s been releasing retro sounding tunes for a couple of years now. Last year he released a really good little EP called “Dream Dimension.” His follow up is a mini-album entitled “Making Waves.” It was released on May 29th, 2020.

On the cover is a very dapper looking Gab who looks proud of the good work he’s done on “Making Waves.” The aesthetic is sort of like a mash-up between A-Ha’s “Take on Me,” “Sixteen Candles,” and Bert Schnick from “Shock Treatment.” It’s quite a cool looking image, and I think it accurately captures the laid back vibe of this release.

After spinning “Making Waves” at least a dozen times there was one thing that caught my attention: this is extremely calming music. I spent a few afternoons doing my daily workout whilst listening to this and found myself losing track of time. “Making Waves” really got me into the zone, giving me something to look forward to everyday. I found it very difficult to get distracted while listening to this. I’m not entirely sure what this is a function of—but “Making Waves” feels magical. I’m frequently tense, and this album helped me to relax and destress all of the needless tension in my body in some kind of hypnotic exhalation.

Gab’s track “Unwind” is pretty much the quintessential high point of his musical/engineering genius due to how textured it is. There’s a certain sparkle to this track that’s really happening. The drums, while low key, sit comfortably in the mix amidst bright flourishes in a percussive dance of structure. The pan pipes are the best part here as they are masterfully interwoven into the mix of the track’s momentum. “Prom Night” is the most romantic song on “Making Waves” and is slow paced enough that I found it to be a great song to cooldown to after an hour of cardio. Although short, “Talk Show” is probably my favorite cut from the album. It’s super 1990s sounding. This is primarily due to how the percussion and horn sections on this track are arranged. I don’t think it would be out of place on the original “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” live action movie’s soundtrack. Other highlights include the Rocky-esque “Judge Reinhold” named after the actor of the same name, and “Portfolio” which reminds me of the type of innocuous, fun toybox music my kindergarten teacher would throw on during “class” way back in 1989.

Overall, “Making Waves” is a short, digestible, nostalgic trip. It’s not so nostalgic that you’re going to be brought to tears. This is the type of nostalgia that’s captures mostly positive vibes albeit in a somewhat romantic pseudo-melodramatic way. There’s a lot of color to “Making Waves” on the production side of things that make it a fascinating listen. This will appeal to both Synthwave neophytes and veterans alike. Please check it out.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of Chillwave, Synthwave, and 80s vibes.

Stand-Out Tracks: “Talk Show,” “Judge Reinhold,” “Unwind,” and “Prom Night.”

Album Color Profile: #IDE9B6

You can find all things Gab Manette at https://gabmanette.bandcamp.com/

Mike Templar is an electronic music producer who’s traveled all the way from Sirius, that’s 8.611 light years, in order to share the gift of funky spacewave with all of us down here on Earth. His latest album “TROM” aka “The Resolution of Mind” came out on June 20th via Bandcamp.

“TROM” is a high concept, multimedia album that has to do with one man’s journey against the a corrupt system holding humanity down. Apparently, the next three-hundred years are going to be a complete shit show for us. Thanks drug resistant viral infections! Thanks power hungry corporations and politicians! Hey thanks, big pharma!

All joking aside, the story behind “TROM” may seem overly serious, but there’s a real sense of playfulness to the overarching theme of this album. This is precisely what makes “TROM” so different. This isn’t an edgy “Game of Thrones” gore-porn style look at an unfortunate future. There’s a real sense of thoughtful levity here.

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak to Mike personally over the course of a few hours. We talked about “TROM,” our lives, and what it means to live in such interesting times. After talking to Mike I got the sense that this is a man who is truly connected with something bigger than himself. He’s honest, straightforward, and understands that the thing that’s helped him keep perspective through all the ugliness is staying connected to his higher self through artistic expression. In so many words, “TROM” is the result of a man putting a vulnerable part of himself publicly on display for the sake of his art.

I mean, Mike Templar wrote an entire goddamn novel (roughly 120 pages) that fully fleshes out each song on “TROM.” Most artists don’t even bother to include lyrics or liner notes with their album releases. And while I haven’t had the opportunity to sit down and read the book in its entirety, I can say that without a doubt, it’s full of high-minded ideas. Ideas that investigate the root causes behind a lot of disturbing truths that eerily mirror our own reality.

