CONNÖR is something of a mystery to me. Apparently they’ve been around in the Synthwave/Darksynth for awhile now. The funny thing is that I can’t seem to find any of their releases before their third album from 2019, entitled “Part III: Living in a Movie.” The mind behind CONNÖR is a producer who goes by the pseudonym “EFX.” Their social media presence is also rather light. EFX resides somewhere in the “deepest Bavarian forest” which, to me, means somewhere in south or southeast Germany. CONNÖR’s latest album, “Out of Traumaville” was released on August 21st, 2020,

“Out of Traumaville” is a fascinating album. Just looking at the liner notes, it’s pretty clear that it had a good financial backing, and that several people were involved in it’s creation. While EFX themself wrote and produced the songs found here, it would seem that White Sea Studio’s Wytse Gerichhausen had a lot to do with the post-production (both mixing and mastering) of this album. Wytse is most well-known, at least to me, for his audio “snake oil” videos on Youtube. Another notable contributor to this album was saxophonist Hugo Lee.

On the cover is artwork by Vladyslav Tsarenko, which features an image that looks like something you might find at one of those spray-on t-shirt shops that were the rage in the late 1990s. It has a girl getting pulled down into a manhole by various creepy crawlies. I think that it’s good artwork, but I don’t think it matches the spirit of the album. I would’ve preferred something a little less cartoony, especially considering the high-quality content found within “Out of Traumaville.”

There are a lot of interesting things going on composition-wise on this album. As I was listening to this album I couldn’t help but ask myself: “Who exactly is this person who created this?” It’s fairly clear that the work EFX has done with CONNÖR isn’t their first rodeo when it comes to writing music. Structure-wise there’s a lot to love on “Out of Traumaville.” While most songs follow a clear cookie-cutter pattern common to both Synthwave and Darksynth, there are a few incredible moments here. The album’s opener, “83. A.T.E.” does a lot in under six minutes. If I had to compare it to something, picture Carpenter Brut’s “Escape from Midwich Valley” with vocals. Similar to “Midwich” there is a slow build up on “83. A.T.E.” leading up to a surprising bass drop (at 4:00) in the last third of the song. Lyrically, this song is absolutely wonderful. I found myself singing it to myself for a few days. There’s just something so satisfying about saying the word combination “Woke up in fear.” “Total Darkness” is another certifiable ear worm that has incredible lyrics, and an incredible overall sound. Like–real talk, this song is just so smooth, and so pleasing to the ear. I honestly had a hard time keeping it together the first time I heard it. “The Fire in Me” which features a memorable sax performance by Hugo Lee and stunning vocals by Winona Drive. This is probably my favorite track on the album. If you aren’t sure about checking this album out, have a listen to “The Fire in Me.” It doesn’t disappoint.

In terms of aesthetic, I think that the first five songs on “Out of Traumaville” and the title track itself are all A-rank, maybe (at times) even S-rank level Darksynth. All of the other songs on the album really aren’t on the same level though from a compositional point of view. “Born to Shine” feels a little too preachy to me, and sounds less like proper Darksynth and more like something you might hear from a mainstream pop group like Imagine Dragons. Ick! Don’t get me wrong, from a technical standpoint I don’t think it’s bad, but it’s definitely not the type of song I would willingly subject myself to.

If I were an executive producer for this album I would’ve cut “Born to Shine,” the two “Holy Wood” tracks, and probably “Tomorrow.” I would’ve kept “My First Bossfight” though, primarily because it fits in with the context of the first five tracks of the album. If this album would’ve only included those seven tracks I think that this could’ve been a classic Darksynth release. The bloat filled in by the tracks that probably should’ve been cut mess with the overall vibe of this release. I’m also little disappointed that CONNÖR didn’t include lyrics on Bandcamp, because while I can easily understand what each vocalist is saying, I like reading lyrics for context, especially when it comes to a concept album like this one.

In conclusion, CONNÖR released some real gold here with the first five tracks on this album and the title track “Out of Traumaville.” Please check those songs out ASAP if you get joy-joy feelings from well-crafted Darksynth.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of Carpenter Brut and Perturbator.

