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.
There are many genres out there who have a propensity for mediocrity. It's not that the genre is bad. On the contrary, much of it is enjoyable. The issue is that not much goes beyond enjoyable, never quite scratching beneath the surface of the initial infatuation. Trip hop is one of those genres. Its essential qualities have their own, intrinsic allure: something about the rhythm schemes of hip hop merged with a chiller atmosphere just has its appeal. However, most of it has become routine, never doing anything interesting with the basic trip hop formula. Not Hugo Kant though who, reminding us of artists like Floex or even Devin Townsend's Casualties of Cool in certain ways, blends guest vocalists, clever samples, a variety of instruments, and just an overall sense of cool into his trip hop. Get below for your first taste.