Category: Reviews (Page 1 of 162)

SIN COS TAN Drifted EP

SIN COS TAN, the “synthesized duo of great promise, broken dreams, and long nights” return with a new EP after a six year absence.

Entitled ‘Drifted’, the Finnish pairing of Juho Paalosmaa and Jori Hulkkonen were inspired by the experiences of separation and resignation experience by most during 2020. “We had numerous discussions about doing something again with SCT over the years, but they never came to fruition” said Paalosmaa, “I think the whole COVID thing, in all its trouble, gave us the pause we needed in our lives for SIN COS TAN to make sense again”.

But Paalosmaa added ”Finns, as people, are quite well adapted to handle isolation. We’ve been doing that voluntarily for centuries already. Nevertheless, it’s still been a challenge at times.”

With three albums ‘Sin Cos Tan’, ‘Afterlife’ and ‘Blown Away’ already to their name, the last SIN COS TAN release was the dance focussed EP ‘Smile Tomorrow Will Be Worse’ in 2015. At around 7 minutes, ‘Disconnect’ recalls the nocturnal moods of the self-titled debut while strident piano makes a surprise appearance towards its dramatic final third. With a more metallic and danceable pace, ‘If I Was Gone’ is reminiscent of more uptempo SIN COS TAN material such as ‘History’ with crystalline synth tones and magnetic IDM vibes.

‘Unconditional’ exudes a hypnotic atmospheric groove with an emotive vocal delivery from Paalosmaa in a manner that is classic SIN COS TAN. “It’s really about the poison of absoluteness” clarified Hulkkonen, “and how doing things strictly your way can erode a lot of good will around your life”; it is undoubtedly a lesson for all. Almost funereal, ‘True To You’ captures the resignation and isolation where an e-Bowed guitar simulation played on a synth comes as the unexpected dressing to the largely instrumental template and doing as the EP title suggests.

A welcome return that is not short of drama or intensity, ‘Drifted’ sees SIN COS TAN dipping their toes in the water again after their hiatus. Once they fully hit their creative stride again over a long playing format, there is sure to be even more excellence to come in the vein of songs like ‘Trust’ and ‘Moonstruck’.


‘Drifted’ comes out on September 24th 2021 via Solina Records as a limited edition vinyl 12″ and digital release

http://solinarecords.com/sincostan/

https://www.facebook.com/homeofsincostan


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Rainer Geselle
21st September 2021

WAVESHAPER Mainframe

Tom Andersson is the Swedish synthesist and retro gamer known as WAVESHAPER. Introduced by his father to Jean Michel Jarre, unsurprisingly his music has a filmic quality thanks to his own love of Vangelis and John Carpenter.

One of the talking heads in ‘The Rise Of The Synths’ documentary from 2019, within his armoury are a Roland Jupiter 4, Roland Jupiter 6, ARP 2600 and Korg MS20, while the VSTs that he favours include Tal-Uno-X, FM8, Polysix, M1 and Retrologue. His debut album ‘Tracks To The Future’ came out in 2013 while his most recent long playing offering was 2019’s ‘Artifact’.

In between he contributed to soundtracks for the game ‘Furi’ alongside Carpenter Brut and the downbeat thriller ‘Videoman’ with fellow Swedes Robert Parker and Johan Agebjörn. But now comes ‘Mainframe’, his latest muscial visit into yesterday’s tomorrow.

Loaded with a sinister grit but also weird but intriguing melodies, ‘The Phantom Machine’ is a mighty opener, sweeping into a skyward zone, with cutting mechanisation acting as a backbone to a descending chord progression. Driving with hearty rhythms, ‘Friends Again’ also offers edgy arpeggios and power chords without a guitar to facilitate a bouncy groove in the vein of Norwegian neighbour Todd Terje and even a key change.

The pulsating ‘Signals In The Night’ shines for the dancefloor, hypnotic and phat like a more intense take on vintage French disco masters SPACE with a distorted synthetic horn solo to provide extra uplift. Tapping at a more steadfast pace, the percussively prominent ‘Save Room’ takes on a comparatively atmospheric approach like ENIGMA in outer space, but is augmented by a tough percolating bass.

Gorgeously melodic within a claustrophobic drama, ‘Lost In The Cloud’ does as the title suggests like Vangelis meeting Giorgio Moroder at the Necropolis on a dreamy dance trip. It’s a lovely little uplifting synth instrumental although suggesting something darker, Andersson says “Imagine Red Riding Hood trapped in the Digital Cloud, behind the Mainframe. How would she feel? What would she see? There is probably more to fear than a wolf in the forest…”

More archetypically synthwave with deep sombre basslines and blippy arpeggios, the strident overtures of ‘The Hive’ would make a great theme to a futuristic animation series.