STAND-OUT TRACKS: “83. A.T.E.”, “Total Darkness,” “The Fire in Me” (these three songs are FUCKING INCROYABLE–TREMENDOUS WORK).

Album Color Profile: #FF6699

You can find all things CONNÖR at https://connoer.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/

Kushna is a newer retrowave producer from India. 2020 has certainly been his year as he’s produced a slew of really catchy singles. In addition to this, he’s also released a full-length entitled “Retrodise.” It came out on June 2nd, 2020.

I’m going to come out and say that this is definitely an album that you shouldn’t judge by it’s cover. To me, the cover embraces some really common Synthwave tropes. We’ve all seen this type of thing frequently in the last few years, and for all intents and purposes I think that “Retrodise” would’ve benefited greatly from a different type of visual to accompany the music here.

Despite my personal issues with the cover artwork, I think that “Retrodise” is a wonderful album. I tend to think that it musically lies somewhere between proper darksynth and more soundtrack based Synthwave. There are a lot of really great ideas here that really tap into the exact type of moody epic vibe that brought me to love Synthwave as an artistic medium in the first place. The production value on “Retrodise” is really clear due to it being properly EQed and made tight with strategic conscious use of light (and sometimes sidechained) compression. I suspect that Kushna spent some time producing music in other genres as “Retrodise” has a modern EDM vibe. If I’m wrong about this, then he has a lot of natural talent for this type of thing. Regardless, “Retrodise” reminds me of a cross between 16-bit VGMs from the 1990s, Jan Hammer’s work on Miami Vice, with a slight raga flavor that makes it stand out amongst the hundreds of hours of Synthwave that I’ve subjected myself to so far this year.

I think that “Retrodise” opens up strong with the arpeggio leaden “Deep Love.” This song is spacey, futuristic, and catchy. It’s also is very neutral in terms of energy. It’s not particularly light or dark sounding, but it definitely has aspects from both sides of the spectrum. “Dream” further highlights Kushna’s talent for constructing great sounding arpeggios. Again, like “Deep Love,” “Dream” reaches Daft Punk levels of spacey with a pseudo-“TRON Legacy” vibe crossed with mid-nineties CD-ROM based VGMs. “Endless” was my favorite cut from “Retrodise.” The visuals that my brain created whilst listening to this song were akin to something you might see out of a moody Neo-noir film complete with streetlights sporadically shining across the face of a lonely night driver just looking to make something of his/her life. The acoustics of the woodwind pipe sound on “Endless” is absolutely beautiful and really unconventional.

Overall, “Retrodise” is a highly enjoyable listen. This release completely blindsided me, and it’s a goddamn shame that more people haven’t checked it out. If you have an affinity for well-crafted and thoughtful Synthwave with a digestable and slightly different vibe, please check out Kushna’s work. It’s one of my favorite albums this year.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Anyone that loves going for a long night drive along the coast on a hot Summer night.

Stand-Out Tracks: “Endless,” “Deep Love,” “Dream,” and “Beautiful.”

Album Color Profile: #FF1744

You can find all things Kushna at https://kushnamusic.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/

Glitch Black (a play on words to “Pitch Black”) is a prolific darksynth/synthwave producer who hails from Seattle, Washington. He’s most notably known for visual live performances, his Tron-inspired outfit, and all-around great sounding future aesthetics. Glitch Black is the type of producer who makes even the most timid among us want to hit the dance floor in a cyberpunk catharsis of joy. His latest album is entitled “Mechanical Perfection.” It was released on July 9th, 2020.

On the cover of “Mechanical Perfection” is a very familiar image of Glitch Black’s cybernetic egregore. Keeping in line with all of his previous major album releases, the artwork features an intense black and grey color scheme that is wildly accentuated with neon red. I feel that this image fits in well with the sci-fi vibe of the album.

