These posts are written by: Nikolai T. Nelson

Wave // Breaker – Big Lich

It would seem that, when it comes to discussing it as a music genre, a lot of different people have just as many if not even more varying criteria as to what exactly constitutes synthwave. For some it’s all about retaining that sound from the 1980’s, while to others it’s all about the synths be they hardware or software, but at the heart of it all is one simple fact: it’s inherently electronic in origin. That said, synthwave tends to not only at times sound like other electronic music genres but melds well with them too at other times as a result. Perhaps there’s been no better example of this than the ways in which chiptunes have influenced synthwave, and vice versa, although to really crank them up it never hurts to add a little metal into the mix. This trinity of sound has therefore produced what has become known as electro death and one of its emerging torchbearers is Big Lich.

Dan Terminus – Automated Refrains

I’d like to think that, as someone who listens to a lot of synth based music, I’ve seen and heard it all by now. However, and perhaps to my own detriment, up until now I have yet to experience anything quite like the sights or sounds of Dan Terminus. A bold claim, for sure, but an even bolder one is to hone in specifically on what I mean when I say that his latest album is in fact an “all around experience.” Before even delving into the music I want to take a long hard look at the album art. It is true, as they say, that one should never judge a book by it’s cover but regardless something must be said for such masterfully done art which entices one in with such intrigue; I felt not unlike that of a curious futuristic tourist looking at a brochure for an exotic alien world.

COUTOUX – A Hell on Earth

The first full-length album from COUTOUX (pronounced “KOO – too”) comes to us care of KILL ALL MUSIC, a self-described “anti-label,” which is fitting because to nail down exactly what COUTOUX should be labeled as would be akin to correctly identifying the true origins of some mutated abomination as it sludges it’s way through the irradiated wastelands in a post-apocalyptic Earth. You may very well call it industrial metal, due to it’s at times heavy hitting and seemingly unrelenting assault, but at other times it does relent a bit and eases quite quickly into an unnerving sound of atmospheric electronic doom metal by way of experimental dark synth. Perhaps we need to step back a bit and look at the prior analogy to some Godforsaken hellspawn and how it moves about because, in such a way, COUTOUX feels like it’s own beast which can only be described as “sludge synth.”

Wave // Breaker – The G

The G, an “LA guy in Singapore,” burst onto the scene this year with his debut album Postcards from LA which the man himself describes as “a love letter to the California coast. I made it while I was preparing to leave, and wanted to express my feelings for the stretch of coast from Santa Monica to Santa Barbara—which has so much romance for me. It’s a deeply nostalgic record, which to me conveys warmth with maybe a touch of sadness.” His sophomore release, Cosmopolis, is very much attuned in the same way as it’s been touted as a “retro-futuristic road trip” since its release. “It’s still road music” The G declared. “So in that sense it is similar to Postcards. But it’s about the future, with all its promise and foreboding, and it’s about the romance of looking up to the stars and wondering what’s out there.” The G went on to elaborate, explaining that “I think it has a lot more emotional range than Postcards. So much synthwave is emotionally monotonic—like, “summer, summer, summer” or “dark, dark, dark.” Cosmopolis is a bit of both. There are upbeat songs, like “Arcology” or “Reunited,” and moody ones, like “Shadows in the Neon Rain” or “Stars That Fade.” I’m not always in the same mood, so why should my music be? I’d rather take listeners on a journey. A lot of my favorite albums take that approach, like 88:88.”

Wave // Breaker – Robots With Rayguns

Synthwave is, in many respects, a hard musical genre to nail down and many disagree as to what exactly categorizes any particular act as such beyond the simple utilization of synthesizers. While most might immediately conclude that it involves imitating the sounds of the 1980s, there are those who blur that decade divide and bring in influences from the 1990s as well. Such is the case regarding Robots With Rayguns, an act which has been in the scene for quite a number of years now, who describes themselves as being “inspired by 80s and 90s electro, breakbeat, and RnB.” Indeed, with catchy beats and a healthy dose of vocal sampling, one gets the sense that their music would have been right at home in a dance club from that era or featured quite prominently on MTV alongside La Bouche and C+C Music Factory.

Scandroid – Monochrome

When Detroit based artist/producer Klayton, known also for his electronic-rock project Celldweller, debuted his new synthwave project of Scandroid last year it was met with overwhelming critical acclaim and fanfare. The self-titled album was a wonderfully written and performed piece of cyberpunk oriented synthwave, weaving an interesting and compelling story within, which brought together a well rounded auditory experience that begged to be listened to all the way through from start to finish as a result. With such a highly successful and equally praised debut the main question to ask, now with the release of Monochrome, is “does the follow up rise to the same level as it’s predecessor, perhaps even going beyond, or does it suffer from a sophomore slump?”