Meanwhile making its presence felt, ‘Artificial Promises’ is glorious multi-layered space disco where each part, whether melodic or percussive, has a hook. It’s how good electronic instrumentals always should be and is the antithesis of a lot of vocal-less synthwave which often sounds like someone has forgotten to sing… the short ‘A Sense Of Something’ goes downtempo but its synthetic choirs and detuned applications provide a deep emotive resonance to close.

With a dynamic production, ‘Mainframe’ is a harder edged synthetic voyage that doesn’t head down the rock abyss, so will appeal to those who may have found the more recent adventures of PERTURBATOR veering too much towards goth metal.

Tom Andersson himself has said this is his most interesting work to date and it is certainly among his most focussed.

In a year which has seen worthy instrumental releases from the likes of КЛЕТ with ‘Alconaut’ and BETAMAXX with ‘Sarajevo’, ‘Mainframe’ positions WAVESHAPER right next to them.


‘Mainframe’ is released by Waveshaper Music Production on 17th September 2021 as a CD, cassette, MiniDisc and to the usual digital platforms, pre-save via https://fanlink.to/f5Pw

https://www.facebook.com/Waveshaperofficial

https://twitter.com/Waveshaper_SWE

https://www.instagram.com/waveshaperofficial/

https://waveshaper1.bandcamp.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Svetlana Kovalenko
15th September 2021

TINY MAGNETIC PETS Drowning In Indigo

Having boosted their profile with the house-laden remix by Vince Clarke of ‘Automation’, Irish trio TINY MAGNETIC PETS are back in their usual territory with a new single from their third album ‘Blue Wave’ which was released earlier this year.

‘Drowning In Indigo’ is a wonderful atmospheric set piece with an understated electronic template that affirms “nothing is rose tinted”.

A reflection of the song’s isolated genesis during the 2020 lockdown, the accompanying video sees front woman Paula Gilmer underwater where “every colour turns to a shade of blue”. Despite the TINY MAGNETIC PETS front woman looking radiant while blending with a software genreated production illusion, the visual does make for slightly uncomfortable viewing, highlighting the darker narrative behind the lyrics.

For an album recorded largely in isolation and remotely, ‘Blue Wave’ does capture a unified feel and is very immediate; fittingly, a  sea blue coloured vinyl LP edition is due in November. But the record was a surprise release as a long player called ‘The Point Of Collapse’ was due as the follow-up to 2017’s ‘Deluxe/Debris’, with tracks having been showcased live over the past few years.

So while there are other tracks such as ‘Echoes’ and ‘Falling Apart In Slow Motion’ already recorded and in the vaults, waiting to see the official light of day, ‘Drowning In Indigo’ will come accompanied with a bundle of remixes.


‘Drowning In Indigo’ is from the album ‘Blue Wave’, available as a sea blue coloured vinyl LP, CD and download via TMP / Vitamin C Records direct from https://tinymagneticpets.bandcamp.com/album/blue-wave

https://www.tinymagneticpets.com/

https://www.facebook.com/tinymagneticpets

https://twitter.com/TinyMagneticPet

https://www.instagram.com/tinymagneticpets/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
9th September 2021

DUBSTAR Tectonic Plates

With ‘Hygiene Strip’ and ‘I Can See You Outside’, Sarah Blackwood and Chris Wilkie have been re-exploring the electronic direction of their earlier sound, having celebrated the 25th Anniversary of their debut single ‘Stars’ in 2020.

Both co-produced by Stephen Hague who helmed the first two DUBSTAR albums ‘Disgraceful’ and ‘Goodbye’, ‘Hygiene Strip’ was an apocalyptic heartbreak song reflecting love, loss, anger and ideology while the more uptempo ‘I Can See You Outside’ evoked Christine McVie and Giorgio Moroder liaising unexpectedly in a condemned nightclub.

Taking its title from the slowly but constantly moving pieces of Earth’s crust and uppermost mantle which cause earthquakes when stuck together, ‘Tectonic Plates’ focusses on friction over a neo-baggy beat, but paradoxically sparkles on entry in a seismic shift.

Imagining the paintings of modern surrealist Marc Chagall, Blackwood observes this girl who “Drifted far beyond this world To places unreachably high, sky is just another thing that passed her by”. Wilkie then bursts in with some rhythm guitar reminiscent of DUBSTAR’s former Food labelmates BLUR and their first hit ‘There’s No Other Way’, although an array of catchy synth riffs prove to be irresistible.