Even though all of the songs here are all cut from the same cloth there’s quite a bit of variation throughout this album. The first half pulls a lot of influence from early 2000s aggrotech and late 2000s European hardstyle. “Binary Overlord” is a great example of this—although this artistic choice isn’t entirely limited to that song. There is also a slight gothic EDM flavor to “Mechanical Perfection.” This is largely aided by the album’s constant grating low end, non-traditional arpeggios (at least for darksynth), and popping upbeat percussion. “Mechanical Perfection” is slightly experimental for Glitch Black as he actively explores challenging tempo changes, without over-saturating the music with too much repetition. For example, in “Shock Troopers” he ends the song with a completely new section that doesn’t repeat. It sort of reminds me of what Slayer pulled on “God Hates Us All” by adding odd little riffs to the end of songs. The primary difference here is that Glitch Black does it with a sleek and concise style.

Overall, “Mechanical Perfection” is an enjoyable listen. All of the songs here are cold on the outside, kind of like a metal endoskeleton, but once you start understanding the vibe of the album there’s a lot of life here. “Shock Troopers” is definitely my favorite track off of the album. It’s energetic, slightly evil sounding, and all around really goddamn cyberpunk. I kept getting these visuals of some kind of paramilitary squad like in “The Raid: Redemption” kicking doors down in the name of some power hungry corporate magnate. Other highlights include the sleeper hit “Binary Overlord,” the glitchy metal infused “Onslaught,” and the slower tempoed “Dark Future.”

RECOMMENDED FOR: Darksynth warriors looking for something new from a familiar darksynth personality. I think people who are into Cybergoth might actually like this too. I’m not ashamed to say that I danced to “Binary Overlord” several times by myself in my living room.

Stand-out tracks: “Shock Troopers,” “Dark Future,” “Onsalught,” “Grit,” “Binary Overlord,” (HUMANZ!)

Album Color Profile: #B71C1C

You can find all things Glitch Black at https://glitchblack.bandcamp.com/

Wraithwalker is a darksynth producer from Atlanta, Georgia. He’s been around in the scene since 2018, and has produced several LPs/EPs. He recently has released two mini-albums within the last month, “Preludium,” and “Visions.” I will be reviewing the latter.

The cover artwork for “Visions” reminds me of the variant cover for Hecate Enthroned‘s “Upon Promethean Shores (Unscriptured Waters).” The color scheme is much the same prominently featuring one of my favorite colors—a harsh, almost neon violet. The image itself reminds me of Carpathian Forest‘s “Through Chasm, Caves and Titan Woods.” For this type of music I think that Wraithwalker’s logo leans a little too heavily on a black metal sort of aesthetic, but I think that’s what he’s going for. It is a unique stylistic decision to couple this type of primeval vibe with music that normally would be associated with futuristic themes.

“Visions” sounds extremely European despite the fact that Wraithwalker resides in Atlanta. There is this odd little energy about this release that I can’t quite put my finger on. In one sense, it’s sounds like early eighties Disco Italia, but it also doesn’t. I think that there’s a TON of postpunk/coldwave/minimal synth influence going on here. As to whether or not that’s Wraithwalker’s conscious decision, I’m not so sure. There are also shades of early 90s à la Love is Colder Than Death from their “Teignmouth” period mixed with early 2000s gothic EDM—think Apoptygma Berzerk. For postmodern darksynth, it certainly feels eclectic, mysterious, bleak, and somewhat inaccessible. Of course, I mean that in the very best way possible.

