Hey! Listen to Rodgers Dameron!

As synthwave is so heavily influenced by a very specific aesthetic, it’s rare when we’re surprised as to what we find when we look at a synthwave album’s inspirations. We’re probably going to see neon colors, hot rods, scantly clad women (too often, sadly) and men, sunglasses, pixel beaches and the such. And that’s definitely the case when you first glance at Rodgers Dameron’s latest release, Pits of Utumno. The cover is satisfyingly retrofuturistic and rightly colored and the figure on it is clad in something you might expect David Hasselhoff to sport on Knight Rider. But wait, Pits of Utumno you suddenly ask, imaginary reader who’s well versed in Tolkien’s legendarium. “But that’s Melkor’s underground fortress!” you exclaim, of course, as I did. And yes, Dameron’s latest release, as steeped in synthwave aesthetic as it might be, contains several references and influences from Tolkien’s work.

Forest Swords – Compassion

Musing on the future and musing on the present are much closer processes than we’d like to imagine. We think of ourselves thinking of the future as a special capacity, unlinking what is to come and how we perceive it from the ways in which we lead our day to day lives, the weird reality in which we live in. One of the functions of art (good art, that is) is to coupled what was uncoupled and shine a light on how what is it to come is mirrored in our present situations. Forest Swords has always excelled at this; the one man project’s approach to ambiance and electronics echoes with the haunting presence of what is now and the ways in which it is constantly flowering into what will be. In the process of conveying these ideas, the project utilizes a cavernous approach to sound, populating the spaces between its thunderous drums with rust-tinged electronics, cut off synth lines and other tools which serve to portray a lonesome, barren reality still somehow filled with dream.

Starter Kit: Retrowave

Naturally, alongside Kung Fury, neon-pink hats, VHS tinged music videos and weirdly thin cigarettes, there’s music. Dubbed retrowave, the genre which harks back to the 80’s draws its inspiration from myriad sources. Action movies, old progenitor video games, advertisements and even machine glitches all mix into a brightly green-blue-pink haze. This music is heavily electronic but also decidedly dark,  often utilizing guitar tones and drum arrangements that explain its kinship with metal. Perhaps it’s also a shared birthing pool, as metal spawned in the 80’s alongside (and sometimes in direct response) to these aural phenomena.