Working again with Stephen Hague, a new DUBSTAR album is now close to completion. The necessity to record it remotely has led to the realisation of ideas which would normally consume an afternoon actually take a week.

The creative tension has led to a compulsion to create, with plenty to write about in the face of adversity in that sardonic Northern English way. So it’s all Back To Blackwood as Wilkie brings in his love of XTC and CHIC for the bittersweet kitchen sink poetry of DUBSTAR to remain firmly intact as a kind of pop regression therapy.


‘Tectonic Plates’ is released as a digital single, stream or download via Northern Writes via https://dubstar.fanlink.to/tectonic-plates

https://www.dubstarofficial.co/

http://www.facebook.com/dubstaruk/

https://twitter.com/dubstarUK

https://www.instagram.com/dubstaruk/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
8th September 2021

BLANCMANGE Commercial Break

Never one to sit still, Neil Arthur explores a new direction for BLANCMANGE’s 14th album ‘Commercial Break’.

While the synthesizer framework remains, the unexpected textures of acoustic six string and various field recordings permeate on this reflective work co-produced by Benge at his Memetune Studios in Cornwall.

To add some of that air and atmosphere that can be missing from many modern productions using computerised media, Neil Arthur has absorbed audio captures of electric saws, seafronts, conversations, bird song and old water pumps into the backdrop.

To a background of sea breezes, a lone bass synth squelches from ‘Share Out The Light’. In the frustrated vein of the classic Northern English comedy show ‘Whatever Happened to The Likely Lads?’, Neil Arthur decides that “A knock on the door, I don’t want to know the score” as the mood envelopes over 5 and a half minutes as “we learn from mistakes”. Cut from a similar cloth, ‘Endless Posts’ is harsher, adding electric guitar in a cutting percussive attack on social media obsession.

Offering something more in the vein of classic OMD, ‘This A State’ sees Neil Arthur still as dry as ever with his wordplay, declaring “this is the state we’re in”! But as our hero is switching channels due to a ‘Commercial Break’, he declares “It’s five to five and it’s Crackerjack” over an a stepped lattice of pulse and throb! Meanwhile with a hypnotic rhythmic backbone behind creepy minimal texturing, ‘Dog Walk In A Cloud’ requests listeners to “make something of it”

But after all the electronics, ‘Empty Street’ surprises with an acoustic guitar instrumental! With a solemn monologue and accompanied by field recordings, ‘Strictly Platonic’ takes the minimal guitar structures further while it electrifies them on the instrumental ‘On A Ride’.

‘Duo’ is stripped down even further with tape manipulations and lone arpeggios but with basic percussive clatter and occasional six string picking, ‘Long Way Road’ adopts a sigh of resignation as its surroundings slowly build with an array of subtle synths in all frequencies.

‘Looking After Aliens’ could be THE DURUTTI COLUMN with its layers of guitars in a neo-classical style, and is an instrumental that can be as far away from ‘Feel Me’ or ‘Living On The Ceiling’ although an understated set of ARP2600 generated pulses are a reminder that this artist is still BLANCMANGE.

The second half may come as a shock to long standing BLANCMANGE fans but it shows Neil Arthur’s appetite to evolve and try something different. He remains the most prolific member of the Synth Britannia generation and one of its most interesting, using the enforced slower pace of the last 18 months as a creative spur.


‘Commercial Break’ is released by Blanc Check on 24th September 2021 in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats, available from http://blancmange.tmstor.es/

Other works by BLANCMANGE are available as digitally direct from https://blancmangemusic.bandcamp.com/

BLANCMANGE’s rescheduled 2021 ‘Mindset’ tour includes:

Tunbridge Wells Forum (11th September), Colchester Arts Centre (16th September), Norwich Arts Centre (17th September), Birmingham Institute 2 (18th September), Gloucester Guild Hall (23rd September), Exeter Phoenix (24th September), Nottingham Rescue Rooms (25th September), Blackburn King George’s Hall (29th September), Newcastle Riverside (30th September), Edinburgh Liquid Room (1st October), Glasgow Oran Mor (2nd October), Southampton The Brook (13th October), Bristol Fleece (14th October), Northampton Roadmender (22nd October), Manchester Club Academy (27th October), Leeds The Wardrobe (28th October), Liverpool Grand Central Hall (29th October), Brighton Concorde 2 (17th November), Harpenden Public Halls (18th November), Cardiff Portland House (25th November), London Under The Bridge (26th November), Shrewsbury Buttermarket (27th November)

http://www.blancmange.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/BlancmangeMusic

https://twitter.com/_blancmange_

https://www.instagram.com/neilarthur/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
6th September 2021

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