“Blood Moon” stands out to me because it is the most upbeat track on “Visions.” I love the muddy bass pulse that the song is rooted in. Despite how energetic the percussion is here, there’s a lot of dark ambiance to this track. It really makes me feel like I’ve been left alone in a cold wilderness without any hope of survival. For such a red sounding song, it certainly takes on the foggy vibe of something that sounds dark and purple. “Scythia” and “Raven” are the most postpunk songs of the bunch. Visually, “Scythia” is greatly enhanced by the telephone-EQ put onto the sparse, but seemingly distant vocals here. To be honest, this track gives me the willies. It’s fucking nasty in a postwar prison labor camp sort of way. This is not for the faint of heart. My favorite track on the album is “Resurrection.” It has a compelling lead synth that makes me want to put some black lipstick on and hit the dance floor. This is contrasted by a lighthearted, albeit synthwavy breakdown/bridge at around 2:50 that comes completely out of nowhere. I love when producers do this sort of thing. “Plague” leans a little too heavily on the Blade Runner end theme vibe for my tastes by transposing the root of the song’s driving arpeggio down from C to an F minor scale. I do like it, but a lot of darksynth producers love going into that Vangelis space. The Spotify release of “Visions” includes a really cool remix of the opening track “Raven” while the Bandcamp release includes a cover of The Cure’s “A Forest.” I much preferred the “Raven” remix primarily because “A Forest” has been covered to DEATH. That said, both bonus tracks are great, and even though I’m not a fan of “A Forest” I think that a lot of people who come across this release will enjoy the hell out of it.

Overall, I fucking like this mini-album. “Visions” does a lot right in such a short time. It’s not overly produced, which works to its advantage as it’s a very visual EP. And while it certainly does have a darksynth vibe to it, I think it’s more darksynth adjacent. It channels a lot of energy that greatly differs in approach from other artists in the scene. If you’re in the market for something different and are in the mood for a little nastiness, check “Visions” out.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Darksynth and Horrorsynth adherents who want to step further into the dark wilderness of the human soul.

Stand-out tracks: “Raven,” “Scythia,” “Blood Moon,” and “Resurrection.”

Album Color Profile: #9C27B0

You can find all things Wraithwalker at https://wraithwalker.bandcamp.com/

Shredder 1984 is the project of French darksynth producer Steven Schriver. He also plays in two metal bands, Can of Worms (thrash/death) and Silent Opera (progressive death metal).

“Prophet of Doom” is a “special quarantine album” Shredder 1984’s which features six tracks of metallic darksynth clocking in at a runtime of around thirty minutes. The cover artwork was created by a really talented tattoo artist from Bayonne, France named La Belette Bleue. The color scheme of the artwork is really eye-popping which successfully combines a glowy fuchsia with an overwhelming amount of neon seafoam green. In the center of the painting is featured a very sexy looking prophet/oracle of doom who appears to be, at least to me, a demonic form of Lady Justice herself. It seems she’s had enough of humanity’s shit, so she’s taken her blindfold off to deliver some brutal justice to the world. Behind her are a bunch of evil looking critters and a city that looks like it’s been laid to waste. I quite like the artwork, as it reminds me of Dimmu Borgir’s “Godless Savage Garden.”

Musically, “Prophet of Doom,” is quite epic sounding, in a melodramatic sort of way. And while I would classify this album as being under the darksynth genre umbrella I think that it’s also very different too. I say this because Shredder 1984 definitely has a sound that’s unique to him. Out of the hundreds of hours of darksynth I’ve subjected myself to over the last ten years or so I can’t say I’ve heard anything remotely like Shredder 1984. His signature sound is encapsulated underneath a wall of gritty sounding guitars combined with synthetic soft-clipped bass sounds. From a technical stand point, I would be curious to see how exactly he EQed the palm-muted wall of guitars to sit with the heavy bass in this recording. I reckon that there’s a decent amount of automation going on that helps this process, but I can’t really say for sure. If I had to guess, I think that a lot of the guitars are actually synthetic à la reFx guitar expansions but I’d like to think I am wrong. Regardless, I’m honestly kind of impressed with how well these two elements co-exist together since I feel that nothing substantial has been lost in the mix. That said, I do think that the lead guitars suffer a little bit in the mix from how upfront the low end can be at times.

There is a rather liberal use of orchestral sounding choirs, organs, and trailing arpeggios that line the high end and and mids for “Prophet of Doom.” One of the best moments that showcases this aspect of Shredder 1984 comes in the form of a musical reprise of “Sharpen that Guillotine” with “Oracle Interlude.” If I had to pick a song off the album deserving of a music video treatment it would probably be “Justice Outbreak.” It stands out to me as the most single sounding of the bunch and shows off everything that “Prophet of Doom” is doing in one song.

