It’s sort of funny that I’m the one that ended up running this post. Electronic music used to be one of my least explored areas of music. Of course, like many metalheads, I had my penchant for synthwave but I never felt that I was really “qualified” to write about it. After all, synthwave was born outside of a vast array of genres and influences, within the historical “stream” of the development of electronic music. But I knew nothing about that history and very little about the other genres. But, funnily enough, things turned out to work the other way around: because I ended up with this column, I was “forced” to branch out, to start listening more broadly to electronic music so that I could better write about synthwave.
When you look at the post below, which will “simply” be my Top 5 electronic albums of the year so far, you’ll see that the mark of synthwave is very much still upon my listening. But except for one release, the most metal one, you’d be hard pressed to categorize any of these releases as really synthwave. However, the list does categorize almost all of the directions in which I branched out into in my investigations. There’s the chillwave I’ve been so drawn to in tough times. There’s some house and techno and even some city pop, a somewhat electronic-adjacent genre that I’ve only recently gotten into. And finally, there’s even some “hard” stuff, hitting the repetitive notes that I’ve only recently come to appreciate.
In short, I think this was one of the more productive years for me, in terms of my discovery of electronic music and the diverse styles that live within it. There’s still a lot more for me to learn about and if the process will look anything like this half-year, I can’t wait to get into it. For now, let’s talk about some truly excellent albums from all over the range of the electronic scale.
SurgeryHead – Lucifer’s Technology (Devil Sounds Pt.III)
There aren’t very many artists who quite capture the sinister and dark vibes of horror quite as well as SurgeryHead. The project has been a blog favorite for a while now but seems only to metastasize and grow into new territory. Lucifer’s Technology (Devil Sound Pt.III) might be the project’s most harrowing form yet. There’s a fair bit more abrasive sound on it, drawing more from the realms of noise music to inject the album with a grittier, jagged edge. This blends with SurgeryHead’s already well tested and proven penchant for breakneck beats, melding to create an album that has more than one way to grab you by the throat and scream in your face. Just put on “REDQUEEN” or “Black Glass Catacomb” and let it sweep you away into a world of struggle, pain, and terror.
Wevpon – Cybersmith
Speaking of darkness, Wevpon‘s collaboration with Turbo Knight & Dimi Kaye delivers those vibes in droves. Channeling a more Terminator sort of theme, Cybersmith takes us into the far future for a classic war between flesh and machine. The music itself is akin to something like Volkor X, with plenty of electric guitars and more metal influenced sounds melding with the darksynth antics for maximum aggression and impact. “Tech Wars” is probably your best entry point if you’d like to check out what Wevpon has to offer; watch out for the furious outro to the track, the big, resounding guitar leads, and the slowly unspooling drums that serve as the main tack to reel you in. I won’t blame you if you crack out the sunglasses and pretend to shoot down machines with laser beams. That’s the expected result.
Mitch Murder – Then Again
This list is unranked but, if I’m being honest, were it ranked, this album would be in the number one spot. I fully expect it to also star quite prominently in my end of year list. Truly very few other albums have given me as much joy and enjoyment as Then Again. On it, Mitch Murder expertly channels bright, hopeful city-pop while daftly dodging any comparisons or shared sounds with vaporwave. The album is like an electronic release from a different timeline, one where the nostalgic brightness that electronic music can channel so well wasn’t ceded over to repetitive memes and yearning for a fake, consumerist golden age (yeah, I have a full belly about vaporwave. More here). Instead, Mitch Murder uses his music to paint a world filled with places yet to explore, with people to meet, and with sights to see. Throw in the fact that the album is extremely groovy, and infectious as a result, nestling its way into your heart, and you have one of the most satisfying listening experiences of 2021.
Tor – Oasis Sky
We’ve spoken about Tor a lot on Wave // Breaker, probably because Oasis Sky was one of my most anticipated releases of the year and it completely delivered on that promised. Just like I wanted him to, Tor went and created one of the lushest, most “deep” feeling albums, in the sense that I can fall forever into the lushness of its lairs and beats. Where other albums of the kind sometimes fall into the trap of repetitiveness, seeking to create that lushness by treading in place, Tor has daftly dodged this pitfall. Bringing in a lot more influence from trip-hop, Tor has transformed his sound, giving up not an inch of dynamics even while going deeper, farther, and richer than ever before. This makes Oasis Sky an incredibly soothing album but also an incredibly detailed and surprising one, giving up more and more of it when your mood changes.
City Girl – C-Girl
I’ve spent so many words on this blog telling you why City Girl rules that it seems pointless to do so once again. Suffice it to say, if you have not yet heard one of the best voices in chillwave then C-Girl, the project’s album from this year exploring more pop and R&B vibes is a great place to start. It’s chock full of brilliant guest spots and all the smooth, moving beats you could ask for. Seriously, get on this train because I can guarantee City Girl isn’t done surprising us.