This isn’t the first time we’ve written to you about dark synthwave weirdo SurgeryHead and for very good reason. There aren’t enough artists out there ready to take their synths, bass, and overall level of filth and noir to the levels I desire. Sure, there’s Carpenter Brut but, even if you look past all the off putting nonsense with his aesthetic, how many times can you really listen to Trilogy? I mean, a lot. But at some point it gets dull and Leather Teeth, while good, doesn’t really hit the same way. The other artists who operate in these dark spaces don’t really cut it for me and many just seem over-hyped, in it for the edgy aesthetic and the Drive vibes. But not SurgeryHead; as first laid out in his excellent Lords of the Video Wasteland, SurgeryHead has a real flair for the breakbeat, the dark synth, and the intensely dance-able sort of synthwave that I simply can’t get enough of.
Getting (re)acquainted with SurgeryHead has never been easier than simply pressing play on his latest release, Vile Candy (Devil Sounds part 1). “Dreampunks”, the first track after the intro, starts calmly enough and, in fact, spends most of its time in a kind of brooding atmosphere. But near the end, that SurgeryHead propensity to rock comes shining right through, with a blistering passage straight out of some dance rave in the early 90’s. In other places, like on the excellent “Nightkiller” or “Tentacles” which precedes it, SurgeryHead taps into the more synthwave-y, neo-noir vibes that have become a staple for the genre. But the sound always has his own twist on it, a sinister, dark sort of tone that is hard to quantiy.
On “Nightkiller”, it undeniably resides in the bass. Good God, that fat bass! I triple dare you to listen to this track and not break out into immediate chair dancing. Couple that infections line with haunting vocals, enough synths to drain a small power station, and the flair that’s so important for this kind of music and you’ve got yourself the complete package, a rager, a barn-burner of a track; a “Nightkiller”. Many other excellent tracks like it abound on this release, further solidifying SurgeryHead as one of the most underrated artists working within the fatigued soundscapes of synthwave.
Do not sleep on this one. Listen to it at night, with the windows open, as you try to hold on to the world as it was before capitalism wrought this final, medical judgement upon us. Play it as you toss in your sleep, covered in sweat from your nightmares about the future. Or play it to escape all of that, to remember that rhythm and passion and sound still exist and we can take comfort in them. Just play it.
Ah, and we haven’t even spoken about the madness that is “Pharmacia”. No, that madness I leave to you to discover. Enjoy.