Overall, I think that “Prophet of Doom” is worthy of a listen. To me, it stands out as one of the cooler releases of 2020. So if you happen to like your darksynth sounding post-apocalyptic with a slight tinge of horror there might be something here for you.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Darksynth fans looking for something a little more metallic.

Stand-Out Tracks: “Prophet of Doom,” (my favorite track from the album), “Sharpen that Guillotine,” “Justice Outbreak.”

Album Color Profile: #512E5F

You can find all things Shredder 1984 at https://shredder1984.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/

In the post-covid postmodern cyberpunk pastiche that is 2020 just about everybody and their mother has taken to the arts in a last ditch effort to make their hopes and dreams come true. The result of this has been really mixed. On one end of the spectrum there’s high-quality “didn’t bother to write my own music” garbage that low skill non-producers have thrown money at to make their egos feel better. There’s an entire industry that orbits around separating these folks from their hard earned cash. In the middle, you have low quality artistic music that actually has real substance. There’s also the low quality, low skilled producers that aren’t “in it to win it” rather they are only in it for fun—to which I say, hell yeah, keep having fun. And finally you have really well produced music that’s artistic AF. This is very rare mythical unicorn that often gets buried under high quality, low skill garbage. This is sadly just the way things are. But hey, when I discover music like this, I am motivated to share it. Enter London’s very own dark synth producer who goes by the moniker “The Unseen.” Since June of 2018 they have been producing delectable and dark music just perfect for a night drive. Their latest “EP”—it’s not an “EP,” this is a fucking album, is entitled “To Where We Roam.” It released on June 19th, 2020 via Bandcamp.

The cover art for “To Where We Roam” is extremely unorthodox for this type of music. I say this mainly due to it’s color scheme. Just looking at this album, the first thought that comes into my head is that this is going to be something light-hearted and smooth. I mean look at those pastels! Towards the bottom of the image is a figure walking away. They are draped in a scarlet looking robe/blanket/shroud that appears to be swaying slowly in the wind. This is the part of this artwork that is slightly unsettling to look at. There’s mystery there. Right out in the open. Right out in the light. Needless to say, when I pressed play on this album for the first time it wasn’t at all what I was expecting.

“To Where We Roam” is a release that has gone widely unnoticed—which I think is downright criminal. In terms of what I’ve already listened to in 2020, this album is top ‘o the heap. This is mostly instrumental, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s just another fancy darksynth release. The Unseen did a wonderful job producing this one. From beginning to end, I was treated to the perfect mix of early 1980s Vangelis/Tangerine Dream mixed with what sounds like to me Jack Wall’s work on Mass Effect 2, only instead of getting one “Suicide Mission” track, the entire album sounds like that. I think that top loading “To Where We Roam” with “Paris, Aimes-tu Les Damnés?” was a solid artistic decision, because while it has threads of what typically is expected out of a darksynth track, it vaguely reminded me of the first time I heard Xasthur’s “Moon Shrouded in Misery, part I.” I think that adding this type of sound to darksynth is the proper progression for the genre, not only because it adds a dreamy death-like element to the tone of the music, but because I think it feels nostalgic, albeit not in an eighties sort of way. “Veiled Silhouettes on the Dunes of Dubai” reminds me a lot of Keiichi Okabe’s compositions on both the original “Nier” and also “Nier Automata.” It’s dusty, atmospheric, oppressive and breathy. It stands out as one of the album’s most visual songs, and although it’s a little tropey I like it. “Stargazing From a Train in the Austrian Alps” sounds eerily familiar to the end theme from “Blade Runner.” There are two reasons for this. One, it’s in F minor just like Blade Runner’s end theme. “Stargazing…” is also similar sounding because of the steady arpeggio that continues for most of the song in tandem with lush pads going up and down the scale. The primary difference here is that the starting root note of the arpeggio isn’t C like in Blade Runner’s end theme. In general, I look at this like a nod to Vangelis, and what a nod it is. It’s a great tune. The best track on the album goes to the final track “World, Interrupted.” This also sounds similar to Vangelis, complete with it’s choir sweeps and dynamic percussion clashing with synthesized leads. The greatest moment of the album comes roughly two minutes into “World, Interrupted” with a drastic change in tempo which shifts the song’s focus from a more brooding energy level to something dark and upbeat. This is precisely the type of thing I love in darksynth that isn’t done nearly enough. It takes the overall vibe of the track from a, “yeah we’re not doing so well here,” to “we are absolutely fucked.” This is definitely one of the best tracks I’ve heard all year.