“TROM” consists eighteen tracks, some of which are remixes, spanning roughly eighty minutes. From a value stand-point this album offers a lot of content. Musically, “TROM” is almost entirely instrumental with the exception of “Emergency (feat. Millennium Falck)” and a few sample drops sporadically spread throughout the album. Even though this album deals with some heavy themes, I don’t think the sound of this is dark. In fact, “TROM” has a certain bounciness to it, which makes the album a lot more playful than almost all of the other albums I’ve listened to this year. That said, it’s not so playful that it’s whimsical. There’s a lot of genre blending here. “Stopover on Earth” is a good example of this. My favorite track on the album is definitely “Inner Enemy.” It’s very visual and just sounds all around pleasing to the ear. I found myself humming it to myself a lot this week. “Emergency (feat. Millennium Falck)” is a compelling vocal performance. It’s not over-polished with an overwhelming amount of pitch correction or processing. Millennium Falck did a great job on it. It is totally reminiscent of 1970s variety show music, which, needless to say, is wildly different than what I was expecting. This may sound weird, but I quite dig it. You should check it out.

Overall, “TROM” is an accessible album. It’s extremely chill considering the subject matter. I think this would be great music to listen to if you’re a little unorthodox and need a some background juice for an inspiring meditation session. At times, it wades into mallwave territory—but I don’t think that this is a bad thing. This is definitely a thinking man’s album made by a man who likes to think.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Free-thinkers, people who want to experience spacewave with a positive vibe.

Stand-out tracks: “Inner Enemy,” “Speculum,” “Stopover on Earth,” “Slingshot Singularity Spy,” “Emergency (feat. Millennium Falck)”.

Album Color Profile: #2196F3

You can find all things Mike Templar at https://autumo.bandcamp.com/

Occams Laser is the darksynth project of UK producer Tom Stuart. Mr. Stuart may be a full-time dad, but don’t let that fool you, he still has time to be prolific as hell when it comes to creating music. Since 2014 he has produced twenty-five releases celebrating all things dark and retro.

“New Blood II” is Occams Laser’s latest album featuring ten tracks of cinematic, epic, and heavy darksynth. This is something of a concept album continuing the story started in Occams Laser’s “New Blood” album from 2018. “New Blood II” is centered around our final love affair with technology through the medical over use of synthetic “new blood.” Long story short, the “new blood” begins to overtake humanity through some sentient kind of infection. As a result an already dystopian society begins to spiral out of control. Talk about going from bad to worse. The very red cover art (also by Stuart) is both suitable to the subject matter and also quite gorgeous to look at. It features a buff street samurai, a sexy android, standing in front of slightly photo realistic city. It really fucking pops.

Musically, “New Blood II” is somewhat, but not entirely similar to mainline darksynth acts such as Carpenter Brut and Perturbator. This is cinematic and dark instrumental music that demands your attention from the moment you press play. There is a liberal use of the soft-clipped “French” bass that’s often found in this type of darksynth. I don’t think that Occams Laser uses it too much though. He makes excellent use of it where it counts, in songs intended to be total bangers. Which in this case is put on full display in both “Breakneck” and “Arterial Motive.” One thing that I feel separates Occams Laser from the wide majority of other darksynth producers is how clean his sound is. “New Blood II” is very well produced. It sounds shiny, and I can hear most everything that it has to offer. This is very often aided by longer instrumental sections of music that are completely devoid of drums. To it’s advantage, “New Blood II” is able to fully explore the bigger picture of his music through this method by giving his music time to breathe. Both “Scarlett,” and the intro track “Bloodshot” stand as examples of how this works for the album.

Almost all of the songs from “New Blood II” feature titles that center around redness and blood. In my mind’s eye, I definitely picture the color red whilst listening to this. As a synesthete this makes “New Blood II” a little different than what I’m used to listening to. It’s somewhat rare that the theme of an album connects with a singular color, shares that color on the cover art, and the music also sounds like that color.

Overall, “New Blood II” is a very pleasant listen. A lot of care went into this album with that in mind. This will widely appeal to listeners familiar and unfamiliar with Occams Laser. In an over-flooded ocean of darksynth and synthwave artists who struggle to find their exact niche, “New Blood II” stands as a fine example of what happens when an artist successfully accomplishes exactly what they set out to do.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of well-produced darksynth. If you like Carpenter Brut or Perturbator you’ll dig this.

Stand-Out Tracks: “Arterial Motive” (best track), “Breakneck,” “Exsanguination.”

Album color profile: #B71C1C

You can find all things Occams Laser at https://occamslaser.bandcamp.com/