Category: Reviews (Page 2 of 163)

CATHERINE MOAN Chain Reaction

Demonstrating how modern pop can be self-produced, accessible yet artistic and considered, CATHERINE MOAN is one of the emerging group of independent North American female synth artists that include DANZ CM, GLITBITER, CLASS ACTRESS and MECHA MAIKO who are acting as fine role models and projecting their own voices.

Behind the nom de théâtre of CATHERINE MOAN is Philadelphian Angel Jefferson who gained wider recognition with her delightful cover version of the Alan Wilder-penned ‘Fools’ which was originally the B-side to DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Love In Itself’.

Alas, ‘Fools’ does not feature on her debut full-length album release ‘Chain Reaction’ but it does contain eight dreamily innocent synthpop numbers in the manner of ELECTRIC YOUTH meeting STRAWBERRY SWITCHBLADE and MARSHEAUX.

‘Drop It!’ is a fine opening statement where Jefferson craves the spice and excitement of nightlife over a classic four chord progression that is musically uplifting with vintage synth sounds and a proclamation to “keep this fire burning ‘til the record stops turning, ‘til the lights and the drugs stop working…”

Equally wonderful, ‘Wasted’ doesn’t deviate too much from the template of ‘Drop It!’ with its airy and vibrant disposition while despite being a bit more midtempo, ‘The Ordinary’ actually sounds like a lively ELECTRIC YOUTH, with a combination of sparkling synths, minimal guitar and voice samples providing the instrumental interest.

With a stuttering rhythmic backdrop accented by big electronic snares, ‘Faces’ takes its lead from CHROMATICS and SAY LOU LOU as the striking of an anvil provides an unusual but pleasing percussive touch. ‘Body Work’ adds more guitar into the mix, but ‘Skin Graft’ livens up proceedings with some groovy bassline sequencing and a new wave disco approach although the vocal tones remain resigned, the mood subsiding into CHROMATICS meeting THE CURE.

The superbly titled ‘Lucky Lobotomy’ utilises the digital claps alongside the funky electronic bass on what could easily have been an archetypical synthwave ballad before the ‘Chain Reaction’ title song takes things right down for the close.

Bringing in a forlorn piano as accompaniment, the offbeat fills do throw off the scent to illustrate that Jefferson thinks outside the box in her arrangements and production.

Clocking in at less than half an hour, this charming album is short and sweet, with a consistent sound and feel running throughout. In summary, those who loved ‘Drop It!’ will love the album although those who got introduced to CATHERINE MOAN via the ‘Fools’ cover might bemoan its absence from the tracklisting.


‘Chain Reaction’ released by Born Losers as a transparent electric blue vinyl LP and download, available from https://catherinemoan.bandcamp.com/album/chain-reaction-2

https://www.facebook.com/Catherine-Moan-105421111625150

https://twitter.com/catherinexmoan

https://www.instagram.com/catherinemoan_/

https://open.spotify.com/album/0jfEOJe4tkfPMBKB3SDIkx


Text by Chi Ming Lai
28th September 2021

BUNNY X Young & In Love

Forming in New York, BUNNY X released their first single ‘Berlin, In December’ in Spring 2013.

Since then Abigail Gordon and Mary Hanley have issued a number of danceable pop singles as well as an Italo disco flavoured EP ‘We Demand Fun’ with Fred Ventura. But the pair have yet to realise their vision over a full length long player until now. Entitled ‘Young & In Love’, it moves away from the Italo blow-out of ‘We Demand Fun’ for a more poptastic journey if no less sun-kissed. Taking inspiration directly from John Hughes films such as ‘The Breakfast Club’, ‘Pretty In Pink’ and ‘Sixteen Candles’, it parties like it’s 1986!

Working on the opening song with Swedish producer Don Dellpiero, ‘Perfect Paradise’ offers the sort of funky optimistic popwave that PRIMO THE ALIEN did in collaboration with BETAMAXX augmented by big electronic drums. LA music producer Kevin Montgomery aka the oddly monikered SELLOREKT/LA DREAMS comes on board for ‘Can’t Wait’ which does the big STARSHIP heart thing to confirm that nothing is gonna stop BUNNY X.

Raising the tempo and sparkle, the ‘Young & In Love’ title song is a rousing slice of synthpop celebrating holiday romances and yes, she will “see you next summer”. Cut from a similar cloth but more sedately, ‘Go Back’ adds a touch of melancholy to proceedings in its emotional reflection with a sax solo to make the point.

With its metronomic background and gated synths, ‘Who Cares What They Say’ could actually be a trance anthem if it was speeded up to 160 BPM, but it works fine as a melodic midtempo stomp with a spoken word middle eight.

A close cousin, ‘Back To You’ is another catchy midtempo synth number and one that could be imagined to be in a John Hughes movie.

Changing the mood slightly for the early evening drive to the next party, ‘Head Rush’ adopts a steadfast gallop that declares a potent emotion of desire while Don Dellpiero returns to helm ‘Lost Without You’ which deviates slightly with more prominent guitar and piano for a distinct AOR presence.

Back to synths, ‘Diamonds’ sings of “an electric shock through my heart” and certainly buzzes in an alluring fashion with gorgeous counter melodies to compliment the main vocal topline before another SELLOREKT/LA DREAMS collaboration ‘Still On My Mind’ closes ‘Young & In Love’ while making use of sax and brassier keyboard approximations alongside some airy staccato voice samples.

Featuring excellent vocals that are never overblown, well-written songs with appealing arrangements that don’t outstay their welcome and clean consistent production, BUNNY X have put together an enjoyable and immediate collection of songs.

With its themes of first crushes, teen angst and youthful exuberance, Abigail Gordon and Mary Hanley have certainly achieved their aim of a “high school nostalgia” concept record that many who lived through the first MTV era will savour.

Welcome to Abbi and Mary’s High School Reunion.


‘Young & In Love’ is released by Aztec Records on 5th October 2021, available as a CD, vinyl LP, cassette and download from https://bunnyx.bandcamp.com/album/young-in-love

https://www.facebook.com/BunnyXmusic

https://twitter.com/bunnyxmusic

https://www.instagram.com/bunny_xmusic/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
24th September 2021

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 via https://ffm.to/yvzwrdn

http://solinarecords.com/sincostan/

https://www.facebook.com/homeofsincostan

https://open.spotify.com/album/2kOa1ku7UyjuBIkG6A9eHA


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

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