Overall, “To Where We Roam” is an album that was a huge surprise to me. It’s not only just dark, it’s oppressively dark. There isn’t any fun going on with this album. It sounds like the end of the world. And that’s the way I fucking like it.

RECOMMENDED FOR: People who like their darksynth sounding like a razorblade sweeping back and forth in their mouths.

Stand-Out Tracks: “World, Interrupted,” (GREAT TRACK), “Paris, Aimes-tu Les Damnés?,” “Veiled Silhouettes on the Dunes of Dubai,” “Stargazing From a Train in the Austrian Alps” (Blade Runner vibes!)

Album Color Profile: #FF8A80

You can find all things The Unseen at https://theunseen.bandcamp.com/

TUPPERWAVE is an eclectic Vaporwave producer from Brisbane, Australia. They’ve been producing music under this moniker since January of 2017. Their latest album, entitled “Marina” was released on February 25th 2020.

The cover artwork for “Marina” is colorful and vibrant. In the lower left hand corner is a roof-pool overlooking a lush beach. Behind the beach is a city. This seriously looks like it would be a great place to unwind, relax, and pop open a bottle of wine. The sun in the sky appears to be getting ready to set transitioning from what appears to be a hot, oppressive day into a gorgeous summer night.

Admittedly, I am not very well-versed in the intricacies of Vaporwave. I’m well-aware of some of the bigger names in the scene, and while I could’ve elected to go down the rabbit hole that starts with “Floral Shoppe” and all of it’s bizarre iterations, there’s something that attracted me to TUPPERWAVE’s work—it felt much more accessible as a newbie to the Vaporwave scene. When I pressed play on “Marina” for the first time, I became instantly relaxed and happy.

The foundation of “Marina’s” production lies in a careful selection of blending a variety of samples into a salient musical structure. Transforming already existing music into something new without it sounding like an obnoxious loop takes real talent—and TUPPERWAVE has that in spades. Tech-wise, “Waterfront” was the most impressive sounding track as it not only accurately captures the atmosphere of standing in a random mall in the midwest during the 80s, it really sounds like you’re listening to the music on the same tinny speakers those places had back then. Almost all of the music on “Marina” takes a similar form ranging from sounds you might hear in a late 70s television commercial, or the type of tune you might’ve heard while on hold over the telephone.

“Esplanade” was my favorite track from the album. From what I can tell, it takes a mid-80s City Pop female vocal track and downsamples it into an androgynous vocal range. While stuff like this is common to Vaporwave, by taking something beautiful and turning it into pseudo-nightmare fuel, the way TUPPERWAVE arranges it into a slow-paced waltz complete with a romantic brass section is absolutely wonderful.

“Marina” is one of those albums that I’m not afraid to just turn on anywhere I’m at, especially if I need some thing to calm my nerves after a crappy day. It also happens to be one of my favorite albums to play in the kitchen while I’m washing dishes, cooking, or staring down one of my cats. Overall, this has become one of my favorite goto albums this year, and I highly recommend it to both those who enjoy Vaporwave and to those who aren’t as familiar.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Lovers of all things Vaporwave, and those who aren’t as familiar but would like an accessible album to try.

Stand-Out tracks: “Esplanade,” (THE HORNS OH MY SWEET GODDESS THE HORNS), “Waterfront,” “Blue Sky,” “Kirra Sunset.”

Album Color Profile: #6633FF

You can find all things TUPPERWAVE at https://thevaporroom.bandcamp.com/